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GMAT preparation tips: How Sawan scored a 770 on the test

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How to score high on the GMAT | Sawan 770

Saawan ka mahina, Pawan kare sor
We aren’t gonna talk about Pawan any more,
coz Sawan’s becoming part of the GMAT folklore

[now you know why we chose MBA admissions consulting as opposed to poetry or humour as a career option]

Sawan Kumar may not look like a professional wrestler, but that didn’t stop him from knocking the wind out of a heavyweight opponent – the GMAT test.

When I decided to write the GMAT earlier this year, I was not even aware of the format of the exam. All I knew was that it has a quant and a verbal section. In fact, I didn’t even know how to register for it. To go from there to securing a 770 (and a 5.5 on the AWAs) in a span of 3 months has been quite a journey. I want to share that journey with you today, in the hope that it inspires at least a few 750+ scores.

The first step of course was to buy the Official Guide Edition 12. Buying the OG in itself is an inspiration to write the GMAT (I’m sure some of you agree with me). When you open that big fat book with the freshly printed pages, it gives you the feeling of having taken an important step and motivates you to prepare well. The first thing I did was to read through the first few pages and understand the format of the GMAT. Three sections – quant, verbal and 2 essays. Right, I can handle this. I knew my Quant was strong (as it is for most of us Indian Engineers). I quickly went through the types of questions in Verbal – RC, SC and CR. I knew the last two would be tricky. A day or two later I wrote the diagnostic test in the OG just to gauge where I stood. As expected, I got an ‘Above Average’ in all but in CR and SC, in which I got an ‘Average’. So I had my starting point decided for me – to work out the sample questions in the OG for Sentence Correction and Critical Reasoning. I did this for a few days until my confidence improved a bit. It is very important to work on your weakest points in the initial stages rather than keep them for later as this boosts your confidence tremendously and in an exam such as the GMAT, confidence is everything.

In the meanwhile, I spoke to a friend at work who had given the GMAT recently as to what his strategy was and what books he had used. In hindsight, this was a very important conversation as it laid the path to devising my own strategy. He asked me to download the GMATPrep software and give the first full length test immediately. The questions in the GMATPrep are very close to what come in the actual GMAT and the score you get in the two full length tests is a close indicator of your actual GMAT performance. I would suggest this strategy to anyone who has just started his/her preps. I got a 740 on the test and I was understandably ecstatic. My breakup was 50 (Q) and 40 (V). This confirmed my faith in my quantitative abilities and I decided to concentrate solely on the Verbal section and to work on the Quant section only during the mocks.

I decided that the OG will be my GMAT Bible. I solved around 6 to 7 questions each of RC, SC and CR almost every day. My friend told me about the Manhattan SC Guide. I glanced through it but I wasn’t very comfortable in going through a whole guide of SC questions. I think it is always better to solve problems and then analyze them to know what the different types of SC errors are rather than to simply read through those types of errors in a guide. To do is to know. I was pretty regular in solving those 20 to 25 verbal questions in spite of a tight work schedule. I later realized that the level of difficulty of the OG questions increases as the question number increases. My accuracy for the later questions was dramatically lesser than for the earlier questions.

Another important thing I did during this time (around 20 days into my OG preps) was to book a slot for the exam. I took a slot two months from that day. Booking a slot gets you all the more serious because you then know how much more time you have and you won’t just wile away your time doing nothing. I envisaged completing the OG in a month and then writing many mocks over the weekends during the last one month. Turned out that I finished the OG well within a month’s time and I needed to look elsewhere for other quality Verbal questions. My friend suggested the Kaplan Verbal Workbook. A good thing that I found about the Kaplan workbook is that the questions are timed and this helps you in increasing your speed. So far I had just concentrated on getting to know the types of and commonalities among the questions but for the first time I was concentrating on the timing aspect. I realized that once you are comfortable with the different sections, your timing automatically improves. I started solving one mini test in the Kaplan Workbook every morning while commuting to work and finished off the questions within 10 days. What I needed next were some full length mocks.

