Saturday, December 29, 2012

My GMAT story– 690 12/27 (Q-44 V-40) from 390(Q-21 V-22)

*posted in 'Share your GMAT Experience' in

I've achieved my target GMAT score,required for my profile(IT, Indian female,8+ years of experience).I found the GMAT experience to be particularly daunting one.My main struggle came from being out of touch from academics for 8+ years.I thought my story would help people struggling in quants and candidates like me who've been out of touch with exams for a long time.I was academically strong in school and college,but the GMAT taught me how out of touch I was. I had a greater struggle with quants compared to the verbal sections.I assume this could be be because I continued to maintain my strong reading habit during my work life,but did no math practice.

My GMAT journey Aug 2012 -Dec 2012

I started out in August 2012 trying to prepare for the GMAT on my own .I gave GMATprep-1 at this time to discover my level and scored a 390(Q-21,V-22,IR -4).I discovered that I could not understand concepts which had seemed easy to me in school and college.I felt really discouraged and my ego was severely dented.I was stumped for a bit,till a friend of mine suggested that I take GMAT classes.I could not make a decision of own,so I went ahead with his suggestion.

I joined Jamboree Gurgaon for their 4 week fast track course. The math instructor was really good,but the English instructor sucked. I started taking the verbal classes over the weekend(a different batch),and the English tutor was much better in that batch.The classes helped,but what really helped in this case was the thought in my head that I had shelled out a hefty amount for this course(30k INR).Plus,meeting other students studying for GMAT helped.Always helps to meet people undergoing similar hell :)

I completed the Jamboree basic material for quants and verbal and OG 13 by October.I was still very shaky with quant concepts at this time. I spent a lot of time beating myself up over the fact I could not understand these concepts easily. My friends in Jamboree were facing different problems.They were scoring in 47-49 range in quants,but were struggling in verbal. I was strong in RC by this time,decent in CR and weak in SC.But generally I was better in the Verbal section compared to the Quants section.

My test scores at this phase were:
OG 13 Diagnostic Test – DS-average,PS-average,CR-above average,RC-above average,SC-below average
Jamboree online Test 2- (no AWA,IR) -540 Q-12,V-43
Jamboree online Test 3-(no AWA,IR) -550 Q-22,V-35
Jamboree online Test 1 – (AWA,IR) – 600 Q-25,V-41

I knew my quants scores were way below my target score(650),and I needed to raise it to 40’s.My math instructor suggested that I should just learn concepts and learn to do easy sums.And avoid wasting time on learning to do harder sums. I discovered I had lot of ground to cover here.I did read up on lots of strategies in gmatclub at this phase,but they didn't help me much. I finally decided to just get strong on commonly covered topics in GMAT quant.I started following Bunel's posts and looked for his solutions for problems.I also referred to solutions given by Veritasprep Karishma.I could make sense of these,as they were clear and crisp,and delved into the basics.
These links helped me a lot during this time period to understand basics:
I could not get much use of the GMAT club math book as the book is aimed at providing a quick brief of topics,along with shortcuts for various problems. No shortcut made sense to me till I got my concepts clear.This included basic math,multiplication tables etc. I could make much better use of GMAT club math-book after my concepts were clear.

For verbal,my main weakness of SC continued to trouble me. I considered purchasing EGMAT SC and GMAT-pill SC.I picked gmat-pill SC since the trial content seemed more interesting than egmat. While the material was good,I found I could make very little improvement in trying out the suggested techniques on OG 13 SC questions. I realised that GMAT pill favored a highly intuitive approach which I could not grasp.I purchased EGMAT SC,and found that this content suited me much better.It was methodical and structured and I could apply their techniques successfully on OG problems.I tried Manhattan SC,but it did not help me much.

