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Why not me? 700 + Accepted

This topic has 8 member replies
jcdiaz23 Newbie | Next Rank: 10 Posts Default Avatar
02 Jan 2013
7 messages
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Why not me? 700 + Accepted

Post Fri Nov 14, 2014 9:29 am
I am not much of a writer but I lived on these beatthegmat forums and always told myself that I would post my story in order to help inspire at least one person, the way that I was inspired. I'll give a brief summary at the end with the resources that I used and what I would highly recommend.

I began studying for the GMAT around July of 2012, starting with a (Manhattan GMAT) practice score of 530. I knew I would have a long road ahead of me. I would study on and off for a many months (worst thing to do). My goal at the time was just to apply to a local college, so I did not feel the need to do amazing on the GMAT.

Knowing that I would be much better off if I got help, I joined a Manhattan GMAT course taught by Tommy Wallach. He was an awesome teacher that I highly recommend and the course was a great way for me to get down the basics. After taking the course, my score hovered close to a 600. I could not get it any higher. I got frustrated and took a break from studying.

I kept lurking through these forums and read reviews on tons of different courses and material. I can honestly say that the empowergmat course was the best thing that ever happened to me during my time of studying. Their lessons and guides help you beyond simple memorization. This course definitely took me to the next level and after doing it once I was scoring in the mid 600s. Thanks Rich! I then took another break and took the course again, and noticed my scores were a little better.

I kept hovering in the 600s and did not know what to do anymore. Then I realized that I was not keeping a log of my practice problems - this changed everything for me. Keeping a log of all of the questions from the OG that I either got wrong or guessed and then going back at a later time to complete these was the best thing I could have ever done. I was no longer intimidated by certain problems because I knew different ways of solving them. Before this, I would read how much people stressed that you should do this but did not really pay attention because I am not the type of person to make an error log. DO THIS. Do not be lazy like I was. It will save you so much time and will make your studying much more effective. I also began an effective studying schedule of studying 2 hours a day on the weekdays, except Friday. Waking up early on Saturday and taking a practice CAT, then going over it on Sunday. Go over all of the CAT questions, even if you get them right. You will be surprised how many times you will have guessed correctly.

Bottom-line: I took over 25+ practice tests (way too many - I wish I would've found empowergmat and made an error log much sooner) and I ended up taking the GMAT 4 times (580, 650, 620, 700).

Before I had even taken my last GMAT, I knew I was capable of scoring 700+ and was not going to quit until I did so. I began looking around for help with my application and actually had a couple of consultations with some companies but I did not entirely feel satisfied. Many of these companies, while being honest, didn't give me the confidence to apply this year. Many of them kept telling me that my scores were too low or that I did not have enough experience and should wait a couple of years to apply. This was very disheartening and I actually stopped studying and looking for help with admissions for a few weeks until I picked myself out of the gutter and began studying again.

It is then that I stumbled onto one of the best things I could've ever done. I attended a digital webinar for StartusPrep where I got to ask Shawn O'Conner (the founder of the company) questions about admissions. This was very nice of him because many of the other admissions companies would not answer too many of my questions. Because of this, I contacted Shawn and had a consultation with him. While being honest, he gave me such confidence about my business school prospects that I did not get from any other company. At first, I thought he was just being nice because he wanted my money, but there was a sincerity to our conversation that I decided to take a chance and sign up with them and it was the best thing I could've ever done.

My first choice of school was Columbia Business School and because of that I was assigned Samantha Merton as my advisor. She was AMAZING! There are no words to express the gratitude that I have for her help. She helped me build my "profile" from the ground up. Throughout the process, I actually learned a lot about myself and was able to refine my career goals. This only further helped me improve my confidence about my application. She was always open to scheduling phone calls and would respond to my emails within 24 hours (mostly a lot quicker). These advisors at StratusPrep are limited with the number of clients that they can help in order to provide a much better service to individuals. Also, you meet wit Shawn a couple times throughout the process to go over a few things and his insight is priceless.

