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How to prevent a GMAT breakdown

This topic has 1 expert reply and 1 member reply
stedusna Newbie | Next Rank: 10 Posts Default Avatar
11 Jan 2016
1 messages
Target GMAT Score:

How to prevent a GMAT breakdown

Post Mon Jan 11, 2016 8:09 am
I am stuck. I have been preparing the GMAT for 6 months now. However, the results have not been satisfying. I am here to share my experience and to seek suggestions.
Personal background: 26 years, non-native, management consultant
Objective: 700+
Study sessions:
- I have few or no hours available during the week. However, I have dedicated the majority of the weekends to GMAT preparation (thus we are talking about at least 15 days of study, or 120 hours).
- Moreover, during exam sessions (August and Christmas' holidays) I studied full-time for at least 2 weeks (adding an additional 25-30 days, at least 200 hours)
- Overall, I prepared far more than the average test taker does, however, I know that this way of studying is not ideal since sessions are spread away (also happened that a couple of times I couldn't study even during the week end, so I didn't touch a book for two weeks or more).
- Unfortunately, I won't be able to modify my schedule

Material used:
- Manhattan: went through all the books + question banks
- Kaplan: went through all the series, including for high scorer
- OG: all the 2015 series

- August 13, 2015: MGMAT, 640 (Q43, V34). I was quite satisfied since I started preparing 3 weeks before and this was the first test ever, so I thought that I could easily score 700+ with more preparation
- August, 19, 2015: GmatPrep, 690 (Q45, V40). After just 6 days (spent entirely at reviewing the concepts which were at the basis of my mistakes) I improved the score significantly. Good.
- August, 21, 2015: GMAT real, 610 (Q41, V34). A disastrous result. I couldn't accept plummeting from the 690 of just 2 days before. I had timing issues and left several question unanswered (3-5). It was such a nightmare, holidays would have soon been over and I would be back to normal work life, which implies no/few study.
- December, 24, 2015: MGMAT, 620 (Q42, V33). Back to holidays; time to see where I stand after the Sept.-Dec. weekend study. Shame! The score felt to the same level of August. But I didn't give up and I started an extremely intense two-weeks studying in order to try the exam immediately after winter holidays.
- January, 01, 2016: GmatPrep, 720 (Q47, V42). I thought: done. Finally I broke through the 700 wall; my goal. Truth to be told, it was the same test I took in August, but honestly I could not remember the questions. Even if this was not the case and I unconsciously remembered few of the questions of 6 months before, I think it was quite a step up. I kept studying to reinforce the progress.
- January, 06, 2016: Kaplan, 730 (Q50, V44). Wow. Here we go. Then I should be on truck, two in a row, it cannot be a coincidence.
- January, 08, 2016: MGMAT, 640 (Q44, V34). Bombed. How come? I was doing great on more than half of the test, I was able to solve most of the questions. I got 8 right in a row on Quant and 10 right in a row for Verbal, out of which 5 were 700-800 questions. I even reached 99%ile while I was at question 20. Then how was it possible? The reason was that I entered a vicious circle: after getting right a question, the next one was harder, so took me more than 2 min. to finish it, but I got it right. The next question thus was even harder, and it took me even more than the previous question and so on. Long story short, I left unanswered 3 questions and I was forced to guess on the last 4 questions (all wrong, by luck). So in total 4 questions wrong in a row plus 3 unanswered. This drastically impacted on my result. Just to give you an idea, in verbal I was 85%ile at the end of question 34 (the last I had time to read properly) but finished at 71%ile. This test proved that what I thought to be a commonplace is indeed the most valuable inside for the gmat: the main task is not to answer ALL correct questions, but rather to choose to which answer.
- January, 09, 2016: GmatPrep, 710 (Q48, V39). Newer back down. Lesson learned from MGMAT, I tried to skip the question for which I was sure to need more than 2 mins and I made it. Two days later I was going to take the exam, so I reviewed all mistakes and also the theory were I was not so strong.
- January, 11, 2016: GMAT real, 660 (Q45, V36). For f*ck sake! What's wrong with me? I had not skipped many question, and timing was ok (I left one verbal and no one in quant, just rushed on the last 2).