I booked my test date(Dec 14) and gave some mock tests. My scores at this time period were:
GMAT powerprep 1- 660(Q-46,V-35)
GMAT powerprep 2-660(Q-44,V-38)
GMAT prep Test 2- 640(Q-40,V-37)
Manhattan CAT 1- 650(Q-43,V-36)
Manhattan CAT 2- 630(Q-45,V-32)

Around Dec 10,I realised that my Math concepts were getting decent,and my rusty mind was starting to work again. I felt a extra week would help me improve further in math,as I had reached the base starting level that non-rusty candidates would start out with. All things went well till Dec 19(my new date).I fell ill with viral fever and was in a bad state on Dec 18.I decided to move my test to Dec 27,despite loss of money as I felt giving a test at lower mental and physical levels would bring my score down by 20-30 points. I was totally depressed with this,as it would delay my work for R2 admissions. I had to take the test by December 31,to be in time for R2 admissions so the option of postponing further was out. I was also all studied out,and felt sick at the thought of looking at another book. So I did not do any study till Dec 27(final date). I just did the rest of the Manhattan CAT's and spent my time analysing them.

Manhattan CAT 3 -590 (Q-37 V-34 IR 1) I gave this test when i had flu to determine if score went down with physical illness.Apparently it does.
Manhattan CAT 4 -590(Q-47 V-34 IR 3) Recovering from flu and bad mood
Manhattan CAT 5 -650 (Q -44,V-36 IR 4)
Manhattan CAT 6 -650(Q-43,V-36 IR -4)

Since I had decided not study and I was in a foul mood,I just went ahead with applying various strategies.I had tried all these strategies at early points in my study and they hadn't worked for me.But i didn't see any loss in trying them out now when I had nothing to lose. I finally figured out that I was the best person to craft my own strategy,as I knew my weakness and strengths.In my case I realized that I was just stronger in verbal compared to quants.I had tried my best and brought my quants to a decent level,but I'd gain more by improving my verbal score.Timing was a huge problem for me in quants,so I decided to guess on all difficult problems and do all easy problems correctly and carefully. I could finish my quants section after this and it kept my score in the range of 44-46. I analysed all the verbal questions on my Manhattan CATs and discovered some pattern in my mistakes. For example I would never pick answers starting with 'some of ..' in CR. I tended to miss checking for pronoun precedents in SC. In RC i missed inference questions,since i did not go back to verify the answers with the passage. However fixing these mistakes resulted in me facing timing problems in verbal.Prior to this I always finished verbal 8-10 minutes before time.I fixed up a timing strategy for verbal,but I had less practise with this compared to quants timing.(a problem i had faced for a much longer period)

The day before my GMAT exam,I stopped studying and went out for the day with a friend. I was relaxed compared to earlier times,as I told myself that I only had to follow my timing strategy,and nothing else mattered.

Test day
I went to the test center(pearson's in Delhi) a half an hour earlier for my 9 am slot. It was a noise-free environment and hassle free experience. I went in to my seat,and took deep breaths to control my rising panic.I calmed down a bit and started AWA.It went fine and I did my IR. IR was pretty tough and I completed only half the questions,and had to guess on the rest.I took my optional break and ran to my locker.I gulped down my Redbull and snickers bar and rushed to the loo. I used the rest of the time to stretch and do some breathing exercises. I went in and started my quants section with a single thought.I will only do easy questions, guess on the rest and stick to timing strategies. It went ok,and I actually could complete quants.I was elated that I could complete my quants sections and took my next break. I tucked in another redbull,a bit of snickers and headed to the loo once again. A bit of stretching and I went in to my verbal. I missed the timing a bit on first few questions,and that forced me to guess to maintain my timing.I kept telling myself I should just focus and finish the test. I completed my verbal in the nick of time,but I knew I had done verbal at levels below my normal level of accuracy. I got a couple a screens till i got to my test score. I had received a 690(Q-44,V-40) and I was pretty happy.This was the highest score I had ever received compared to my practice tests! I was proud of myself for having stuck to my timing strategy and managing to control my tension and panic. It was over and I had reached my target score.

