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How I got a 70-point jump in my GMAT re-attempt (680 to 750)

Posted: October 14th, 2012, 5:02 pm
by ritwikverma

I took the test recently - 4 October 2012 and scored 750.

It was a score that was the highest that I got during my GMAT Prep Practice Tests, so obviously I am ecstatic.

Here is my story:

My first experience of the GMAT was pretty ordinary. I appeared for GMAT in 2009 and scored 680 (Q-49,V-33). In retrospect, I feel I under-estimated the GMAT and screwed up. Some of the factors that I overlooked were:

1. GMAT tests your stamina and concentration which I couldn't develop during my practice tests as I always skipped the AWA. So, effectively I prepared for a 2.5 hours of test and went to write a 3.5 hours of test.
2. The gravest error - I relied on Non-official guides more than the OG! So much so that I didn't even complete the OG before my GMAT.

Test Preparation Strategy:
This time around, I knew my weaknesses. Verbal needed a boost. I took special care of verbal. I also joined a GMAT prep institute just for verbal. I didn't practice from any Kaplan 800 or Manhattan SC guide and religiously followed OG. At times, you feel that maybe OG is not enough and you need more practice. But, I somehow felt that 150 odd questions in each section are more than enough to give you a good exposure to the GMAT questions. Moreover there are 2 GMAT prep tests which give you additional questions. I convinced myself not to touch the Kaplan 800 that kept staring from my bookshelf.

My belief was reinforced when I took Kaplan and Manhattan Mock GMAT. I scored 680 and 660 respectively. I was not exasperated by the fact that I got well below my expectation, but the answer explanation was so bad, that I cursed myself for attempting these tests.

The mock test experience is also worth sharing. For all the mock tests, I simulated the actual test environment as closely as possible. Took the breaks, didn't go out of the room. Roamed around and sat again. It really prepares you to hold your nerves. In fact the last GMAT prep that I took a day before the GMAT was more strenuous than the actual GMAT as I fumbled in Quant at the beginning.

Practice and Practice until it becomes a habit to write for half an hour, look at graphs for another half an hour, take a break, solve questions for the next half an hour, take a break and do verbal problems and get up without feeling exhausted. Until you achieve this, the GMAT will definitely have some surprise for you on the TEST day.

Test day:
I was nervous as hell. I had never woken up without an alarm at 6 AM for an exam which was scheduled at 4:00 in the evening. At times during the day I felt chest pain and thought I was getting a heart attack. But I guess it was all psychological. :-)

By afternoon, I had calmed down and had a nice lunch. Watched TV and realized there are many more beautiful things in this world than a good GMAT score. I went to the test center with a plan chalked out - Thou shall take all breaks, Thou shall forget about a question as soon as you submit its answer, Thou shall read questions carefully and look out for traps.

Test Experience:
I breezed through the AWA. I hate IR! May be it's a new member in the GMAT family and that's the reason or maybe I don't like the idea of exhausting my analytical brain even by an iota before the Quant section. But I had decided - I will not get bogged down by IR questions. For every question of IR, I made a decision - Whether it's worth the time or it's not. For the ones that were, I solved them properly. For the ones that looked too confusing, I took a calculated guess.

Not sure if this is the right strategy as far as IR is concerned but it definitely helped me remain fresh when I hit quant. Quant was smooth. I looked out for traps in the questions and solved the questions calmly. By the end of it, I knew I was getting 50 on quant. In the break, I told myself - "Quant 50 ho gaya hai. Verbal 40-41 kar do bas..."

I was really confident when I attempted Verbal. I had to take a few guesses as I found some questions really confusing in CR. By the time I hit finish exam. The familiar chest pain was back and this time I really did not think it was psychological. When I clicked the final button and saw the score 750 (Q-50, V-41), I felt like Bhuvan of Lagaan in the climax scene. Somebody had lifted a tonne of weight from my chest and had placed a teddy bear!

Some tips:
1. Do the OG questions thoroughly.
2. Categorize your mistakes. (I categorized as 'Did not read the question carefully', 'Misunderstood the question stub','Silly mistake' etc.) It helped me develop a strategy for all sections. There are some mistakes that can be tackled by a personalized approach to each section.
3. Take GMAT prep tests with as real a test environment as possible.

Re: How I got a 70-point jump in my GMAT re-attempt (680 to

Posted: October 14th, 2012, 6:28 pm
by MBACrystalBall
A 70-point jump is no mean feat, Ritwik. Congrats!

Your main challenge as you said was on the verbal side. For others who are reading your debrief and going - 'Damn, I wish I could do the same with verbal questions' - any specific tips and strategies for the individual sections - Sentence Correction, Reading Comprehension and Critical Reasoning?

Re: How I got a 70-point jump in my GMAT re-attempt (680 to

Posted: October 14th, 2012, 10:36 pm
by ritwikverma
Hi Sameer,

I know that Verbal is the biggest hurdle in GMAT for Indian students like me. I joined a GMAT prep institute - CrackVerbal in Bangalore to get trained in the Verbal section of the GMAT.

Joining classes for Verbal helped me achieve following things:
1. Regularity in practicing verbal questions
2. Identifying the pattern of Verbal questions (which saves a lot of time)
3. Learn about the common mistakes that students make

Tips for CR, RC and SC:
CR - My strategy was to draw figures for the premise that was given in the question. It forces you to understand the premise before looking at the question statement.

RC - Again, draw figures/write some words to understand the passage. I took RC as a really big CR question. RC was my strongest area in Verbal.

SC - I improved the most in SC. I would say the 8 point improvement in Verbal score was primarily due to SC. I am sure that just like me, most of the students find SC difficult because they can easily eliminate 3 options but get stuck between last two. Practicing with OG and checking the explanation of CORRECT as well as INCORRECT answers helped me understand the difference between a right and a wrong answer choice.

With or without classes, I feel that if students practice regularly with GMAT OG, and identify their mistakes while doing that, they can really improve their Verbal score. I would also like to mention that while practicing every single question from OG, I timed myself because GMAT tests you on Speed and Accuracy both. So, solving 17 questions correctly out of 20 within 30-35 minutes was more important than solving 20 out of 20 questions correctly without a timer running. Perhaps this strategy will be more useful to those who want to improve their score rather than those who are just starting with the GMAT prep for the first time.

Summing up, the golden strategy for me would always be - Relentless and Sincere Practice!