Friday, October 29, 2010

AWA scores within 2 days!

A routine mailbox check and there was my official score report within 2 days of my taking the test. This time I was a little nervous about my Issue essay. As I mentioned in my earlier post, I was hoping that the argument essay, which I actually practiced writing out during my study, would compensate for the Issue essay. I was pleasantly relieved to see a 5.5 on my AWA (up from 5.0 in my earlier GMAT take). A little off target from the 6.0 score (hence the slightly off target dartboard picture), but the jump from 56th percentile to 77th percentile, made this retake more worth it than it already was.

I've currently picked up on my essay writing. I am also reading the's 'Great Application Essays for Business Schools' book. Hopefully that would give me some perspective to typical fallouts and other strategy ideas. For some reason, I seem more clear in my head about my essays now than I was a couple of months ago. I used to feel lost, wondering what material was suitable and what experiences to draw from. I guess now its time to strike or give a walkover. No more excuses to put it off. Now or never. So when things have got to move, they do. Hope to get my first draft of the essays for school 1 out by this weekend and also update my recommenders with my new score and discuss my recommendations.

I am excited about the BTG new practice questions launch. Its going to be an updated version of the paid product already available on the BTG website. I've been given a reviewer's account and was pleased with some of the changes they have made. My review will be out early next week when the launch happens. Also may have a few premium accounts up for grabs !

Thursday, October 28, 2010

What to make out of a 680

Finally after a anxious half day, I finished my GMAT retake with a 680 (Q48,V34). It seems like a more respectable total than my previous take. Still increasing my total by 20 points (only 1 point in verbal made the difference) hopefully makes my $250 investment in the retake worth it in the long run. The score comes close to  the average of many schools like Tepper and Mccombs that I'm targetting. No ISB and Haas though! (sigh). Also the propects of scholarships has me worried.

About the test itself, the quant section was very close to the OG level of difficulty. While I practiced with Grockit and Manhattan, I certainly felt the manhattan level is slightly higher than the actual test for quants. So if you can do Manhattan, you would have a high probability of achieving that score for quants in the real test. I finished with 7 mins to spare, which I could have used in the verbal section, if only it was allowed. The verbal in manhattan however is accurately as tough as the real test. Getting an RC when I had 5 questions left and only 10 mins was no help at all. I was nervous throughout the verbal section, with frequent anxious glances at the timer ticking away. I can guess that a lot of that played on my productivity. But so be it. Its done and dusted.

I hadn't practiced the Analysis of Issue and I wasn't happy with my essay for the Issue section. The Argument essay went well since I had practiced it well. Hopefully the score of one compensates for the other and I get something respectable.

The last week I really stepped up my prep rather than lower my guard. Thanks to Random wok who gave me that piece of advice. I solved all OG, OG verbal guide questions again and went over the Manhattan idiom list. While I think this was good to improve my confidence levels in Math and SC, the CRs unfortunately were not any help since I knew the premise of each argument when I read them again.

Another plus this time was my last GMAT investment of Rs 85 on a can of Red bull. The last time I faced fatigue in my verbal section. I just couldn't wait for the test to end. This time I was alert all through. Maybe it works for some, and doesn't for others. I've never really had a red bull till yesterday, so its not proven to work every time.

A list of what I used as GMAT resources :
OG 11
OG verbal and quant guides
Manhattan SC
Powerscore CR bible
Grockit standard membership practice questions (CATs are buggy, more on that in another post)
Manhattan CAT practice tests
Kaplan free online practice test and CAT CDs
BTG DS strategy overview series

Now, onto to the next chapter. Re-assessing my school choices and getting started with the school essays.
Watch out for my review on the soon to be launched NEW Beat the GMAT practice questions. I also have a few premium accounts up for distribution !

Saturday, October 23, 2010


Finally the urgency to finish giving my GMAT got the better of me. I'm not sure what my current mock test trends predict about my real GMAT score. From a read of several 'I Beat the GMAT' forum posts, I've felt there is no real high correlation between the mock tests and the real GMAT test. Several GMAT test takers have scored 700+ on the MGMAT, for example, and scored just a 700 on the real. The converse is also true. Several posters also say that there is no real predictive mock test you can take. The main idea in taking the mocks being to practice, practice, practice, and learn, learn, learn.

Besides now that everyone's officially in or about to be in the R2 deadline zone, its important that I move on! Taking the GMAT test is like answering a question in a timed Overall test. If you spend too long on answering that one question then you are sure to lose out on answering (and scoring better) on the other questions in the big Test.

