A GMAT Journey – Moving from 550s to 700s

“GMAT, GPA, LOR, SOPs & Interviews – All components of an application need to rotate in the same direction. If anyone is working against you, then best see how to improve that. Don’t chase a score that won’t help your cause, chase the college you desire to be in”

Before joining The Smith School of Business, Canada to pursue my MBA this January, I thought I would pen down my thoughts on how to tackle the GMAT exam. This advice comes directly from someone who has never been able to score extremely well in exams (>95% percentile) but has always worked in a direction to reach that target, and finally, GMAT has been the conquered one.

If you are an individual who is already scoring beyond 650, I highly recommend NOT to read this article as you would have already made the below adjustments to your study method. This article is predominately for GMAT Exam takers who are finding it difficult to transition from 500s and have been prepping for some time now. It is often the lack of guidance that leads them to believe that attaining a 650+ score is just a measure of practicing 4 hours every day. As a person who studied for 6 months (Yes, longer than most GMAT exam takers), I wanted to share where I went wrong, how I corrected those mistakes, and what, in my opinion, I did correctly.

LET’S START WITH THE DON’TS!

Checking the number of questions you answered correctly

The GMAT is an adaptive exam; if you get consecutive answers wrong, it is likely that the last 5 or 10 that you got correct were of 500 level. As no linear progression exists in scoring, it is important to get the initial questions answered correctly and turn the adaptive direction of the question upward toward 700. Once you have achieved this, the exam will stop testing you at 500/600-level questions as you have already proven your ability to answer them correctly.

Preparing for the GMAT as a verbal examination

Learning 1000s of words is an absolute waste of time and effort. If you are unable to score better in the verbal section, it is because your problem-solving and reasoning skills need improvement. You will perform GMAT better if you start reading business articles, scholarly articles, and magazines like The Economist or Wall Street Journal to better understand the kind of language used and then try to break the meaning of the sentence rather than rote learning words.

Giving multiple mocks from any and every source.

I gave 11 mocks, mixed between manhattan, Kaplan, and the official ones available on mba.com, and I realized that I had a range of scores with no set pattern, and hence I was unable to identify my weakness. It is only much later I understood that for mock tests, it is good to stick to the mba.com tests as they are the closest versions to the actual exam. [Quality of Exam + Analysis >> Quantity]

Falling trap to marketing material of GMAT tutors/Agencies/Websites who guarantee a 50-point score increase.

I am not saying coaching centers/tutors are bad; I am just advising you not to put your eggs in the basket of a marketing campaign that guarantees you an improved score. There is no substitute for your own analysis or a tutor’s analysis of what’s going wrong. If you don’t know what’s going wrong, joining any prep will not help you get a +10/+50, etc. It is better to get a tutor who can help you analyze your method of solving a question [I was told not to take every question as a trick question and just answer it in the simplest way possible].

THE “PLEASE DO” – THESE ARE TRIED AND TESTED METHODS THAT EVERYONE CAN APPLY

Maintain an error log

For every question [correct or wrong], write your process on why you selected an option. This will train your mind to identify similar patterns in other questions and help you improve your speed and accuracy. Introspect and analyze every question.

Improve Fundamentals

It’s time to unlearn and relearn multiple grammatical concepts and the fact that it is sometimes easier to eliminate rather than solve every quant question on the paper. Dedicate time to do this early on.

Give mock exams in a controlled environment.

Taking a mock test in a similar room, with a similar PC setup and laminated paper, will create a mental situation where you will be forced to behave the way you would in the actual examination. Here you are tested on patience and stamina [It’s a long exam]. Overall, you would be better prepared for the exam with the decreased scope of surprise.

Stop pondering over answers selected in the consecutive question.

Once selected an answer, forgot, and moved on, I had a habit of overthinking even after I proceeded, I worked extremely hard on this trait to subdue it, and on the day of the examination, I actually felt that I had underperformed in a section, but I let it pass by and not bother me in the rest of the exam. Turns out, I actually performed better than expected.

Stick to the official material.

There are around 4 books from official sources. Stick to that. Do questions topic-wise rather than attempting them haywire; there is an error log available on GMAT club; use that as a north star metric to practice more efficiently.

If you keep practicing and just enforce the above, one is bound to see improved results.

I am sure that the above advice will help you get +10 points guaranteed (Spot Sarcasm)

MORE ABOUT THE AUTHOR!

Nemish is a Analytics and Strategy Professional, an incoming Smith – Queens University MBA candidate. Having experience in management consulting, finance startegy and analytics, he is able to dig into what future prospects can applicants unlock.

He truly believes that while GMAT is an important key to success in an application, it is not the only driver and is keen on helping applicants dig stories that actually stand out and bring value, not only at a professional level, but even at a moral level. This is key to help candidates access their chances at top schools and their fit in them.

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