GMAT: my journey from 610 to 710

30 Jul

On 23rd December 2013, I attempted the GMAT exam for the first time, after a little more than a week of preparation (which consisted of learning the question types and trying a few questions), the result was a pitiful 610 (Q47, V28, IR3). I was so heartbroken but I submitted a few applications.

In February, after the dings came rolling in, I attempted the exam again, totally focusing my two-week prep on the verbal. I took two practice tests within that period and got 680 in each of them, my GMAT score however was 650 (Q45, V32, IR3). Submitted my Booth application in round 3 with that result, sadly, I got dinged after the interview.

So I re-strategized for the new application season and decided to give the GMAT one last try. This time, I planned six weeks of study (I know it will be different for other people, but I get bored very fast especially while studying the same thing), just enough time for me to focus on one “subject” without getting bored. I used the following study materials:

  • GMAT club –  The daily practice questions and the question bank helped a lot. I tried to do them religiously, reading other people’s GMAT debrief also helped me figure out my strategies for each of the areas.
  • Kaplan GMAT strategies, practice, and review (2012) edition – this is one book I wish I used more, It was the only thing I used while preparing for my first GMAT, loved the quantitative bits. I couldn’t find it while preparing for my 3rd exam (I’m not very organised and I was almost completely focused on verbal), maybe I would have improved my quant by 1 or 2 points.
  • Magoosh flashcards apps – I used these to brush up my math and to round-up my preparation. Basically used them in the few days before the exam.
  • Manhattan instructional guide series – I liked the books, but the RC guide was pretty useless to me. I just didn’t get it. The SC guide was great, I learnt practically everything I knew about SC from it. I also liked the CR guide.
  • Official guides – I was happy with the number of questions that came with the guides but I did not like being unable to differentiate them by difficulty level. I felt like I was successfully solving only questions in the sub-650 level but I couldn’t verify that. Needless to say, I dumped them pretty early.

My strategies:

  • Study plan: I am not the most organised person on the planet. My initial plan was to get in 1-2 hours per day before or after work. It didn’t work. What I ended up doing was reading on the way to work and during lunch. If you have ever lived in Lagos, you know that we spend an awful amount of time stuck in traffic, with the revised plan, I got in an average of 60 minutes of study each working day. I didn’t start maximizing my weekends till the last weekend in June, from then on, I averaged 8 hours each weekend and got in at least one practice test each weekend. P.S if you plan to study in traffic and its anything like we have here, invest in good-quality noise-cancelling earphones, you’ll need them.
  • Quant: I have always been a quant girl, so I may not be able to provide detailed help for anyone struggling with this area. That said, this are the strategies I adopted –
    • Data Sufficiency:
      1. Restate the question into something easier for you to understand (sometimes, this may involve expanding/ merging equations, ball parking, writing word problems as equations)
      2. Determine what you need to answer the question
      3. Check the statements for your requirement.
    • Problem solving: I really had no special strategy – ballpark, use figures if the expressions are giving problems. One thing I would say here is to solve the problem, don’t assume that the most obvious answer is the right one. Sometimes it isn’t.
  • Verbal: My weak point, I had to develop strategies and force myself to use them. I hope you find them useful too but I know they will not work for everyone. A word of caution; I read very fast, so these strategies may involve too much time if you do not. Use only what works for you.
    1. Critical Reasoning: This was my favorite part of the entire verbal section.
      1. Read the question stem
      2. Read the passage/ information provided, restate in your own terms
      3. (if you know any shorthand, use it to) put down your thought. You don’t have to write it down just don’t lose track of it so you don’t have to re-read the passage.
      4. Identify the characteristics of the answer, then look through the answer choices.
    2. Sentence Correction: I missed a few of these on the actual exam, but this was my strategy
      1. Read the sentence
      2. Identify the errors – I learnt that GMAT will never allow grammar mistakes, logic mistakes or diction mistake, so, I looked out for these 3 first. For the most part, they were enough to solve the problem.
      3. Find the answer that fixes it. (I think this is where splits work)
    3. Reading Comprehension: Take this with a pinch of salt, I’m fairly certain, I blew close to half of the questions in this category. I usually pick one line and my imagination runs with it for a while before I have to mentally drag myself back to the exam. Anyway this was my (questionable) strategy:
      1. Read the comprehension, one paragraph at a time, from bottom up. What this allowed me to was to pick out the key information in each paragraph, subsequently I was able to tell the role it played in the entire passage.
      2. While reading, I wrote down those key information, mostly as a means of keeping myself grounded in the passage and not going off with my own addendum.
      3. Read each question, identify the paragraph it relates to from the notes or answer straight away if you know the answer.
      4. You may have to read each answer option and skim through the particular paragraph to get the answer.
  •  IR – I think you are covered as long as your Verbal and Quant are decent, but, you should gt familiar with the question types. 30 minutes may seem much for 12 questions but each of the questions has at least two sub-questions. Practice at least two IR exams before the actual test.
  • AWA – I don’t know if anyone fails this. The only advice I have for this session is not to give your own opinion on the subject but to argue either for or against the argument presented to you using only the information presented to you, give examples if you have any that relate to the subject. Also, if English is not your native language, practice writing as much as possible before the exam. ( 😀 so I had more than one advice)
  • Time management – The crux of the matter, pace yourself. Practice as much as possible in different sets of conditions before the actual exam. 

    All the best to everyone still preparing for the exam. I’m happy to answer any questions.


Posted by on July 30, 2014 in Application, Uncategorized


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11 responses to “GMAT: my journey from 610 to 710

  1. pullingthatmbatrigger

    July 31, 2014 at 9:48 am

    Great tips!

  2. domotron

    July 31, 2014 at 11:51 am

    I think you are the first person who didn’t really use the official guides and scored amazingly! Congrats. A bit late for you now but I’m pretty sure the questions are arranged in order of difficulty roughly so first third are easy, next third are medium and the last third are difficult (700+ probably).

    • NaijaMBAgal

      July 31, 2014 at 12:01 pm

      Thanks. I wish I’d known that

  3. Farhan

    July 31, 2014 at 1:02 pm

    A 100 point jump is truly commendable. Good job and all the best with your applications. Nice debrief

  4. MBA on my mind

    July 31, 2014 at 1:13 pm

    Fantastic score, Champ! 😀

  5. RoadToMyMBA

    August 1, 2014 at 3:21 am

    Great description! A lot of useful tips! Congrats again!!! 🙂

  6. Omolola

    August 16, 2014 at 11:07 pm

    Congrats! Would be taking my GMAT exam in September, I just need to be more disciplined. Thanks for the tips.

  7. get download

    November 13, 2014 at 8:01 pm

    Appreciate it for helping out, excellent information.


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