I beat the GMAT; if I can do it, you can to! Q49 V36: 710

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I don't even know where to start with this post. My GMAT journey started 2 years ago; I was a senior in college. For background, I am a caucasian male that studied at a top 50 university, in business, in the United States. To be honest, I took school very lightly until college as I was trying to fulfill my dream of being a professional athlete. With that said, I could have studied a lot more in high school, but was too busy chasing athletic dreams and girls... I am by no means a genius. However, I can tell you that I am a hard worker and am willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done. I remember being on these forums hoping to come across motivational and inspirational stories every now and then, especially when I found myself tired of the GMAT grind. If that is you: this post is for you.

Anyways, back to my GMAT journey that started 2 years ago during my senior year. At the time, it was my second semester and I was only enrolled in 9 credit hours. Although I played a Division I college sport, going from 15+ credit hours a semester to 9 credit hours gave me a lot more "free-time". As a side note, my main motivation for studying the GMAT during my senior year was the result of the job offer I had received after interning at a fortune 500 company, in finance. A part of the company's development program for financial analysts is that after 4-5 years of work, the company sponsors a select few analysts to go back to B-school full-time (top 15 programs only). Once I accepted the job offer I figured that I might as well take the GMAT and get it out of the way with all of my free-time, knowing that I could retain my GMAT score for up to 5 years. I knew that I had to score over a 700, but didn't know if it would be hard or easy.

GMAT Test #1:
To be honest, I had no idea where to start with my studies. I had asked a person I knew that was studying and he highly recommended all of the Manhattan GMAT Prep Books and the Official Guides. A week later, the books had been shipped to my apartment and I was ready to study. The one mistake I made was taking a practice GMAT CAT, through GMAT Pill, before my books came. I had no idea what the GMAT exam was, how it tested you, what a Data Sufficiency question was, etc. This may shock you, but I remember taking the GMAT Pill Free Exam and scoring somewhere in the 400s. I remember taking the test and having 25 mins to spare on both the Quant and the Verbal. My attitude during the test was that I planned to skip all of the questions I didn't know off the top of my head and try to answer the ones that I felt like I could solve. Even though I didn't "give it my all",I scored in the 400s and realized I had a lot of studying ahead of me.

As soon as my Manhattan Prep Books came, I decided to devote around 1-2 hours every weekday studying for the GMAT. To be honest, for the first month or two, I solely went through the Manhattan Books and tried to take a practice exam every couple of weeks. I remember after a few weeks of studying I took my first Manhattan CAT and scored a 520 (Q31 V30). I slowly progressed, especially my Quant score as I continued to go through the Manhattan material: 520, 540, 580, 620. By the time I had hit the 620 mark, I had studied from the middle of January 2015 to around the middle of March 2015. At that point, it was around Spring Break season and my team and I ended up going on a week-long trip to compete down in Florida and when I got back, I remember being swamped with my college sport and my three classes I was taking at the time. I tried to study a little bit every week, but my goal was to maintain my 620 level until graduation in May 2015. I knew that my time to shine and grind my studies was going to be from the time I graduated college to the time I started my job, which gave me three months.

Once I graduated, I was in the library everyday for many hours. I felt like studying throughout the semester had given be a great base to really start pushing things to a new level. At the time, I had already gone through all of my Manhattan Books, but had not touched the Official Guides. It was at this time where I started going through the Official Guide and went through the Manhattan Books a second time as a supplement. I had decided that I was going to do every single Official Guide question, keep track of the difficulty, whether I got it correct or incorrect, and time myself on every problem. It was at this point in which I really felt like I was progressing the most. I had taken my last two manhattan exams and score around 650s on both (Manhattan exams are notoriously harder than the real GMAT) and I had also taken my first GMAC Free Exam and scored a 680. I knew that I was going to have to cross the 700 mark to get into a top 15 program, but I felt like I had some momentum on my side. As soon as I scored the 680, I immediately signed up for my first GMAT Attempt, which at the time was 2-3 weeks out. At this point, I reviewed all of the incorrect questions I had recorded, took another GMAC Free Exam, and tried to keep my brain fresh before Exam Day. On my second GMAC CAT a week later, I scored a 700 and continued to feel like momentum was on my side. I was ready to score a 700+ and close the books after 3 hard months studying after graduation and the pre-work I had done during the school year.

