Thursday 9 January 2014

My GMAT Debrief: 680 to 770 in 6 weeks - Part 1

A very Happy New Year.!!! I have been off the blogging scene for the past three months. Yes..!! I was busy with work and my MBA applications. I am done with the application part for the season and am hoping some good news by the end of March. I thought that I would use this wait time to write my long pending GMAT debrief.
At the outset, let me tell you that I took GMAT twice within a gap of approx. 2 months. My first GMAT was on 26th August, 2013 and the second on 22nd October, 2013. I scored a 680 on my first take and a 770 on my second take. For GMAT aspirants from Bangalore India, here is the link to my previous post about Test Center Review.
I started my GMAT preparation as early as January 2013, casually though, and gained some serious momentum only towards the end of March when I realized that the stakes were very high and time very less. It was in March that I scheduled my GMAT in August 2013.
I read reviews of different preparation courses and researched on preparation strategies. One thing that came prominently was that it was not best advised to start with the GMAT Official Guides. After a lot of research, I finally zeroed in on Manhattan’s Strategy Guides. To begin with, I was confident about quantitative section of the GMAT because I thought that being an engineer I had some quantitative advantage. I was not completely wrong but I realized that approaching questions in a timed manner needed a lot of practice and only a sound understanding of mathematics was not enough. Specially, the Data Sufficiency part of the quantitative section needed careful attention to details. Being a non-native speaker of English, I was skeptical about my verbal skills from the very beginning and was proved right when I faced problems.
MGMAT’s strategy guides proved to be my best mates. I started my GMAT preparation with them. The best part is that the set of strategy guides come with two foundation guides to lay solid foundation in quantitative/verbal skills. I skimmed through the quantitative portion of the guides and spent some quality time in the verbal sections. The verbal section of the guides helped me a lot although I did not benefit quite well from the reading comprehension section. The sentence correction and critical reasoning sections are absolutely fantastic. After the strategy guides, I remarkably improved my verbal skills but my reading comprehension skills remained poor. I had finished my strategy guides by the end of May 2013.
After finishing the strategy guides, It was almost entirely practice with little to none theoretical study. I started my practice with Kaplan’s strategy guide and did not do so well. I then took a break of approx. 15 days from practicing and quickly went through the MGMAT’s strategy guides again. Having seen real problems, I could carefully outline the trends in my mistakes during practicing problems. I then started my practice with GMAT Official Guide 13th edition. Subsequently, I also completed GMAT Official Quantitative and Verbal Review. The GMAT Official guides made a lot of difference. I gained the much-needed confidence. After finishing the Official guides by mid-July, it was time to take practice tests in a timed manner.
By the way, During my GMAT practice, I felt that were no good applications to practice questions in a timed manner. Therefore, I developed an application “GMAT Practice Timer” to do so. I have shared the application through my blog. If interested, you may find the details here.
To take full-length tests, I did some googling and found free tests from popular test prep companies such as Princetion, Knewton, Kaplan, Veritas Prep, and Manhattan. I took the free tests on all of them. While doing all this, I felt that my reading comprehension skills remained sub-optimal. So I also started the RC-99 by Aristotle and it helped a lot. In the full-length tests, I suddenly realized that GMAT had another two important sections – Integrated Reasoning and AWA. Ohhh Dear God, I had never prepared anything about these two sections and I was just one month away from my GMAT. But then there was GMAT club to the rescue. There is an awesome thread about approaching AWA section and I decided to write one AWA essay daily. I also found this amazing website on which one can practice integrated reasoning questions. They have tons of integrated reasoning questions.
After some feedback from a friend, I bought Manhattan’s full-length tests, a set of 6 full-length tests. I was almost consistently getting greater than 740 in the Manhattan tests and hence gained the confidence that I would do well on GMAT. On the previous weekend of my GMAT, I took the Official Test in the GMATPrep software and scored an 730.
Here comes the 26th of August, my 1st GMAT day. I reached the GMAT center well ahead on my time. I started the test and got confused about the logic in my AWA essay. Anyways, I completed it in time and started with the IR section. I felt that the GMAT IR was easier than the IR question on the gmatpill website. At least, I did not have to use the calculator on the real GMAT. I finished my IR section in 24 minutes. After a scheduled break of 8 minutes, I started the quantitative section and got confused in the very first question. I tried to work on the first question itself for approx. 5 minutes but could not find a satisfactory answer. Fearing the loss of time, I guessed it and proceeded ahead. The rest of the test appeared smooth. Towards the end of the section, I felt that I got a couple of very easy questions. Anyways, I finished the section and opted for the second scheduled break. I started the verbal section and frankly, I never felt a thing throughout the section. I had no idea whether I was doing well on the section or poor. The difficulty level of the question did not seem to vary. I never faced a very easy question or a very tough one. At the end of the test, I had scored a 680. Not that it was too bad a score but having scored 730-740 consistently in my practice tests, I was hoping for a similar score on GMAT and therefore I felt as if the sky has fallen.
I think this debrief is running very long. I have so much to say that this post might go in a never-ending scroll. So let me break it at this point. I will start again from this point in my next post, which is coming soon. I also intend to finish my debrief with the lessons that I learned. It may be useful to other applicants too. So stay tuned for more..!!!

