Most GMAT success stories on MBA forums are written by the typical Indian IT Male Engineers. Makes you wonder if the female applicants from India have stopped preparing for the GMAT or failed to get into the high GMAT score club (above 750). We have tried to break that notion by inviting several girls (who have cracked the GMAT) to write about their experiences, but most have shied away.
Ipseeta Aruni shares tips on how she used unusual GMAT preparation techniques that ranged from self-hypnosis, relaxation, jogging, Ajile (software development principles), using a broken keyboard…and of course the best GMAT books too. Her eccentric (as she terms it) approach gave her an eccentric result – a GMAT score of 760.
A word of caution before you read on. Just because this unusual GMAT prep study-plan worked for Ipseeta, doesn’t mean it’ll work for you. So as the general disclaimer goes – All stunts in this story have been performed by trained professionals. Don’t try this at home.
How I beat the GMAT (760) with my eccentric GMAT prep plan
by Ipseeta Aruni
A seven-six-zero equals a feeling like no other. No kidding, yeah! Two and a half months of not-so-hectic preparation and the final score report doesn’t look too bad. As all stories do, this one too has a background story to it as well as a couple of twists. If you enjoy reading about quirks, then you’ll definitely love reading about my eccentric journey.
So here I was, at the fag end of June 2012, starry-eyed about an upcoming film-making project (which by the way I still am!). Seth Godin’s MBA attracted me way too much; I found a deep connect between his insightful outbursts on his blog and my own thoughts. I was so possessed I got started rightaway. Scheduled a GMAT appointment in the 1st week of August, attempted a mock GMAT (scored a 700 back then), rolled up my shirt sleeves and sat down to re-kindle the maths-processing part of my otherwise verbal-indulgent brain.
I can say for sure that I was a possessed soul all through last week of June, which by the way, was vacation time. All I referred at that time was some notes I had jotted down during a CAT crash course in 2011. That helped me revise the basic quant tricks quickly enough to get cracking on the OG12 problems rightaway. I didn’t have much of a strategy back then, so I jogged through the entire Quant section of OG12. IR was still a mystery, so I had Flipkart ship me the holy grail of GMAT (Ahem, some folks may say it’s just OG13 but it’s a blessing for efficiency-crazed folks like me).
It goes without saying that I wanted to score as high as I could by expending the least amount of effort possible (as also the least expense). Notwithstanding my tall claims of being a GMAT 800 contender, I knew I could manage a 750+ score with a little strategy. So, IR was what came in my line of target first (Perceived attraction being directly proportional to Infallibility). Multi-source reasoning had me whimpering but tables, graphs and two-part analysis had me on a high. I presumed that more practice would definitely help me garner a better score in this unchartered territory. I guessed CAT practice material for Data Interpretation would help me more in this regard than existing GMAT programs as CAT questions were by far tougher. So I went ahead and enrolled for the 20-Mocks AIMCAT series. It helped that it didn’t burn a large hole in my pocket either.
July saw me delving through myriad Data Interpretation questions at odd moments during the day. Life’s so much easier now than it was 8 years ago. My Galaxy Note lived up to its promise and helped me crack 10-20 questions at random moments during the day – travelling to/from office, lunching/dining alone, waiting in queue at the cafeteria. Stolen moments, but they add up to a lot if you count 10 questions per day for a month. While at home, I focused on Verbal and wrapped up all the OG13 questions by mid-July. I gave it two days of revision and attempted the free Mock GMAT on the Manhattan website. A 730 score downed my upbeat spirits. A good score in Verbal still eluded me and it was high time for me to revamp my strategy. It didn’t help that pressure was mounting on me to finish my movie script. It was then that a good friend introduced me to the Manhattan GMAT (MGMAT) series of strategy guides. I found a lifeline and postponed my GMAT test date to October with hopes of acing it with a perfect 800.
August brought me a piece of news that stunned me into disbelief. I am pretty bad at handling surprises if they are of the good and out-of-the-world kind. So, the overwhelmed me romped through August hardly ever noticing my books and had a gala time wrapping up my movie script in Goa.
September rose upon me menacingly. The deadline was drawing closer and I had quite a lot to cover. To give you a brief background here, I am a big proponent of the Agile methodology and helping out with Agile transformation gives me a rush. I am talking about stuff like a 500% jump in productivity. So, I had led a hugely successful Agile project release in August and that had me up in extremely high spirits. I decided to use the same techniques to ramp up my GMAT preparation plan.
Agile basically works on the concept of sprints. You cover as much ground as you can in short two-week sprints and take stock of your progress on a daily basis. So my targets for September looked something like this.