Books & materials used
gmatclub posts
AWA -chineseburned template was sufficient for me.
IR -OG 13 - I did not do anything beyond this,as adcoms admitted that this score is not of big consequence.
Jamboree Test materials,OG 13,e-gmat SC course
Timing strategies -
Best mock tests-Manhattan CAT's and GMAT prep 1,2

General Tips
  • Don't take the test if you are not in peak mental and physical condition near test date.
  • You can study for GMAT on your own. But Classes helped in forcing me to study,so it helped me.So this is optional based on what suits you.
  • Accuracy on problems has to be fixed before you can fix timing.
  • Fixing timing issues takes time. Sometimes improving accuracy can cause timing issues to pop up.I could not fix my verbal timing issue in time as it popped up after i increased my accuracy in it( a week before the test).I could fix my quants timing issue as it occurred much earlier.
  • GMAT is a game of strategy once you reach 650.But to reach 650,you need to study if you are not already there.
  • Apply all your strategies on OG material to determine if they work for you.You gain nothing if they work on some non-standard material.
  • I found keeping error log to be useful once I hit the 650 plateau.Till this point my errors were way too random.
  • Learn concepts before you apply strategies.After you learn concepts do apply strategies.Figure out which ones works for you and stick to them.
  • A wounded ego is an unnecessary burden to carry during GMAT study.Don't beat yourself if the what comes easily to others is very difficult for you. Discover your own superpowers and use them smartly.I discovered I could use my speed reading skills to my advantage in GMAT.
  • You can formulate the best strategy for yourself,if you honestly evaluate your strengths and weakness.
  • The importance of mental conditioning for GMAT is huge! I watched this everyday for the last week of the exam.I wish I had seen this everyday.
  • Play your own GMAT game.Don't let the GMAT play you.


  1. Awesome...three cheers to your spirit and many claps for the triumph exhibited. I liked the way you described the test day happenings. It was like a thriller for me. Though I am not preparing for GMAT, I can very well sense out what it will be like, if I want to, at any point in future. And yes, next time I write an exam, I am gonna take a Snicker bar with a can of Red Bull too...he he he, though I may not have breaks to take in between.


    1. Thanks Rishi! GMAT gives you the option of taking two 8 minute breaks,since it's a 3.5 hour exam.The red bull and snickers provide the caffeine and calorie content needed to overcome the exhaustion.I have to say I'm amazed at the number of people who read this post,despite the 'boring tag'.

  2. Replies
    1. Thanks Keets! I kept reading stories of people who breezed through to 750 in the forums. I thought my story could help people in similar situations.

  3. Superb Vandhu:) Your post kindles my desire to do GMAT:)

  4. Hi Vandy,

    I'm an ex-student of Jamboree Gurgaon, who is still struggling to score around 700 mark. I want to know the name of verbal tutor you mentioned in your blog. After a mammoth effort, I have been able to get hold of my quant skills but verbal is still a big issue. I'm done with egmat and it hasn't helped me enough. My verbal is stuck at 31 and I have no clue to get it past 36-38. Let me know if you can help me somehow ..

    Abhishek Sharma

    1. Hi Abhishek

      The name of the verbal tutor is Pratiba. She teaches weekend batches in Jamboree Gurgaon and also a couple of other centers.Her techniques helped me in RC and CR.I could not follow her technique in SC,and E-GMAT's techniques helped me there. The success rates of techniques vary from person to person and you have to find it out yourself.I used to check if a technique worked for me by applying it on at least 15 OG questions under timed conditions.I would earmark a technique as successful for me if it gave me at least 70 % success rate.

      Can you mention what areas of verbal you are weak in,so I may offer suggestions? I would also like to hear what material you have already covered.Also do mention how much time you have left to give your GMAT.For GMAT,you should only focus efforts on what gives you best ROI(return on investment) for available time.

      If you are a 30 scorer in verbal,your level is already pretty decent,so a move by 6-7 points is easily achievable.


    2. Hi Vandy.. Congrats for getting the score you wanted!! :)

      Even I am a Jamboree student (new friends colony) and have my GMAT in next few days. I have an aim of getting a 40 in verbal... but have been making 12-13 mistakes in the verbal section in the jamboree tests I have taken so far. Plus, jamboree tests don't mention the total score but just the accuracy in quant and verbal section.
      My CR is more or less sorted since I get 1-2 wrong in the tests... main problem area is RC. Could you pls give me some tips and tricks on how to improve RC timing and accuracy.

      Also, do you think jamboree tests are close to the actual GMAT?? Cos i havent taken any tests so far apart from GMAT prep and jamboree tests. pls let me know!! your comments would be super helpful!

      Thanks a lot

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