After a few months of prepping, I finally submitted my applications to the 3 schools that I chose and I really could not have been happier with how they came out.

Next, Samantha actually helped me prep for my Columbia interview. I was so prepared and confident during the interview. It was as if I had done this interview many times before.

Whether I got into any of the schools of my choice or not, I knew I had given it all that I had thanks to Samantha and Shawn's help. Luckily, I just found out that I was accepted and could not be happier. It is very surreal still because of how difficult this whole process has been but now that its over it is very relieving.

One key to beating the GMAT and your business school application.. never give up. It is going to suck. A lot. Your friends are going to go out and have fun while you are at home studying or working on your application. It is tough but I promise you it is worth it. I almost gave up several times. People would constantly tell me that it was just not meant to be. F*** that. You make your destiny by working your a** off. As I continued to study and improve, my goals in life began to grow. I began to ask myself, "Why not me?" Why can't I get into a top business school? This fueled me and life began to take on a special kind of meaning for me.

Sorry if this post is all over the place, I am writing this during my lunch break at work and just wanted to get a few points across.

Obviously, different things will work for different people but here is a summary of resources that I recommend because they were very effective for me:

- empowerGMAT.com
- GMAT OG (its a must)
- Error log for both CATS but mostly for OG questions

Good luck everyone! I went to an unranked school for undergrad, a good school but not very well known. Believe me, if I can do it, so can you.

Lastly, I wanna leave two quotes that kept me going.

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can't--you're right.”
- Henry Ford

“Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain't all sunshine and rainbows. It's a very mean and nasty place and I don't care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain't about how hard ya hit. It's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That's how winning is done!”
- Rocky Balboa

"Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever."
- Lance Armstrong

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Post Fri Nov 14, 2014 5:57 pm
Hi jcdiaz23,

Your tale is quite the "hero's journey", since we also get to find out where you're going to school. It's a fantastic tale all around, but the key takeaway is something that you've already come to realize - all aspects of life get tough sometimes, but you've got to decide what's important and stick with it. You hit some some roadblocks along the way, but you kept working hard and seeking additional answers and guidance. I'll bet that you deal with some similarly-themed situations at Columbia, but I'll also bet that you'll successfully work through all of those challenges (and it wouldn't surprise me if some of your nay-sayer friends end up asking you for a job later on in life). Congratulations on all of your success; you've certainly earned it.

GMAT assassins aren't born, they're made,

Contact Rich at Rich.C@empowergmat.com

nic98007 Newbie | Next Rank: 10 Posts Default Avatar
03 Jun 2014
5 messages
Post Mon Nov 17, 2014 4:26 pm
Thanks for posting this. I really needed it after scoring a 530 on my first offical GMAT earlier today (not nearly what I wanted). As much as I dread the idea of having to study more (after month and months of studying) I'm going to continue on and be smarter about it. I have NOT been making a log as you suggested and will from now on. I hope it works!

Post Mon Nov 17, 2014 10:17 pm
Hi nic98007,

If you're comfortable describing what you've done so far during your studies, then I'll be happy to offer some suggestions as to how you can improve.

1) What materials have you been using to study?
2) What were your scores on your practice CATs (including the Quant and Verbal Scaled Scores on each)?
3) What is your goal score?
4) What was the Scores on your Official GMAT?

Keep in mind that Business Schools don't care if you take the GMAT more than once, so there's no harm there. Since the GMAT is a predictable, standardized Test, you CAN train to CRUSH it. Think about what you've learned from this experience and be ready to use that knowledge to your advantage when you retest.

GMAT assassins aren't born, they're made,

Contact Rich at Rich.C@empowergmat.com

clm5170 Newbie | Next Rank: 10 Posts
29 Aug 2013
4 messages
Followed by:
1 members
Post Wed Nov 19, 2014 7:19 am
This was such a GREAT post!

