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GMAT 780 scorer reveals study plan to crack the exam without coaching

Tarang Gupta packed enough punch into his GMAT preparation to shatter the glass ceiling that stops most from going beyond 750.

The final year BBS student from Delhi University shares the GMAT study plan that got him there. If you are aiming to be a GMAT topper, this should inspire you.

If you’re just starting out with GMAT prep, watch this video first. And please ‘like’ it, if you find it helpful.

GMAT Exam – Beginner’s Guide

The study plan that helped me score 780 on the GMAT exam

by Tarang Gupta

Tips to crack the GMAT and get 780 score

When I started college I heard that quite a few of my seniors were studying for or pursuing an MBA.

Frankly at that point I did not understand why people pursued an MBA or its relevance but as I interacted with seniors and asked them about their decision to go for an MBA I realized that why an MBA is important for the career path that I hope to take up.

I decided to take the GMAT by the end of my second i.e. pre-final year in college as it is valid for 5 years and gives me the option of applying to programs now as well as after working for a couple of years.

I started reading up about the GMAT and from the very beginning I decided that I want to score 750+. I talked to some of my seniors who had given the GMAT and one of them who had scored a 770 particularly inspired me and helped me out.

I started my preparation from the last week of January 2016 with the aim to give the GMAT by March-end as I would have to start preparing for my semester exams from April and wouldn’t get time then but due to certain circumstances (college events, issue with my passport) I was unable to do so.

Tarang GuptaI prepared from the end of January till the end of March and gave 2 GMATPrep mocks in between scoring a 680 & 730 respectively. Not so good scores given my target, nevertheless after this I had to take a break from GMAT as I started preparing for my semester exams.

My semester exams ended on 19th May and from the very next day I resumed my preparation for the GMAT. After preparing continuously for around 10 days I gave another GMATPrep mock scoring a 760.

Now I was very happy as you would guess but somewhere I was not convinced as I felt that my accuracy was not up to the mark. I continued my preparation and gave 3 mocks on the way scoring 760, 760, and 770 respectively; the last one coming a day before my actual GMAT.

I finally gave my GMAT on 17th June 2016 and scored a 780. I was elated although the exam was not as smooth a ride as I had expected it to be. Here’s how I designed my study plan.


My GMAT Study Plan


1. Understanding the GMAT exam format and pattern

When I started my prep the first thing I did was understand the basic structure of the GMAT; the sections, the duration, the number of questions, the scoring mechanism, and so on.

I would suggest that you do the same as it provides you a perspective as to what you are dealing with exactly.

2. Attacking GMAT Quant first

After this I started working on my basic Quant concepts. For an initial overview I would suggest that you go through the explanations of different topics that are given in the Official Guide.

After this you can switch to a more extensive guide such as a Kaplan or a Manhattan; however, this is not necessary, you could scout various GMAT forums for notes, which are generally condensed versions of the rules given in these guides.

3. Using the Official Guide to set the foundation

After I was done with the concepts I solved the Official Guides under time constraints. I checked my answers and reviewed my mistakes.

I had the main Official Guide and the Verbal Official Guide; now that I think about it, investing in the Quant Official Guide might have been a good idea and would probably have helped me get a Q50 (the score I had expected in Quant) on the actual GMAT.

4. Moving on to the Verbal section

Now I started working on the Verbal section. I started my preparation by thoroughly going through the Manhattan Guides.

At this point I would like to say that though the Manhattan Guides are good and provide you with a lot of relevant information (especially in the case of CR & RC); they should only be done if you have the time and are willing to put in the effort required to go through them and understand them.

5. Taking the first practice test

After completing the Manhattan Guides, which took me about 45 days, I started practicing from the OGs. I solved the questions, checked my answers, and reviewed my mistakes.

The next thing I did was give a GMATPrep mock test; I scored a 680 (this was during the end days of February) on that and was not really happy as I wanted a 700+ but I did not get disheartened and analysed my weak spots.

6. Online GMAT prep material

At this time I came across this offer from E-Gmat that granted me access some 300-400 questions from their Verbal question bank for 20-25 days.

After giving my 1st mock I had realize that I need to improve my Verbal score and so I made full use of this opportunity, solving over 200 verbal questions in sets of 41 questions at a time under timed conditions.

7. Time for another round of testing

Practicing these questions and reviewing my mistakes really helped me as I scored a 730 in the next GMATPrep mock that I gave, which was almost a month after my previous one.

My Quant score also improved although I had not really practiced quant during this period and I attribute the same to better time management on my part.

8. Dealing with personal issues

With the beginning of April my preparation slowed down a bit as I had to deal with some issues; namely my Passport, my internals, and my habit of procrastinating things.

