My experience with GMAT (Score 780)

A Brief about me:

I’m not a typical test-taker. I am a private GMAT tutor and have earlier worked with e-GMAT. I took GMAT once in Feb 2013 i.e., around four years back and scored 770 (Q50 V44). I retook GMAT a couple of days ago and scored 780 (Q51 V47). The intention of writing this post is to share some of my experience with GMAT that I think may be helpful to others.

One of the reasons for taking GMAT

One of the big reasons for my taking GMAT again was a presence of frequent voices on this and other forums that GMAT has changed. That RC has become very difficult or that passages are extremely long or dense. That other sections have changed in different ways.

Even though I didn’t believe that a standardized test could change significantly over a short period i.e., 4 years, the doubts still crept in my mind and I could not deny those claims with conviction.

GMAT hasn’t changed, and Hard OG questions are representative

One of the things that came out of my experience was that GMAT hasn’t changed. It is still testing the same skills and at around the same difficulty level as it was testing four years back. I would also like to emphasize here that the higher difficulty level questions on OG and GMAT Prep are representative of the hard questions you’ll see on the actual test. I see a lot of students carrying a misconception that they cannot rely on official questions for the hardest questions and thus need to look at non-official sources for the same. While, of course, the number of hard official questions are limited, there is not a great dearth of them if you consider the gamut of all official sources available in the market including Official Guides, Verbal Review, GMAT Prep Question Bank, GMAT Prep Exams 1-6, and GMAT Paper Tests.

This point is especially relevant for the Verbal section, for which, I believe, many of the questions offered by even the top test-prep companies are not representative of the questions you’ll see on GMAT. While the quant questions have black and white answers (an option is either correct or incorrect), the verbal questions generally operate in shades of grey. And which shade of grey is more acceptable than the other shade of grey is a question answered differently by different test prep companies, and while some of them are better than others, none of the interpretations matches completely with the actual. Now, it doesn’t mean that you should not touch or practice non-official questions. However, it does support the idea that your learning should not be primarily driven by non-official questions. The primary source of your learning should be official questions, but you may use non-official questions for additional practice with an understanding that these non-official questions have their own limitations.

Preparing for Quant

Last time I took GMAT, I hardly prepared for Quant since I found it quite easy. However, I could not score Q51 last time. The reason was clear that I fell into some of the traps in the questions. This time, I practiced Quant using GMAT Clubs tests and GMAT Prep exam packs.

My view on GMAT Club tests

I had heard very positive things about GMAT Club Quant tests, and I was not disappointed. I really liked the fact the questions were made difficult not by introducing unpleasant calculations or by testing some advanced topics but by making the reasoning difficult and multi-step. Even though I did find the questions in these tests, on an average, way more difficult than the questions I faced in GMAT Prep Mocks (I scored 51 on all four I attempted) and even the questions I faced in the actual exam, I always felt the questions aligned with the purpose of GMAT Quant i.e. to test quantitative reasoning.

Would I suggest these tests to others?

If you are targeting Q50 or Q51, then definitely, these tests are a good practice. However, I’m not sure whether I’d recommend to others who are targeting below these scores since I don’t know about the medium level questions in these tests (I scored Q51 on all the five tests I took, so probably, I didn’t see many medium level questions).

My GMAT Club test results:

I think that people who are targeting Q48 or below may not need such tests. Till Q48, I believe official questions are more than enough.

The Most Important Thing I want to share

At times, I have seen that people become disappointed with themselves after hearing my story that I could score 770 last time quite easily (780 is just a couple of days old). Well, for 770, I still prepared for a week. I scored 760 on my first official mock when I didn’t even have knowledge about the different sections and question types on GMAT. It was June 2012, and I was thinking of applying to Ph.D. programs in US universities. When I got to know that these programs required GMAT, I just downloaded the free software and took one mock. I scored 760 (Q50 V42).

Of course, it tells that I possessed the right way of thinking that GMAT tests. However, it should not be a reason for you to be disappointed with yourself just because it is taking you time to breach the 700 or even, let’s say, 600 barrier. I may be better than you in this one aspect, but you may be better than me in several other aspects. For example: I may be far behind you in terms of creativity, leadership qualities, programming ability, or communication abilities. Rather, I would like to mention that when I got into IIMA, my spoken English was terrible. I could hardly speak a couple of sentences without pausing. I was terrified of speaking in the classroom since most people there had far better communication skills than me. It has taken me years and years to build communication skills, which other people take for granted at the undergraduate or even school level.

So, am I better than or worse than you?

More importantly, do we need to compare?

I think not.

We need to accept our strengths and weaknesses and then build on our strengths and work on our weaknesses without passing value judgments about our worth.

Frankly, I don’t find my 770 or 780 inspirational. I was expecting such scores both the times. However, I find a 710 of my friend inspirational. Why? Because on his first attempt, he scored 540 even after working hard for 3 months. But he didn’t give up. He worked hard and eventually got what he wanted.

I think our biggest achievements lie in overcoming our biggest weaknesses.

Let’s not judge our weaknesses. Let’s use them to create our biggest achievements.

All the best!

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