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560 to 700 and not sure if I am done

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560 to 700 and not sure if I am done

I am long time reader but have never posted. Here is my GMAT experience thus far. Like others before me, I split my story into a short form and a long form to be used at your discretion.

About Me: I am male, thirty-five years of age, and a native English speaker in the USA. I am single, no kids, and am a commitment-phobe. I graduated cum laude from a large state university in the southern United States in 2004 where I studied finance and economics. Immediately after undergrad I went to law school, practiced law for two, and then worked in healthcare for a family owned business. My practice of law was not spectacular- it was during the foreclosure crisis associated with the Great Recession. Today, I recommend a legal education, however, based upon my experience, I do not recommend the practice of law. I am sure some people love the practice of law, but I am not one of them and only have one friend from law school that loves the practice. Growing up, I had always known that I wanted to go to work with my family's businesses when I was of age. The businesses were quite profitable and afforded for a high quality of life. After four years working with the family businesses I found myself incredibly disinterested in my work and living for the weekend or my next adventure. I thought that pursuing a weekend or part-time MBA would be an appropriate goal that could refocus my energy and develop leadership skills for future ventures. After a few conversations with friends that had completed top 25 full-time MBA programs I believed that the GMAT was the biggest piece of an admission package.

Short Form:

GMAT Prep Recommendations:
1. Manhattan series is great for getting quant skills into low 40s and for verbal basics (especially SC)
2. Practice exams are crucial- especially the OG and GMAC version
3. Target Test Prep if you want a Quant 49 or higher
4. Reading complicated material helps a lot with Verbal. Period.
5. Anyone can earn a great GMAT score with practice.

Study Materials (chronologically):
1. Manhattan Series- 6th edition (10 books)- I read the forums and the forums were right about this resource
2. Magoosh- $99 for a year
3. Official Guide
4. Target Test Prep- fabulous resource and the only reason I scored 50Q

Tests used (chronologically):
1. Manhattan #1 and #2
2. Magoosh
3. Veritas #1 (Free)
4. GMAC #1-4
5. Target Test Prep simulated Quant exams


1. MH #1 9/9 630 (42Q/34V)
2. MH #2 10/4 590 (42/31)
3. Magoosh 10/25 620 (40/35)
4. Magoosh 11/18 ?? (38/35)
5. MH #1 (redo) 12/3 650 (43Q/36V)

6. GMAC #1 3/24 710 (47Q/40V)
7. GMAC #2 3/31 620 (44/32)
8. Veritas #1 4/21 650 (46Q/33V)
9. GMAC #3 4/28 710 (47/41)
10. GMAC #2 5/28 700 (48/38)
11. GMAC #4 7/4 700 (48/37)

Official Test Scores:
1. 560- (35Q/32) November 2013
2. 560- (36Q/30) April 2014
3. 670- (48Q/34) December 2016
4. 640- (43 or 44Q/35) February 2017
5. 700- (50/34) July 2017

Long Form:

This really is a long form. It amounts to over four pages single spaced. If you choose to read it I hope you see how I could have been more efficient. Leading up to tests #3-5 I tried to spend 2-5 hours per day studying for three to four weeks. Otherwise, I mostly studied at night for a couple hours or 20-30 problems at night for the large periods of time between tests.

Test #1: 8 am in November 2013- 560 (35Q/32V)- Did not sleep much the night before. I signed up for the GMAT, never studied, never cracked a book, and took it just to motivate myself to get going and see what I was getting myself into. I am not sure if the rule allowing for a maximum of 8 attempts was in effect, but honestly I wouldn’t have known because I wasn’t on BTG or GMAT Club. I was not upset with any aspect of this score as I had not performed any math beyond simple calculations since completing undergrad in 2004.

Test #2: Afternoon in April 2014- 560 (36Q/30V)- This time I completed the first seventy or eighty PS quant problems in the OG, and generally felt better about solving some equations than I had the previous November. I was honestly surprised I didn’t break 600 because I had put in up to ten hours. I believed that my best test taking days were behind me. I still didn’t really understand how the DS problems worked.

I didn’t focus on the GMAT for the next two years or so. During this time, I found BTG and GMAT Club and read the forum a lot. I read many success stories and started to get a better idea of what it would take to perform well on the GMAT and to gain acceptance to a top 25 MBA.