The next thing I knew, I was at the test center ready to take my exam. However, there is one thing. The exam center was having issues setting up the exam for me. I kept waiting and waiting and waiting, and after two hours, they told me I was going to have to schedule another date. This was terrible news as I had strategically scheduled the exam two weeks before I was going to start my first job in Corporate America. I immediately went home to sign up for a new date; the next available appointment I could take was 3 weeks later on a Saturday morning. I decided that I wasn't going to let it phase me. Even though it was going to be after my first week of work, I figured another three weeks of studying (after work) wouldn't be so bad. Boy was I wrong. I was exhausted after that first week of work. I was learning so much, trying to make great impressions, getting in early every morning, leaving late every night, etc. etc. The next thing I knew, it was Exam Day. I still felt optimistic about my chances, I had been able to study during those three weeks; however, I found myself wanting the GMAT grind to be over; I was becoming burned out.

I remember the GMAT Exam was going well. I felt like I had done a solid job on Quant and felt like Verbal went well, too. I pressed "submit" at the end of the exam and my score popped up on my screen: Q47 V35: 680. At that point in time, I went out to my car and basically cried, meaning I didn't cry, but I was devastated. So much hard work and I fell 20 points short of my goal. Not only did I fall 20 points short of my goal, but I knew had I taken the exam three weeks earlier, when I was truly scheduled to take the exam, I would have crossed over the 700 threshold. I was devastated. Work was starting to pick up, I was burned out, and I decided that it was time to close the books. I wasn't sure if I was ever going to take the exam again.

GMAT Test #2:
One week later, I decided I was going to give it another shot. I thought to myself, "if you can study for two hours a night after work for the next couple of weeks, you can score a 700+." So that's what I did. I studied every night after work for a couple of hours and grinded out a few long weekends. It was at this point when GMAC changed the timing of retakes to 16 days instead of a full month. I decided I was going to study for three weeks and retake the GMAT exam. Life Lesson: don't ever try to pursue something when you are in a burned-out state. I just wanted the grind to be over, and lost my love for learning. The first go-around, I actually really enjoyed learning and feeling like I was chasing after something. Throughout the three weeks I studied before my GMAT Test #2, it felt like a hell. The result, I can't even tell you the score breakdown. I cancelled my score so fast that I barely had time to blink: I believe it was a Q44 V32: 640. I went out to my car, screamed a few times, and told myself I would NEVER take the GMAT again. At the time, I hoped that a 680 could get me into a top 15 program. I knew it was going to be a long shot, but my boss had gotten into HBS with a 680. I was a Division I athlete, 3.8 GPA, worked for a fortune 500 company... I was just going to take my chances with a 680 and leave it at that.

GMAT Test #3:
Well, sure enough, there was a GMAT attempt #3 for me; I had lied to myself. GMAT Test #3 came around March of 2016. This attempt may be the funniest of them all. I had put the books down from August 2015 to about February 2016. You will laugh at why I picked them back up. I remember when I had been reading through GMAT forums, everyone had mentioned that reading books, newspapers, journals, etc. had really helped them improve their verbal scores. With that said, I had some slower months at work in the winter and decided I was going to read for fun and that maybe, just maybe, it would benefit me if I ever decided to retake the GMAT again some day. From November 2015 to March of 2016, I became an avid reader. During that time, I must have read somewhere between 15-20 novels. To be honest, I had NEVER read a single book for fun. As I mentioned, I was too busy trying to pursue my professional sports dream or chase after girls in my high school and college days. To my surprise, I fell in love with reading during this time. Throughout my reading, I felt like my reading speed had picked up and my vocabulary, too. I had this crazy thought that if I continued to read and just re-studied Quant for a month by going through my Manhattan Prep books, I would maybe be capable of scoring a 700+. Optimistically, I signed up for the exam for March of 2016, which gave me a month to study Quant (while I continued to read). I took one practice exam a week before the exam and scored a 700 on a retake of one of the free GMAC exams. My verbal had improved dramatically and my Quant was around the 47 level that I had been at for my first attempt. I was ready to cross over the 700 mark. My result: 620 and I couldn't even tell you the breakdown because I cancelled my score so fast. I got out to my car after the exam and laughed. Why in the world did I think I could score a 700+? It was maybe the dumbest decision I made. Yes, I scored a 700 on the GMAC retake, but if I learned anything at this point... don't ever take the exam unless you are fully prepared for the score you want to achieve. For my third attempt, I didn't touch any practice problems. I simply just read novels and went back through my Manhattan Prep books. I had lost all of my test timing and should have known better. I was desperately hoping I would get lucky and I didn't.

