gmat prep deal | up to 52% off

if you’re looking for a deal on veritas gmat prep…you’re in luck.  gilt city‘s currently offering a steep discount on their on demand, online, and in-person (nyc only) courses.  and if you don’t happen to have a gilt membership (uh hello, where have you been?) i think you can get an additional 20% off by signing up through my link here.

it’s still expensive but it’s rare to see a discount this steep so you best take advantage!

i realize some of my readers were directed here by my old gmat teacher matt douglas so i’m sorry if this deal is painful for you.

a study plan

so i’ve been getting some questions on btg for what my study plan was so i’m going to write about what i did.  but to be honest, i don’t think i did it that effectively so i’m going to follow that by what i think i could’ve improved on.  and i’m only going to talk about what i did this second time around since that’s when i scored 730.

what i did

i signed up for btg’s 60-day study plan but i never really looked at the emails.  i think i read the first few but didn’t even have the materials that they were recommending.

i was taking the veritas prep course which meets twice a week for3 hours each session…that’s a lot of time but make no mistake, even though you’re in class and learning, it’s not the same as doing the work on your own.

since i had gone through almost all of the veritas prep books the first time around, i didn’t really use them this time.  that’s not to say they aren’t good books, if i had enough time, i would have done all my quant books again.  i remember i was very frustrated and struggled a lot with the quant books because i didn’t know how to do a lot of the harder problems and i would look at the back for the answers and “solve” it that way…i didn’t learn anything by doing that.  verbal was easier for me but i reacted in pretty much the same way, when i missed the problem, i looked at what the correct answer was but i don’t think i truly understood why it was correct.

during the class, instead of working through the veritas books, i was going through the total gmat math book and i thought it offered good strategies but it really didn’t have enough practice problems or too many difficult problems.  each section of the book has a practice drill and a practice challenge…the drills were always really easy and the challenges were harder but usually not too bad.

i also tried to take a practice cat exam over the weekend.  initially, i was hesitant to take one because i didn’t want to know my score.  throughout the class i scored between 640-660, which was really frustrating because that’s what i was scoring last year and even though i was concentrating on quant, my score was essentially the same.

i eventually also bought the og and tried to do timed sets for at least 30 minutes (30 minutes to do 15 problems, 60 min/1 hr for 30 problems, etc.).  i started off with the first section, problem solving, and i was doing really well with that…like 30 problems in less than 15 minutes, but those problems are easier since the difficulty generally increases.  i thought that it’d be good to spend less than the average 2 min on those questions so that it’d give me more time for the difficult questions.  which wasn’t too bad of an idea but i later realized that i wouldn’t have that many easy questions i could carry over time from on the actual test since it’s cat.  i started the og pretty late into my veritas prep course and i had scheduled my gmat exam to be several weeks after the course concluded.

about a week before the exam i decided i should reschedule from july 12th to august 9th.  i was still scoring around 660 so i knew it was unlikely that i’d get 700+ on test day.  when i rescheduled the exam, i began to take my study a lot more seriously.  that’s not to say i wasn’t studying before, but i’m such a procrastinator and i’m so bad at self-discipline that it was really half-assed.  especially working full-time and having class 6 hrs a week, then taking a 3-4 hour long practice test on the weekend, it feels like you don’t have much time/energy left to study.  i think i only studied maybe 2 hrs a week during this time and still went out with my friends and watched a lot of tv/movies.

when i rescheduled, i realized that i needed to really kick it into high gear.  i stopped going out with my friends on the weekend, unless there was something really important like a birthday party or engagement or something and i also cut back on my tv time considerably (although i didn’t eliminate).  and i tried to make myself study even when i was tired–even if it was only for 30 min.  i’ve read that it’s better to study for 30 min to an hr each day instead of like 8 hours over the weekend.  this definitely wasn’t easy for me.

during this time, i read all of my veritas quant gmat books (but didn’t do any problems) and finished total gmat math and did about half of the og ps problems.  i decided i wanted the highly recommended mgmat books and borrowed what i could from my friend.  i think at this point, my test was about 2-3 weeks away.  she gave me all the quant books except for equations, inequalities, & vic’s because someone else still had them and word translations because i had purchased it through amazon to get the mgmat 6 cat exams.  i stopped working through the og to concentrate on these books and when i had about a week left, i purchased the advanced gmat quant book.

i was also working through the magoosh quant problems as much as i could.  the last week before my exam, i had done most of the mgmat advanced quant, finished the og ps questions, and finished the magoosh problems as well as went through my incorrect and flagged pools again.  i was also able to go thru my “flagged”/incorrect og ps questions once and i think i did the first 30 ds questions.

