Never Give up - from 450 to 710 (Q49, V37, IR6) -5th attempt

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Hello Everyone,

When you truly want something, the whole universe conspires in helping you to achieve it. Yes, I might not have scored 750+ like many other people, but I am really glad that I could cross the 700 barrier and I am glad that my hard work paid off. I want to extend my sincere thanks to my family and close ones for tolerating with me throughout the entire period.
I have 'aspired' to beat the GMAT for over 7 years (yeah! What was I thinking?). The key word is 'aspired'. I never really took a true dig at GMAT before, ending up taking 5 attempts. I am an Indian Male with Non-IT engineering background. I have mentioned the summary of all my attempts below.

2. MGMAT Guides
3. MGMAT personal Tutor
4. MGMAT Verbal Forums / BTG Verbal Forum/ GC Quant Forum
5. Veritas prep Guides
6. OG, OG VR]
7. How to read faster and better - Normal Lewis
8. Economist/Atlantic/Scientific American/History Today /New York Times/WSJ
9. GMAT Prep Question Bank
10. 6 GMAT Prep Exams
11. GC Tests

TLDR Version:

1. Attempts 1&2 - Waste of efforts because of lack of focus.
2. Attempts 3,4&5 - This is where things get interesting.
3. Go to learnings.

Attempt 1:

I attended Manhattan Review classes for a month in 2014. I just attended the course and after the end of the course, I took a mock test and scored 450. I was not serious about it and left it that way. Because of work pressure and the assumption that I had ample time, I focused more on my work rather than GMAT. But the thought of GMAT has always been on the back of my mind and I wanted to crack it. I studied at sporadic intervals, solving questions from OG and reading from MGMAT guides. I was doing well in Quant and my verbal was ok. I took 2 GMAT Prep mocks and I scored around 650. However, I got a job abroad and moved on. As soon as I moved abroad, I started preparing seriously for GMAT but again in the same disorganized way. In April 2016, hoping for a miracle to happen on the test day to give me 700+ score, I finally took GMAT. I score 610 (Q50, V23, IR7). I was so disappointed (yeah, right! What else could happen?). I was heart broken and took a break from the GMAT.

Attempt 2:

I wanted my prep to be structured this time. Hence, I registered with 'e-GMAT' verbal online. This was the time, I actually gave a structure to the prep and I understood why some answers are wrong and why some are right! I watched all the modules judiciously and attempted all the questions in the pattern that was suggested by e-GMAT. E-GMAT is very good and the quality of the modules is very well. Scholaranium is a wonderful tool, which will help you to use the power of data analytics to spearhead your prep. I studied for 4 months and my GMAT Prep mock scores started showing scores starting with 7. I was pretty active on GMAT Club forum and started answering questions. I was confident that I would score 700+ and booked the test in December 2016. However, on the test day, I scored 650 (Q49 V29, IR4). Now I did not know what to do, as I gave everything that I got and scored 650. I left the test aside.
In mid 2017, after 6 months, again I dusted my OG and logged in to GC and BTG. I bought the GMAT Prep Question pack and additional 4 GMAT Prep mocks this time. I registered to e-GMAT verbal online again and studied as and when time permitted but was completely not focused into it. I used veritas guides this time. 6 months passed. I could see no progress as I was never seriously into the prep. My scores in mocks would toggle between 650-720. Throughout 2018, re-registering to e-GMAT again and going through the same material that I have had, I sporadically studied with a study buddy. But things would go 1 step forward and 2 steps backward because of the work schedule and sheer lack of focus. I switched my job in 2018 and completely lost focus on GMAT.

Attempt 3:

In May 2019, I thought to myself, enough is enough and started seriously again. I wanted to face the GMAT seriously this time. I again registered for e-GMAT and studied the same old way. This time, my mock scores were around 650-720. I could understand that my verbal scores were taking a hit because of my lack of reading skills so this time, I started with a completely verbal focused prep and I hardly spent any time to Quant. Everyday, I would read 3 articles from Economist/Atlantic/Scientific American/History Today/New York Times/WSJ etc. I could see that I was getting comfortable with GMAT English as I could solve the passages with close to 50% accuracy. I courageously booked the test and scored 660 (Q49, V31, IR6). I saw the ESR and understood RC again took a hit. Now I had no clue about what to do since I did everything that I could.

