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My reflections on the GMAT (740)

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akdon Just gettin' started! Default Avatar
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My reflections on the GMAT (740) Post Wed Sep 13, 2006 1:28 pm
On Sep 11, 2006 I took the GMAT and scored 740 (98th percentile). I was aiming for 720 so in retrospect, I did 20 points better that my goal which came as a pleasant surprise.

My Background:

I'm a software engineer in my mid twenties and have been working full time for a few years in a fortune 500 company in the US. I have been schooled in India for most of my life and did a masters degree in a public university in the US about 4 years ago. Historically, I have always been strong at analytical and quantitative sections of standardized tests and weak on verbal skills.

Plan of study:

I started studying in mid-June and for a long time didn't follow a good pattern of study. I studied in 3-4 hour blocks 3 times a week (Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays). I solved a single type of problems in every sitting and initially had planned to go through all of the OG 10.

Very quickly in solving these I realized that I was quite bad at sentence completion. I was almost satisfactorily accurate at reading comprehension and critical reasoning. And as expected, I was good at the quantitative sections but often used to get tricked in data sufficiency and made silly mistakes. I have always been calculator-handicapped and have had trouble doing oral calculations since early childhood (I have memorized multiplication tables only till 12 and am quite terrible at those too).

My strategy was to just make sure that I did well in the quantitative section and not screw up in the critical reasoning and reading comprehension parts of the verbal section. I strongly believed that one (especially a non-native speaker) cannot improve his/her grammar by a few weeks of studying so I sort of gave up on trying to improve my accuracy at sentence correction. The only thing I learned while practicing sentence correction examples was that they often put blatantly wrong choices for sentence correction, which one should avoid while guessing.

After about a month of this practice I got bored of just solving problems and not getting any handle on how well I would do. I purchased all the 9 available paper-based tests from mba.com and took them under the timed conditions that they suggested. This improved my ability to gauge quickly if I could solve a problem or just guess on that one and move on to the next one.

After these 9 paper based tests, I took all available CAT tests about 1 every weekend initially and then 2 every weekend. This is by far the most important part of the preparation. I'll repeat it so that it sinks in and sounds important. This is by far the most important part of the preparation. I did most of the other tests like Kaplan, Princeton earlier and kept GMATPrep & Powerprep for later.

For the Kaplan tests I found the problems were poorly written and hence seemed hard to understand. They are stingy in allotting scores which are at least 50 points below GMATPrep. I scored in the range of 630-650 for the Kaplan tests.

The Princeton online tests were pretty annoying because of bugs with their test delivery system wasting time during the tests. I scored in the range of 650-700 on these. The problems seemed simpler and often the same problems in OG, substituted with different parameters, appeared.

If you have read other opinions and blogs then this should not be a surprise to you. GMATPrep is the true benchmark for the real test. This is the real thing and my advice to most people is to take both these test atleast twice. I got around 700-720 the first time I took these tests and 730-760 the second time around. Powerprep is the old ETS software but I felt that the level of questions in Powerprep is a little easier than that of GMATPrep. The first time I took GMATPrep I realized the difficulty level of the questions really goes up quickly and I couldn't finish the quantitative section in time. Over the next couple of attempts I got the speed right.

Books and material used:

Princeton Review: Cracking the GMAT 2004 edition
Besides the AWA guidance. This book was a waste of my time. They have these silly Joe Bloggs examples that get on my nerve. I don't believe that the GMAT is trying to con me into a bad score and hence I believe in just solving and answering the question on the screen rather than "crack" the design of the question. Trust me, the best written questions are on the real GMAT and without real preparation and ability it is hard to "guess" the intent of the question designer. As an advantage you get access to the online tests. These tests have a bug, at least when on an internet connection with my ISP, so I recommend getting a CD if you can lay your hands on one.

OG 10th edition
I had purchased this book a while ago and this is the best book for preparation. I think however that if one solves all the questions in this book then the GMATPrep/Powerprep test will seem easier than they actually are. I strongly recommend getting the 11th edition because I learned that the questions are arranged in levels of difficulty and it's probably best to practice the hard problems.

Nine paper based tests from mba.com
These are good to get started but don't do these at the end of the preparation. The questions are not mixed together and you sort of get into the habit of expected same types of questions together.

Kaplan premier edition 2007
I bought this book mainly for the CD tests. I don't think I even turned a page of the book. There are 4 tests on the CD which are of okay quality. They are stingy in giving you a good score so don't worry about the score and just concentrate on getting as many correct as possible.

