I am glad to say that I have a happy ending (or is it a beginning?) as I have beaten the GMAT today with a score of 710 - Q49 V39. I was shocked in the end when I saw the score and I silently pumped my fists thinking as if I were a champion: *Silent fist pump* "I am......Roger Federer!"
As for my preparation routine, I have always been very strong in Quant as I attended Carnegie Mellon, but for some reason, perhaps a lack of formal grammar training at school, I suffered in Verbal. While I took ManhattanGMAT's course, I focused almost entirely on Verbal first for several reasons:
- 1) Verbal improvements are much more dramatic score-wise than Quant improvements (perhaps more people are stronger in Quant than in Verbal?)
2) I had no formal grammar training in school and always relied on my ear. I learned that my ear, although valued, can be quite deceiving especially in SCs and hard CRs. I am a very fast reader so I did not have much trouble with RCs once I learned that even inferences had to be proved from the text and not from some outside knowledge as I had once assumed.
I found the course very useful and incredibly invaluable as it provided me with discipline and instructors who answered my questions expertly (Horacio, Ron, Emily, Chris, Stacey).
The SC guide is very good just like the PowerScore guides for CR. The math books provided me with the core foundations necessary to master a variety of questions. For me, the online courses often exceeded the allocated times by 10 to 15 minutes due to Q&As, which were incredibly useful. The few things that can be improved about the course are faster response times to specific questions and more than one office hours per week. But other than that, the course is VERY good.
Also, MGMAT exams may not be representative of the real GMAT exam as its quant questions are much harder than that of the GMAT exam, but it's like a marathon. You practice on a mountain to make sure that you are well-conditioned to run in a meadow. I also found that Verbal is similar to OG but not of the same caliber as many of its rules that are being tested are static, but those rules provide you with the core foundation that will enable you to learn the nuances of OG verbal problems. Practice with OG problems is still the best way, but MGMAT is probably the best at complementing OG as evidenced by the mirroring of the OG practice problems and study guide chapter concepts.
- 1) Manhattan GMAT guides (focus on SC, CR, Number Properties) (SC is just amazing)
2) Own Flash Cards built in Excel
3) OG 12 (best practice material)
4) OG 11
5) OG Verbal
6) OG Math
7) Manhattan GMAT's OG Stopwatch website (AWESOME)
8) Manhattan GMAT tests (3 of 6 I took)
9) GPrep Exams (3 taken, with 1 reset)
10) Zuleron's 198 Hard Math Problems (finished 99 of 198 problems) (awesome resource if you can handle the frustration of some typos)
11) Manhattan GMAT Forums (mostly for verbal problems)
12) Beat The GMAT forums (for both math and verbal problems)
13) GMAT Club forums for rare cases
14) Feedburned RSS feeds of the Manhattan GMAT and Beat The GMAT (converts all new postings from forum's RSS feeds into emails that were sent to my inbox daily around 6 p.m. so I could review after work)
15) My incredibly helpful ex-classmates and friends from CMU who gave tips via email on how to tackle mind-numbing tough problems quickly. Damn them for being able to score 770 with only 2 days of prep! I kid, I kid...
16) PowerScore CR Bible (useful to know how to categorize CR questions)
Preparation Strategy (Daily or Weekday basis)
CONSISTENCY is KEY!
- 1) Finish 2-3 Chapters from a book
2) Transcribe notes into Excel while finishing the chapters
3) Do TIMED SETS of OG 12 or OG VR practice problems related to those chapters. I would use ManhattanGMAT's OG Stopwatch website to track timing for each problem, or use a physical stopwatch with lap times. For each problem, I would mark them if I was unsure, I did not understand the concept, I took too much time, OR I was careless.
4) Spend DOUBLE the time reviewing the explanations for EACH AND EVERY problem regardless if you get it right. Spend EXTRA time on the MARKED problems as they are most important.
5) Re-transcribe notes from lessons learned from explanations
6) Review Feedburned emails for interesting shortcuts and hard problem strategies
7) Re-re-transcribe notes from lessons learned from Feedburned emails
- 1) Every week or two I would take an exam
2) If the exam was GPrep, I would search each and every GPrep problem in the forums and GMAT Fix and GMAT Hacks website to review the fastest strategy to tackle the problem. If the exam was ManhattanGMAT's, then I would search Beat The GMAT forums and ManhattanGMAT forums.
3) Often an exam review would take me about 3-6 hours. And I would re-transcribe my notes into Excel.
