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.
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.
I 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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%.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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?