After what turned out to be a very long prep routine I finally took the GMAT yesterday and I’m obviously very happy with my score as I had been preparing for a very long time. I started my prep last year in September hoping to apply for Fall ’13 intake but within a month of prepping I realized that there was no way I could even get close to my target score in one or two month’s time. While my Maths was very strong, I was really struggling with Verbal, specially with SC. So I decided to give more time to my prep and apply in Fall ’14 instead.
I think that the biggest reason that I did well was that I took the GMAT only when I felt that I am ready and I felt ready only when I started scoring consistently on my practice tests. I scored a 750 on GMATPREP1 and 760 on GMATPREP2 around a week back before the actual exam so I knew that I should take my GMAT appointment now.
Also I think that I shouldn’t have extended my prep for this long a duration because prepping for this long comes with its opportunity cost. When I could be doing something else-maybe doing some volunteer activities or take up a hobby, I was sitting with my books on the weekend. I should have finished my prep within 3-4 months but the prep kept on going on and off and I couldn’t focus because of some or the other work or family obligations creeping up now and then.
Initially, I made schedules that I never followed; targets that I never met and GMAT appointments that I had to postpone. I guess I could have avoided all this had I been a little more systematic in the beginning.
Prep schedule and Strategy: I prepped on my own and in a week I would keep aside 4 days for verbal and 1 day for Quant. So on MTWT I studied verbal, on Friday I studied for Quant, on Saturday I revised everything that I learnt in that week and then on Sunday I took a complete break from studies.
G-day experience :
The test day was like any other day with some butterflies in the stomach moments before the start of the test but once I started with the essay things got settled pretty quickly. The IR section went very well and I‘ll be surprised if I don’t get an 8 on 8. My scores on the mock tests ranged from 680 to 780 and I was consistently getting 750 plus in the last 3-4 tests that I took (MGMAT and GMATPrep)so I wasn’t exactly surprised to see a 760 on the screen, happy I most certainly was.
In this interim period of 8 months or so I practically went through every book/prep material available for the GMAT Verbal (at least all the well known ones)and here are my two cents about some of them:
Kaplan – While their Comprehensive/Premier program books are nothing much to write home about, I really liked the Kaplan Advanced book. I thought this book had some really tough practice questions, especially for SC and CR. I also liked the online Quiz bank that comes along with the books as it really helps you drill down to your desired subject matter/difficulty level. Their full lengths were strictly ok though and I found the scoring a little random.
MGMAT – While I went through some of their quant guides, I didn’t really study them in depth coz I quite fancy my quant skills. For Verbal their SC book is quite detailed though I kinda preferred the easy to understand format of the SC Grail. I went through their CR and RC books as well and found them ok. What I actually liked about Manhattan was their FLTs. These are the next best thing to the GMATPrep and I highly recommend these to everyone.
Princeton Review – The Cracking the GMAT book makes for a fun read but doesn’t really contain much in terms of concepts or otherwise. However it is an excellent book to start with for someone who is just getting started with the GMAT. Their Verbal workout book was a mixed bag with some good questions and some not so good ones. The scoring algorithm of their FLTs was poor in my opinion.
Aristotle Prep – I went through all their verbal books and quite liked them all, especially the two SC books. In fact I found their OG 13 SC Explanations book even more useful than the SC Grail, which itself is a terrific book, specially for non native speakers. Since I bought all their books I also got free access to their online classes, and even though I was towards the end of my prep, I found these classes very useful. They have the most value for money offerings of all test prep companies i think.
Powerscore – While most people refer to their CR Bible, I also went through their SC bible and quite liked it. In fact I didn’t like the CR bible all that much because it was a little too detailed for my liking but the SC book was very nicely structured with practice questions as well.
Veritas – I went through all their books and what I liked most about them was the ……….packaging
Seriously the books come in a regal looking blue box and there are a lot of them so you feel like you are really getting your money’s worth. The content is where a lot of these books get let down, especially the Verbal books which barely scratch the surface of what is tested on the GMAT.
In addition to these, I also referred to a few other random material that’s floating around the web. As you can see there isn’t much that I didn’t do.
So do I attribute my score to the fact that I went through all this material? Probably not. In the sense that while it did make me feel very confident before the test I don’t think there is a lot of difference between/among a lot of these books conceptually. So if you have the time and resources do go through as many of them as you can but I’m sure you can get a good score even without referring to so many books. I really recommend the Aristotle verbal books, the Kaplan advanced book, and the MGMAT CATs. I think together these are sufficient to get you to your desired score.
What I learnt:
• I shouldn’t have lost momentum early on. I could have saved a few months early on had I not delayed my prep a lot.
• If you’re looking at studying a top business school, it’s very important to score at least above the average GMAT score at that school especially if you have an average profile. For example, the average at Haas and MIT(the schools I’m targeting for their strong technology entrepreneurship programs) is 715, so my target was 730.
• Prepare systematically and punish yourself if you don’t stick to your schedule otherwise it’s our natural tendency to never follow the schedule you make.
• Learn from your mistakes. If you make a mistake once or twice, you’re not a fool, but if you keep on making the same mistake time and again, there’s something definitely wrong in your approach or concepts.
This debrief has already become longer than I intended it to be so I’ll sign off for now. I hope you guys would have found it useful . It’s because of seniors here only that I learnt a lot. Please feel free to ask as many questions as you want.
[Collection from russianaspirant]