In August 2017, I left my role with the family business and moved a few hundred miles away. I had severance and vacation stored up so that I would still have my income until December. I think I worked my way up to 6-7 hours per day after a few weeks, but I probably only got 5 good hours per day. I had not studied for anything since I sat for a Bar Exam. I immediately started preparing for the GMAT by acquiring the Manhattan 10 book series. Most of the quant felt pretty good going through the first half of the books, some of the more advanced topics such as the N! counting and probability still required more practice and understanding, but SC was still pretty Greek to me. I took the first MH Cat on 9/9/16, and scored a 620 (42/34). I remember being really happy that I broke 600, but knew that this endeavor was going to take more time than I had expected. I think I went through the MH books another time and scored a 590 (42/31) on 10/4/16. I remember not being thrilled about that one because I had dipped back under 600, but I took a few days off, went to a music festival in Austin, and came back ready to get back to work.

I started to use Magoosh after the music festival. I had purchased a subscription earlier in the year but had yet to use it. I proceeded through the Magoosh program every morning for an hour of verbal tutorials and another hour of quant every evening. I took a Magoosh CAT on 10/25 scoring a 620 (40/35). I truly don’t remember much about this practice test, its just what I read in my notes. My notes then indicate I took another Magoosh CAT on 11/18 and scored (38/35). I am not sure what that total score would have been, but I was obviously disappointed.

I then set my exam for mid-December 2016, because I wanted to have my applications submitted by the end of the application period ending around January 10. I wanted to be starting somewhere in the fall of 2017. I acquired the latest OG and started working through all the problems. I focused upon quant up to the point where I could get every PS question correct without breaking a sweat. However, my DS was still a weak point, and despite constantly working on OG DS, I still had tremendous difficulty.

On 12/3/16, I retook MH CAT #1 and scored 650 (43/36)- my best score yet! I kept going through the OG questions and revisiting the Magoosh tutorials in preparation for my official test.

Test #3: 8 am in December 2016- My official test appointment came a week or two after MH CAT #1 retake, and I remember the quant being pretty easy. I don’t remember much about the verbal but I remember seeing my final score. I scored a 670 (48/34) and remember being ecstatic because I had not scored that high on quant in any practice. While this is not an elite score, and certainly does not qualify as beating the GMAT, I finally had some proof that my efforts were not frivolous.

I took the next few weeks off for weddings (yes, two in the two weekends before Christmas), personal travel, and the holidays. I applied to three top 25 full time programs that were part of large state universities, and two renowned weekend/part time MBA programs in Chicago.

In mid-January 2017, I went back to work, this time as an attorney for a government agency. It was far more laid back than my previous legal practice had been, but then I got to see firsthand how a government agency operates. This legal practice was significantly more user friendly than private practice, but still not for me. I also started toying around with taking the GMAT again because I would not hear from any of the full-time programs until mid or late March, and wanted to get another test score in before any final decision was made. So I booked another official GMAT for late February. I started waking up incredibly early, doing another hour of Magoosh videos in the morning before work, and then practicing for a few hours that night with OG material.

I did not take another practice test of any variety during this prep. It was almost entirely focused upon verbal, with less than 4 hours of total quant review in the days leading up to the official. I hardly slept in the two days leading up to the exam, and spent every non-work minute studying.

Test #4: 8 am in late February 2017- The quant section came and went, I freaked out because I had difficulty with an easy problem and I never regained my composure. I thought the verbal section was easy and I finished the test with plenty of time to spare. I saw my score and immediately cancelled it. I do not have the exact score, but I think it was a 640 (43 or 44Q/35V). I was devastated. I felt like my efforts were wasted and that the GMAT had beaten me. I knew that I had burned myself out with excessive studying in the days leading up to the exam. I also believe that I would have benefitted from taking practice tests.

I didn’t do anything GMAT oriented for the next month or so, had an interview at one of the full-time programs, but no offers for admission from any full-time. I live in a college town and ran into a guy in line at Starbucks who tutored the GMAT and other standardized tests. I told him about my attempts at the GMAT and he thought I could definitely score over a 700. He thought I could get at least a 40 on the Verbal with only a little effort. He recommended that I find the right process to continue my studies, and to practice more with OG questions. He immediately suggested that I take one of the official CATs from GMAC.

I did as he suggested and on March 25, I took the first of the free GMAC CATs and scored a 710 (47Q/40V)! I was amazed- where had this score come from? I took it that Saturday afternoon, no pressure, no practice, and no expectation. I immediately thought that my verbal work (for February 2017 test) had paid off, and that with a little review I could easily score a 720 and potentially become a candidate for a top 15 or even an M7. This score was pivotal because it made me rethink all my efforts, and to make another attempt at the GMAT. I contacted a few admission consultants and wanted to know more about my prospects for M7. I learned that I was definitely a candidate for M7, but that most consultants thought HSW were out of the question because of my age.

