Some people have been asking me about one conspicuously absent topic on my blog thus far, and no, it isn’t a mistake that I have not written about it. Yet. I am avoiding all things GMAT because like many applicants, I don’t like the GMAT. Sidenote: Feel free to comment on my posts or email me anytime @ firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m happy to answer questions to the best of my ability, and I can always use a prompt for future posts.
But back to the GMAT. I feel like I’m able to talk to the evils of the GMAT not because I have an outstanding score (I don’t), but because I’ve done battle with the GMAT 3 times. I kind of feel like adcom’s should applaud my taking of the GMAT 3 times as a sign of dedication (totally kidding, i wish it worked this way). I started my prep in November of 2011, when I took a Manhattan GMAT CAT (First one is free!) and got a 620 – I thought “not bad, I should be able to breeze to 700+”. I bought a set of books from Manhattan GMAT.
Quickly, I dove right into their first book, number properties. Slowly, my eyes got heavier and heavier, and by the time i got to the 3rd or 4th book, I was pretty well spent. Working 10+hr days (I know bankers, we get that you work 100hr weeks) mostly outdoors, I found it hard to have any energy left to study. I managed to plow through the all of the quant books, and the SC book. booked my GMAT for February after getting a few practice scores of 700+. I left the test center that day as many before me – completely humbled. I had missed my target score significantly, and instantly knew I was in for another 3 (or more) months of torture.
Round 2, I decided, would be different. I took a few months of study off, to avoid the infamous burnout. After resetting my mind, I started over with the Manhattan books, but a different approach. This time, I’d be less academic, and more practical. I did hundreds of practice problems, and just about exhausted the OG12. I signed up for my test in the fall of 2012, and end left the test center really confused that afternoon. Certainly effort wasn’t the issue, but what was I doing wrong? I knew that I would end up back here one day.
Round 3 began with a totally new strategy. I ditched the Manhattan books in favor of an in-person class through Veritas Prep*. The course coincided perfectly with the 3 weeks I had off from successfully making my job switch, so I was in very good shape with free time. The class was just what I needed. I don’t think the materials are all that different, but I just felt a lot more comfortable with the in-person class as compared to studying on my own. Before the big day, I was getting outstanding scores on the GMATPrep software, though I had to believe that a lot of that was due to my intimate knowledge of the question bank. This proved to be true, as I ended up 10 points shy of my goal of 700, with a 690. I am not going to retake the test, partly because I don’t think I can get a 30 point improvement, and partly because I believe there are other places to improve my application more . A 690 is within the range of all my target scores, and while not a strong asset, it certainly won’t be a major hindrance either.
So what did I do right? I found a study method that worked for me. Rather than beating my head in with a method that didn’t work, I switched styles. I also utilized down time for GMAT studying. During my job change, I had 3 weeks which I lived and breathed GMAT. Certainly everyone won’t have that kind of luck/time, but if you do, consider using it for the GMAT. Finally, I didn’t give up. My entire GMAT prep period took over a year. If you’re truly serious about a top 15ish program, it is imperative that you score in the 80% range listed by your target schools.
So there it is. My personal 15 month battle with the beast that is the GMAT. Did I win? Not really, but i didn’t lose either. Sometimes that is all it takes.
*I don’t think there is much difference between Vertias and Manhattan. Veritas worked for me because it was a different methodology (in-person vs. self-study). I changed providers because Veritas was available in my hometown, while Manhattan was not. Both are excellent prep books/packages.