throughout this period, i also was signed up for btg 60-day quant and verbal questions and would attempt mgmat’s 700-level challenge problems that they post on their blog.  i also increased my cat exams to about twice a week, on saturday and sunday but later on i stopped taking as many because i had read that you don’t learn much from the cat’s besides knowing your pacing/timing and about what your score will be.  i could be spending that time studying, especially since cat’s tire you out and as a result, you’re unlikely to study much afterwards.  and i posted before about how my scores wildly varied from 620 to 750 at this time but on the last 3 tests before, i was consistently getting 700+.  it was then i realized that not only was the 750 not a fluke, but something i could possibly get.

i wasn’t able to finish a lot of good, important books–such as the og–and i feel that i could’ve done better on quant.  during this time, i only focused on quant but my verbal score shot up to be in the 90th percentile pretty consistently.  i’m not sure what i did for this to happen since i didn’t really study for it but i’m really happy that it did because i wouldn’t have gotten a 730 without it and i’m relieved that i only had to study for one section–the quant.

it is somewhat disappointing that my quant score didn’t improve more even though i focused solely on it, but i think this just goes to show how difficult it can be to raise your score.  in the 4-5 weeks between when i rescheduled my exam to taking it, i think i spent about 13-15 hours per week studying and taking cat exams.

what i wish i had done

so now you know what i did…but here’s what i would do if i had to do it again.  now, this plan is considerably longer as well, like maybe 3 months or longer, which i know most of you don’t have.  i would’ve started with all the mgmat quant books–including the one i didn’t have at all (inequalities).  if i had enough time, i would’ve also done the veritas prep quant but this was less of a priority for me since i had done them the year before, but i would’ve definitely did the advanced quant and possibly the math essentials books because i had never done them before and i would imagine that the advanced quant would be good material.

then if time permits, i’d go through total gmat math followed by the og questions, possibly starting with ds first since that was a weak point of mine.  data sufficiency is unique to the gmat and is pretty difficult question type because it’s so new to most test-takers.  the gmac has been increasing the number of ds questions throughout the years, especially for high performers so it behooves you to really get familiar with it.

and i would’ve continued doing magoosh, btg 60-day questions, and mgmat 700-level questions from their blog during this entire time as well.  it’s still a lot and i didn’t really change my materials, just the order i did them in and how much time i spent with each.

i would’ve also made it a point to go over all the questions i missed or didn’t understand multiple times until i finally got them right.  i think this is important to do and wish i had time to do this more when i was studying.  and although i never did this, i recommended it in my tips section–see exactly what areas you’re weak in whether it be probability/combinatorics or algebra and really focus on those.  and also be aware of how much time you spent on each question.

i would recommend taking a gmat cat in the beginning to see what your score is, followed by a diagnostic test to see where you’re weak, and taking a practice exam maybe once every other week (mgmat, veritas, etc.), and taking the last gmat cat maybe 1 to 2 weeks before the exam to see how you improved and where else you can still improve.

and wish i had been more self-disciplined…stopped checking facebook, my rss feeds and other sites i visit, and a lot more tv still.  it would’ve been good to do about 20 hrs of study a week i think.  it’s significant but not killer.

gmat materials + resources

i think i get a little over zealous and bite off more than i can chew sometimes.  i bought a lot of books and spent a lot of time (and still do) checking out resources, and not enough time doing the actual work.  so in the end, i wasn’t able to finish going through all the books and let this serve as warning not to follow my example: it’s important to have good resources but spend more time studying.

veritas prep

i did a gmat prep course with them and i think that they do a good job.  i really liked that they offer a free course retake, which i counted on and ended up doing.  you can choose to do your retake as a full course (like i did) or for people with less time, do the intensive weekend crash course (a popular choice).  veritas offers the most in-class hours and practice exams than any other prep company (17).  be aware that the practice exams they offer aren’t all theirs–2 of them are the free ones you can get directly from the gmac; 5 are from 800score, which you can also purchase from them; and only the remaining 10 are veritas…that’s still a lot though.

they also have a ton of great resources like diagnostic tests, online lectures (helpful if you miss a class), etc…and i personally think they have some of the better looking materials/branding (not that that’s important to your score in the least).  i’m not sure if they’re still doing this, but since veritas offers admissions consulting services as well, you could also enroll in their one-day consulting seminar where you meet with some of their consultants, learn admissions strategies, and can ask questions.  when i went last year, i heard they were thinking of discontinuing that because they said it was cutting into the consulting business.

by enrolling in the course, you have access to all those resources and get a complete set of books.  there are 15 books and you go through 13 of them in-class.  each book alternates between quant/verbal and the class structure also follows this format.  the 2 books that aren’t gone through in class are both quant–book 0: math essentials and book 14: advanced word problems & quant review.  i didn’t finish all the books but i thought they were good materials and remember struggling a lot with the quant questions.  i didn’t go through any of these books when i took the gmat the 2nd time.  i had planned to with book 14 but never got around to it (too many books!).