GMAT Test #4:
By this point, you probably think I am crazy. A fourth attempt? Is this guy serious? Yes. My GMAT attempt #4 may be the craziest of them all. In April of 2016, I had received news that I was being offered a new position, for the same company, out in the northeast. Work was going extremely well for me. This was an awesome opportunity that I did not want to turn down; therefore, I didn't turn it down. The only problem was that I was leaving all of my family and friends and was moving to a place where I knew absolutely nobody. I had this idea that came across my mind: what if I gave it one last GMAT attempt? I didn't know anyone out there, and wouldn't have any distractions. I could study as hard as I wanted for as long as I wanted until I scored a 700+. It sounded like an awesome idea... and so it happened. I worked everyday from 8am to 5pm, worked out and ate dinner, and studied every night from 8pm to 11pm. I decided to go through all of my Manhattan Prep books again, and it was time to go through the Official Guide from front to back cover. In one month, I finished all of the Manhattan Prep Books and finished the entire Official Guide. Additionally, I had purchased the Critical Reasoning Bible (highly recommend) and cranked through that as well. My only issue at this time was that I didn't have any great practice tests. I had used all of the Manhattan CATs and my free GMAC CATs as well. I decided to try the Veritas Free CAT exam, which I heard was extremely hard. After going through all of the material again, I scored a Q47 V37: 670 on the Veritas CAT. I felt pretty good about that score, as people within the GMAT Club were sharing experiences of 50+ point discrepancies between the Veritas CATs and the real GMAT. This is where the story gets crazy. I scored the 670 on the practice CAT on a Saturday morning and the following weekend I was going to be back home for 10 days for vacation. The last thing I wanted to do was have to study while I was with my family, so I had this crazy idea of trying to take my fourth attempt before I went back home that next weekend. I knew it was a long-shot, but I thought it was worth another $250 to see if I could get a 700+ that way I could close the books and spend quality time back home. I went to sign up for an exam the following Monday, just to see if there were any available appointments. There was one available appointment on Tuesday morning at 8am; it was less than 18 hours away from the time I had signed up for the exam. I decided what the heck, if I don't get the 700+, I will continue to study when I get back from vacation. I called my boss the next morning and told her I wasn't feeling well... the things you do for the GMAT.

I remember going into my fourth attempt feeling stress-free. I told myself that I didn't have any pressure... I didn't EXPECT to get a 700+. How could I? I had only been studying for a month and my practice CAT a few days before was a 670. In my mind, I was playing with house money. I was just treating the exam as a practice test to try to get a gauge at where I really was... oh the beauty of being able to cancel test scores. Keep in mind, if GMAC still had the old rules before being able to cancel the test AFTER seeing your test scores, I would not have made the decisions that I did. Anyways, I remember the test starting out really well. After the first 7-8 Quant questions, I felt like I had honestly gotten all of them right. The next thing I knew, I pressed submit and saw my score pop up on my screen: Q49 V36: 710. Months later after the exam day and it still feels great to type that out on the screen in front of me.

I walked out of the exam room, went out to my car (the same car I had for my first three GMAT attempts) and just let out the biggest smile and happy scream. Finally, I had conquered the GMAT.

It took me $1,000 and four attempts later to cross over the 700 mark (plus some book fees). To this day, I think I would have gotten a 700+ on my first attempt, had it not been for the exam difficulties that ended up pushing my second attempt three weeks later. Despite all of the attempts, frustration, failures, etc. it was totally worth it. Seeing that 710 on the screen after all of that hard work was one of the greatest feelings ever. To those of you who find yourselves in similar situations, keep pushing, keep grinding! If I can do it, anyone can.

M7 programs here I come. I hope you enjoyed my story.

- Future MBA Prospect


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by ceilidh.erickson » Sat Apr 08, 2017 6:45 am
Congratulations! I'm so glad that your hard work paid off. You story is a testament to how much dedication it really takes to do well on this test. I hear too many students saying that they're dismayed at not seeing results after 2 months of study. It takes way longer than that to build expertise!

I'm certainly glad that you got a lot of value out of the Manhattan Prep books! But I also agree with your assessment that you might have gotten there faster with different circumstances.

Here's some general advice for others, based on your story:

- Take the pressure off of yourself! (Deadlines notwithstanding). You can always take the test multiple times, so never tell yourself "I HAVE to get my target score today!"

- don't just re-read strategy guides to study. Make sure you're also tracking your mistakes, and working in targeted ways on areas of weakness. The Mprep blog has great advice on how to do that: https://www.manhattanprep.com/gmat/blog ... -studying/

- Integrate OG problems into your study. Don't try to "finish" the guides first. It helps to read the content, then practice real questions that relate to that content.

Congrats again!
Ceilidh Erickson
EdM in Mind, Brain, and Education
Harvard Graduate School of Education

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by insane9621 » Tue Aug 15, 2017 5:54 am
wonderful story! best of luck for your journey ahead!