Exam experience:

At the exam center there were people testing on adjacent workstations and typing furiously. This was kinda annoying for me because I had practiced everything in the solitude of my private office or a quiet library room. The non erasable scratch notebooks and pen were also irritating because I prefer normal pencils and scratch paper. These were however only minor annoyances and I sort of blocked them out in the heat of the battle.

The quantitative section was similar but seemed a little easier than GMATPrep. Surprisingly I had several questions that had to do with calculating units/tens digit etc. I only saw one permutations question and I think it wasn't too hard. There were more than average questions on statistics (means and medians) but none of them were too complex. I had to guess on about 2 questions which I could tell were of the hard category. I was struggling to finish in time in the practice test but on the real GMAT I actually finished with a few minutes (5/6) to spare.

The verbal section started with 5 or 6 sentence completion problems which made me nervous because most of the times I make educated guesses on these. The reading comprehension passages were easy to understand and didn't involve a lot of complex verbiage. Surprisingly several of the critical reasoning questions were not very straightforward like the ones in GMATPrep practice. They really made me read and think through the choices. I was going to finish the verbal section about 8-10 minutes before time so I took my time answering the last few questions and finished only a couple of minutes ahead of time.

General tips and humble advice:

1. I think that having confidence in your ability is the key in doing well. If you spend time second guessing your own answers and double checking everything there is no way you will finish in time.

2. Don't be influenced by the "First 8" misconception (if you get any of the first 8 questions wrong you're score is pretty much doomed). It is a big load of BS. I would however recommend not guessing on consecutive questions. i.e. if you get 5-6 in a row wrong that will bring the level down significantly. If you guess an answer on a question, concentrate extra hard on the next one to get it right.

3. Find areas of your strengths quickly and keep those areas warm by constant practice. Practice weak areas but don't obsess over them. I think the GMAT understands that not all verbal ability is reflected by perfect grammar or ability to calculate permutations and probability.

4. Take one or two practice tests in a moderately public place where there are minor annoyances and disturbances.

5. Finishing all the questions is important. Don't brood over complex problems that are very hard to solve. Make educated guesses and move on.

6. Visit the exam center and know the traffic conditions to get there. If you are caffeine addicted and the exam slot is not at your happy time, be sure to get your alertness level correct by practicing for a month or so in advance too.

7. Read blogs and experiences of other people but don't ponder over them too much. Everybody has a different background and different set of skills and weaknesses.

Thanks for reading till all the way down here and I hope this was helpful. If you have any questions I will be happy to answer them. Good Luck!

Good links that I found:

http://beatthegmat.blogspot.com/2005/08/reflecting-on-my-gmat-experience.html

http://home.comcast.net/~dave.kim/GMAT_Study_Strategy.htm

http://jc-gmat.blogspot.com

http://www.gmatclub.com/

http://www.beatthegmat.com/

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Post Wed Sep 13, 2006 6:52 pm
Fantastic achievement! Thanks for the thorough write up of your experience!

I'm glad that you found this website useful in your preparation. I wish you all the best!

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aim-wsc GMAT Titan
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Post Wed Sep 13, 2006 8:35 pm
congrats for such a wonderful score!!

this post can really become the guideline for - how to approach test... esp for working ppl. u had a balanced timetable!
also the time when u shifted the gear to CAT practise tests was perfect.

i m glad to hear that u found my blog and the links i provided there helpful! thank you.

help other members to build the right strategy
keep posted:)

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aim-wsc GMAT Titan
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Post Wed Sep 13, 2006 10:35 pm
Man, its a great burdon for me now.!!!

thanks once again. Now i really have to publish some quality content there..

Anyways
theres a query by one of our members, i think you might have the answer.
http://www.beatthegmat.com/viewtopic.php?t=477

best of the luck for your rest of things//// Smile

edited Neutral

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obama Just gettin' started! Default Avatar
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Post Sun Dec 07, 2008 5:08 am
congrats for such a faboulous performance!

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smalishah84 Rising GMAT Star Default Avatar
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Post Wed Dec 10, 2008 12:10 am
Congratulations on a very nice score. Do you think that OG 11 practice for CR and RC is good enough for the test. I find OG 11 RC and CRs to be very easy.

Thanks

gsbjake Rising GMAT Star
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Post Mon Nov 29, 2010 8:41 pm
Congrats akdon, that's an awesome score.

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