Getting out of a Rut: Overcoming 680 over 3 consecutive atte

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I took the GMAT a total of 4 times over a period of 6 months, beginning my preparation in Jun 2018 and achieving my target score in Dec 2018 .

This forum post will (1) outline my GMAT journey, (2) describe key decision points, (3) provide a review of the key resources I relied on for my GMAT preparation, and (4) describe my current MBA application process.

1. My 4 GMAT Attempts

In my first 3 attempts, I scored a consistent 680.
Upon closer inspection of my scores through the purchase of the enhanced report, I realised that I was making improvements in the areas that I focused on. However, whenever I focused on one aspect, I failed to maintain/improve my scores in the other aspects.
My score breakdown for the first three attempts are: 1st attempt (Jul '18) - Q47,V36, 2nd (Aug '18)- Q49,V33, 3rd (Oct '18) - Q47,V38.

During my final attempt (Dec '18), I scored 740 (Q50, V41, IR 7, AWA 6).

2. Key Decision Points

(a) Deciding to Re-Take the GMAT

I was distraught when I received the results from my first GMAT attempt; I was torn between accepting the score I got and attempting the GMAT for a second time.
Juggling life in the military and GMAT preparation was challenging for me because there were periods when I'd be out at sea, without a regular routine to enable me to revise consistently. Thus, I was very deliberate in the choice of when I scheduled my very first GMAT attempt.

However, I knew that I also needed to strengthen my application since I was aiming to apply to Harvard & Stanford. So after recouperating from the initial emotional setback, I decided to postpone my MBA application into the Round 2 submissions & attempt the GMAT for a second time.

(b) Purchasing the Enhanced Score Report

Analysing mistakes and developing an action plan is key to improving one's GMAT score. Thus, I found the Enhanced Score Report to be extremely useful in highlighting the areas in which I was making mistakes. Beyond that though, looking for the right resources to better prepare me for the GMAT was the next order of business; I had just relied on the Official Guides 2018/2019 & the Princeton Review book + CATs to prepare for my first GMAT.

My first enhanced score report showed me that I didn't have as good a grasp over the quans topics as I had initially thought. Thus, my main focus was to boost my Quans score while also improving my verbal score. After reading GMAT Club forums and receiving email links to trial online GMAT courses, I decided to register with EMPOWERgmat (I'll provide a brief review of EMPOWERgmat later on).

My second enhanced score report revealed that I had overfocused on my quans and got worse on my verbal section, in particular my Secntence Correction & Critical Reasoning. Thus, I bought the manhattan prep sectence correction guidebook and revisited the critical reasoning section on EMPOWERgmat. I also purchased more online CATs because I was advised by Rich from EMPOWERgmat that repeated tests on the same question bank reduces the veracity of your predicted GMAT score (tests 3-6 from GMAC, manhattan prep and veritas prep). Each mock test has its peculiarities; GMAC's website naturally provides the closest mock test to the actual GMAT, manhattan prep provides vigorous quans training but tends to be alot harder than the actual GMAT, veritas prep is somewhere in between.

My third enhanced score report revealed that I was making good progress in the direction I wanted, but it just wasn't good enough for me. In my final push to train for the score I wanted, I decided to look for an online course that was more personalised and that would provide a large data bank of practice questions. After trawling through the forums, I found that e-GMAT fit my requirements perfectly.

3. Reviewing EMPOWERgmat & e-GMAT

(a) EMPOWERgmat

The aspects of the EMPOWERgmat that helped me the most are listed below:

i. Improved my Time Management

The GMAT is not just about getting questions right; it is about getting the 'easier' questions right within a time limit. EMPOWERgmat helped me understand the value of each question type, especially for the Quans section. In having a better feel of the type of questions that would help me score well, I was better able to prioritise my time during the exam.
Besides understanding the value of question types, the course taught me quick tricks to shorten my math calculations as well as how to exploit the format of the GMAT. For instance, the concept of testing values from the answer options helped to save me time from calculating long, arduous mental sums.