I'll be posting my review on my experience with the Grockit standard membership and also another on the BTG practice questions product. I also will officially start my applications prep from next weekend, so more posts on that to come soon.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Face the demons - Review All, Round off & other learnings

Click to download my new Math desktop wallpaper

This week I took a Manhattan GMAT CAT. Just prior to my first GMAT test, I had taken the MGMAT free CAT and was unable to finish the quant section. The verbal section was completed in a complete rush, owing to my not having answered 12-15 questions in the quant section. I was so disappointed with the poor score of 580, I had decided that some of the GMAT forum members who say that the score you get in the MGMAT is not as important as the practice, were right.

Now that my studies and mock CATs have resumed I thought it would be useful to give the MGMAT CAT a try again. After buying the paid CATs, I gave my 2nd CAT and again faced the same difficulty. Far too many tough questions coming to me in a row, I couldn't keep pace. Lost out in a similar way by not answering the last 10-12 questions and got a 590. I spoke to a MGMAT user, who eventually went on to get a 760 and he believed that the MGMAT could be completed in time and that should be the aim. I also so a few other fellow bloggers post their MGMAT scores and thought maybe I need to face it fairly.

This week I took the MGMAT CAT 3. I guess owing to a lot more quant practice (remember my GMAT take 1 score of Q48 isn't so bad in itself), I kept a focus not on the timer, but on the questions this time. My aim was solve and move to the next. I have to get it right in the first attempt to solve, else I take my best guess and move on. This time I felt I performed well. I was getting more and more DS problems on number properties. Got a score of 650 (Q 47 , V32). I was glad I even got something with a significant score difference. Faced the demons and now for more to go!

My next aim is to review ALL my verbal questions across all Grockit games and CATs I've taken and write a comprehensive word document on all my points of failure. Most SC questions across tests/exams, tend to repeat with the same mistakes being tested and I'm going for trends. I'm also reviewing a few of the notes from other GMAT takers, ones I've listed in 'GMAT notes/resources' in the Resources Tab. Sometimes the explanations they have amalgamated for my mistakes make things more clear.

For Quants, a friend of mine who has got a 730 with a Q50 has advised me to study my tables uptil 24 and Squares and Cubes until the number 20. I can understand his point when he says you tend to then recognize numbers very quickly, during factorizing or division. Another great tip he gave me was to check if the answer choices are significantly different in value, and if so, try to round of numbers to solve problems quicker. I did try this late last night on a practice game in Grockit and it worked for me. My timings reduced. But I think it should be done with some caution.

Next week, on for more CATs. Hope some of my learnings in this post are helpful to all of you GMAT takers. Good luck!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

My CAT - 1,2,3 & Trends

My array of mock tests have started to swell. Unfortunately I'm struggling with quants this time. A friend of mine told me that GMAT retakers tend to focus on their weak areas from the first GMAT and lose out on their strengths and I seem to be well on that way for now.

Veritas prep - (feel good) - 710 Q45,V42
Kaplan free online - 690 Q45 V39 (this is not a adaptive test)
Grockit #1 - 680 Q43 V40

I had taken the Veritas in May, before my first real GMAT test. Although I had got a 620 then, the 710 now probably is a little skewed since I have been exposed to their questions before. I did remember getting some repeats.

My GMAT was Q48, v33 and for my retake I've put a lot of emphasis on verbals. So I am seeing some benefits of that, but unfortunately am struggling with time on quants and that has dipped. I wish I could maintain my earlier quant score and reach these verbal scores, that would be just perfect for me.

My aim is only to get above the 700 mark. I will spend the next 2 days practicing on harder questions on Quant and give another CAT on Thursday and make my decision on when you take my test date. I hope in the next 10 days I should be able to get to my peak (whatever it may be) and hope for the best on the exam day.

I am still wondering if I should give a shot at GMAT prep tests this time around, since I've given them 3 times already in May and I'm sure the scores would be a little skewed if I retake them now. Any thoughts ?

As a footnote, I'd like to leave with a great resource on SC and CR, an abridged version of notes and shortcuts from Manhattan & GMAT takers. Check 'GMAT notes/resources' in the resources page tab on my blog.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The entrepreneurial story of Grockit Founder Farbood Nivi :An interesting interview

I've just bought the grockit standard membership and while searching for discount codes (BTG has a 20% discount) I chanced on this interesting interview by Andrew Warner, the interviewer,who gets the real juice on the Grockit story. Andrew doesn't just stay at the surface of the facts, he digs into the details of how Farbood made it happen. For example, how did Farbood make the connections to get himself the investors and advisors that helped.

From a entrepreneur, to a fulltime Princeton, and later Kaplan, teacher, a part time musician, to starting small with the first Grockit venture as just a virtual classroom, Farbood tells about how he started, how his team got in the funds, and built Grockit into a Educational peer-to-peer social networking site.

