March Madness

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march madness

Although most of the country thinks of basketball when they hear March Madness, there’s another type of March Madness taking place right now. For the round two MBA applicants it’s go time. Most programs release admissions decisions during the month of March. The waiting game is mostly over.

For me it seems like time is passing by so slowly. I’ve never wanted the time to go by so quickly. Regardless of the decision, I just want to know. Especially since I will have to make a decision pretty quickly. Most programs require students to submit their deposit, which is the official acceptance, in April or May.

Most programs do a great job of providing admitted students with additional information in an effort to help them with their decision. Current students and alumni provide admitted students with their perspective of the program through phone calls, coffee chats, and emails. Admitted students receive access to a portal of information. Social media is also a new factor to allow admitted students to communicate. There are admitted students weekends at which students and their partners can attend to explore the area and learn more about the program. It also gives the programs a chance to show off and encourage students to officially accept admission to their program. At this point, students may have a few offers on the table.

Well, my fingers will be permanently crossed this month. Wish me luck!

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!

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!

It’s Over

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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!

What’s the Magic Score?

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We’ve all done it. Researched the average GMAT score of the school you’re interested in and then cringed. How can I ever get into that school? I’m nowhere near the average score. I need a miracle. They must only admit geniuses. I wonder what the average IQ score is for admitted students.

But what score do I really need anyway? Do I need to have a higher than average score because I’m younger than the average applicant? Would a higher than average score help because I don’t have experience in consulting or corporate finance.  I read a great article today that gave a great perspective about average GMAT scores.

If you can tackle the GMAT, schools will assume you will succeed in their programs. A promise of success is a factor in the evaluation process. If you cannot reach the average score, don’t let it keep you from applying. Harvard admits students who have scores in the 500s. I wouldn’t say this is very common, but if you have a great application, interview well and have relevant work experience, a low GMAT score might not be limiting.

I’ll end with a blurb from an article from Manhattan GMAT. You can read the full article here: http://www.manhattangmat.com/blog/index.php/2014/08/08/what-is-a-good-gmat-score/?utm_source=bronto&utm_medium=email&utm_term=Learn+More&utm_content=08%2F18%2F2014&utm_campaign=GMAT_Newsletter_81814

“Seriously, consider who’s telling you that you don’t actually need these crazy high scores. I work for a test prep company; our whole reason for existing (and making money!) is to help people get higher scores. If even I’m telling you that you don’t need a 750 or a 50 or 51 on quant, then believe it!”

What is the Real Answer?

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I’ve been jumping into a lot of the Magoosh videos which have been helpful, but I wanted to take an actual GMAT practice test. I heard it’s what’s best to do to identify your areas of weakness. From there you can determine how much extra time you need to spend on certain subjects. I can tell you with certainty I was NOT ready to take that practice test. Oh boy. If you haven’t taken one before, you’re in for a surprise. I did well in college and even graduated from the Honors College, but it didn’t prepare me for this test. The format is like nothing I’ve ever seen before. A lot of the questions aren’t asking for the actual answer. Instead the questions read, “if you knew this piece of information could you solve the problem?” Alternatively, if you knew both this and also this could you solve the problem…and it goes on from there. What kind of test doesn’t want an answer? The test kind of reminded me of the common “solve x” meme. I wish it was as simple as that! Thankfully it was just a practice test and it’s supposed to be a “learning experience.” Next steps: get used to the format, work on timing, and take some extra time to study Quan. Ready, break!