• Takeaway: At the moment I am lost, I honestly do not know what to do to improve structurally; I am fed-up especially when I think that now I am back to work and I won't have much time until next summer. Dragging the GMAT along with you for months is such a strenuous experience. I had sacrificed my last 6 months, spending little time with my gf, family or friends. And yet did not succeed.
It has always been like being on a swing, scores were going up and then down, up and down again. After 6 months I got a score which is near to what I had 6 months ago almost without studying (just +20).
What should I do now?
I have almost completed all available resources and I know well all the theory, so going back to books won't be useful. Then practice? But where? I have done probably more than 2.000 question (Q+V) and I don't know where to find additional material, though I have few CAT left.
I know I still have a bit of a timing issue but how to improve with it? Also, as you might have noticed, the go live-factor is quite heavy for me. In both tests I significantly underperformed simulations.

Any suggestion / help would be much appreciated.

Thank you all,


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Post Mon Jan 11, 2016 9:57 am
Hi stefano,

There are a variety of issues with your situation (and how you've studied), but before we discuss any of those, I'd like to know a bit more about your overall timeline and goals.

A 660 is a strong overall performance (it's just above the 80th percentile overall), so it might be a strong-enough score to get you into your first-choice Business School. Until you define your big-picture plans, we don't know whether a retest is necessary or not. To that end:

1) What Schools are you planning to apply to?
2) When are you planning to apply?

GMAT assassins aren't born, they're made,

Contact Rich at Rich.C@empowergmat.com

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Marty Murray Legendary Member
03 Feb 2014
2050 messages
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Post Mon Jan 11, 2016 9:35 am
Probably in quant you could be better in certain categories, and probably in verbal there are some flaws in your processes.

Regarding verbal, I see this all the time. One can have process flaws and still get most of the questions right IF the questions somehow don't catch your process flaws. Then if you get a bunch that do catch the flaws, you can generate a significantly lower score.

So it's likely that what you need to do for verbal is tighten up the way you look at questions, in order to make it a little more holistic and logic based and a little less strategy and rule based.

Here's an example I just saw. A guy was doing SC questions and quickly getting one right after the other. Then I gave him one that is a little freakier, and more meaning driven than rule driven, and he got smoked. Something about his processes got him right answers to all the others, but his processes were not set up to handle the last one.

This blog post might help.


For some good RC questions that will teach you to be VERY logical and careful, and some decent SC and CR questions, you could use the free Veritas Question Bank, here.


Regarding quant, if you just get better at handling a half dozen to ten question types, that might do it. You will get right answers to those types and also leave yourself more time for other questions.

Many people don't realize the value of working on quant topic by topic.

You look over your practice tests to see which kinds of questions or what topics give you the most trouble.

Then you can choose one of those types and spend a day or two and become a TOTAL expert in handling questions of that type, by learning all about the question type and, starting slowly and carefully, doing DOZENS of questions of that type one after the other, giving yourself a chance to see key things and to develop great skills. As you get better at them you speed up until you are doing them in around two minutes each.

Starting slowly is important though. Getting RIGHT answers is all that matters, and getting wrong answers in two minutes each is almost useless. When you are skilled, you will be fast.

Then you move onto another question type.

You can get SO SMOKING GOOD working this way.

One way to do that is by using the quant part of the question bank here. http://bellcurves.com You can access it by going to the GMAT area and setting up a practice account.

Another thing that you could do is take lots of practice CATs, even half CATs. Do a verbal CAT one day and a quant CAT another. Like a rat in a maze or a kid playing a video game, you will adapt and get VERY comfortable with the test. Veritas has CATs. 800Score has decent CATs. I have seen someone use the video game strategy as part of her success in going from test day anxiety and low 600's to 750.

No need to bug man. You are very close. Just tighten up your processes some and play the video game some more and you will score higher and your scores will be more consistent.

Marty Murray
GMAT Coach
In Person in the New York Area and Online Worldwide

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