in my 2 classes i had 2 different teachers and i really liked my first teacher matt douglas.  he’s so goofy and dorky and just made the class kind of fun.  so if you’re in the san diego area, try to get him.  i’m not sure how the other instructors differ, but between him and my other teacher mia mciver, matt spent most of the class going through problems from the book whereas mia had a slower pace and tried to spend a lot of time teaching the concepts.

prep course advice

as i mentioned before, i wanted to take a class to keep myself accountable.  these classes are not cheap…at all.  some of them offer free trials where you can sit in on a class on the first day and decide from there whether to enroll.  i know both veritas and manhattan gmat do that.  when i retook my veritas course, one guy was doing the trial and asked me for my input on whether he should fork out the dough and enroll.  i told him then, and i’m telling you all now–the classes will not do anything for you unless you put in your due diligence.  even though i told him this, toward the end of the class, he lamented that he thought his score would dramatically improve.  there are plenty of people who self-study and do very well on their own…a prep course is definitely not needed.  if you are self-disciplined and studious, i would say you don’t need to take a class.  and even if you’re like me, you still need to self-study.  like i said in my previous post, the average top bschool student put in an average of 100 hours on the gmat…that’s a lot of studying.

there’s also some debate over who the best test prep companies are.  kaplan is probably the most obvious choice since it’s the most well-known and people had already heard of them from the sat’s in high school.  from what i’ve seen, the most highly reviewed and recommended companies are manhattan gmat, knewton, and veritas.  there are others but that’s just what i’ve seen.  i did the trial class for mgmat and thought it was good but was wary of the price tag and at the time, thought veritas was supposed to be the best so i enrolled in veritas.  i now know that mgmat is supposed to be the best but it’s all relative.  i don’t have any experience with knewton and i never even heard of it until later but it’s an online prep company.  i preferred to do an in-person class but i’ve heard good things about knewton.  i think they have their students take diagnostic tests and they deliver a customized course load based on your weaknesses…something that the big prep companies would never be able to do, including mgmat and veritas.

the official guide for gmat review

everyone stresses that you must use this book in your studies.  this particular book covers both quant & verbal and they also have separate quant/verbal books if you need it.  these are the only books from the creators of the gmat, the gmac.  and they are the best representations of what you can expect on the exam since they’re retired questions.  and that’s the main reason that these books are so valuable.  a lot of other books are only simulating what they think is a gmat-type question but the og questions are the real deal.  now, the books are question heavy so if you need to learn the fundamentals, you won’t get any help from these so you probably need more than just the og.  also be warned that the questions in the og are easier than the actual exam, especially if you’re performing at a high level.  unfortunately, i never finished this crucial book…i did all ps but very little of ds (my weak point).

manhattan gmat

i had heard such great things about mgmat and their materials so the 2nd time around i wanted to study from the mgmat quant books.  my friend had taken the course a couple years ago so i borrowed what i could (she had let someone else borrow her collection).  from my experience with that trial intro class and the materials, i think mgmat prep is pretty solid and is more strategic than veritas’.  i’ve also heard that mgmat’s practice exams are supposed to be the closest to the real exam on the market.  i have heard if you’re a high performer that you run out of 700-level questions though.  like veritas, you can buy their materials without taking the course, including the cat exams.  but what’s really nice is that you can buy one of their strategy guides to get access to all 6 cat exams…this is a better deal than buying just the cat exams since a book is like $22.  mgmat is also more cautious about their subscription lengths; both veritas and mgmat access expire after a yr, but each book also come with an online question bank that expires after a year too.  if you buy the books separately, you need to look at the inside cover and scratch off to reveal the security code.  when you redeem it online, it even asks you to flip to a certain page and give them the first/last word…pretty heavy security.  since my friend’s books were a few years old, not only did i not have access to these questions, but the books also reference og questions to help your studies and hers referred to the 11th edition instead of the current 12th ed. that i have.  i also purchased their advanced quant gmat strategy supplement (note: this doesn’t give you access to the tests) and found it challenging; it’s a good book if you’re trying to bring up your quant score.  i was running out of time when i started the mgmat books and wished i had started with those first…i especially wish i had spent more time with the advanced quant book, i think i started it the week before my exam.