Saturday 26 October 2013

GMAT Test Center Review: Pearson Professional Center, Bangalore, India

Hi Reader,
I have been out of blogosphere for a long time. I was preparing for GMAT and working on my application. These past six months have been a roller-coaster ride. I too GMAT twice. In the first attempt I scored a 680 and in the second attempt scored a 770. I will write in detail about GMAT preparation in next few posts. This post is about GMAT Test Center Review so that others can make a good decision.
I took both my GMATs at Pearson Professional Center, Dickenson Road, Bangalore, India. For those who are not aware, there are two GMAT centers in Bangalore – NTTF in Electronics City and Pearson Professional Center in Dickenson Road. I chose Pearson although NTTF is closer to my area because I had got some negative feedbacks about the NTTF Center.
I visited the Pearson Center a couple of days before my actual GMAT test day so that I don’t get lost on test day. Although the test center is located in Bangalore’s prime region, the center is still in a peaceful area. So traffic noise does not create a disturbance while taking test. On both occasions I had scheduled my exam in the morning session (9 AM slot). I reached the test center around 45 minutes before scheduled time. I had to sign on a visitors register and was asked to switch off my mobile before entering the test center. The staff was very friendly and professional. We were some 7 test takers. The lady on the front desk collected our passports gave us a leaflet to read the Terms of Agreement. She then called us one by one to take signature, photograph, and palm vein scan. I was not even asked for the print-out of the GMAT appointment confirmation. I then put my bag in the locker assigned to me. After these formalities, I was taken to test room and my palm vein was scanned again before I was allowed to enter the test room. The second lady was also friendly and professional. She explained some test center rules and gave me marker and erasable pads. During the test, I didn’t face any issues or disturbance. I took both of my 8 minute breaks. The test administrator promptly came to assist me whenever I raised my hand to take my minute break. My palm vein was scanned every time I came out of the test room and entered the test room. Washroom is just outside the test room. After I finished my test, the administrator assisted me outside the test room. I came to the front desk and collected my unofficial score report. It is important to collect your unofficial score report because the Authentication Code to assess the Official report is printed ONLY on the unofficial score report. After coming out of the test center, I had to sign again on the visitors register and then left the venue.
Overall, it was a great GMAT test experience with no problems of any kind on part of Test Center and Staff. I would highly recommend the Pearson Test Center for anyone planning to take GMAT in Bangalore. One advice for test day, Do not carry and reading material to the test center. You will not be able to assess it.
Hope this review helps. Coming up next is a snapshot of my GMAT preparation. Stay Connected..!!!

Sunday 23 June 2013

And So begins the MBA Application Season 2013-14…!!!