ii. Provided Good Training to Strengthen Foundational Knowledge

EMPOWERgmat teaches you the fundamental concepts needed for the various sections in the GMAT. It does so with easy-to-follow videos and guided examples. It also structures your learning process and helps you to keep track of the progress you make.

iii. Provided Tips on how to be a GMAT Assassin (stuff beyond the content)

Something that I valued the most from EMPOWERgmat were the tips given beyond the content of the actual GMAT. It provided tips on how to psychologically prepare yourself for test day. I continued to hone these skills with each GMAT attempt. Furthermore, the staff at EMPOWERgmat are highly supportive. After each GMAT attempt, they checked on how I did, offered a free extension to my EMPOWERgmat subscription, and helped me to analyse my weaknesses after I bought the Enhanced Report.

(b) e-GMAT

The aspects of the e-gmat that helped me the most are listed below:

i. Facilitated Specific Goal Setting

Before starting any of the online materials, e-GMAT has a GMAT Planner that shows you the specific percentile you should train towards if you want your target GMAT score. The Planner gives a specific percentile for each component of the GMAT in order for you to attain your target GMAT score.

For example, I wanted a GMAT score of 750 and I reported that I was fairly proficient in both Quans and Verbal.
The GMAT Planner then churned out specific target percentiles for my Algebra (85%ile), Arithmetic (87%), SC (85%ile), CR (87%ile) & RC (89%ile), resulting in an overall Quans Scaled Score of 50 & an overall Verbal Scaled Score of 41.

I also liked the feature in which I could change components within the recommendation based on the understanding of my own competencies. I knew SC was my weaker component, and thus, I reduced the target percentile needed for SC. Furthermore, the GMAT Planner takes into account the minimum score for you to achieve the target goal (i.e., there are certain percentiles below which you cannot state as a goal if you have a higher target GMAT score)

Ultimately, this gave me a very clear goal to work towards & I dedicated my energy towards these component percentiles.

ii. Provided Rigorous Verbal Training

The best part about the e-GMAT is its depth of content.

But before delving into specific topics, the course taught me how to read. While we do read daily, we do not necessarily comprehend what we read to the level demanded by the GMAT. Thus, e-GMAT provides this module called Master Comprehension in which it teaches you how to read effectively so as to correctly answer the questions thrown at you during the GMAT.

Needless to say, the topics for the actual content of the GMAT are well covered thereafter. The videos are filled with multiple example questions and you go through scaffolded learning; the level of difficulty is slowly increased through the videos to ensure that you aren't thrown into the deep end.

Furthermore, if you have any question regarding the content presented in the video, you can post questions in the forum for that particular topic or read questions that have been asked by other e-GMAT learners. This helped to clarify many doubts that I had f or specific topics and this made the learning process alot more personalised.

iii. Maintains an Effective Question Bank + Provides Realistic Training using Questions from the Official Guides

Scholaranium is essentially a question bank that churns out ability tests and practice quizzes to help you keep track of how well you are progressing in attaining your target percentile scores. Additionally, in each of the content topics covered, e-GMAT makes reference to the relevant questions from the Official Guide.

4. My MBA Applications

Round 2 deadlines for HBS & Stanford GSB are over & I'm currently waiting to hear from them.
I should find out about interviews by 31 Jan '19 latest for Harvard, & 6 Mar '19 latest for Stanford.
Hopefully I'll get called back for an interview, but we shall see.

I intend to provide my reflections on the MBA application process once I complete my interview preparations. So stay tuned if you're interested!
Also, do feel free to post questions that you may have & I'll reply whenever I can.


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by [email protected] » Wed Jan 23, 2019 3:23 pm
Hi markymarc89,

That's OUTSTANDING news! With a 740/Q50, you can comfortably apply to ANY Business Schools that interest you. Since you've already taken care of your applications, there's not much else to do at this point (unless you want to consider applying to any additional Schools). We're all excited to hear how all of this turns out, so I hope that you'll let us know where you choose to attend School. We love hearing about the paths our Alums choose to take.

Congrats again on all of your success so far!

Another GMAT Assassin Has Been Made!
Contact Rich at [email protected]