i had a subscription to magoosh’s online practice questions when they used to be beat the gmat practice questions (more on btg later).  i only did the quant and never did the verbal but i actually really liked it.  i had never heard of magoosh before but the practice questions have a timer, it can be computer adaptive, has video explanations,  and you have a lot of filter options–you could pick all the questions, choose a certain level (700+, 550-700, etc.), a study area (geometry, algebra, etc.), and you could even go through a pool of questions you’ve missed or flagged.  i think this was a really good tool and really good preparation for the gmat because of the timer, it’s on a computer, it’s cat, and the questions are mixed in subject area and level.  the questions from the veritas/mgmat books were good and hard but all the books are split up by subject area.  additionally, magoosh also mixes it with problem solving and data sufficiency so you have that factor of the unexpected.  mgmat books have both ps and ds in each but again, it’s split up so you can’t jump around easily.  the og has mixed subject area questions but it’s also split into ps and ds and it generally increases in difficulty.  i started this pretty late too and wish i had more time with it.  the service is quite good too…i’ve emailed a couple of times with questions and have always gotten a super fast response from one of the founders.

gmat hacks’ total gmat math

i thought this was going to be the book to save my quant score.  it offered a lot of good strategies and encouraged quick mental math but i don’t think there were enough questions and didn’t cover enough levels of difficulty.  i think this book would be good to look at after getting a solid base using veritas or mgmat first.

gmat 111: tips, tricks, & tactics

this is by jeff sackmann, the same guy who did total gmat math.  i think this is the only thing in my post i would completely advise against getting.  i think i bought it because it was cheap and needed to get free shipping on amazon.  this book gives you some tips but it’s really not worth purchasing, as cheap as it is.  and a lot of the advice he recommends is common knowledge.  the book is very thin, but it should be even thinner…the font is huge.  i read this book the day before when i went to the salon and got my car washed as some light reading and was so disappointed in how useless it was that i didn’t even want to look at it.

beat the gmat

btg is an online gmat/mba admissions forum.  it’s getting pretty big now and recently launched mba watch to supplement their mba admissions offerings.  it’s mostly a social message board type site–a lot of people share their stories of how they “beat the gmat”, ask for advice on the gmat and the mba, and there’s even a part of the site where current mba students answer questions about their programs.  btg posts a lot of articles and even gmat problems but they’re mostly all from other sources like the mgmat blog.  btg does have some study tools though: free flash cards and email subscription lists (60-day quant/verbal questions; the 60-day study guide).  i dled and printed the flash cards but only looked at them once.  the 60-day questions are not bad…they’re just questions from the forums that people post so they come from a variety of sources.  it can be a good resource though because it has a timer and you can see different explanations from all the responses.

gmat club

this is very similar to btg and i think was started first.  i didn’t really use this one much but they have practice questions and tests that you can purchase.  from the little i’ve seen on the forums, their questions/tests are supposed to be good.  like btg, gmat club is trying to incorporate the admissions process in more.

“wow, this is all so expensive”

yes, yes it is.  don’t discount the value of free resources:

  • btg and gmat club are both free (except when you buy their problem sets/tests).
  • don’t forget the incredibly invaluable 2 full-length tests you can dl from the gmac–these are the best practice tests and do use them wisely.
  • blogs!  mgmat and others have blogs with great advice from 700-level gmat questions to admissions essay analysis!
  • free trials: veritas and mgmat have the trial intro class and knewton also has a free trial.
  • borrowing: i’m sure your local library has plenty of prep materials, like the og.  or do what i did and borrow books from friends.
  • promotions/contests/giveaways: while not free, if you want to purchase anything, watch out for promotions.  sometimes this comes in the form of a discount code or through a contest.  contests/giveaways have been good for me so far.  btg has an annual scholarship where you can win a free prep course.  i entered last year and while i didn’t win, by even just participating, i got a steep discount to the veritas course and i haven’t seen anything similar since.  i also won my btg/magoosh questions which turned out to be pretty great.
  • amazon: both mgmat books i purchased were from amazon–cheaper than from mgmat directly.
  • used: used books are cheaper for sure.
  • waiver: the gmac offers a waiver for the $250 gmat fee.  i’m not exactly sure how you obtain one as it seems pretty difficult to come by, but it is an option.

i know my gmat/mba posts are long and boring but i hope they’re helpful!  next up…my first giveaway!

gmat tips

as i promised, here are some of my gmat tips.  you’ll probably see a lot of the same advice elsewhere, that just means you should really follow it if so many people are recommending it.