The journey has now started. I have been away from blogging for quite some time now as I am concentrating on GMAT. I have not yet taken my GMAT but am planning to take soon. By the way, many business schools have already posted their application deadlines and application essays for the Class of 2016. Online discussion forums like GMAT Club and Beat the GMAT are already flourishing with discussion threads of “Calling all aspirants – Target business school”. One great thing about these forums is that many successful applicants from previous year are offering their help on different business school. So if you have not visited these forum threads, do make a stop.
Last year around this time, I was a lot more relaxed just browsing through forums researching business schools. I was relaxed because I was not applying last year but this time I am hell anxious as the heat is on. Having read the essay prompts of some schools, I constantly keep thinking about the story of my life. This self introspection is eating up my brain but at the same time it’s a great feeling. I had never thought so much about me and my feelings ever in my life, at least not for such prolonged hours. I am yet to come across that a-ha moment when I find my story but hopefully I will realize it before the deadlines. For now the strategy is to concentrate more on GMAT and keep thinking through the story in spare time. On the GMAT side, I have a lot of work to do on Sentence Correction and Critical Reasoning.

I will share some GMAT strategies and Essay advice that I have collected from various people in the upcoming post. Stay Connected…!!!

Wednesday 13 March 2013

Published Blog Post..!!!

A couple of months back, I had written a blog post in which I had talked about issues that an International MBA Applicant must consider while selecting business schools. The article was posted in two parts.
The two posts have been consolidated and published in the prestigious "The Graduate Advisor". This quarterly publication is published by Pericles ABLE Project based out of Moscow, Russia. My article is published on Pages 6 to 8.

Thank You All for supporting..
On the GMAT Preparation side, I have been progressing slowly. I have a few tips to share but more on that in the next post. Stay Connected..!!!

Tuesday 15 January 2013

GMAT Practice Timer

A very Happy New Year to you all. It has been long since I’ve written a post. Work and GMAT Preparations are keeping me busy. I formally started preparing for GMAT this January. I’ve even scheduled my GMAT test appointment on 24th June. So given the amount of time at hand, I’ve to put in some extra hours on studying for GMAT.
As far as preparation material is concerned, I have started with Manhattan GMAT Strategy Guides which I borrowed from a friend. The strategy guides are very good and I started with GMAT Verbal Foundation. I have also registered for the BTG’s (Beat the Gmat) Verbal and Quant Question in mail. So far, I feel that Quant should not create a problem. My verbal is really miserable and I have to work a lot on it.
Here is one piece of help that I can do to you. I realized that while practicing for GMAT, it is very important to keep track of time. GMAT is a timed test. You get approximately 2 minutes to solve a question both on Verbal and Quant sections. When I started this journey, I struggled with keeping track of time in a precise manner. Hence, to help myself, I created this “GMAT Practice Timer” application. If you are interested, I can send you the application by mail (drop your mail id in the comments below, Don’t Worry-Your mail id is safe with me. The comments are moderated and I will not publish your comment if you wish so, just mention the same in comment). A screenshot of the application is shown below.

Enter the number of questions for practice and the time per question (that you want to schedule). Press START to start the timer. (I have put 10 questions for practice with 2 mins per question in the example screenshot below).

As soon as you press START, the start clock time of the test is recorded. After every time interval that you have specified, the number count is increased and a beep sound is played.

When the question count reaches the number of questions (as specified earlier), a message of Test Over is displayed.

Moreover, if you stop the test before finishing the time (due to some reason or the other), you can stop the test and press CONTINUE to re-start the timer from the previous position. You can also restart the test altogether by changing Questions and Time/Question.
Hope you like it and the application is useful for GMAT preparation. Just drop a comment with your mail id. I am working on a couple of more application which may be useful in GMAT practice. This is my way of giving back to the internet (GMAT) community from which I have benefited immensely. I will keep posting the progress of my GMAT preparations. Pardon me if post is not grammatically correct (I’ve just started GMAT verbal) and Stay Connected..!!!