I just did a few questions from the resources that I had downloaded from the internet and acquired from my seniors including a set of PDFs titled ‘700-800 Level Questions’.

Now I got a soft-copy of these from a senior but I believe that you can find them on GMAT Club and other GMAT Forums. Also be sure to download the answer key when you download the PDF files.

9. College exams vs GMAT prep

It was in mid-April that my GMAT Preparation really took a hit and ultimately stopped as my semester exams were approaching and I had to prepare for the same.

After my semester exams got over (the date was 19th May) I resumed my GMAT Preparation. By the way, my performance in my semester exams had been sub-par so I was a bit disappointed with myself.

10. Back yet again to the OG

The first thing I did, after I resumed my preparation, was that I solved the Official Guides once again. I was satisfied with my performance on the Verbal section as I was answering questions with over 90% accuracy.

However, I was not quite satisfied with my performance on the Quant section as although I was managing a 90% accuracy in the PS questions, my accuracy in the DS questions was a little over 85%.

11. Getting closer to the target score

I gave a GMATPrep mock after this and scored a 760. I was happy but not convinced as I had barely managed a 75% accuracy on the Quant section and an 80% accuracy on the Verbal section.

I started looking for resources that could help me out with SC as that was the topic I was having issues with. I found a couple of notes (in PDF format) on GMAT Club and downloaded them. These notes helped me understand the nitty-gritty of grammar and clarified the doubts that I had.

For Quant I did some questions that I found on the Internet. I also practiced IR at this time, solving the questions given in the OGs and the GMATPrep software.

For AWA all I did was read up some sample AWA essays on the internet and practice writing them on my own.

12. Analysing mistakes to improve the accuracy

I gave my next mock almost a week after my previous one and again scored a 760 but this time my accuracy had improved even though my score hadn’t and that baffled me but I did not think much about it and kept on with my preparation.

I went through my mistakes and selectively practiced some topics that I felt I was weak at such as geometry.

13. More GMAT practice exams

2-3 days after this, I ordered the GMATPrep Exam Pack 1 for $50 (for 2 mocks). It was costly but I had no other viable option. I gave a mock from the newly bought exam pack and again scored a 760.

Now at this point I was truly baffled because I had only answered 2 questions incorrectly on the Verbal section and yet managed only a V44 while 3 incorrect answers on the Quant section meant that I got a Q50, which I felt was a fair score.

I also felt that the questions on the quant section were easier than the ones on the other mocks but did not pay much attention to it; though now I wish I had as the quant questions on the actual GMAT were tougher than the ones I had encountered on the GMATPrep mocks and they rattled me to the core when I was giving the actual GMAT.

14. Manhattan mocks vs Real GMAT

In between the 3 mocks mentioned above I also gave 2 Manhattan CAT mocks and scored 650 & 670 respectively. This however, did not dishearten me as the highest that two of my friends, both of whom scored a 770 on the actual GMAT, had scored on the Manhattan CAT mocks was 690.

I would also like to point out that the quant on the Manhattan mocks is quite tough and if you are able to score a Q49 or Q50 on them, then you can be reasonably sure that you will manage a good Quant score (at least a Q49 but more likely a Q50 or a Q51 if you perform really good) on the actual GMAT unless you do something horribly wrong.

The verbal section in the Manhattan mocks is also tough but you can expect some questions of the same difficulty level on the actual GMAT.

15. Saving the best practice test for the last

I had purposely saved a GMATPrep mock that I gave on the day before my actual GMAT. I scored a 770 on this mock and was quite happy, though I still felt that the Quant was easy on this mock as well and that my Verbal score had capped at V44.

I devoted the remainder of my time to reviewing my scores and as many mistakes as possible from my previous mocks. I felt confident that I would probably manage a 750-760 (though I hoped for a 790) on the actual GMAT along with an IR score of 6+ (though I hoped for an 8 as I had scored consecutive 8s in my last 3 mocks) and a 4.5 – 5.5 (though I hoped for a 6) on the AWA.

In spite of all this, I still felt some nervousness & uneasiness, which I would continue to feel till I finally had the Unofficial Report, with a 780 printed on it, in my hands.

10 Tips on how to crack the GMAT exam without coaching

From the moment I started my prep to the moment I received my GMAT score I learnt a lot of things and would like to share them with everyone so that they don’t have to face the same questions and uncertainties that I did.

1. You don’t need to join a GMAT coaching class

First of all I would like to say that you don’t necessarily need to join a professional coaching institute to prepare for the GMAT. All you need is self-discipline, dedication, and the right materials.

You can find a lot of useful material and helpful people on forums such as Beat The GMAT or GMAT Club but you will have to hunt for the ones that match your specific requirement. Also, it is worthwhile to invest in the GMAT Official Guides, they are really helpful.