  1. START EARLY! seriously.  really.  truly.  your gmat scores last for 5 years, so even if you’re not planning to apply to bschool now, you can use your score later.  and this is the ideal situation…you don’t want to be stuck trying to study for the gmat, especially if you need to retake it multiple times to raise your score, while you’re working on the other areas of your applications.  i tried to do it last year but my attitude was too laid back since i knew i wouldn’t be applying for another year and i wasted nearly a year that i could’ve spent getting it over and done with.  and you should do it while the knowledge from your college classes is still fresh in your mind…the longer you wait, the more likely that you forgot it all.  i’m 5 years out from graduating and i never took any math/quant classes in college so it’s been nearly 10 years since i did a math problem.
  2. JUST DO IT.  i think i need that pressure to make myself really study, but if your score is like 50+ points from where you want it to be, you really have to expect to put in your due diligence.  i took a veritas prep course, but even then, don’t expect the classes to perform miracles…it’s up to you to put in the time and really study.  my scores actually improved the most when i was already done with the class.  i admit i could’ve studied a lot more and a lot more effectively; i didn’t even finish all of my books…but it’s probably the most i’ve studied for anything before.  i read that the average person who gets into a top school spends about 100 hours each on the gmat and their applications…that’s a lot right?  this goes back to my first point…start early!  it can be really time intensive.
  3. STUDY RIGHT.  i wish i had studied more effectively; i think given some more time or with better studying habits, i could’ve scored higher but i’d rather focus on the rest of my applications now.  learn from my mistakes, kiddies.  take a diagnostic test to see what your weak areas are and focus on those.  i knew i was weak in quant but never delved deeper than that (geometry, arithmetic, statistics, etc.).  you should try to be getting a balanced score and be strong in all areas because you don’t know what types of questions you’ll be seeing come test day.  i was too lazy to do this but it seems to be really effective: review the questions you missed and work at them until you really understand the concepts.  but don’t just review the ones you missed, make sure to also review the ones you happened to guess right but didn’t really understand, and also the ones you got right so you know why they’re right.  see how much time you’re spending to solve each question, if it’s over 2.5 minutes, you don’t know it well enough and need to find a better method.  which brings me to my next point…
  4. BE FLEXIBLE.  if you can solve the problem, great!  if it’s taking you 5 minutes…that’s bad.  you need to figure out if there’s a different strategy you can take to answer the problem faster.  the gmac knows that you’re under time pressure, the questions will be hard, but they should still be solvable within 3 minutes.
  5. PACING.  this is so so so so important.  i previously blogged about the sunken cost fallacy and even though i realized it that long ago, it was still hard for me to cut my losses and move on.  i knew logically that i shouldn’t be spending more than 2 minutes/problem and that it’s unlikely i’ll get the question right if it’s taking over 3 minutes, but it was still hard to do.  i don’t think i realized just how important and how much this affected my score until pretty recently.  my score was varying wildy with no consistent trends but then i realized when i didn’t finish, my scores were a lot lower than when i did…well duh right?  that should be a no brainer.  but that’s with me rushing and guessing just so i could finish.  that means moving on and guessing serves you much better than trying to get every question right.  which brings me on to my next point…
  6. IT’S OK TO GET SOME WRONG.  since it’s a computer adaptive test, you are bound to miss some.  remember, the test is scored comparatively on your performance; it’s not as simple as how many you answered correctly, it’s really the level of questions you can answer.  embrace this!  it should be a lot less pressure knowing that you can miss even as many as 10 questions and still do well.  this should give you more incentive to pace yourself and move on when you’re falling behind.  not to mention those experimental questions that are sprinkled in; you could be spending 5 precious minutes on a problem and it might not even count towards your score!
  7. THINK ABOUT THE END GOAL.  at the end of it all, it’s not going to matter if you got up to an 800 level if you didn’t finish there.  it doesn’t matter if you got the first 40 questions right if you didn’t finish.  that should show you how important it is to finish the section.  be aware of the time as you’re answering.  what’s the point of spending 5 minutes to answer a 700+-level question mid-way when you won’t finish?  it matters what level you end on.  if you don’t finish, not only will it count all the ones you missed as incorrect, but they’ll penalize you.  so in essence: FINISH!!!
  8. RELAX + BE CONFIDENT.  the gmat can be scary.  i’ve never ever felt this anxious about a test in my life…not for sat’s, not for any of my finals, never.  but i had to remember to stay calm instead of panicking since it made things worse the first time around.  and being confident isn’t easy, but it become easier once you see your progress.  and if you get a score on a practice cat close to your target score, it becomes much easier.  just think, “i did it once, i can do it again.”

so those are my tips and i’m sure you’ve heard this a lot before so really ingrain it in your minds.  i had heard it all before too and i wish i had taken it more seriously.  now, some of you might be thinking “sure, i know this…but how do i DO this?” excellent question and i’m sorry to say that there isn’t one right answer.

another piece of advice i can offer is: DO WHAT WORKS FOR YOU.  when i scheduled my exam, everyone was saying that 2 pm is the worst exam time and that you should take the first slot at 8 am.  i had scheduled mine for noon so i was starting to get worried.  but you know what?  that was best for me–i am not a morning person at all and i like to sleep in.  this reasoning applies not just to test day scheduling, but even to test-taking strategies, methods, and study habits.  i’ve read it’s better to study every day for at least 30 min to an hr, instead of cramming 8 hours over the weekend…but you have to see what works for you, your schedule, and your other obligations.  when it comes to the overlapping set problem types…you can solve it in a variety of ways: venn diagram, formulas, or as a chart.  i struggled with the venn diagram and formula methods but really liked the chart one so i used that one as often as i could.

