My Personal 700+ GMAT Prep Strategy That resulted in a 780 Score!!
How I went from 650 to 780
I must admit, the first time that I took the full GMAT test, I was very nervous. I had put in about a months preparation but just wasn’t sure if I had studied the right way.
At that time, I was teaching college level math so was not too worried about the quant section. And I considered myself sufficiently prepared in Verbal as well.
At the end of the exam however, I was shocked to see a score of just 650.
Mind you, at this stage, I could have easily given up any chances of getting into a Top 10 school. In fact this was one of those ‘Turning Point’ situations that separate the Winners from the also- rans.
Instead of giving up and letting go, I decided to pursue my dreams with renewed vigour.
Getting a below 700 score despite being well prepared was confidence shattering.
Within me, I knew that if I could somehow make some changes in the way I study and the way I think about the GMAT, I could get that winning edge that so many ‘Winners’ had.
I sat down and thought really hard about how the Winners do it.
I actually spoke to a few people who had done really well in the GMAT and requested them to take me through their study plans in detail, what they did, what they thought, which books they studied from and all the rest of it.
One of the most important things I learnt was that at the 700+ level, the GMAT becomes a battle of the mind rather than knowledge.
Most students at this level already know most of what they need to know, it is the inner battle they need to win from here onwards.
My preparation strategy
One point to remember here is that most of the questions In the Power prep Tests (Now called GMAT prep with the ownership passing from ETS to pearson) are repeated In the Official guide.
So I took the tests first and went through the Official guide towards the end of my preparation.
GMAT Sentence Correction
From the first test (what I call the diagnostic test), I had identified Sentence Correction as one weak area.
Experts recommend reading books like Wren and Martin to get your SC up to speed. However you can afford that luxury only if you have a couple of months In hand.
What I did instead was identify about 20 kinds of SC problems that the GMAT presents, and focused on these.
Most of these are around basic sentence structure, clauses (both independent and subordinate), subjects and tenses.
It also helps to be familiar with standard rules like misplaced modifiers, parallel structure, subject-verb agreement etc.
Even though I am an Engineer by education, I found the Quant Question, especially towards the end, quite baffling.
The questions were nothing of the sort I had practiced. It is here that I lost the 20 points for the perfect 800 score!!
I think most of the books available In the market today do not offer you enough ‘Tough’ problems In Quant, the kind you need to score In the high nineties.
You should try the GMAT math club for really tough ‘real’ problems around math.
I have also put some Math test papers on this Web site that you can access from our home page.
GMAT Reading Comprehension
If you find RC as your weak area, I would recommend reading ‘How to Read Faster and Better’ by Norman Lewis.
If you are short on time though, you can also refer to ‘Winners’ Guide to GMAT RC‘
There are 4 RC passages in the GMAT, mostly on different topics like Science, History, Arts, Society etc.
Depending on you background, you will find at least 1 or 2 very easy. (e.g. In my case, with my engineering background, they were the science passages).
It makes sense to get familiar with other topic that you do not normally come across In your job.
The strategy I used was to read the passage quickly to get a rough idea of what the topic was about, and then to read bits required to answer each question again.
You are likely to find at least one question about the ‘Central Idea’ of the passage, so the first quick read helps here.
For the other questions, you are likely to know which bit of the passage to read again, so this strategy usually works quite well.
GMAT Critical Reasoning
My core strategy around this has been elimination. Of course this is only for the tough ones that come when you are cruising along at the 90 percentile level!!
What I studied for My GMAT Prep
My first step was with the Official GMATPrep –This should really be the first step In your GMAT preparation. And the first two tests are absolutely free!
In the first practice test I got a 650. Went through all the answers, right or wrong, with a fine tooth comb to identify areas I needed to focus on. This contains the real ‘retired’ GMAT questions from past years.
If you expect a score of 700+, the questions here will seem to be easier than the real GMAT.
The reason for that is this software has only a limited number of ‘Tough’ questions compared to the actual GMAT. GMAT Course / Books that I followed
The Official Guide –
If you have to read only one book for the GMAT, this is the one!!
I used this to brush up the areas that I found myself weak in, from the initial Diagnostic test.
You should thoroughly read all explanations to understand why an answer is correct and another one wrong.
Princeton review verbal work out
This is supposedly good for Verbal prep, but I think the Kaplan book offers better insights.
Has one of the best AWA explanations In the market. Quant is good but most of the problems are below the Real GMAT level.
However, other than the full length test, there are very few problems to practice with.
Kaplan GMAT Prep Plus
Good for Quant and In general you score is likely to be less than In the real GMAT.
I got a score that varied from 680 to 730 In these tests.
Apart from these, I made my own notes from a lot of other books like the Korean vStudy guides, Indian IMS, Manhattan book series etc.
Books to Avoid for your GMAT prep
Baron – You can read the reviews on Amazon if you don’t believe me!!
Arco – Has nothing to add on top of what you get from Kaplan/Princeton and Official Guides.
My GMAT Exam
The D Day Experience
I did not study or take any tests on the penultimate day.Just went though some quant formulate and SC rules that I had jotted down.
Do not know anyone who has not felt some pangs before the actual test?
Selected to do AWA first, which helped calm the nerves and gives some time to settle down!!
Remember, during those tense hours, any rest break is on your own time!!! So it is best to take it if you finish one of your sections before time.
I was confident of getting 700+ but did not exactly know how much I would get till the hit the ‘Button’.
Most people who get In the 700+ bracket would have had to take some guesses. I did too and was quite nervous.
In Reality when I finished the test I was wondering whether to cancel it, a question that crosses many a mind!!
Fortunately I did not do that and was quite shocked to see a whopping score of 780!!!
Is it worth the money?
I am a staunch believer In Self Study. Most (though not all, especially quant!!) of the concepts tested In GMAT are around the High School level.
However, if you have been out of touch with basic Quant and English for sometime, it does make sense to go In for an introductory two day course.
I have personally taken these two day refresher courses In various parts of the world and I think it does provide students with a good idea of what they are in for.
However, the important thing is to do serious preparation on your own after you have done such a course.
This does help!!
(How can it not when I myself do it part time!!)
However, In order to get the best value for your money (you won’t get too much time with your tutor!!), it is best to clearly identify you weak areas and inform your tutor about them so that he/she is sufficiently prepared.
When I do private tutoring, I normally send my student detailed background information on the topics so that they can get the maximum out of the session.
I think Private Tutoring should be treated more as an exception for things that you find too difficult to understand rather than for doing the whole course.
Based on my own GMAT experience, and the experience of scores of other GMAT winners, whom I happened to teach,I have written the ‘Winning Ways & Strategies of GMAT Winners’, an invaluable book for anyone aiming to ace the GMAT.
Read this book & save weeks of prep time, learn how the winners do it! and above all, craft you personal 700+ GMAT Strategy!
Click here to Learn about the Common GMAT pitfalls and how to avoid them.
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