I took the second free CAT from GMAC and scored 620 (44/32) on April 1. Again, I was blown away by this score- the serious self-doubts returned. After a few days, I realized that the while taking the CAT I was distracted and gradually became more upset at my girlfriend who kept interrupting me throughout the test. I blamed my mental status on her interruptions and I went back to reviewing my OG books and free content on YouTube from various providers.

I then started reviewing BTG and GMAT Club to find the right process and to educate myself on the different services available to boost GMAT scores. I had finalized my choices to Target Test Prep, the local tutor, and a handful of other commonly advertised online options. During this time, I had a chance to speak with Scott at TTP. I found his both his MBA application and GMAT preparation recommendations incredibly insightful. One of Scott’s recommendations was to purchase the next set of GMAC tests #3 & #4. I took GMAC CAT #3 on 4/28/17, and scored 710 (47Q/41V). Looking back, I think I scored so well (for me) on the verbal sections of GMAC CATs #1 & #3 because I was reading every night. My reading included the complicated articles in The Economist that everyone recommends, and novels, both fiction and non-fiction.

After evaluating time, cost, and success stories, I chose Target Test Prep because I thought it would be more important to improve my quant since my GMAC CAT verbal scores were at 40/41. I signed up for TTP in the next few days and started the short study plan so that I could sit for the test again and finally break 700. The TTP program was easy to follow, had user friendly explanations in text and many also in video, and guided me to a deeper understanding of why every answer was correct. I used TTP for two months, and nearly every night I took quizzes that allowed me to cover 40 questions per night. In addition to the structured program, the people behind the program, Scott and Jeff, were always available and responded to emails within a few hours.

I retook GMAC CAT #2 on 5/28 with a less distracting test environment and scored 700 (48/38). I was right, the previous attempt at this version was a fluke!

I continued using TTP and in the end of May went to Chicago for a long weekend to interview and tour premier programs downtown. I returned from my trip and went back to work with TTP. I took another week off mid-June for a family reunion at the beach in Florida. For the next three weeks, every night I completed a 37 question simulated Quant test composed of only medium and hard questions from the TTP bank. I believed that increased testing simulation would provide the necessary preparation for my exam in the second weekend of July. During this time, I also found out that I was accepted at both the part time programs in Chicago. This was a huge relief as I finally knew that I would be able to begin an MBA somewhere in September 2017.

I took GMAC CAT #4 on the morning of July 4, and scored a 700 (48/37). I was a little disheartened to see that my quant score was not higher than anything I had previously scored and that my verbal scores seemed to be dropping. I spent the rest of my evenings leading up to the test in July focusing on verbal.

Test #5: 2pm in July 2017- This day had finally come. I had a lot of practice tests behind me, a better understanding of quant, and much more confidence in verbal. My nerves calmed while working through the essay and IR. The quant had two questions that threw me off and honestly seemed silly because the questions did not make any sense with the values provided. Looking back, I think they were experimental, but they definitely shook me. Regardless, I never believed that I had regained my confidence in that section, but I did regain my composure and finished the section with more than five minutes to spare. I had taken enough practice tests to know that I probably scored at least a 46 and that a good verbal could salvage my score. I felt really comfortable throughout verbal, there were a few RC questions that I was not a fan of, but attributed those to being hard questions and progress towards a high verbal score. I finished the verbal section with seconds to spare and was excited to see what the score screen would bring. I was not shocked when I saw my 700, but rather more relieved. I was shocked at the composition of my score- 50Q and 34V. I am thrilled with the 50Q but am obviously disappointed with the 34V. I don’t know the breakdown on verbal, but I truly believe that my GMAC CAT verbal scores were so much higher because I was reading every night instead of studying.

I am not sure if I am going to take the GMAT again. I scored significantly higher on verbal in the GMAC CATs and really want to take the test again. I feel like I beat the Quant, but that I have not beaten the GMAT. I think I am really close to a great score and just don’t want to move on without accomplishing my goal of a 50/40. On the flip side, I did not increase my score in the most efficient manner and do not see a large upside to a higher score. The only constructive reason to score higher would be yet another signal to potential employers.

I found while visiting the full-time programs that employers care about your GMAT score. Apparently the schools highly recommend that a score of 700 or higher should be included on your resume that you bring to career events. I was also told by current students that if you want an internship in IB or Management Consulting that you need to score a 700+. Again, I do not know this to be fact, I am just restating what I was told by student ambassadors.

I decided that given my age and desire to eliminate student loans for living expenses, a PT or EMBA program would be the best fit. I accepted the offer for admission to one of the part time programs in Chicago and will begin in a September 2017.
Good luck and know that the stories are true- anyone can earn a great score on the GMAT with focus and effort.

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