Attempt 4:

This time, I wanted to do things differently and I decided to hire a personal tutor as same old resources were not helping me anymore and I am just wasting time. I wrote to MGMAT as advised by a friend. Though expensive, MGMAT has some really good tutors. I decided not to consider the costs because the opportunity cost was too much as of now. MGMAT put me in touch with 'Simon Flynn'. I wasn't so sure about him since I have never heard of him on GC or BTG forums but I decided to just go with the flow. He worked with me for 2 hours and I could already see my accuracy levels increase to unprecedented levels in RC. We also understood that my major problems are time management and anxiety during the test. During every attempt, I would literally mark randomly the last 7-8 Qs in verbal and read and re-read some lines in passages as I would not understand what was written. As per his advise, I worked on fixing these issues by following the strict timing splits in verbal and mindful reading. Since I exhausted all my GMAT Prep tests, I took 4 MGMAT tests now, scoring 680(Q47,V35),670(Q45,V36), 620(Q40,V35), 690(Q47,V37). Good news - Verbal score is consistent and is above 35. Bad news - Quant score got shot in the head. To be sure of my situation, I took GC tests (the best tests for GMAT Quant. Hands Down. Bunuel is the BEST. Period) and understood that my Quant scores really took a dip from the usual Q49 to Q35-Q40. However, Simon insisted that I quickly brush up quant and take the test soon since I was seeing consistency in my V scores, as I had a proven record of Q49+ in 3 real tests. I quickly tried to brush up my quant skills but wasn't so sure about the attempt. I took the test on 11.11.19 - 3 months after the 3rd attempt. I was calm during the test and was fully aware of what was happening during each timing benchmark. However, I left the last 2 Qs unanswered in Verbal, thinking that it would not affect the score much. Boom. 650(Q46, V34, IR7). Are you kidding me? I have not scored less than Q49 in either real GMAT tests or GMAT Prep Mocks. I was shocked but the signs were all along during the 1 month of prep. I just ignored them. I just wanted to give up. But I could see the scores in Verbal improving gradually. SO I wanted to give a final attempt.

Attempt 5:

I ordered ESR and noticed that my RC was at 85. CR was at 80 and SC was at 59%. I registered for 1 more session with Simon to chart out the plan. We worked on some Quant Qs and some SC Qs. I understood that I lacked consistent approach in SC. Things are pretty interesting in Quant. I would get some of the high level conceptual Qs in Quant right but not the low level ones because of silly errors. The kind of errors in which you mark (2+3=6). If you know what I mean. I took 2 MGAMT mocks during this prep - 660(Q46, V34) & 740(Q46, V45). I could see that my verbal skills have increased because of the verbal focused prep. However, for Quant, I understood the only remedy for this problem was to practice. I kept my ego in a shelf and I focused on getting the 500 level Qs right in GC first. Then I moved to 600s and then to 700s, while brushing up my concepts. I could also see that I forgot some of the concepts and approaches to Qs in Quant. During the last 1 month, I focused on getting my Quant back on A game, while maintaining or building up on verbal. I took 2 mocks during the last week before the final test Veritas - 710 (Q50 V37). GMAT Prep Mock 6 (reset) - 730 (Q50 V38). I knew that I was ready now. I booked the date on 15.12.19. However, I fell ill 3 days before the test and had crazy schedules at work. I just believed that I deserve to get 700+, come what may. I was calm during the test. Followed my timing benchmarks to the T in Verbal but deviated slightly in Quant, ending up skipping the last 3 Qs. Though, I made sure that I did not leave any Question unanswered. Submit. Saw a 710 (Q49, V37, IR6). Based on my performance in the test, I expected around 730 (Q50, V38) but its ok.

Came out of the hall and the examiner congratulated me. I shook his hand for close to 30 seconds ( :) ). I explained him about my previous attempts as he was free and there was no other students in hall. He just replied, "Hard work always pays off"


There are a million debriefs on GC and BTG by people who scored much higher than what I have. They provided most of the success tips and their learnings which will help you score 700+. Below are some of my perspectives.