By September 5 : Wrap up MGMAT RC guide
By September 10: Wrap up MGMAT SC guide
By September 13 : Wrap up MGMAT CR guide and Revise OG13 Verbal questions
By September 23 : Do as many Sectional tests in Quant as possible (From the AIMCAT series – they have roughly around 100 sectional tests) and attempt a few Mock CATs
By September 26 : Re-do all Quant questions in OG13
By September 29 : Revise IR and Practice AWA
September 30 : Attempt final Mock GMAT from GMATPrep software
To throw a little light on my plan, I chose to do only the MGMAT Verbal guides since I was more or less comfortable with Quant. I tried revving up my Quant fundamentals by practicing chapter-wise questions in the CAT Sectional tests. The Sectional tests were again covered during time snatched during odd breaks in office and while I lay down to sleep (kudos to my Galaxy Note yet again).
There’s a wonderful android app known as the GMAT Timer. It came in insanely handy during my practice sprints. I would take up a bunch of 50 questions from OG13, set the timer for 50 mins and get cracking. I felt most OG13 questions were the kind you would get if you were scoring a 730-740 on the real GMAT, which is why I kept a stricter time limit during my practice sessions. I also realized that a little bit of exercise helped me score better on the Verbal questions (It somehow made my gut feeling stronger). As for the strategy guides, I had my laptop read them to me if I was too tired, especially the RC guide. I definitely agree with whoever said that audio-visual comprehension is better.
The RC guide worked like wonders. My accuracy on RC questions increased by a humungous amount as did the speed. The summary-making approach worked wonders. The only take-away I had from the guide was the Seven Strategies. I noted them down in block letters and taped them to the wall over my study table. I did the same for my seven key take-aways from the SC guide.
The CR guide didn’t help much. A morning jog used to rev up my accuracy on highly complex CRs. I guess between the jog and my time spent managing a team at office, my mind had too much practice on critically reasoning my way into resolving a situation.
Ten days were devoted entirely to CAT preparation wherein I tried to cover as many tough Quant questions as possible. It was taxing. I was determined not to burn out and took to Quantum Consciousness exercises to keep myself relaxed and energetic. There’s a wonderful book containing a set of 60 exercises that really brighten a stubbornly-dull mind. It goes by the name Quantum consciousness – The guide to experiencing Quantum Psychology authored by Stephen Wolinsky but it’s actually nothing short of a miracle. I hardly practiced the first 3 exercises and there was a visible difference in my energy levels and that helped me sail through those otherwise-depressing 10 days.
Then I was back to sprinting through OG13 Quant questions. Didn’t take me long as they were relatively much simpler compared to CAT questions. But I was worried since I wasn’t getting enough practice on actual GMAT 750+ Quant questions. But I forced tunnel-vision on myself and focused on the task at hand.
Now that I had Quant and Verbal behind me, it was time to chart through AWA. I browsed through a few articles on GmatClub and 800Score.com and came to the conclusion that it was actually very easy to fool the E-rater. A 500-600 words essay that is structured well and has all the right keywords is enough to land a decent AWA score. I cruised through 5 AWA questions in OG13 and practiced typing out responses to a couple of them. This I did with one of my defunct keyboards which lacked a Backspace key in order to gage the extent of spelling mistakes I made while typing hurriedly. That was all I needed to get in shape for AWA.
I wrapped up the month by revising my mistakes in IR and attempting the second and final mock GMAT in the GMATPrep software. This time round I scored a whopping 770. I was ecstatic but I was all too aware of the need to keep a cool head through the last few days. While practicing, I sometimes did 100 questions at one go in a span of 100 minutes to test my endurance. I would start feeling exhausted around the 75th question but there was this handy White Roller-Ball exercise that would always get me back on track. It’s actually a technique used in Hypnosis but it nevertheless caught my fancy. What you need to do is, imagine a huge shining white ball rolling upwards through your body, slowly and slowly, from your feet to your thighs, through your torso and finally through your head. It immediately relaxes you, loosens every knot and gets you going afresh. This actually came in handy during my actual GMAT exam when I was just too tired to attempt any more Verbal questions, and I still had 25 more to go.
All said and done, a 760 GMAT score on my plate feels nice as it’s living proof that my strategy worked. It’s the best feeling ever to know that eccentricity and intuition sometimes go hand-in-hand. They call it thinking-out-of-the-box but I would settle with a-crazy-me-that-experiments-forever.
Ipseeta is an electrical engineer from IIT Roorkee by education. She loves exploring concepts and technologies that aim at drastically improving the performance of current software technology. She has numerous research papers to her credit. She is leading an initiative to redesign the website for Aarambh, an NGO based in Mumbai, to help generate more sponsorships and donations.
She wrote articles for us earlier on business networking skills. If you are struggling to cross 750 on your GMAT practice tests, she’d be happy to answer your GMAT prep queries, if you can post them below.