At this point as full disclosure I must state that this observation is based on my personal experience. I had joined a professional coaching institute for GMAT preparation but found no real value addition; as a result I ended up researching and preparing on my own.

2. Feel free to ignore the earlier tip

If you have even the slightest apprehension that you might need professional help to manage your preparation then go ahead and take it as it is always better to be safe than sorry.

Just don’t do the classic mistake of believing that your GMAT tutor will somehow magically get you your desired score. The onus for that still falls on you and you alone.

For the rest of the article, I’ll focus on tips for self-study.

3. Start with the GMAT Quantitative Section

As we Indians are generally good at maths, I would suggest that you start your preparation with the GMAT Quant topics.

It will help you to get in the habit of studying while boosting your confidence at the same time.

4. Take up GMAT Verbal prep next

After you manage to get a decent accuracy level (say 80%) in the quant section move over to GMAT verbal topics.

Now verbal, as far as I can tell from my experience and from that of my friends’, requires comparatively a lot more effort as we are generally not subjected to this tricky a test of our command over the English language.

5. Focus on Critical Reasoning (CR) and Reading Comprehension (RC)

For Critical Reasoning (CR) & Reading Comprehension (RC) I would suggest that you go through some solved examples and read up on the basic rules as this will give you a basic idea.

After this practice as many questions as possible and understand from your mistakes (Official Guides are good for this purpose).

Once you start getting a hang of the basic concept of each argument or passage you will be able to answer the questions fairly accurately.

Sentence Correction (SC) however, requires a more tedious approach. You need to first read and understand the basic grammatical rules such as verb tenses, subject-verb agreement, pronoun agreement, idiomatic expressions, parallelism, modifiers etc.

Once you are done with this I suggest that you solve some basic SC questions; after this start learning about the nuances of grammar such as when to use which & when to use that or what is the difference between because & due to.

Once you are done with this solve a lot of tough (700-800 level) SC questions; by doing so you will be able to practice what you have learnt and improve your accuracy.

6. Take Mock Tests

After you’ve tackled tips 1 through 5, give 1 or 2 mocks; I would recommend the GMATPrep mocks as they are the most accurate, although the quantitative questions on them tend to be a bit easier than the quant on the actual GMAT.

Do not take the score of this mock very seriously, review your mistakes and identify the topics that you are not comfortable with.

Also do not waste time on trying to decode the scoring pattern; as a rule of thumb, aim for an accuracy of 90% on both the quant and the verbal sections to get a 750 or above.

7. Time to take on quant and verbal head on

Now start practising quant and verbal questions simultaneously. Do as many questions as possible and give mocks in quick succession after this (say 1 mock in a gap of 2-3 days).

This will allow you to get used to the actual test environment and at the same time give you adequate opportunity to review your mistakes and work on them.

Meanwhile keep an eye on the available dates and slots as the popular centres are generally short on them.

8. When to register for the GMAT exam

If you are scoring around your target score then book your GMAT for the earliest date available (okay, maybe not the earliest but do not delay unnecessarily).

In case you feel that your scores are not up to the mark then don’t get disheartened rather put in more effort.

9. The day before the exam

On the night before the day of your GMAT make sure that you have all the documents and materials that you will need and have a good night’s sleep.

On the day of the exam do not solve a lot of questions just a few to get you in the groove.

To avoid stress or anxiety watch a comedy movie or listen to songs on the way to the exam centre. (I watched Kung-Fu Panda 3 while on my way to the centre).

10. Realise that you can’t control it all

Finally before you start your exam relax, take a deep breath, and ask the almighty for his blessings because no matter how much effort you have put in; to score a truly spectacular score you need a bit of luck.

Trust me, I have experienced this first hand.

As a conclusion I would like to state the famous quote by W. Clement Stone, which also happens to be a quote that I have heard often from my mother as well; ‘Aim for the Moon. If you miss, you have hit a star.’

Now I know that this quote is a blatant disregard of planetary physics but at the end it is the thought that counts, right?

Remember that GMAT is just one aspect of the overall MBA application. Many strong candidates fail to understand this basic idea. They get obsessed with the GMAT and end up with a weak overall application, and ultimately end up with rejections. Don’t let that happen to you.