what type of personality do you have?  i think i’m a pretty fast learner but i have terrible self-discipline, which is why i wanted to take a prep course.  i thought it’d keep me more accountable for studying.  in the end, i found that i still had to really push myself on the own, which was really hard.  keep that in mind if you do take a class.

i’m going to do a separate post going over the materials i’ve used and what i recommend.

my gmat journey from 600 to 730

i’ve taken the gmat twice now–the first time was november 2010 and then again recently.

gmat structure

if you’re unfamiliar with the format of the gmat, you start the exam writing 2 essays (awa = analytical writing assessment): analysis of an argument (30 min), immediately followed by analysis of an issue (30 min). this is the only section of the test you don’t receive a score for immediately and is probably the least important; so of course they put it first to tire you out for the more important components. then you answer 37 quantitative questions within 75 minutes and the verbal section’s composed of 41 questions also within 75 minutes. between each section (awa/quant/verbal) is an optional 8 minute break. so the test itself can take up to nearly 4 hours. and because gmac is changing the format of the exam next year, they’ve added 30 minutes of experimental testing to the end of the exam for research on the new format. this section doesn’t count toward your score, but you can’t see your score until you finish it.

there is no skipping or going back on any section or questions. and both the quant and verbal sections are filled with their own experimental questions that don’t count towards your score, but there’s no way of knowing whether a question is experimental or not.

you aren’t provided or allowed a calculator but you are given a small booklet of laminated pages with a grid as scratch paper and a dry erase pen. you can raise your hand to get another if you run out of space or need to use the restroom or something, but since you can’t pause, this time will be counted against you. similarly, if you take longer than 8 minutes on your break, the next section will start without you.

in terms of scoring, it’s not like most other tests where your score’s dependent on how many you answer correctly. while it is important to answer questions correctly, you’re scored in comparison to other test-takers. your score is given as a percentile, meaning that you performed better than x% of people.

the test is also computer adaptive, which means that it’s difficult for everyone. when you answer a question correctly, it gives you a harder level question. if you get it wrong, it gives you an easier one. it continues on until the end where it gives you a scored based on your level/”limit”. so even if you’re performing really well, you’re working on questions that are pushing you and much more difficult than someone who’s performing at say a 400-level.

first try

last year, i took a veritas prep class because i know i can’t self-study too well. i think the class finished in august and i had been scoring 640-660 on the practice tests. i took the exam at 8 am on a saturday and i remember it was raining that day. i arrived early, but there were many other early arrivals and we waited in the hall for the testing facility to open. i brought a rice krispy treat to snack on during the break and my own ear plugs. other than the ear plugs, i had to keep everything else in the locker. the security measures are pretty intense as each time you enter/leave the room, you have to be escorted, present your id, and do a vein scan.

i had never done the awa before and while i felt my arguments were weak, i knew the scorers care more about the structure than the content so i wasn’t too bothered. i went to the bathroom during my break and ate my treat and had a cup of water. i think i might have taken too long but i don’t really remember.

quant was a disaster–i didn’t know how to answer a lot of the questions and i could tell they weren’t that difficult but i just didn’t know what to do. and of course realizing this made me feel worse. i ran out of the time in the end and didn’t finish…i think i was 1 or 2 questions away. i think i realized i was super short on time about 8 questions away and didn’t even have time to really read anything, i just had to blindly guess and click, but even then, i still didn’t finish. sounds horrible right? i took another break and i don’t remember what i did but i’m sure i was trying to recover from feeling like crap with quant.

verbal was ok…but as the last section, you’re pretty tired and those boring, long scientific reading comprehension passages can make you read them several times before anything sinks in.

then it was straight into the experimental section for 30 minutes but at that point, i didn’t want to spend the time or energy trying to answer questions that don’t impact my score, so i just rushed through it to see my score.

when i saw 600, my heart dropped. that was worse than anything i’ve ever scored on any of my practice tests, even before i ever studied. i felt ashamed to have submitted my scores to these top 10 schools with such an embarrassing score. actually, 600 isn’t that terrible (even though i feel like it was) as it’s 64th percentile. so i did better than average, but if you’re aiming for a top-tier school (like i am), it’s understood that you should try to get about a 700 (90% ranking). i think i cried in my car afterwards and felt like shit for a while.

