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My 4 month journey from 540 to 740...grit over ability!

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My 4 month journey from 540 to 740...grit over ability!

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It's been a hell of a ride. Let me tell you a little bit about myself. I was a very underwhelming student my whole life. I was particularly dismal at math. I don't think my ability for it is well below average, but it required more studying for me to be successful whereas in most other subjects I could do absolutely no work and get C's. That's not a boast-I'm not one those people who gets all A's without studying. There isn't a day that goes by without me rueing my past academic history. By sheer luck, after graduating from an average school, I managed to land a job in credit risk management for Bank of America cards. In the following years I also worked at HSBC and now work as a Senior Risk Analyst for JPMorgan Chase cards.

In May of this year I decided to pull my stuff together and try for an MBA. Obviously to offset my low GPA (Cool, I realised I needed to score a minimum of 700 for admittance into a good school. In May I purchased some Manhattan study guides, and spent a couple hours a day reading them. I didn't attempt any tests, it was more of a casual reading to brush up on the absolute basics. In June, I enrolled in MGMAT for their course. After a few weeks, on June 19th I sat my first practice test. I scored a 540. I was quite disappointed in myself because I felt that I was some way off my goal. My quant was a dismal 29, my verbal was 36. I continued to study 2 hours a day, 6 days a week. I was attending all manhattan classes and doing all the assigned work. I could feel myself getting better, but it's hard to gauge by how much.

3 weeks later I sat again. I figured after an additional 30 or so hours of study, I'd be at around 600. I had originally planned to study 200 hours in total for my gmat. It didn't quite work out that way in the end, but I'll get to that. The next manhattan practice test was a 570. My quant improved, if you can call it that, to 32. My verbal stayed at 36. I wasn't surprised my verbal hadn't improved because whilst I'd done the assigned readings/questions, I was paying it lip service. My natural ability in english meant that my critical reasoning and reading comp was pretty good, but of course the dreaded SC was preventing me from going higher than 36. Again, I was concerned about my rate of improvement. I had planned on sitting the exam in September and it was July and I was 160 points and 40 percentile points short of my goal. I continued to study diligently and do all the manhattan coursework.

A week later, just to assure myself that my low rate of improvement wasn't a fluke, I sat another manhattan exam, this time quant only. I found out in no uncertain terms that scoring that low the second time WASN'T a fluke, as I ended up getting a 27 in quant. I wasn't fully concentrating on the practice test, more browsing and guessing, so I dismissed it as an anomaly. However, at this point I decided to get a tutor for 2 hours a week in addition to going to the manhattan course. I kept doing more and more and more practice problems and I felt confident that I was getting better.

I continued to study 2 hours a day, but the most valuable thing I could do was to mark down every time I couldn't do a problem. I'd then ask my tutor or look at the answer to figure out how to do it, and I'd do it the next day on my own. I'd also try it again a week later to make sure I had it down pat and didn't forget it. I kept drilling thousands of problems anywhere I could find them. The internet, my tutor's handouts, the OG-anywhere. After two months of this, on September 24th, approximately 3 weeks before my test, I sat another Manhattan Exam. This time I scored 700, with a 41 verbal and 43 quant. This would actually be 690 or so in a real gmat exam (given that raw score) but I was ecstatic that I was seeing results. I knew then that my potential was to at least get a 700. I then felt confident enough to sit a gmatprep test, where I scored 720 with a 45 verbal 44 quant. Things were looking up! I sat the remaining MGMAT test, scored a 720 as well. Finally, 3 days before my first actual test, I sat the remaining gmatprep test. Unfortunately, I only scored 690 here, but I wasn't too bugged. Around this time, I started getting pretty excited to sit the GMAT and see all my hard work pay off.

The night before the first exam, I couldn't sleep AT ALL. I must've had 1 hour of sleep total. I still went and sat the GMAT. The quant didn't seem any harder, but shockingly I ran out of time on verbal, which I never do. The end result was a 640, and much worse than I expected. I was despondent...a part of me was sure it was lack of sleep and nerves, but I had hyped the exam so much up in my head, I made it such a central fixture in my life, that it was a massive letdown. For the six months leading up to the exam, I had a LOT of personal issues that were going on that were affecting me quite a bit. I thought that if I studied hard and I gritted through it, I'd prove to myself that I could take adversity in my life and turn it into something positive. I went home feeling depressed...and after a week off, I booked my test for the next month.

