Little Wins

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After consistently working so hard, it’s nice to celebrate the little wins. Unfortunately I took some “time off” and hadn’t been studying regularly for a couple months from June to August. Those are the only months in Michigan when it’s actually nice outside and I took an extended summer vacation. I have been trying to get back at it and study frequently over the past few weeks. I decided to take a practice test today although I knew I wasn’t ready for it. I wanted to gauge to see how of the material I had forgotten. To my surprise I did better than expected. I took an official GMAT practice test and scored a 620. Although this is far from my 680-700 goal, it still was a bit better than expected. Of course in the IR I scored pretty well in the 81st percentile. For some reason I always do well in the sections that don’t matter as much. In the Quan section I was in the 61st percentile and in Verbal I scored within the 67th percentile. Overall I was in the 69th percentile. They say to get into a top school you must be at least within the 60% percentile in both areas, but they hope you to be 80 and 80 within both.

What I was most happy about is that I reviewed the incorrect answers and didn’t see many that surprised me. There were times during the test when I knew I would not be able to get the answer. I was either unfamiliar with the type of problem or forgot relevant formulas needed to solve the problem. I didn’t waste time and made a quick strategic guess on these problems. For Quan, every problem I got wrong was a problem I guessed on. I got a few problems correct that I had guessed on as well. There’s a probability factor that helps when guessing. On the Verbal section, there were a few problems I was surprised I got wrong. I answered quite a few of the reading comprehension problems wrong. Generally, I perform a bit stronger in the verbal section than the quan section. I need to take a look at the Manhattan Navigator tool I use to track my strengths and weaknesses. I could be under-performing on these questions, or maybe it was a bit of a fluke.

I often notice I try to rush during the reading comprehension sections. It feels like I take so much time on these problems and I don’t want to get behind. But what I need to remember is that these sections will take longer. It’s suggested to spend about 3 minutes reading and taking notes for a long passage. For each of the questions, you should generally spend 60-90 seconds. This is why the recommended time schedule for the verbal section is a bit more undefined than the quan table. If you have most of the reading comp questions earlier on in the test, it might look like you’re behind on time. Or if you don’t have many reading comp questions early on and are exactly on time, you might end up being behind if you didn’t give yourself some extra wiggle room to use in those sections.

For reference, when I have been mentioning that I am “guessing on problems” I really mean I am taking a strategic guess. I might solve part of the problem and narrow down the answers. Or at times I use estimation to help determine the answer. If possible, it’s better to not take a random guess. If you are running out of time though, it is better to take a random guess rather than leaving an answer blank. I recommended reviewing some free materials about strategically guessing on the Manhattan GMAT website. Good luck!

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A Second Chance

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to use to for blog

I took the GMAT for a second time earlier this week. In the time that has passed since I first took the test, I’ve been putting in a lot of hours and even saw a tutor a couple times. Unfortunately my preparation was not enough to get me the score I was aiming for. However, I did improve my overall score, so at least some progress was made.

This puts me in a tricky spot. I was hoping to apply by the round two deadline which is in about a week or so for most schools. The GMAT can only be taken once every 31 days. The test is changed every 31 days. I am not able to take the test again prior to applying. Although a GMAT test score is one part of an application and the acceptance is not dependent on the score, the score still matters. And applications are often the determination factor of scholarship funding. I want to put my best foot forward and apply with a “good” GMAT score.

Now I need to decide whether I will try to apply to round three or wait until next year. Round three is not the most ideal round to apply to. Sometimes scholarships are not offered to round three applicants. Also it’s assumed most spots are already filled up and there isn’t much room for round 3 applicants in the class. It also may look like applicants “waited until the last minute” to apply. One of the acceptance factors considered is if an applicant is “ready” for graduate school. The factors that contribute to being “ready” may be maturity, work experience and academic preparation. If a prospective student is applying in round 3, there are only a few months before the program would begin. That’s not much time to wrap up any further growing that’s needed. Decisions, decisions. I don’t want to wait another year to apply, but I need to do what’s best in the long run. I also knew I should’ve taken more time to study before applying.

Tutoring Sessions

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I’ve had a couple tutoring sessions so far and they seem to be going well. The tutor has evaluated my strengths and weaknesses and he’s creating modules to address my weaknesses. What I’ve found most helpful is the strategies he’s teaching me. I might have known how to solve a Quan problem, but he’s teaching me quicker more efficient ways to get the correct answer.

Learning problem solving strategies seem to be a popular trend for GMAT prep. If there was no time limit, I could probably answer most of the questions correctly. The strategies come into play because on average you should only spend about 2 minutes or less on each problem. Sometimes it’s suggested to not even solve the problem, but instead “strategically guess or estimate.” I am not too keen on “guessing” unless I don’t have enough time to solve the problem. However, what I’ve learned is that if you miss problems consecutively, it hurts you a lot worse than missing the same number of problems spread evenly throughout the test. So when I guessed on the last 5 or so problems of the real exam, it killed my score. If I would have noticed I was behind on time earlier on and guessed right then to make up for time, my score wouldn’t have dropped as much. Only a couple more weeks before exam #2, so it’s back to studying tonight!