I am in the same boat right now...
My official GMAT scores are as follows: 540, 640...and I have my 3rd attempt on Dec 16th, which I am very nervous about because I am continuing to score at the 640 level on practice tests, even after making an error log...it seems when I get my quant score up, my verbal score will go down and vice versa, which is very frustrating! Especially when I go through the mocks later and realize that I knew how to do some of the problems I got wrong.

Ironically, I am also working with Stratus Prep and Samantha Merton is my counselor! haha
Can you elaborate on what you liked best about her and what you learned through your experience with her, specifically? Any key takeaways? Also, why you picked Columbia? That would be really helpful to me Smile If you would prefer to email me, you can @ clm5170@gmail.com

I am applying Rd1 next fall and can't wait to be in your shoes one day.
Thanks for the reassuring post...

As I am dreading messing this 3rd attempt up, and having to take it a 4th...I also hear the negative, don't you think you should give up at this point talk... I have invested so much time/money on this test though, that if I did, I would always regret it.

Thanks again,

nic98007 Newbie | Next Rank: 10 Posts Default Avatar
03 Jun 2014
5 messages
Post Wed Nov 19, 2014 10:10 pm
Hey Rich,

Thanks for offering your help.
The two programs I’m applying for have an average GMAT of 670, so I’m hoping to get at least a 650. I think this will be enough since I have above average years in work experience. Above 700 would be awesome and hopefully get into scholarship contention. But a 650 would be enough to get in.

Here's what I've been doing:

I started will a GMAT night course at the local university last fall. It ended up being a basic review of math and english and was not very helpful. I started seriously studying in April 2014 by reading thru a big fat Kaplan book. All though I took advanced math classes in high school I haven't really done much math since then, so a lot of my studying has been relearning math formulas and processes. After 2-3 months I took a few Kaplan practice tests and scored in the mid 500s (I can’t find those scores anymore).
My biggest issue at this time was pacing. I would have to guess/scramble the last 10 in quant. Verbal my pacing was ok. Data sufficiency was hard too.

Deciding I needed to change things up and needed more practice I signed up for Magoosh. I only watched a few of their training videos to review subjects I was still struggling with (complex algebra, exponents, etc) and jumped right into using their practice problems. The explanations after the questions were helpful to see how they approached problems and the steps they took to solve the problems.

So after studying and practicing with Magoosh for a couple of months I took a few of their "practice tests".
July 5 - 550, Q34 V32
July 26 - 620 Q37 V38 ( I was super stoked that I was making progress.)
Sept 10 - 560 Q32 V35 ( I thought it was an anomaly since I was a little tired that day)

I also took a couple of more Kaplan test for variety and to see how the scores compared:
Aug 9- 600 Q64% V58%
Sept 8 - 570 Q58% V58%

I was still having trouble with pacing in the quant section and a few types of problems (distance problems, mixtures, proportions). But data sufficiency was getting better.

I also moved to a new house in late August and early September, so some of the studying consistency I had got interrupted with the move. Before, and after, I studied on a fairly consistent bases 2-3 hours a day, 6 days a week.

I then decided to try another approach and signed up for the EmpowerGMAT course. Over about 5-6 weeks I watched most of the videos in the Score Booster guide. I found the information very helpful and it opened my mind to other ways to approach the gmat and problems. The part about triage and dumping hard questions helped with my pacing. Plus getting things on the pad helped my stay organized. But I was still struggling with little mistakes and with some mid-high level concepts (things like radicals in the denominator). I wish I had more time to practice the Empower tactics, but I spend a lot of time going thru the videos.

To work on pacing and try to apply the things I learned from EmpowerGMAT I did more practice tests.

Official GMAT practice test that comes free when you register for the test:
Sept 25 - 550 Q35 V31

Kaplan Tests:
Nov 1 - 590 Q47% V69%
Nov 8 - 590 Q51% V69%

Thinking I was just about to get over the hump I reviewed more practice questions in Magoosh while doing practice tests in just the quant section along the way, since that was what I was struggling with most.
Nov 10- Quant only 41 (really focussed on pacing and dumping hard questions.)
Nov 11 - Quant only 37
Nov 12- Quant only 37
Nov 14- Quant only 39

I was starting to get more consistent so I felt that with some focus I would get to where I needed to be. Thinking I was just about to break that barrier I was hopping to be ultra focused on test day and that I would rock it! If I just got a few more points in quant and hopefully did slightly better in verbal I’d have a 650!

