We’ve posted GMAT preparation tips and success stories earlier. But this one was tough, because Thrishnaa wasn’t too keen to share her GMAT prep experience. Not because she wants to keep it a secret (far from it), but more because she is too down-to-earth to realise what she accomplished.
What surprised me was not the score, but the ease with which she managed to crack the GMAT exam. While the IITians and the other quant focussed studs from the top engineering colleges burn the midnight oil to complete all the questions in the GMAT time limit, Thrishnaa did it without breaking much of a sweat…and with 40 minutes to spare!
‘The answers came naturally. I don’t know what I can share that’ll help others preparing for the GMAT exam,‘ she mentioned very modestly. But she agreed finally.
Three years ago, I decided that I want to do an international MBA. I am currently working at Dell as a Senior Business Analyst but was working at Infosys at the time, which I had joined right after completing my B.Tech two years earlier from Indraprastha University in Delhi. I did not intend to apply to business schools right away but it was the perfect time for me to prepare for and take the GMAT so that I wouldn’t have to worry about it later when I do apply. Once I had decided this, I tried to figure out how I was going to prepare.
It was a no brainer that I would do this on my own. All I needed was a strategy, one that would enable me to find and work on my weaknesses, along with some time and focus to execute said strategy. As I know myself better than anyone else, I felt that I would be the best person to come up with a strategy that works for me. Also, there is no dearth of free online resources for GMAT preparation in case I hit a wall.
The key to my strategy and its success was for me to be aware of my strengths and weaknesses with respect to my quantitative, verbal and test taking abilities. I know my ability to think logically would work in my favor but it probably wouldn’t be enough. I quickly looked through the various types of GMAT questions to figure out where I might have some trouble.
I had never had trouble with grammar but I was also aware that I tend to judge the grammatical correctness of a sentence based on whether it “feels” right or not. How I feel is mostly based on the English I have been hearing and reading all my life and it is quite possible that some of it, although usually accepted in spoken English, could be grammatically incorrect. Tricky sentence correction questions could throw me off. I felt pretty comfortable with the rest of the verbal section.
For the quantitative section, I knew that I basically needed practice, but before I started with it, I wanted to brush up on the relevant mathematical concepts so that I can get more out of practicing solving questions. I had some old TIME CAT prep books lying around from my final year of engineering so I went through the concepts quickly for a week or so, every day after work, not spending much time on the questions. I skipped over the more advanced problems and formulae/theorems as it would have been overkill and is not really required for GMAT. For example, for CAT (the old format at least), one would need to remember formulae like the sum of squares of consecutive integers but for GMAT, I distinctly remember coming across a question which required one to use the sum of consecutive integers but the question actually contained the formula itself! GMAT seemed to be more about knowing how to apply basic concepts than remembering formulae and theorems so I believed a quick refresher would be enough.
Going through the TIME material got me in the zone and I registered to take the exam in October 2010 (a little less than two months away). I started practicing questions from the Official Guide for GMAT Review. I noticed that I had no issues with how to approach any of the problems. If you really think about each question logically, the approach to solving each question starts seeming obvious. I would only get questions wrong if I had made a silly mistake so I just had to ensure that I am more careful in reading each question and not miss any detail.
After finishing the OG, I decided to take my first practice test using the GMATPrep Software. I remember scoring 740. It wasn’t bad and I still had plenty of time to improve. As I had suspected, I did need to work on Sentence Correction. I could also use more practice for the Quant section.
I picked up the Official Guide for GMAT Quantitative Review and started timing myself and tracking how many questions I was able to finish within the time I allotted myself and of course how many of those I answered correctly. I also started going through the Manhattan GMAT Sentence Correction Strategy Guide around the same time. I loved this book! It made me confident about answering Sentence Correction questions as I did not answer it by gut feeling alone any more. I especially liked how it listed the question numbers from the Official Guide which were relevant to the concepts covered in each chapter.
Once I was done with the Manhattan Strategy Guide, I started with the Official Guide for GMAT Verbal Review.
I had already finished the OG Quant book but I wanted to solve at least a few Quant questions every day in order to not fall out of practice. After finishing my work for the day, before I caught the bus home, I would go to the Infosys library and pick up the Kaplan GMAT Quant book (lucky for me, they actually had the best GMAT prep books there! The Kaplan Quant book was the only one there other than the Official Guides). This book was apparently for ambitious students who were aiming at really high GMAT scores. It sounded perfect so I spent some time every day, solving the more difficult questions in the book. I don’t think that this book is essential to get a high GMAT score, but it did give me a little extra practice once I was done with the Official Guides so I’m happy that the library had it!
I did not study every single day and took plenty of breaks, especially over the weekends so that I don’t ever feel bored or burnt out doing all this along with my job. I timed my prep so that I would be done with all these books a few days before I was scheduled to take the actual exam.
It was time to take the second practice test using the GMAT Prep Software. I scored a 760. I read that this means ideally I would score anywhere from a 740 to a 780 in the actual test. I preferred to think of it as scoring 760+ (glass half-full kind of gal!) as I perform better in actual test taking situations instead of at home. I decided that I would not be taking any more practice tests as I felt confident that I have improved on my weak spots and I have no issues with time management (I finished both the practice tests a little early, especially the 2nd one).
Soon the big day arrived and I was pretty excited! I actually love taking tests as long as I feel well prepared. I wasn’t one bit nervous. I actually finished the test 30-40 minutes early. I think I went through the questions faster than usual because I felt that I was doing well and I was really excited to see my final score! I think the adrenaline helps me focus better. And there it was! I scored a 770 (Q:51, V:42)! I quickly got out, took the printout of the result and excitedly called my parents and my closest friends to let them know the good news. What a fantastic day!
I think what worked for me more than anything else, as I mentioned earlier, was being aware of what I’m doing good at and what I needed to work on. It helps you manage your prep time more efficiently and once you realize what you need to focus on, you can decide which additional books to use, how much time to spend preparing for each section, etc. I felt pretty confident about my test taking abilities and time management so I didn’t take many practice tests but most people seem to benefit from taking practice tests regularly. Listen to your inner voice telling you what you’re unsure about and do everything you can to help you tackle it with confidence!
All the best!
A brain scan reveals that Thrishnaa does not have any special chip installed to give her an edge in the GMAT exam. So we can put those she-could-be-half-human-half-machine theories to rest.
Meanwhile here’s a GMAT 800 scorer’s preparation technique