1. GMAT is a test of time management. More than concepts, your time management skills are tested in this test, as GMAC wants to filter out anyone who is bad at managing resources well, a quality that is not desirable for future world class leaders. Split each section into sub-sections to be completed in certain benchmarks and follow it judiciously.
2. Get Help when necessary. Most people are lone wolves. They tackle GMAT alone by self prep but that is not who I am. Not all of us are fortunate to be capable of doing it on our own. The genius is in recognizing and accepting that to progress further, you need help. My sessions with Simon Flynn from MGAMT are invaluable. As a business leader, you are not expected to do everything on your own. Get help when necessary.
3. Approach the test in a focused manner. Always work on your weaknesses, while maintaining your strengths. Do not leave your strong areas during practice.
4. When you fall, just get back up. Get back up, quickly. Re-attack the test while the material is still fresh in your head. If the time period between your consecutive attempts is more than 6 months, consider the 2nd attempt a fresh attempt. Period.
5. Prepare yourselves mentally for 2-3 attempts. Some people crack it in just the first attempt. But if you are like me, you know what I am talking about.
6. By leaving Qs unanswered in the test, you are shooting yourself in the foot. If you don't have time, just mark randomly and move on. Think like a business leader, the probability of getting the Q right if you randomly mark is 20%. The probability of getting the answer right is 0% if you leave it. Moreover, there is hefty penalty for unanswered Qs.
7. Recently, I was touched by one of the speeches by our CEO, in which he quoted an Indian Poet -When you put in the hard work, even GOD stands next to you. GOD cannot be so unkind. (Ok, I went a bit spiritual there but sometimes, its ok)
8. Miracles happen everywhere in the World except GMAT. If you are not scoring well consistently in your mocks, never ever hope for a good score in the real test. The probability is 0.000001% (I am not a statistician, but you know what I mean)
9. Enjoy the test. Believe me. GMAT is one of the finest tests I have ever seen. Since childhood, I have aced almost every aptitude test that I wrote but GMAT is different. GMAC did a terrific job in designing the test that tests the skills that business leaders need in the real world such as resource management - knowing when to quit, reasoning, leaving your ego outside the exam hall etc.
10. Give it time. Just as any other skill such as biking, swimming, kayaking etc, GMAT also tests some skills that are supposed to be built over time. Don't get too frustrated with lack of progress. If you cannot read the right way, there is no chance in the World that you can ace the verbal. Learn how to read first and then start attacking the GMAT Qs.
11. Prepare yourself for some sacrifices along the way. You may have to spend more time than you planned towards the prep and the only way to do it is to compensate by sacrificing other activities such as seeing friends, watching movies, and other fun activities.
12. If you do the same things every time, do not expect different results.
13. Prepare for a million things to go wrong as you approach the test day. On my 1st and 3rd attempts, the examiner was not present at the center for more than an hour - imagine the crescendo of stress levels. I spent huge amount of time during the first 3 sub-sections of Quant in my 2nd attempt, ending up skipping the entire last 9 Qs - My accuracy in the first 3 sub-sections was 100%. I let my ego get the best of me - a case that never happened before in mocks as I end up with close to 10 minutes of time in every mock and real GMAT with Q49+. I lost track of time during a particular sub-section in my 4th attempt and was hence forced to leave the last 2 Qs unanswered - a case that never happened during the previous mocks. I fell ill before my 5th attempt and work reached peak crazy levels.
14. Never plan for huge jumps. Plan for small increments and always remember that small increments add up to the big jump. If you want to score Q49+ and know that you are making silly mistakes in 500 level Qs, understand that you are not doing any good for yourself by spending time on just 750 level Qs. Try to make jumps from 500 to 600, 600 to 700 and 700 to 750+. You did not run before you learnt to walk, remember?
15. Most important of all - A Wish is different from an Action. Wishes when not fulfilled cause stress and actions cause Results. But if actions fail, you gain experience not stress (maybe stress + experience but it still beats only stress any day). GMAT is a rough journey and consider taking this route only if you are fully committed and decided to endure the pain and keep going. I have spoken to many people during my preparation and the main reason that people fail is that they wish to crack GMAT but they do not take the necessary action. Choose your 'Why' wisely!

I hope my debrief will help you in planning your prep and if it inspires even 1 person, I consider that my responsibility to give back to the community is fulfilled. This community gave me so much information and inspiration that kept fueling my prep. I am really glad to help you in any way. Its time to give back.
Finally remember the words of my examiner "Hard work always pays off"

Thank you.