If you need professional help with your MBA applications, drop us an email: info at mbacrystalball dot com

Read these related articles:
How Daljeet scored a 780
This GMAT 790 scorer relied on self-study
How to get a perfect 800 GMAT score
GMAT 800 scorer shares his preparation technique
2-month strategy for 780 AWA 6/6 IR 8/8 GMAT scorer
How to score 700+ on the GMAT
Image credit: Screenrant

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Sameer Kamat
About Sameer Kamat
Founder of MBA Crystal Ball. Author of Beyond The MBA Hype & Business Doctors. Here's more about me. Follow me on: Instagram | Linkedin | Youtube

18 thoughts on “GMAT 780 scorer reveals study plan to crack the exam without coaching”

  1. Hi Sameer, I am B.Tech. Electrical & Electronics engineer with 10 yrs of experience in Electrical Transmission / Distribution sector wants to join premier institutes through GMAT for 1yr regular MBA in power/ energy sector . What are the genuine options available with us in India. At present i am in way to freeze the coaching options in Mumbai so that can go through GMAT in end of this yr.

  2. Hi sameer ,

    Im a 2nd year BBA undergoing student under pune university .

    After bba graduation i would like to pursue MBA from good B-School , mainly from a foreign B-school which im dreaming of .
    As for mba from outside india GMAT is the option so i would like to know that if its okay to start of with mba right away as soon as my graduation is complete . And is it okay to start preparing for gmat from now ?

    10th score – 50%
    12th score – 64% (commerce)

    i would be glad if you help me out through this dilemma 🙂 .

  3. @Abhay: With the quality varying so much across classes and locations even within the same GMAT coaching company, what’s ‘genuine’ and what’s not is so hard to pin-point.

    As Tarang mentions in the article above, why not try self study to begin with? With the right resources, you should be able to learn at your own pace.

    @Soumyajit: It is not a good idea to apply to international MBA universities as a fresher straight out of college. Work for a few years after graduating and then decide.

    • Hii sir,
      I am Akash chandankar
      Pursuing Mechanical engineering in 2nd year. After my graduation I want to do MBA in finance in abroad but it required work experience of 2 to 3 years. So I am confused that how to get work experience. What can I do for that
      Can you help me?

  4. Hello, ur work is really commendable i totally got inspired and motivated at the same time. I am a B.Tech food tech student (2nd yr) could you please suggest me some good books of gmat within budget? so i may start preparing asap.

  5. I have been praparing for gmat for last one year now .I have 7 years of work ex and have managed to get the worst score in my last gmat taken few months bk (550).Everytime i take test,i forget the strategy to solve a problem or it just doesnt click at that time and later when i see the answer,it appears easy. I am not sure what to do.Should i try to find out colleges which don’t accept GMAT . I am an engineer but want to move to Marketing or HRM.Can you suggest

  6. Hi Sameer,

    Excellent website I must say.
    We’ll I am in a bit of a career dilemma and hope you could give me an insight.

    I tried for Cat many times but cudnt get thru IIMs or other top B Schools. Now I have crossed 30. And still hoping for a masters in management degrees. My work experience is in the teaching field, coaching for competitive exams and School curriculum. I wanted to know if I go through GMAT and have a 700+ SCORE, will my age and profile be a deterrent.

    Hoping to hear from you.

    • Hi Vignesh

      First of all I appreciate your determination and I suggest follow your dream and do not worry about the age. I am 40 now and planning to prepare for GMAT as I want to do MBA. One good advice given to me that the we all think life in linear fashion and use age as scale but in reality life is not linear so there is no benefit of thinking about age. Another advice I was given that think about the cohort you would studying they may be younger than you but then you just need to rewire your brain and do not allow age as a barrier to mingle with them.
      So I suggest go for it otherwise you will regret rest of the life. Now choice is yours.

  7. Hi!

    How many hours did you spend per day studying for GMAT ?
    And for how long did you do it. Total month until you received your final score?

  8. Hello,
    I am Anup and I have just completed my graduation and entered a job in an it firm. I have nearly 80%in graduation and above 90% in 10th and 12th. I am quite fluent in English as well. I had started a bit of a late prep so I am partly acquainted with the courses for the Cat exam. Now how can I improve on that and get a good score in GMAT.
    Also some suggestions for books to study would also be great

  9. I just completed my graduation from Delhi University in bcom honours. Should i directly get into preparation for gmat or should i look for work to add on to experience in my profile.

  10. I’m in a desperate need of preparation. Please help me out brother with some tips and suggestions. I would need your contact details to understand the GMAT better. Thank you.

  11. Hi Sameer,
    These success stories are indeed very motivating, unlike my current situation . I haven’t given gmat yet, still preparing but the program I want to enroll ends it’s first round applications on 7th October. Even all my other documents are ready I’m not confident of getting a good score within such a short period. Should I still go ahead, give gmat and apply ? Or wait for second round as I really want a scholarship and that would decrease my chances of getting one.

  12. Hi, sameer sir,
    This is Alok Ranjan Shriwastwa, have been working a PSU (Central bank of india) as senior manager since 2010 and want to apply for GMAT whether it will be a good decision. And please also tell after succeeding in GMAT test any finance facility will be available for pursuing the course?


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