the aftermath

i’ve been too embarrassed to tell people my score so i’ve mostly told people that i did really badly and bombed it. since i wasn’t planning on applying to bschool for another year, i wasn’t in a rush to take it again and just wanted to relax. well, i ended up relaxing for like nearly a year. i didn’t touch any of my gmat books until this past may. one of the great things about veritas is that you’re allowed a free retake of the course, so i retook it in may and scheduled my gmat for mid-july.

i had previously been stressing about getting from a 660 to 700 because although it may not seem like it, 40 points can be difficult to come by and i’ve heard that clearing the 700 threshold is especially hard. a lot of people get stuck at 680-690. and now i needed to clear 100 points; it felt impossible.

during the class i was really frustrated at how stagnant my improvement was…i remained at about 660 (81%) for the entire class. as my test date drew closer, i knew that i wasn’t close to my goal of 700 and decided to postpone it by about 3 weeks. you can reschedule the exam for a fee of $50 if you do it before a week of the actual date. you can still reschedule after but you have to pay the full $250 if it’s within 7 days.

after i postponed it i started to study a lot more seriously but admittedly, i still could have done a lot better. and i was baffled by wildly varying practice cat scores–i was scoring anywhere from 620 to 750, no trend up or down. and i was frustrated that even though i had only been studying quant the entire time, my verbal improved greatly without as much noticeable improvement in my quant. although i didn’t do stellar on verbal, i did well enough and really wanted to get my quant score up since it was my weakness. and as this test date came up, i contemplated postponing it yet again. i really didn’t want to take it a 3rd time since i still have a lot of other parts of my application to work on.

in the end, i decided to go for it. i knew that if i had postponed it, i probably could do better since i hadn’t finished all my books. and even though my scores were driving me crazy, i had gotten 720 and 710 pretty recently on my cat’s.


this time, i scheduled my appointment for 12:15 pm since i am not a morning person at all. i got there a tad early but the testing facility was really busy and i had to wait for people to finish and leave before i could get a locker or go into the testing area. i made sure to use the restroom while i waited and brought sliced peaches as my snack this time–figured i wouldn’t get a sugar crash and the juice from the fruit would also make me less thirsty, so i wouldn’t need to spend time both eating and drinking.

the proctor eyed my ear plugs suspiciously and said that we’re only allowed to bring in our id and they had their own that we could use. i told her that i had brought them in last time and she poked at them to make sure they weren’t actually ear pieces with a speaker or something and said she didn’t think they seemed out of the norm but she would have to indicate i brought them in.

i brought them in with me and started on the awa. i think i did pretty well on the analysis of an argument but fumbled on the analysis of an issue. the awa is pretty much to make sure that there aren’t huge discrepancies between your score and the essays you submit to the schools (you’re not paying someone to write your essays for you). i had previously gotten a 5.5/6 (77%) so i wasn’t too worried and i didn’t want to spend too much mental energy on something that doesn’t really matter.

i went to the bathroom and ate 2 peach slices on my break and was surprised that i was only gone for 5-6 minutes. i asked the proctor if my ear plugs were ok and she said she didn’t think so. i didn’t want to risk forfeiting my entire score over something so stupid so i put mine away and used theirs.

quant started off well and about mid-way i noticed that i had fallen behind so i quickly went through several problems until i was caught up or ahead. but i could tell that i wasn’t doing exceptional since i wasn’t getting a lot of really difficult questions. i finished with about 6 minutes to spare.

i couldn’t really gauge how well i was doing with verbal. i guess i should’ve realized it was a high level since the questions felt difficult and i spent more time thinking of the answers than i normally do. but i finished with about 14 minutes to spare.

i tried to go through the experimental section. they said they’ll refund $20 or something like that if you try your best. i didn’t get money last time; i think it’s because i didn’t “try”. i think they can tell by how much time you spend on it, so i had just wanted to sit there and let the minutes pass but i was too impatient and ended up just clicking through to see my score.

when i saw 730, i loudly whispered “YES!!!” (sorry if i disturbed you, other test takers). i had gotten into the 96th percentile. this is above average for all business schools so i feel much better now. but i was worried because my quant and verbal score were unbalanced. i’ve heard that besides getting a good overall score, they look at the break-down and like to see 80%+ for each. i was under 80% for my quant but very close.

i think it’s probable i could do better on quant if i took it again, but there’s no telling if my overall score would be better and i definitely did better than i expected so i will not be retaking it again.

i don’t know my awa score yet as it’s still too soon, but as long as i got 4+, i don’t care.

more to come

i know this post is really long but i hope it’s helpful for anyone still struggling with the gmat. it wasn’t easy for me to disclose that 600 score, but it should be encouraging that if i could break 700, really, anyone can.

i’ll post some gmat study/test day tips later.

oh great. as if i wasn’t feeling enough pressure

a recent study by test prep firm knewton found that ten gmat points = $3,000 in mba pay.

