3 yrs,4 attempts-Finally 740:The story of my metamorphosis

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Hola amigos!
Just took the GMAT took today and am overwhelmed with a 740(50 Q,41V)
For the last 4 months, not a single day would have passed when I didn't visualize myself writing this post here on this great community called "Beatthegmat" , At the onset, I'd like to thank this wonderful community for its vibrancy and for the great contribution it is making around the world to those preparing for the gateway to the hallowed business schools around the world -the GMAT .

My story is the story of a guy who had become hopeless and almost shelved his plans for taking the GMAT after three unsatisfactory attempts and who finally proved himself wrong by breaking the jinx of crossing the 700 barrier.

Here are my scores on the GMAT attempts
GMAT 1 : 580 (April 2008)
GMAT 2: 560 ( December 2008)
GMAT 3 : 590 ( April 2009)
GMAT4 : 740 (04th January, 2011)

As you can see, the number of times I have taken the GMAT may make you feel that these are my practice test scores,but the fact is these are the actual number of attempts and actual scores on the GMAT.

December 2008 : I was devastated after scoring a 560 on my second attempt.I didn't want to face my family,friends or anyone after getting this score. Everybody knew that I was preparing for the GMAT again and I remember how embarrassing it was for me to tell them that this time I have ended up with even a lower score than that on my 1st attempt. I could even sense some of my friends laughing at how big an idiot I was ,and my family members were almost clueless about how to react!

April 2009 : My third attempt on the GMAT. A 590! When I saw the score, I was almost suicidal.What was perplexing was that even after having done OG12, and some other books thoroughly, I scored this badly. This was the lowest phase in my life.I thought of giving up on the GMAT and was quite annoyed with life. I thought that probably the GMAT is not my piece of cake. I should rather focus on my job and be content with where I am. After all, a guy like me who has always been mediocre enough throughout his school and college life,can't think of competing with the "biggies"(that category of candidates who just study for a month or two and come out with flying colors) . A lot of confusion,depression and endless cycles of thoughts almost might have driven me mad.

I was sick of mourning over my debacles,and I didn't want to meet or hang out with anybody for that would mean uneasy conversation. Bored and clueless, I just happened to come across a movie "Coach Carter" on my computer. Not that I was excited to watch it but I was just looking for an escape. Though it was an another of those "Underdog turns hero" ilk of movies, but there was something about it which I could really assosciate with. As I watched the movie, something inside me was churning.

I could literally visualize myself as being the underdog and was in tears when I heard the following lines(orginially by Marianne Williamson) in the movie

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous,
talented and fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other
people won't feel insecure around you.

We were born to make manifest the glory of
God that is within us.

It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine,
we unconsciously give other people
permission to do the same.

As we are liberated from our own fear,
Our presence automatically liberates others.

After hearing these lines and crying for long, I realized that this emotional outburst has cleansed all the depression inside me and I almost repeated the lines tens of times, giving me a new burst of energy and hope . I told myself that I am going to get there.Anyhow!

I began my journey again. I wrote down why I had not done well, and realized that the "700 score in 3 months" strategy is not going to work for me as I was neither good at Verbal nor competent at Maths(the typical characteristics of a mediocre student) and after doing ample research decided to go for the long haul. I said to myself that I'm going to firstly become competent to actually deserve a good score. And as I progressed in my journey, I realized that how much had I overestimated my capability on the earlier attempts and what a fool I have been to dream of a 700+ given the fact that my competency level was nowhere even close to that!

The first thing I did was -get into the habit of reading. I said that I'll first pay my dues to deserve a great score; I cannot expect that I'll be at the same pedestal at what the others are, without putting the efforts they have put and that I'll have to pay for my sin . I started reading and, as Forrest Gump says "I ran, ran and ran", I read, read, and read, yet more. The appetite for reading more became insatiable and I consciously started taking interest in reading topics from any freaking field. Along with that I made sure that I read the newspaper thoroughly and started devouring articles from magazines of any ilk.

Whether I was in office, traveling, at home, all I was doing was "reading" ,whenever and wherever possible.
I did only this for one year- read countless number of books and at the back of my mind had the fire burning for the GMAT and also constantly observing how can I relate what I was reading to the GMAT in terms of passages, sentence correction, complex argument construction etc.

During this phase, I also happened to meet two guys in office who were freakin' good at Math. I guess the Math I learnt from them in one year would far exceed the Math I had learnt in my entire life. They tried solving most of the Math questions verbally and prompted me to do the same and slowly ,the fear I had of Math started fading away and I unconsciously started appreciating(if not loving) Maths and actually started looking forward to Math questions.

After one year of being with the books and with the Math Whiz Kids, again the David(read: I) set out to take on the Goliath(read: the GMAT). I kicked off my preparation in starting September this year and could see that the fruits of my last one year of "competency building program" (sounds one of those terms used in the corporate world :-D ).My competency level had increased by leaps and bounds both on the Verbal and the Math sections.

