500 to 700 in Practice CATs - Official Score of 650

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I had planned on taking the GMAT the past couple of years, but as a busy working mother I just kept putting it off. One night in September, quite spontaneously, I registered to take the exam in three months time, compelling myself to start studying. I was very unoriginal with my target score and decided I would aim for 700 (but keeping in mind that the schools in Europe I was considering would likely accept a 650+, given the rest of my application). Below I will outline my experience in terms of preparation course, results and test day.

The Preparation Course: Empower-Gmat

I signed up to the Empower-Gmat course mostly because I thought the price point was more reasonable than some of the alternatives, but in the end it was so good that I would have paid anything! Below is an overview of what I saw as the four key elements of the course, and why I found it so valuable: structure, teaching, approach and enjoyment!

First of all, the structure of the course is excellent; I was able to break the 12 week study plan into clear, achievable goals for each week; a typical week would involved completion of a Quant module (ie. Algebra), completion of a Verbal module (ie. Reading Comprehension), a couple of mini courses on strategy or tactics, and then some practice quizzes. Even as the weeks closed in I didn't feel overwhelmed, because I was following the curriculum and I felt confident that I would have covered everything I needed to know by Test Day. (They have also designed study plans for 8 weeks and 4 weeks, where I assume curriculum is cut back or condensed).

The other great thing, was that when I sat down to do a module, for example, 'Algebra', it wasn't at all overwhelming; the module was broken up into clear classes, where Rich would take you quickly through the concepts and then work with you through lots of example questions. Same with Max on the Verbal side. I was very weak in Quant when I started, and the answer explanations in the OG would often just leave me confused and frustrated, but Rich's explanations are so simple and clear. He also has a positive yet pragmatic attitude, which I really enjoyed.

This course is specifically designed around beating the GMAT. It's not about improving your maths skills or your English grammar - all of those things are only focused on in as far as they can help boost your GMAT score. There is a lot of focus on clever strategy and tactics. The Test It tactic and Data Sufficiency process completely changed Quant for me, and even in Verbal, where I was already strong, I saw my score go up several points once Max explained the wrong answer types to look out for and little tactics like the 'The Opposite Test' in Critical Reasoning. I think this element of the course is worth its weight in gold and really sets this course apart from others.

Perhaps this is the most important element. I had thought that studying for the GMAT would just be this necessary yet unpleasant task that I would have to endure for a couple of months. I imagined that I would dread every evening and weekend that I had set aside for studying. However, I was very pleasantly surprised when this was not the case at all! I know it might sound crazy, but I actually even looked forward to working on an EMPOWER Quant module after dinner. I think it's because there are so many quizzes built into the curriculum, so the study is very interactive and you're constantly getting feedback.

The Results

Practice CAT 1: 500 (Q24/V36)
Practice CAT 2: 610 (Q33/V41)
Practice CAT 3: 620 (Q37/V38)
Practice CAT 4: 680 (Q38/V45)
Practice CAT 5: 700 (Q39/V46)
Official GMAT: 650 (Q37/V41)

Test Day

I was nervous on Test Day, but I was happy with the last CAT I had done less than a week earlier, which helped the nerves. I felt very confident in Verbal (too confident, as it turns out), so spent the morning going over my Quant notes and doing a few practice DS questions. Nothing crazy. I got to the Test Centre an hour earlier, and was able to immediately be processed and begin; I was happy about this as I knew there was nothing more to gain with an extra hour of reviewing notes.

The biggest factor for me on Test Day, and I think for a lot of people, was the timing. I had been keeping a close eye on timing throughout all my Practice CATs and my experience was that in Verbal I never felt rushed and usually finished with around 15 minutes to spare, and in Quant I had to be very conscious of hitting the benchmarks I had learnt in the Empower-Gmat course (have at least 50 minutes left after Q10, at least 30 minutes left after Q20 and at least 10 minutes left after Q30).

My BIG fail on Test Day was that I completely forget about timing in the Verbal section, assuming I would have time to spare like I always did. But Test Day is different, and unlike in practice CATs I was being meticulous in selecting my answers, often reading the answer choices an extra one or two times before finally confirming my choice. You can probably see where this is going, but at some point I glanced at the clock and saw that I still had 20 questions and only 20 minutes!!! This meant I completely rushed the second half of the Verbal section, even having to make some blind guesses towards the end. I am quite sure this is the reason I did not get the V45 and overall 700 that I was hoping for.

The Quant section was tough, as I expected, because I am far from a natural. But at least the Empower-Gmat course had taught me to be disciplined on timing, to not hesitate in triaging really difficult questions and to NOT PANIC. I stayed calm enough to get the 'bread and butter' questions right, but of course I was a little disappointed that I couldn't pull of my best Quant score when it counted. I also found it so frustrating afterwards when I thought about all the time I spent working on quadratics and geometry, to then only see a couple of questions from these categories. Oh well, that's the GMAT.


Overall, it's been a satisfying experience. I would have really loved to see that 700 on Test Day, but seeing it in a Practice CAT at least proved to myself that it's possible, and I know the stupid mistake that let me down on the day (Verbal timing), so if I wanted to do it again I think I would see an improvement. But what my family and friends keep reminding me of, and what I am slowly starting to realise now that I have a couple of weeks distance, is that the GMAT is a means to an end, and as long as I get into the MBA course I want (which I think is likely), it actually doesn't matter that I didn't get a 700.

As a final note, I really cannot thank the Empower-Gmat course enough! It is a brilliant course for all the reasons I've listed above, and I absolutely recommend it for anyone preparing to take the GMAT.

Good luck in your own GMAT journey; try to enjoy the process, and keep in mind that it is a means to an end.


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by [email protected] » Thu Dec 14, 2017 11:41 am
Hi MissSwiss,

That's FANTASTIC news! You've made some huge strides over the course of your studies (raising a 500 to a 650 is an outstanding achievement!) and you've clearly proven that you could score even higher if you ever chose to retest. This whole process has shown that you have the capacity to learn and improve (while handling what is likely a fairly 'busy' life) - and all of those skills will serve you well in Business School and beyond.

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

Another GMAT Assassin has been made!
Contact Rich at [email protected]