Since I did not buy any mocks from any of the websites, I had to make do with whatever free mocks were available to me. One of these was the Kaplan mocks. When I gave the first one, I got a 640. I was devastated. But then my friend consoled me by saying that the scores on the Kaplan mocks are usually that low and you need to add a 100 more to get a better estimate. So I gave all the Kaplan mocks and I got similar scores in each. I ended up writing 8 mocks in all, including a few Manhattan GMAT mocks whose Quant section I loved because it was so challenging. It was only during the last few mocks that I also wrote the AWA essays (I wouldn’t recommend this strategy. I was simply confident that I would be able to write good essays). My final mock was the GMATPrep 2 in which I got a 730. This was 2 days prior to my GMAT and I was expecting a 730 to 750 score on the exam.

During the exam, I decided that I would utilize the optional breaks to the fullest. Since the GMAT is of long duration, it is important to switch off after a section, get refreshed and then switch on for the next section. I simply closed my eyes and walked about the exam centre during these breaks. This helped a lot as your concentration needs to be at its peak during the last section, the Verbal. I knew the essays had been decent and that Quant was a breeze. So I was under no pressure during the Verbal section. But even I hadn’t expected the score I got. I managed a 44 in the Verbal, more than I had managed in any mock. When I saw the score page, I was dumbstruck. I just sat there covering my mouth with my hand and staring at the screen. I’ll never forget that moment.

Get help on GMAT verbal, maths & Integrated reasoning topics on the Free GMAT Preparation forum.

With that Sawan puts a big emphatic tick mark on a key component within the application process. Time to move on now to the other parts – school shortlisting, building a good story and finally executing it on paper. Hope he can demonstrate his professional wrestling skills in those areas as well.

Disclosure: The advice in this post has been provided by the guest blogger, not by MBA Crystal Ball. For the ease of getting access to the suggested material, the post contains affiliate links to Flipkart.

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  1. mba roadie   |  Sunday, 24 July 2011 at 6:03 am


  2. Raj   |  Sunday, 24 July 2011 at 6:08 am

    Sawan bhai as u desired i’m inspired & definitely for a 750+ score…

  3. Malcom   |  Sunday, 24 July 2011 at 11:11 am

    When the going gets tough, the tough get going!!!

  4. mba rookie   |  Monday, 25 July 2011 at 4:58 pm

    Sawan- This does not make sense, if you already got 740 in your first GMATPrep exam, and you studied for almost 2 mo after that and managed 770. Why did you even have to study for 2mo, just take the exam in first mo?

    This article would have been more helpful if ppl were getting scores in 400-500 and you advise how to raise to a 700+.

  5. Sawan   |  Tuesday, 26 July 2011 at 9:37 am


    I agree with your line of argument. But the whole point of the article is to suggest what methodology of study helped so as to give an idea to people who are beginning preparations.

    Even if you score a 740 on the GMATPrep, you would still want to leave no stone unturned in your preparations, would you? And for this you need a planned strategy and this is what I have tried to articulate.

  6. mba rookie   |  Tuesday, 26 July 2011 at 2:55 pm

    Thanks for your response. But do you know anyone who has raised their score from 400-500 (initially) to 700? I am in that boat (I’ve a full-time job and family), honestly admit that its been long time 20 years when i studied high school math and grammer rules etc, so don’t remember much of the concepts.

    I’ve tried to review both Quant and Verbal using Manhattan GMAT guides, but always fell short somewhere. When I do OG problems, I find OG Verbal to be quite challenging (especially explanation) and refer to MGMAT for explanation. But I am spending a lot of time reviewing study guides than doing mocks – and I always get some major event in life that puts everything on-hold for months.
    Now I want to study GMAT again, but which of the following strategy is better if I want to take the exam in next 2mos?

    a. Going back and reviewing each of the MGMAT guides is a better strategy OR
    b. Just doing OG sample problems and mock (MGMAT and GMATPrep) exams, with only small reference on the MGMAT guides on concepts that I keep getting wrong in mock exams?

    What I mean is should I review all the MGMAT guides first for 1-2mo before attempting any mock exams OR
    Just dive directly into OG sample problems and mock exams – and only refer to guides where I get mock q’s wrong or don’t remember the approach?
    My Q’s may seem little dumb, but I still ask for advice.

  7. Sawan   |  Wednesday, 27 July 2011 at 7:14 am


    At the outset, I apologize but I do not personally know anyone who have raised their score from a 500 to a 700, but then I do not personally know many people who have written the GMAT too. However, I’m sure you can search for a few such success stories on the BeatTheGmat website and probably even on Pagalguy.

