730 - beat the gmat and my target

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730 - beat the gmat and my target

by akbariqbal » Mon Nov 30, 2015 10:41 am
Hey guys,

I took the GMAT today and surpassed my own expectations. I'll try not to go into a very lengthy post because I don't think I did anything too far out of the ordinary. I simply relied on consistency, hard work and application (i.e grinding through the material day after day).

The goal was anything 700+ but I'll be honest a 730 seemed a little out of reach (I'll get to that later). I studied for about 4.5 -5 months with a couple of extended breaks in between. I tried my best to study every day and probaby averaged about 10 hours a week until the latter stages. I have a full time job - got quite lucky though as work was surprisingly slow for the last month or two and I could sneak in study sessions at the office.

Here are the 3 resources I used

1. Economis GMAT (this was great for me. I recommend it. They do a great job of keeping the content fresh and drilling home the key concepts. Great for SC).
2. OG extra question pack ( I did this during my last week and a half).
3. OG Extra exam pack.

Here are the key takeaways that really, really helped me:

1. Just keep going and drop the ego.

There will be frustration and there will be days when you feel like you just can't get it or have taken a step back. The truth is you haven't. Keep the faith and keep your target score in mind. Ups and downs are part of the process. Keep going and bit by bit you'll build the confidence you need to face whatever the system throws at you.

I burned out about 5 days before my test and realised I'd been pushing way too hard. I eased up during the last few days and realised how it was totally fine if I didn't make the cut this time. It's just an exam and you'll get over it, no matter the outcome. Realising this actually helped me stay strangely serene through the whole process and definitely led up to a better score.

2. Focus on the secondary details:

Fix your sleep cycle (try to get 8 hours a night, especially the weeks leading up to the test).
Ease bad habits out of your life. Ease up on the drinking, coffee, smoking (I don't smoke but in my test center I doubt you'd have had the time to smoke during the breaks and get back to your computer in time).

3. Track your progress

No need to over engineer this. Just put a big calendar for the month on your wall, write the number of hours you want to study that week somewhere and then write down what you managed each day. Be honest and don't be hard on yourself for not getting there if things came up. The goal is to just create an indicator to see if you are on track or not. 1 or 2 hours up or down a week won't make or break this test.

4. Take practice tests early to build stamina

I'd like to preface this by saying I am quite sure the extra GMAT Prep exams are harder than the first 2. My actual test taking experience was a lot like the free ones. If you haven't hit your dream score yet, all is not lost. I achieved my highest score by far on the day of the test itself and I know 2 others who did the same. Don't take that for granted just be aware that it's entirely possible.

Start taking a FULL practice test every week about 60% of the way through. It's probably better to leave the official ones till the end. Don't worry about your scores too much - use them as indicators.

The goal is to build stamina. After I was done with the actual test, I almost felt as though I could go back and do another. However, when I took my first practice test (without essay and IR) I couldn't even absorb the first question of verbal.

I took 9-10 practice tests. Note - I felt I had covered a signficant portion of the material in October.

Here are those scores in order (dates are in DD/MM):

i. No preparation (around 1/7) - 590
ii. Economis 20/9 - 650
iii. Economis 30/9 - 600 (Got slightly overconfident)
iv. Economis 10/10 - 680
v. GMAT Prep 2 17/10 - 680
vi. GMAT Prep 1 24/10 - 660 (was a bit unwell for this and it really showed. Be sure to take care of yourself and keep your body in good condition)
vii. Economis 7/11 - 680
vii. Economis 14/11 - 710
xi. Manhattan GMAT 17/11 - 630 (Got overconfident and came crashing down)
x. GMAT Prep 21/11 - 680
xi. GMAT Prep 25/11 - 670 (felt too burned out in the opening of the quant section that I had to stop for 3 minutes and guess 2-3 questions. Be warned).

As you can see my scores fluctuated up and down. I had only broken 700 once going into my exam! Seemed like a 680 would be my score.

I was quite worried by the end of the last test but I was also calmed by 3 things

a. I had shown that I could perform well on each section on at least 1 of the tests
b. My stamina was now superb
c. I had experienced a variety of positive and negative test taking scenarios and was pretty much ready for anything.

5. Don't forget to work on your strengths and stay calm during the exam.

At best, I'm slightly above average when it comes to math. I had to work about 4x harder on this section and only managed a 47 /67th percentile on the final test. I could tell it wasn't going to plan about 8 questions in during the quant section. Thankfully, I had come to terms with the fact that it was just an exam and my worst case scenario wasn't quite so terrible. I focused on each question as it came and recovered as well as I could. I didn't lose sight of the fact that a good verbal section can save a test.

Now when I say, I'm not a math person, verbal is my strength and I am able to pick up concepts faster. I managed a 44/98th percentile (slightly higher than anything I've scored on a practice exam - so don't lose heart). The only reason I managed this was because I recognized early in my prep that it might be my ticket to a 700 and I took it very seriously. I drilled SC, CR and RC continuously and it paid off tremendously


- Instead of writing ABCDE on my notepad, i found a great tip on a forum that suggested putting your non-writing hand down on the table and pulling back fingers to represent the answer choices that you eliminate (for me, thumb was A, little finger was E). This was huge for me. It kept me from breaking concentration and saved a lot of time.

- Start keeping an error log when you plateau. Keep it simple. I used a google docs spreadsheet. When you get a question wrong, right down a fairly detailed description of the error and the lesson you learned from it. Having to articulate my errors in words instead of just reading the correct solution and moving on helped solidify the concepts.

- Watch for signs of burn out - People warned me and I didn't heed their advice. Your mind and body needs rest. Your mind needs time to absorb material and your body needs recovery time to stay fresh. Studying can be more taxing than you realize. I highly recommend yoga/stretching routines to get the tension out of your muscles. Notice how my scores dropped towards the end? That's what happens when you're body needs a break and starts missing small yet vital details in the question stem etc.

- Use the OG extra qs and exams if you can.

- Remember that it's just an exam. Forget what others scored, forget what is at stake, forget everything. It's an exam and you can have a bad or good day. Be kind to yourself.

Set yourself up for success!

That's all from me. Hope that helped and I'll follow up with anything else. Good luck!


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by Narendran25 » Wed Dec 02, 2015 12:40 am
Excellent debrief akbar. I like your final point, in which you said that it's just an exam. I gave my GMAT last month & scored 100 points lower than my mock test scores. Problem was that I approached the exam as if my life depended on it, that kind of pressure made me lose focus. Giving the exam again on Dec 26th, this time my approach will be like yours.!!

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by karantuteja » Wed Dec 02, 2015 4:12 am
Congratulations for scoring 730 akbariqbal.
Thanks for the debrief and the valuable tip of using fingers instead of writing ABCDE.
I have a habit of writing ABCDE which usually takes time and drops the concentration level. But, I hope this new trick will help me!

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by melissagetsanmba » Fri Jul 21, 2017 10:20 am
That's pretty brilliant that you decided to keep pushing on verbal even though it was already your strength. It looks like it clearly paid off! Thank you for the great outline.

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by clubber112358 » Tue Nov 20, 2018 11:19 pm
This is great! I need to focus on verbal too. Got a V27 on the last CAT I took, so I clearly need to work on it.
Were you able to identify if there was any particular type of question that you needed to work on?

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