Well, two days before the test (nov 15) I took one last official GMAT practice test to see where I was really at. Scored a 580 - Q 37 V33 IR 8. I was very frustrated. I felt like the questions I saw seemed different/more complex than the practice ones I had been doing and I froze a little and had a hard time deciding on how to attack problems. Especially in the quant section. The verbal I ended with extra time and thought I had answered a lot correctly (which I didn’t). My two year old was up several times the night before so I figured my brain just wasn’t at 100% that day.

So thinking it was just my mind set I stayed positive and did my best to be calm for my actual test. I didn’t feel 100% ready, but after month of work it was time to just do it. If I scored bad I could always retake. I got plenty of sleep the day before, took plenty of liquids and snack with me (and even cinnamon gum, which I’ve used during studying since I started Empower. Very helpful.), took the breaks, etc. But when the IR section started I had a hard time focusing. It got better after a couple of questions, but by then I was behind. In the quant section I felt like I completely froze. I could handle the really easy question fine, but once they become some what difficult my brain froze and couldn’t focus and I just could not recall any of the things I had studied and practiced. I ended up having to rush the last 5 questions or so because of my lack of deciding how to attack problems early on. Convinced I bombed the quant I did a mental reset and attacked the verbal. I thought I did pretty good and maybe salvaged some of my score. I had an extra few minutes in the last few questions.

I ended up scoring worse than I had thought I would. 530 (IR 4, Q33, V 29???). I’m not sure what happened on the verbal. I think since I hadn’t really studied it a whole lot the past few weeks I had forgotten a lot of it. Or I was too rattled from the quant section.

All this being said I’m not quite ready to give up. I’m a little older than most students, so this is the year it has to happen. I can’t wait until next year and I’m determined to make it happen. I want to retake it again in about 6 weeks and hopefully hit my target score.

I think a big part of my problem is the actually exam quant questions almost seemed foreign to me, so I’m going to start practicing out of the Official Guide book more. I’ve only done a handful of them up to now. I’m also going to use the Empower tracker to more closely track my problem areas and focus on fixing those. I did it a couple of times on some of previous practice test, but not nearly enough, and didn’t really look at them much after I filled them out.

I thought I was getting close to what I wanted to score with some of my practice scores, but from reading others experiences it sounds like those can be overinflated and that the official practice tests are more accurate (which tuned out to be true in my case).

So Rich, that’s where I’m at. Any ideas on what I can do over the next 6 weeks to crush the GMAT instead of letting it crush me?


Post Thu Nov 20, 2014 12:58 pm
Hi Roger,

You've provided a lot of valuable information in your post, so I can point out a couple of things you did before that you should NOT repeat with this next round of studies:

1) You took too many CATs when you really should have been focused on doing practice problems, drilling in concepts and tactics, and reviewing past work (to help improve your speed and accuracy). A CAT is just a "measuring device" - it WON'T make you a better Test Taker. In reviewing each CAT, you should look to fix ANYTHING that went wrong. Beyond the obvious wrong answers, you should take a good look at the questions you got correct - could you have worked faster? Was there an easier way to get to the solution? Did you guess and get lucky? Until you've spent some serious time working on all of those improve-able areas, you shouldn't take an other CAT.

2) The most accurate (and meaningful) score results occur when you take a FULL-LENGTH CAT, in a Test-like fashion, at the same time of day as your Official GMAT. If you do anything unrealistic, such as skip sections, pause the Test, just take the Quant section, etc., then the results are almost always "inflated", so you had a number of scores that weren't giving you valid information.