Post Test

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Since I have about a month before my next test, I’ve decided to try a new study technique. My friend used a tutor to help with studying. I have never had a tutor for anything before. And to be honest I’m a bit unsure about this. There’s nothing wrong with getting help from a tutor. It doesn’t mean you couldn’t eventually learn it on your own. You’re utilizing a tool to help evaluate your weaknesses and quickly gain knowledge.

I’m going to try using a private tutor. It’s much more cost effective than going through a big name GMAT prep company. We’re going to meet at a local coffee shop. Thankfully I didn’t even have to request that. I’m old fashioned but in this day in age it’s always good to meet new people in public. Unfortunately, it’s a busy season right now so he cannot even meet for a couple weeks. He’s offering a free “evaluation session.” Wish me luck!

It’s Over

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Peanuts_-_school_advice for blog

It’s over. My first GMAT test is officially over. I don’t really feel relieved. Well, I’m not exactly sure what to think of my GMAT score. I took the test last week for the first time after studying for about two months. I knew I wasn’t ready for the test, but with the shortened timeline I’ve given myself, I wanted to take the test twice.
Most people aren’t as open about their progress and wouldn’t even think about sharing their scores. I’m going to be honest because I think it’s part of the story I’m telling. I got a 570. Obviously I’m far from where I want my score to be, but for a first try, I’m not devastated.
Overall I performed better on the Verbal section than Quan. Not surprised there. I did especially well at IR, and I think I did pretty well on the writing section. Typically schools don’t look at those sections too closely. I’ve heard they really look at the overall score (the 400-800 number) and the individual scores for the Quan and Verbal section.
One immediate learning point I noticed is I did not manage my time well. I had to guess for quite a few questions at the end of each section. I’ve always been a slow test taker. In high school they gave us as much time as we wanted to take tests. Maybe the luxury was really an evil.
Well, time to hit the books again. My next test is in just over a month.

The First Test

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Well, this is it. The day has finally come. I’m taking my first official GMAT test later today. I’ve never been this nervous for anything. I’m usual pretty good under pressure. Whether it was a big exam or a big presentation, I usually kept my cool in undergrad.

There was one exam that I was a bit anxious about. My first exam in my undergrad program was a calculus exam. It was scheduled for 8AM on a Monday morning, of course. We had typical Michigan weather, a snowstorm. The drive in to the school was enough to make me anxious, let alone taking my first exam. The student in front of me had a cold, so for 3 hours straight all I heard was a sniffing noise. Usually those things don’t bother me. But as we all know, we’re not always ourselves in these types of situations. I wonder what I’m going to remember about today when I look back.

I have been very dedicated to my studies lately. I even studied on my birthday. Who-hoo. But, I still think I should’ve began studying a few months earlier. I am hoping this will be an exam to get my feet wet. I already scheduled another exam for the end of December.

I’ve done quite a bit of reading about what to do to prepare for the test day. They say you should relax the night before and do something fun. I heard the same advice before taking the ACT. How can you relax when you’re about to take a really big test? I want to cram in as much studying as possible. I studied quite a bit last night and even this morning. I did get a lot of sleep though, and ate a good breakfast. Hopefully that helps. I’m also lucky that there are several test facilities nearby so I won’t have a long drive. I also picked a mid-morning test time. I’m not a morning person. They do say it’s best to schedule a test as early as you feel comfortable with. The test alone is 3.5 hours and you have to be there a half hour early. Add in the commute time and half of your day is almost gone. No one wants to be taking a test during the “afternoon crash” time.

We’ll see what happens. Wish me luck!

Nothing in Life is Free, but Some Things Actually Are…

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Taking the first step toward my MBA has been a big financial investment, but I’ve also been fortunate enough to find a lot of free resources as well. Many of the top GMAT study programs offer free trials, study materials, and practice tests. There are also quite a few websites that offer great study tips. Additionally, there are other blogs out there that offer good tips from future applicants and prospective students. Here are a few of the resources I’ve found.
The Economist
Free 7 day trial software and one practice test: https://app.gmat.economist.com/firstsession/
Princeton Review
Free practice test and look into their online workshops: http://www.princetonreview.com/ChooseProducts.aspx?&zipcode=48326&testtype=TDA&producttype=ILD&productdetail=GMATHardMathWorkshop

Kaplan
Free practice test with video review and one free question a day: http://www.kaptest.com/GMAT/Home/index.html

Veritas
Free test and high level study materials: http://www.veritasprep.com/gmat/free-gmat-practice-test/
Manhattan
Free online classes and study tips: http://www.manhattangmat.com/Programs/Guided-Self-Study

Babson
Free practice test and mini tests: http://gmat.babson.edu/

Websites:
http://poetsandquants.com/
http://gmatclub.com/forum/10-critical-factors-to-beat-the-gmat-106790.html
http://www.beatthegmat.com/