As suggested by the members here, I maintained an error log for all the questions and googled almost every question on SC and CR and benefitted immensely from the discussions on the various forums ,BTG being the primary one. I researched well on the study material and used the following resources

Quant :
MGMAT Maths Strategy Guides- must have if Maths is your Achilles's Heel.

SC : MGMAT SC Guide, SC Grail. Both the books are must-haves for getting your concepts crystal clear on SC.

CR : Powerscore CR Bible- Content is present in a very engaging way.Will help you tackle CR questions effectively.

RC : RC99 . I purchased this book after reading good reviews about it here on the forum.I think this book is unmatched if you want to prepare for RCs. A must-have for RC if you want to get inured to those utterly boring RC passages on the GMAT. Gives a great number of practice passages with detailed solutions. However, I'd recommend that you don't practice the passages until and unless you don't have a solid comprehension of different topics as you'll keep getting the questions wrong. You may not want to waste these passages without any basic level of comfort with the written text.

Tests : Took Kaplan and Princeton tests and realized how bad they're. MGMAT CATs are probably the best CATs from any test prep company. Took 6 MGMAT and 2 GMATPREP CATs.Repeated the GMATPREP CATs twice . This time around I was consistently getting scores between 660-730 and knew that I'd win this time.

Since I was quite prepared this time, I could feel the confidence in me while taking the test. I knew that what I was marking in most of the cases is correct, so that helped me bring down the anxiety level. Contrary to my belief that the AWA section will make me tired, I felt that the AWA section helped me to control the initial nervousness and calm myself down. I was so engrossed in the exam that I didn't feel the time passing but during the time, I knew that I was doing fine and that really kept on raising my confidence level.When I saw the score, a 740 on the screen, tears started rolling down my eyes. The 3 year long journey of hardwork, hopelessness had finally metamorphosed the loser into a winner.

Following are my words of wisdom to the future test takers:
1. Develop the requisite competency - During my first three attempts, I was under the impression that since I had done all the OG questions and practiced questions from other sources, I deserved a good score. Now I realize the futility of that thought. The competency level of a 700+ is higher than that of a 550-600 guy and firstly you need to develop that kind of competency
2. Follow the right strategy: Follow the wrong strategy and you're doomed. Follow the right strategy, and you're the darling of the GMAT . I have been a victim of "I got 80% accuracy, let's move forward" approach. Merely practicing questions is not gonna get you there . Focus on "quality" rather than "quantity". Maintain a good schedule and proper discipline.
3. Have the right study material : During my first two attempts, I had referred Princeton Review material and given the below average level of questions in their books, I was happy thinking that I'm prepared. After putting my hands on MGMAT and Aristotle Prep books, I realized what the right material is all about
4. Set Realistic Targets :For the mediocre who still dream of going to an Ivy League and want a 700+, have a long term plan :Like the way I have been, if you're a below average student, and still want to get "there", have a long term strategy; the short term strategy is not going to work for you.
5. Don't EVER give up: Sometimes it'll get difficult and embarrassing to face people. Your self esteem may hit the nadir. But remember that you CAN and you WILL make it.
6. GMAT as a tool for personal growth : Take the GMAT as a step in the process of personal growth. For me, exploring the world through books has been the greatest step in my life. In the process, now I think that I am a better thinker, decision maker and a person with a wider perspective to the world .And when I look back and contrast this with my naïve approach 2 towards the GMAT two years back , all I can do is wonder at my foolishness.
7. Advice on Re-attempts :Don't reattempt ,if you haven't made quantifiable progress :Don't make the mistake of reattempting the test(like I did) until and unless you've not armed yourself with the arsenal required to bring the enemy fort (read the GMAT) down.
8. Prepare for the GMAT intensely : One of the mistakes I made on the earlier tests was that I prepared for the GMAT quite casually. And I used to rationalize this by saying that my work hours hardly leave me with anytime to prepare or I travel for two hours in a day and apart from that I have to take care of all the sundry things, so taking out more time is difficult. Expectedly, I would land up with the scores I hated.
9. Practice tests : Take a total of 10 tests so that you're able to pace yourself, adjust your strategies and see the areas you need to work on .
10. RELAX : While preparing, sometimes I used to get quite anxious and instead of calming myself down, I used to study even more without focusing properly. I realized that I can perform better when I am relaxed, and can concentrate better for 2 hours at a stretch,not more than that,so there's no point in trying to exert myself too much .

The post is probably one of the lengthiest so far on BTG ;however ,it feels as though I have tons of things to write about. However ,the purpose of the post, apart from my emotional purgation, is to provide hope to all those who think that they have been beaten by life and by the GMAT.
As says Morgan Freeman in the movie Shawshank Redemption - Hope is a good thing,maybe the best of things and no good thing ever dies .

People to thank : Ron Purewal,Stacey Koprince and all the amazing instructors here . Kudos to Ron and Stacey for the great instructors they're! And above all a special mention to Eric Bahn for his wonderful baby BEATTHEGMAT.