After posting several times regarding timing strategies and discussing them with several experts such as Stacey, Emily, and Chris, I eventually settled on a timing strategy from a website that I found here on this blog: https://possiblybestmbablog.blogspot.com/
Before every exam, I would make a timing table and try to adhere to it no matter the cost. Stacey and Emily often urged me to move onto the next problem if I exceeded 2 minutes or was conceptually stuck, even at the expense of my fragile ego. I learned that ego is irrelevant on the GMAT the hard way and now that I have beaten it, I can say that my ego is hearty and well again
Practice Test HistoryQUANT
Question To Be On, Time Remaining
Question To Be On, Time Remaining
1) GPrep #1: 640 Q49, V26 :-O (I was literally shocked)
2) Manhattan GMAT #1: 650 (The math was insanely hard and I was often discouraged by my inability to tackle each math problem within two minutes, but the verbal seemed to many of GMAT Verbal question concepts. I felt much better after perusing the forums, discovering that MGMAT quants were much harder than those of GMAT and thus intended to help you train harder like those marathoner runners who run on top of mountains rather on sea level terrains)
3) Manhattan GMAT #2: 650
4) Manhattan GMAT #3: 680 (ah ha, a glimpse of hope!)
5) GPrep #2: 650 (quite discouraged, but I redoubled my note-taking efforts with GMAT Fix's and GMAT Hack's help. It was at this point that I discovered the timing chart.)
6) GPrep #3: 700 (lo, the magic number! I achieved this 5 days before my test date!)
(Note: I did not practice AWAs since I'm a relatively fast typist, but I did review quick bullet concepts as posted here in the forums for tackling issue and analysis essays)
Pre-test Day Strategy
1) Although I really wanted to study, I was held hostage by my friends who told me to NOT study the day before the exam. I isolated myself secretly and often reviewed flash cards in my Word Doc (converted from my Excel notes).
2) I wanted to take another exam, but I harbored silent fears that if I did not score 700+, then my newly gained self-confidence might be dashed. So I decided to rest on the laurels of my last exam's score.
3) I watched Entourage and watched Dexter (amazing episode last week!) to chill
4) Forced to go to bed around midnight for next day's exam time of 11 a.m.
Test Day Strategy
1) Re-memorized the timing chart
2) Ate banana, Special K cereal for a good breakfast
3) Read NY Times and Economist. Enjoyed Anand G's recent article. Anand Giridharadas is an amazing writer and I had hoped to gain some of his writing skills through an osmosis-like process by reading all of his articles prior exam time
4) Cabbed it to test center (did not want to feel fatigued from commute as stamina was very important)
5) Chugged a gatorade and went through a ridiculous number of security screenings
6) Did AWA with ease and left 5 minutes of insurance to revise the typed essays
7) Took a quick break but then I quickly re-entered the test center realizing that I could use the break time to draw ABCDE grids to help with POE. But I learned that upon re-entering, the exam starts almost immediately (30 sec to 1 min delay?)
8) Monitor sucked balls since one problem said find perimeter of shaded area and the contrast was so low that I had to tilt the monitor to figure out where the shaded areas were. I thought about complaining but I decided not to because I was 5 minutes ahead of my pace in my math problems. I faced some tough problems that I had no clue on how to tackle (sets and combinations together, etc.) and promptly skipped them with educated guesses that were made in 30 seconds, including the very first problem. Finished section with about 4 minutes to spare.
9) Break time (again forgot to make ABCDE grid PRIOR to taking the break and leaving the room for Verbal). Upon returning, Verbal began almost immediately
10) I kept a running counter of RC/SC/CR problems as I did the exam to keep track. I tended to solve RC and SC problems more quickly than CR problems. Hence if I noted that the distribution was skewed towards not that many CR problems, I realized that I needed to pick up my pace on the current problems in order to tackle the upcoming CR problems. In the beginning I fell behind pace by about 4 minutes or approximately 2 questions. However, I was able to speed up my pace by debilitating less between two remaining choices and went with my gut on some sooner than later to tackle the late CR problems that appeared 5 in a row and finish the section with 1 minute to spare. And also, OMFG, so many modifier SCs and inference RCs!
10) Finished a huge questionnaire about my background. Reported scores (almost hesitated because of Verbal but my confidence in Quant overrode that hesitation) and saw 710. I rose my fists in silent triumph and thought like a champion: "I am....Roger Federer!"
I hope to apply to top 5 B-schools for Round 2 applications.
Regarding my Excel notes or the feedburned emails of Beat The GMAT's and Manhattan GMAT's RSS feeds, I can share them if the moderators of the forum approve. I can even transfer ownership of these feedburned emails to the Beat The GMAT moderators too.
I hope my journey proved useful to others as others' GMAT journeys provided much encouragement and incredible advice.
I shall depart with a nice quote: "Cassius was right, the fault dear Brutus is not in our stars, but in ourselves. Good night, and good luck."