3) Your practice scores were all clustered around 570, on top of the "inflation" that I mentioned above, so there wasn't any evidence that you were going to score 650+ on Test Day. The 530 you earned is in line with your practice scores.

4) There might be an issue with your "mechanics" and your repetitions. You mentioned reading a lot of explanations and watching a lot of videos, which are both valuable parts of the study process, but did you actually DO the work that you read and saw? If I showed you a question that you did a month ago, would you just say "I remember that the answer is C" or could you physically go through the steps and PROVE that the answer was C? Can you spot the patterns and clues in that question that will show up in other questions? Much of the work that goes into answering a GMAT question is "mechanical" (although it's usually a straight-forward, step-by-step process) - if you have to think hard about how to do the work, then you're probably not ready to do it under timed conditions.

5) There were clearly some external factors that would have impacted your studies. Moving houses is certainly a big task (which is now complete, thankfully). I would expect that this next round of studies won't be "interrupted" as often as the prior round was.

I suggest that you continue to work with the resources that you have. If possible, you should NOT retake any of the CATs that you've already used. There are other "blocks" of CATs that you can purchase though. Further, this Forum is a great place to post your questions, learn to hone your tactics and receive ongoing advice, so you should take full advantage of it.

If you have any additional questions, then you can feel free to contact me directly.

GMAT assassins aren't born, they're made,

Contact Rich at Rich.C@empowergmat.com

jcdiaz23 Newbie | Next Rank: 10 Posts Default Avatar
02 Jan 2013
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Post Fri Nov 21, 2014 9:45 am


Keep your head up and don’t let people get in your head. I know your frustration all too well but keep working at it and it will most definitely be worth it when you see your target score.

Remember to also eat a good breakfast, stay hydrated, and sleep! I even began drinking 1 red bull in between Quant and Verbal. I am also now addicted to cinnamon flavored gum because of Rich’s advice.

Samantha is awesome! I don’t know what my favorite thing about her was, but she is extremely down to Earth and extremely helpful. One of the toughest things to do, at least for me, was introspection and organizing my thoughts in order for me to build my profile for the essays and application. Samantha helped me with this. You will not regret the investment you made with Stratusprep and even more specifically with Samantha.

I chose Columbia as my first choice for many reasons. I work in the entertainment industry and would like to continue to grow within this industry so New York and Los Angeles were my top 2 cities to study in. Aside from its central location, CBS has an excellent media and entertainment program as well as extracurricular clubs and events that align with my goals. I highly recommend for you to choose a school that will do the same for you. I did so much research on so many schools its not even funny. One of the steps of the Stratusprep programs is doing just that.

As for the GMAT, remember, this is your 3rd time taking the GMAT:

Consider yourself a pro when you walk into the testing center.

Be confident. Be cocky.

Talk to the receptionists and assistants - I’m not that type of person but it helped me to relax and feel comfortable.

Believe in your ability to do well - you have been studying for a while, the information is in your brain, let it flow.

BREATHE - figuratively and LITERALLY - your brain needs oxygen. I would catch myself breathing irregularly because I was nervous during tests.

Most importantly, remember that if you don’t do well you can always take it again next month. That’s the beauty of this test; schools will only look at your best attempt.

Continue working had and study every day as if the test was tomorrow.

Things will work out for you.


Here are a few more quotes that motivated me:

"Don't cry to quit! You're already in pain, you're already hurt! Get a reward from it!"

“When you want to succeed as bad as you want to breathe, then you'll be successful.”

- Eric Thomas

TheViceroy Junior | Next Rank: 30 Posts Default Avatar
06 May 2015
10 messages
4 times
Post Fri May 15, 2015 9:08 am
Ha! When I read the title of your post, I thought you were saying "Why not me. Why can't I get a 700 and get accepted?". This was not what I was expecting to read at all.

Congratulations on the score and getting in to CBS. That's the dream. Were you able to get any scholarship funding? I'm looking for any tips to land some funding. Thanks for sharing the helpful post.

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