    Having said that, I completely understand where you are coming from. Having lost touch with the basics, it can be tough to get back in the groove. First of all, you need to understand that if you have a strong work experience with enough leadership stories and international exposure, most B-Schools go lenient on the GMAT score. I would suggest you take a look at the average GMAT score at your target schools and aim for that score.

    My advice to improve scores from a 400-500 to a 650+ would be this (although I do not claim to be an expert at this, this strategy makes the most sense to me):

    1. If you already have an idea about what your weak areas are, make a note of them. If not, write the diagnostic test in OG and see where you stand in each section.
    2. When it comes to Verbal, I strongly feel that the best strategy would be to solve good questions (which OG has) and understand what is tested. Do not worry about the timings right now. Pick questions of each kind and solve them daily. Then analyse each question to see why you got it right and where you went wrong. If you feel there is a particular type of questions where you always go wrong then you can refer to a guide to see what strategies to use in such cases. But, to me, it doesn’t make sense to go through the guides initially itself.
    3.For Quant, the more problems you solve the better you get. I say this from personal experience with my roommate. He has improved his Quant score from 34-35 to 45-46 in a month’s time. OG has enough good questions for you to solve. Again, it is more important to analyse what you have got wrong and why than it is to just solve the questions.

    Most importantly, you have make sure you give in a dedicated effort towards the whole process. Book a date for the GMAT once you have picked up momentum and then work towards that date. All the best!

  8. shivani   |  Tuesday, 07 February 2012 at 5:14 pm

    I am a student pursing T.E Electronics degree , hoping to give GMAT this year , however according to my knowledge most of the top B schools require a minimum of 2 years of job experience … so is this the right time to give GMAT ?
    or should I work for a few years and then attempt for GMAT ?

  9. Sawan   |  Wednesday, 08 February 2012 at 5:16 am

    Hi Shivani

    It is good that you are already planning ahead in time for your GMAT. I believe now is as good a time as any for you to attempt the GMAT. The scores are valid for 5 years and since you will have enough time on your hands right now to prepare for the exam I think you should start preparing now. Also since you are still studying, your quant concepts will be fresh and will help you in the exam. Once you start on your job, it might get difficult to find time to prepare for the GMAT. So go ahead and write it now.

    Hope that helps. All the best!

  10. Ajit Revankar   |  Friday, 01 June 2012 at 9:01 pm

    Hi Dude,

    I am chemical enng. grad with five years of experience. I have booked my slot in the month of july this year. I am very upset with my score in verbal I gave both the test in gmat prep software my quant score is somewhere around 47 but verbal score is just 17. I am really upset with the verbal score and practice OG verbal question on daily basis and I don’t know how to improve it.
    I want 720+ to get in ISB, IIM. Please help me how to improve the scores in verbal section

  11. Sameer Kamat   |  Sunday, 03 June 2012 at 6:22 am


    This is an old post and Sawan may not be checking it on a regular basis for new comments.

    Please post your GMAT related queries on the appropriate thread on our discussion forum. Here’s the link to the –> GMAT forum:

  12. Shweta   |  Tuesday, 06 August 2013 at 11:16 am

    Hey Sawan!
    First of all, congratulations!
    You say you prepared for three whole months, right? How many hours would you say you spent per wee, on an average?

  13. Sameer Kamat   |  Friday, 09 August 2013 at 3:37 pm

    Shweta: Check my earlier comment to see why you may not get a response from Sawan.

    Fikar not. On our forum, you’ll find more GMAT success stories.

  14. Prity   |  Friday, 04 October 2013 at 9:32 am

    I have completed my MBA in 2009. But I was not in position to go for a job. Now I have started my life again and I want to try for GMAT. I have no experience. Can I go for a GMAT? Please reply .

  15. Sameer Kamat   |  Thursday, 10 October 2013 at 3:51 pm

    Prity: No issues in taking up the GMAT. But you’d need a fair bit of experience before you can target the good GMAT MBA programs internationally.

  16. shweta   |  Friday, 06 December 2013 at 2:38 pm

    Hi Sawan, I wish to appear for Gmat. I have a few questions can u help me with them.

    I don’t have a passpart yet. I will get it by Janauary, Do I need my passport to take the test?

    Also is it alright if I take test in the month of Feb?

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