This time, I attacked with a little more of a gameplan. I did a lot of problems again, but this time I logged all the questions I did wrong and drilled them over and over. I found as many advanced questions as I could and drilled those as well. I could feel myself improving. Then, I read the entire sentence correction MGMAT guide over and over again. I did the entire OG sentence correction section, and most of the OG PS section. Mentally, I relaxed a whole lot. I told myself that it was just a test, that I could do it again and again until I was satisfied. I didn't tell anyone that I was resitting so there were no expectation and pressure from friends and family. The night before the test, I slept like a baby. I sat the test, was pretty casual, but careful throughout the whole thing (although I ran out of time with one quant question to go). The end result was a Q48 V44 split for 740.

So the distilled version is this

DO
Drill your mistakes over and over until you are comfortable applying the knowledge needed for other similar problems
Find advanced problems to do. This will help you in solving easier problems faster and you learn 'fallback formulas' that are slightly more complicated but can help you if you need an alternate solution.
Lots of practice tests, but don't put your faith in the scoring of random ones. I'd say use GmatPrep at the end to gauge where you are.
Relax and realise it's just a test! Get lots of sleep

DON'T
Underprepare. One or two good scores doesn't mean you won't catch a run of questions you don't know how to do in the real test
Panic if you sit your first practice test and are way lower than you expect. A little improvement can make a big difference
Forget to redo questions that you had trouble with more than once
Get discouraged. Keep trying and trying and trying. Some people get the test faster than others. But grit can overcome!

Finally, my brother sent me this after I didn't do well the first time. I now watch on almost a daily basis and it perfectly sums up my feelings towards this test and my effort. Remember, pushing forward even after you fail and eventually succeeding makes it all the sweeter and you'll prove a lot to yourself!


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=45mMioJ5szc

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Junior | Next Rank: 30 Posts Default Avatar
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Amazing debrief and a great score. Best of luck for your applications.

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Maorli that was the perfect example for try, try try until you succeed. I really felt very happy after going through your testimonial. Wish you all the best with your college search.

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Awesome debrief, I also did MGMAT and scored lower than I would have liked 2 times, so I know the next one is my last one. I think you're right on about drilling the problems over and over, especially a week later. I did not do that and now that I could significantly improve by doing so. Thanks for the inspiration!

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Great story...just goes on to prove that nothing is impossible!

Kudos!!

_________________
Cheers,
Rahul

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Hello, I noted that you suffered exam anxiety the first time you wrote in addition to the fact that you had no sleep. The one thing you didn't really describe in your debrief is how you overcame your nerves and also how you got sleep -a full night's sleep too! Both so critical for success.

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I am really inspired by your story.

I am on the same boat as you were during the summer. I am really struggling to improve, I have been giving the MGMAT practice exams and gave all 6 of them and the highest i got was 610. The very first one i gave i got 490 and then jumped to 590. I have been doing a lot of OG and have been following a schedule of doing OG and addition practice questions. A lot has been going in my personal life as well. I do realize in order to get into a top 10 school i need a 700. I am not sure how I will improve but I will keep plugging at it. Any advice from you would be great.

thank you !

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Congrats on your score! Shows that hard work truly does pay off in the end and it is possible to make a 200 point leap. Your story is so motivating! There are times when I look at my GMAT book and feel like I just need to drill the problems and explanations into my head. Thanks so much for sharing. What schools are you looking into for your MBA?

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Hi guys, thanks for all the good wishes.
To the poster above who asked about how I could overcome nerves, it really is a combination of things. Number 1, I woke up bright and early the day before the exam, went to work, came back home, brushed up on concepts, so I was tired and slept. I also took a light soporific (benadryl-based). Another important aspect is to NOT take this exam too seriously. A lot of people, including me, thought not meeting my score would be the end of the world. But really, even if I didn't do as well I wanted, I'd still have a roof over my head, a job, food to eat....so I'm already luck to be better off than 90% of people out there. The second time I just told myself that even if I didn't hit the score, I'd just keep trying. I knew that I hit 700 multiple times in the practice test and I knew I was doing more harm than good by hyping it up too much.