Click here to view/read the Interview of Farbood Nivi by Andrew Warner

Best Quotes from the interview:

About having the right attitude:
"I’m a huge Russell Ackoff fan, he says that leadership is primarily an asthetic trait, which is creating a vision and living and breathing that vision and all of the sudden, people get into it. I talk to a lot of entrepreneurs and guys that are trying to start up companies and that’s really a lot of times I feel like is missing in they’re just like, “If I raise the money, then I’ll do it.” That has to be the other way around." 
"I think in some ways we’re doing it the right way and in some ways we’re doing it the wrong way. We’re learning about the ways we’re doing it incorrectly so that we can do it correctly. I’m a totally staunch and blind believer in the idea that it’s better to do the right thing the wrong way than the wrong thing the right way."

About how he got people to invest in him and his idea :
"If you ask someone for money, they’re probably going to say no. If you ask them why, well, you got their advice. Right? If you ask someone for advice, hopefully they’ll give it to you and you’ll improve, and then they’ll give you their money"

About his early inspiration, Farbood says :
"The Princeton Review, like most educational models, is this one teacher to many students lecture-type model. There’s certainly a workshop element to it as well. I was teaching so much, sometimes six to nine hours a day, that I got an opportunity to try a lot of things and really develop a process that was better than me lecturing for two hours. It was a combination of teacher-led lecture, solo practice, and then group study practice as well.This is the model that Grockit has followed. Whether you’re studying for the SAT or you’re studying for algebra, you study in one of three ways. You spend some time with experts, you spend some time on your own, and you spend some time with your peers. Grockit has these three same formats of studying. What we do is we apply technology and algorithms to optimize those three forms of studying.I was a teacher at those companies for a while and I’ve seen what was happening with Facebook and Myspace and being like, “I have this social learning model in my classroom. There’s all this social stuff going on on the web.” It just seemed like the most natural thing to do."

Friday, October 1, 2010

My GMAT study in 4th gear

So for all the folks who are only familiar with auto-transmission, let me first mention that there are 5 gear positions in car running on manual-transmission, or something known familiarly as the "Stick shift". While going on the 4th gear doesn't seem like a lot, yet the fact that this is my second time studying for the GMAT and the fact that the last time I gave my GMAT test at the center, I drove to the center in a cervical collar, makes this a good gear for me.

Studying for the GMAT the first time around had meant I spent hours on my laptop, with little concern for ergonomics. I've been constantly working for the past 10 yrs on a PC at my workplace, so why did the GMAT study hurt me bad enough to cause tingling numbness in my left arm, headaches and neck aches was beyond me. The orthopedic and the physiotherapy did little to alleviate my pain and I was sore that my GMAT study (in the fifth gear at the time of the first incidence of the pain) was all going to waste. Nevertheless, gave it anyway and landed with a 660.

After coping with the illness for over 4 months, later discovering the awesome techniques of Yoga and Pranayam, and a lot of time attention to healing and practicing yoga for over 2 months, I picked up the GMAT Official guide again (for the nth time!) a couple of weeks ago. I'm glad to say I've survived 3 weeks with constant use of my laptop (this type hooked to a external keyboard and mouse, with my laptop kept at a elevation = Great ergonomics) in perfect health. Still practicing the yoga though, which is now part of my life.

What I've discovered in the 4th gear is, after solving the OG, the OG Verbal and Quant guide, I still wanted more practice to solve more questions and some interactivity. I found two fun things to do.

1) Participate on forums - I'm checking and posting on the forums morning and evening. I have great buddies who keep posting good questions. With the timer that BTG has so thoughtfully placed on top of each post, I can time myself on each question posted. Members on the forum constantly debate and question, and I have gained an understanding of the little nuances I never noticed before. I encourage anyone studying for the GMAT to get into those forums and share questions, give opinions, etc. Its a useful tool to study, ofcourse don't expect people to teach you - you have to do your homework and self study.

2) Grockit - Games people play, eh? This is a nice create-your-own-game-to-play with GMAT question types that you can choose and play it against others in the same virtual room. You can even schedule them as you please so others can sign in for it in advance. Unfortunately the free membership limits you to only 10 questions per day in a group study. So now I'm debating if I should buy the grockit standard membership (at 79$ post 20% BTG discount - Doesn't sound like a lot until you do the dollar conversion) which gives me full access to over 100 hours of practice with 1200 questions in the bank to choose from and 5 full length CATs. The only thing holding me back is no reviews on the CATs and doubts on their score calibration software, since again - no reviews found !

I've bought the MGMAT CATs, so that $40 gone already. Hopefully the MGMAT CATs don't bring my morale down since their scores tend to be a downer!

Today I tried the Veritas prep, and compared with the 620 in my last take 4 months ago, I clinched a 710 today. Veritas gave my GMAT total score as 680, but I re-checked that Q45 and V42 round to a 710 total score. So I'm pumped !!!

I'm leaving a good picture at the top, as a reminder to everyone to be safe while on their laptops. You do not want to be using our grandma's cervical collar, believe me!