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How I got a 770 on the GMAT exam
by Sawan Kumar
When I decided to write the GMAT earlier this year, I was not even aware of the format of the exam. All I knew was that it has a quant and a verbal section. In fact, I didn’t even know how to register for it. To go from there to securing a 770 score and a 5.5 on the AWAs [read how to get a 6.0 on the GMAT AWA] in a span of 3 months has been quite a journey. I want to share that journey with you today, in the hope that it inspires at least a few 750+ scores.
The first step of course was to buy the Official Guide Edition. Buying the OG in itself is an inspiration to write the GMAT (I’m sure some of you agree with me). When you open that big fat book with the freshly printed pages, it gives you the feeling of having taken an important step and motivates you to prepare well.
The first thing I did was to read through the first few pages and understand the format of the GMAT. Three sections – quant, verbal and 2 essays. Right, I can handle this. I knew my Quant was strong (as it is for most of us Indian Engineers).
I quickly went through the types of questions in Verbal – RC, SC and CR. I knew the last two would be tricky. A day or two later I wrote the diagnostic test in the OG just to gauge where I stood. As expected, I got an ‘Above Average’ in all but in CR and SC, in which I got an ‘Average’.
So I had my starting point decided for me – to work out the sample questions in the OG for Sentence Correction and Critical Reasoning. I did this for a few days until my confidence improved a bit. It is very important to work on your weakest points in the initial stages rather than keep them for later as this boosts your confidence tremendously and in an exam such as the GMAT, confidence is everything.
In the meanwhile, I spoke to a friend at work who had given the GMAT recently as to what his strategy was and what books he had used. In hindsight, this was a very important conversation as it laid the path to devising my own strategy.
He asked me to download the GMATPrep software and give the first full length test immediately. The questions in the GMATPrep are very close to what come in the actual GMAT and the score you get in the two full length tests is a close indicator of your actual GMAT performance.
I would suggest this strategy to anyone who has just started his/her preps. I got a 740 on the test and I was understandably ecstatic. My breakup was 50 (Q) and 40 (V). This confirmed my faith in my quantitative abilities and I decided to concentrate solely on the Verbal section and to work on the Quant section only during the mocks.
I decided that the OG will be my GMAT Bible. I solved around 6 to 7 questions each of RC, SC and CR almost every day. My friend told me about the Manhattan SC Guide. I glanced through it but I wasn’t very comfortable in going through a whole guide of SC questions.
I think it is always better to solve problems and then analyze them to know what the different types of SC errors are rather than to simply read through those types of errors in a guide. To do is to know. I was pretty regular in solving those 20 to 25 verbal questions in spite of a tight work schedule.
I later realized that the level of difficulty of the OG questions increases as the question number increases. My accuracy for the later questions was dramatically lesser than for the earlier questions.
Another important thing I did during this time (around 20 days into my OG preps) was to book a slot for the exam. I took a slot two months from that day. Booking a slot gets you all the more serious because you then know how much more time you have and you won’t just wile away your time doing nothing.
I envisaged completing the OG in a month and then writing many mocks over the weekends during the last one month. Turned out that I finished the OG well within a month’s time and I needed to look elsewhere for other quality Verbal questions.
My friend suggested the Kaplan Verbal Workbook. A good thing that I found about the Kaplan workbook is that the questions are timed and this helps you in increasing your speed.
So far I had just concentrated on getting to know the types of and commonalities among the questions but for the first time I was concentrating on the timing aspect. I realized that once you are comfortable with the different sections, your timing automatically improves.
I started solving one mini test in the Kaplan Workbook every morning while commuting to work and finished off the questions within 10 days. What I needed next were some full length mocks.
Since I did not buy any mocks from any of the websites, I had to make do with whatever free mocks were available to me. One of these was the Kaplan mocks. When I gave the first one, I got a 640. I was devastated. But then my friend consoled me by saying that the scores on the Kaplan mocks are usually that low and you need to add a 100 more to get a better estimate.
So I gave all the Kaplan mocks and I got similar scores in each. I ended up writing 8 mocks in all, including a few Manhattan GMAT mocks whose Quant section I loved because it was so challenging.
It was only during the last few mocks that I also wrote the AWA essays (I wouldn’t recommend this strategy. I was simply confident that I would be able to write good essays). My final mock was the GMATPrep 2 in which I got a 730. This was 2 days prior to my GMAT and I was expecting a 730 to 750 score on the exam.
During the exam, I decided that I would utilize the optional breaks to the fullest. Since the GMAT is of long duration, it is important to switch off after a section, get refreshed and then switch on for the next section.
I simply closed my eyes and walked about the exam centre during these breaks. This helped a lot as your concentration needs to be at its peak during the last section, the Verbal. I knew the essays had been decent and that Quant was a breeze. So I was under no pressure during the Verbal section.
But even I hadn’t expected the score I got. I managed a 44 in the Verbal, more than I had managed in any mock. When I saw the score page, I was dumbstruck. I just sat there covering my mouth with my hand and staring at the screen. I’ll never forget that moment.
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With that Sawan puts a big emphatic tick mark on a key component within the application process. Time to move on now to the other parts – school shortlisting, building a good story and finally executing it on paper. Hope he can demonstrate his professional wrestling skills in those areas as well.