ILet me know if you have any queries and I'll try my best to answer it. Also let me know your feedback about my journey.
Muchas Gracias!
Last edited by eternal_optimist on Sat Jan 28, 2012 5:08 am, edited 5 times in total.

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by kg » Tue Jan 04, 2011 8:15 pm
eternal_optimist ,your story is insipirational, your efforts have paid off well and your final score is really amazing. GMAT is not going to bother u again :

on RC-99 what was your accuracy on the hardest rc questions?

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by aspire_mba2013 » Tue Jan 04, 2011 8:32 pm
Congratulations !
This is a mind blowing debrief :).
You can take a horse to the water but you can't make it drink !!!

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by samarpan_bschool » Wed Jan 05, 2011 12:39 am
wow wow wow Congratulations.. This is what we call debrief! Great job. Thanks

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by DanaJ » Wed Jan 05, 2011 1:17 am
That's just awesome! Congrats for the great score improvement!

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by jaxis » Wed Jan 05, 2011 6:52 am

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by RyanDark » Wed Jan 05, 2011 10:23 am
I think by far,this is the most inspiring debrief I ever read. Congratulations and wish you all luck in your applications.

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by towerSpider » Wed Jan 05, 2011 2:05 pm
Best story so far for me. Congratulations. Good luck. :- )

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by tnaim » Wed Jan 05, 2011 3:58 pm
Amazing Job. I particularly admire three things
1) how you knew that you had to pay your dues and go for the long haul
2) how you did NOT give up
3) how you realized that your GMAT experience has been beneficial to you in the way you think and in other life aspects.
All the best

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by ezhilkumarank » Wed Jan 05, 2011 3:58 pm
Absolutely awesome. Your success gives will give all others (includes me) inspiration to carry on and Beat the GMAT.

Congrats on your great score and Many Thanks for your post.

Good luck with the next steps ahead.
"The will-to-do achieves the deed, when the mind that wills is strong indeed"

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by msabonjian » Wed Jan 05, 2011 5:19 pm
What an amazing story! Thank you so much for taking the time to write this. I am going in for my second attempt tomorrow morning and I have to keep telling myself that whatever happens I am not going to give up.

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by eternal_optimist » Wed Jan 05, 2011 9:19 pm
Hello guys,
Have been partying since I posted this debrief.It's kind of such a liberating experience to have the GMAT behind me. Got so drunk that I just woke up now to see the buzz here. :-D Still a lot of treats are due this week,so some more days of partying ahead and am happy to be celebrating,though I know this much partying is going to bury a hole in my pocket ,but nevermind ,I'm happy :)

@ Kg, aspire_mba2013. samparn_bschool. jaxis , RyanDark , towerspider, tnaim , ezhilkumarank. msabonjian

Thanks a lot, mates! I'm glad that you found my story inspirational. And even if this story could increase your performance by 0.1% , I think that I'd have achieved one of the purposes of this debrief-to inspire you all. Thanks again for the applause. I know how I have been waiting to hear some applause for the last 3 years and finally they're raining-at home, at office,from friends,relatives and from the members of this community.

Thanks . You've made a great contribution to this community. Thanks for that.
eternal_optimist ,your story is insipirational, your efforts have paid off well and your final score is really amazing. GMAT is not going to bother u again :

on RC-99 what was your accuracy on the hardest rc questions?
Here's my accuracy across the three difficulty levels passages in RC99.

Low difficulty : 90%
Medium Difficulty : 85%
High Difficulty : 70%

As you can see my accuracy level on the high difficulty level questions, dropped by 15% as compared to the Medium difficulty level questions. But the learning from the mistakes was immense . What I also ensured was that after I read a particularly difficult passage from a topic about which I didn't have much idea, I googled the topic and read more about it on wikipedia. So that ,I think ,also helped me.
Last edited by eternal_optimist on Fri Jan 07, 2011 11:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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by sashish007 » Thu Jan 06, 2011 8:46 am
Congratulations - your username should be the title of your de-brief passage! can you please share your background also little bit?
eternal_optimist wrote:And I used to rationalize this by saying that my work hours hardly leave me with anytime to prepare or I travel for two hours in a day and apart from that I have to take care of all the sundry things, so taking out more time is difficult.
so, what did you change? also, how do you compare RC99 to LSAT RC from powerscore?
eternal_optimist wrote:5. Don't EVER give up: Sometimes it'll get difficult and embarrassing to face people. Your self esteem may hit the nadir. But remember that you CAN and you WILL make it.
agreed. but let me tell you from my 4 years of work ex in corporate America that timing is very important. one is expected to fulfill things in certain amount of time and that pressure sends everything haywire
Share not just why the right answer is right, but also why the wrong ones are not.

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by outreach » Thu Jan 06, 2011 9:45 am
hey congrats..
your story is inspiring...
thanks for the debrief
General blog
MBA blog

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by zorya » Thu Jan 06, 2011 9:56 am
eternal optimist, you are a star!!

loved your post... and loved those lines from Coach Carter...

congrats on your amazing score and keep the spirit going! :)
My GMAT score: 740 [Q:48, V:42]