i’m taking this with a grain of salt though, because it’s not based on an individual’s gmat score…it’s the median school gmat score and its relationship with rankings.  i think most employers don’t care too much about your gmat score, unless you’re going into consulting and possibly finance.

and although it will be difficult to get into a top-10 school with a lower gmat, it can be done and the school makes more of a pay difference than the actual gmat.

and c’mon, it’s a test prep firm…they want to scare you into paying for their services.

source: poets & quants

new vs. old | the gre edition

the gre is an exam that most graduate programs require, like the sat’s for undergraduate college.  this is a general test (given away by its name), but some business schools already accept it as an alternative to the gmat.  the gre is changing the format of the test (so is the gmat, but that’s not for another year or so) and prep company magoosh came out with the great infographic and video below explaining the differences.

i really like how magoosh designed this…it’s pretty refreshing for something academic/educational.

i would still recommend taking the gmat over the gre for business school admissions even though the gre is supposed to be easier.

the gre’s currently offering a 50% discount for people who take it in august and september, but that’s because they’re changing the format in the middle of mba application season.  so you won’t know your results until november!  this can really mess up your application strategy.

the sunken cost fallacy

i’m horrible at gambling.  i don’t gamble because:

  1. i hate to lose money, no matter how small the amount is
  2. i feel like you’re going to lose eventually anyways, and i’d rather get something in return…like shoes
  3. i think i have an addictive personality and i’m afraid of what will happen if i start
  4. i don’t really have any interest

whenever people want to play poker, i always try to convince them to play for punishments instead of money.  i’d rather eat raw egg than lose $5.

and one of the reasons i’m horrible at gambling is because when i play hold ’em, i play every hand.  even when my hand is bad, i always think, but maybe “everyone’s hand is bad” and “you never know”.  i know statistically speaking the odds are against me and my logic is flawed, but i do it anyways.

now, for a different tangent (they’ll come together later, you’ll see)–last year, a friend and i bought some type of groupon deal at a rooftop bar in los angeles.  the reviews for the place weren’t very good (because i always check first), but we bought it anyways.  because of the mediocre reviews and distance we weren’t really too interested in going and never really tried until it was about to expire.  and of course we should go, we paid for it and it’d be a waste not to right?  i ended up not going because i figured the food wasn’t going to be that good so it wasn’t really worth the hassle of driving through la traffic.  we would have inevitably spent over the voucher value anyways so i just ate the cost.  i’m so glad i overcame “the sunk cost fallacy”.  besides the money we saved of what we would’ve spent over, there’s the cost of gas and time.

i normally don’t behave this way though.  normally, i fall for it (especially when it comes to waiting in lines).  and this is really tripping me up on the gmat.  i’ve been struggling with the quantitative section and having a hard time cutting my losses, making an educated guess, and moving on when i’m stuck on a problem.  you’re supposed to only allot about 2 min/question, which isn’t much time.  and i’ve been spending over that time trying to figure out a problem and can’t give up now that i’ve spent that much time and energy on it.

but i need to learn that if i couldn’t solve it in 2 minutes, i probably won’t get the problem right anyways, and just move on.  especially since the gmat penalizes you heavily for not finishing.  i didn’t finish the quant section when i took my gmat last year and it resulted in a score lower than any of the practice tests i had taken before hand.  i had so little time left, that when i realized i needed to start blindly guessing, i didn’t even have enough time to do that.  i think i blindly guessed on 3 questions and still had 2 left when the clock ran out.

bad connie!  and i haven’t learned because as i’m taking practice tests now, i’m still spending more than 2 minutes on questions and still running out of time at the end.  so obviously i have a problem with pacing, so what i should be doing is realizing that i have a hard time finishing and know that i will be guessing on problems so i might as well do them on ones i can’t answer right away.

when i’m running out of time and need to guess, i still feel the urge to read the problems to see if i know how to answer it, because what if it’s something i can answer?  see, what i did there?  that’s my logic when i play poker too.  well, ideally, i should have enough time to at least read all the questions, but if i already have a track record of poor time management, then i won’t be able to do that because i invested too much time on other problems that i probably ended up guessing on.

this is something i really, really need to work on (in addition to beefing up my quant skills), so i’ll really try to take this article written by the princeton review on beat the gmat to heart.  their advice:

  1. remember the experimental questions
  2. think about the questions you won’t get to (this will drive it home for me)
  3. accept that some wasted time is inevitable

date the gmat

i’ve heard of beat the gmat, but dating it?  clear admit posted an article yesterday on their blog with tips on how dating strategies can apply to taking the gmat.

gmat dating advice: 6 tips to bring your score to the next level

hm…maybe if i make love to the gmat, it’ll be kind to me and we can settle down and i won’t have to try for better.