Also, to the poster that asked for tips in studying...the OG I really only used to make sure I could do questions in the allotted time. The questions are a little too easy until questions `100+. I'd recommend doing the OG questions in chapters, at the end of each MGMAT guide. Make sure you do the advanced questions! They contain lots of elements that you can pass down to easier/medium level questions. The high level questions require stringing together several techniques, but you can isolate specific technique for easier questions.

I also think the beatthegmat diagnostic pdf is really good. Go through that, and don't forget to redo questions you missed the next day, and then try them again the week after!

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also guys, a suggestion. DON'T tell lots of people that you're sitting the gmat and DO go back to the same test centre if possible (if you've already sat it)

Do not get too focussed on solving hard questions if they show up on the exam. Remember that you lose way more points for missing easy questions, so if you have 5 minutes left and 4 questions to do, skip the first if it seems challenging, and the next question is likely to be easier and you'd save opportunity cost by doing these instead.

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You are truly inspiring!! Heartiest congratulations to you!!

I am in exactly the same situation as you. Not been too much of an academic person, but now feel like I want to experience an MBA education from a good school. Math - my biggest weakness. Work has also been only about communications/English. I am currently brushing up with an elementary math book, followed by the "fundamentals in math" by MGMAT.

You did mention you were doing the MGMAT course and were studying with a private tutor, could you share details please? What was your study time table like? Consistently 2 hours per day? Did you ramp up further? Were you following a time table that you could share?

Thank you so much... and once again, really appreciate the honesty in your post - from here on, you are never poor in academics Smile

Reshma

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Hi Resha,
Thanks for your post. First of all, I'd advise not booking a time to sit the gmat until you're around ~50 points away from your goal. People have different starting points, and some will take longer to grasp the fundamentals. When you do get to 50 points of your goals, I'd take another 2-3 months of studying before sitting the test.

The MGMAT course is a great course. Our teacher here in Toronto was phenomenal. That said, I think you could replicate most of the experience with the complete set of books and doing the online course. However, the course will only get you so far. You will learn many new concepts, but you need to practice APPLYING them to a variety of problems. This is where doing lots of practice problems helps. Sometimes you don't see how you can apply what you've learned to a problem because you don't know how to manipulate the problem. I found a private tutor on kijiji (similar to craigslist for Canada). What I did was to study independently and attempt many advanced problems as I got better. I noted the problems that a. I couldn't do and b. that I could do but took too long, and had the private tutor show me how I could solve them, and faster.

My timetable was as follows: 2 hrs per day, six days a week. 5 days math, 1 day sentence correction. I am naturally a very fast reader so I didn't need help with reading comp. as I was able to read the entire passage a few times within the space of two minutes. There are some good tips in the manhattan book, but aside from what we did in the course and the assigned homework, I didn't touch the reading comp. book much. Critical Reasoning was also covered in class, and since I got the hang of that pretty quickly, I also didn't study that much.

2 weeks from the exam, I ramped up to 4 hours a day. 3 hours math and 1 hour SC. I would start off with a half hour of easy problems to 'warm up', do another half hour of medium problems, and spend the other 2 hours on advanced problems. Again, the ones I couldn't do, I took to my tutor. After he wrote down the method, I'd drill it when I got home, then again over the next couple days so I was comfortable. I'd also mark the problems I got wrong during the practice tests (I took at least 10), and drill those constantly.

I would highly recommend doing some sort of MGMAT course, because their online student portal is amazing. Aside from the tests and the book, the online portal has lots of tools to help you. They're also a great bunch of people who're very supportive and helpful.

Reshma, please let me know if you need any prep material as I've acquired a bunch from different sources (mostly practice problems). I would just ask that you not distribute them because I'm not sure about the ownership. Also, feel free to ask me anything about the test at all. One reason I did well is because I 'knew my enemy'. I knew how the test worked, all the tricks that go a long way to helping your score. I suggest you read up on it or ask me! Good luck and don't forget to watch the youtube link I posted whenever you feel discouraged!

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Maroli,
Truely inspirational De-Brief!! I'm also not very good with Quant section, and i've realized that underperforming on quant makes me want to not put much effort on the verbal bit. As a result, my overall score goes down. I would request you to explain the tricks and "knowing the enemy" part from your de-brief.

Regards
Taran

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Thank you so much...this is most helpful... i will definitely reach out to you in the coming days...

Cheers!

Reshma

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