GMAT Debrief

This is the debrief I wrote immediately following my GMAT on The link at the bottom will guide you to the original post that has some useful follow up comments.

Start & Study Period

I began back in Oct 2011 with a burst of enthusiasm. I even found my first post on this forum! I took a GMATPrep test just to give myself an idea of my level and what I was potentially able to manage. I scored 610 after a few days of reading up on the structure of the test and taking a few practice questions. After taking it, it was clear I had forgotten most of what I knew about grammar, and was very rusty on Quant questions despite graduating with an engineering degree 5 years ago.

After this test I don’t really remember starting to study again seriously until August last year when I bought a Kaplan book and started studying some light math but mainly SC. I DID NOT study for a full 16 months. I think my main motivation to start again was because of achieving a promotion at work, and realising everyone around me was much more senior than me and suddenly had MBAs… I didn’t.

I’ve never been a great studier. I lack concentration and staying power. I can rarely study more than 2 hours at a time. I tried to allocate a morning at a time to studying, with two 2-hour blocks and other stuff in between. Because of my job I can’t really do any during the week so mainly studied on weekend mornings.

Study Materials

[*]Kaplan Premier – mainly for the 5 practice tests
[*]Kaplan Math Workbook – not used too much, but my background meant I had a good grasp of Quant topics already.
[*]Manhattan GMAT Sentence Correction – I CANNOT recommend this enough, I bought this after reading reviews on this forum and I agree wholeheartedly. I’m sure this book was worth 20-30 pts for me.
[*]Official Guide 12th Ed – last but not least!

Practice Test Results

GMATPrep 1 – 610 (10/11)
Kaplan 1 – No score – I managed to abort this mid-test such was my incompetence!
Kaplan 2 – 600 (8/2/12)
Kaplan 3 – 620 (11/4/12)
Kaplan 4 – 650 (11/25/12)
GMATPrep 1 – 710 (reinstalled software 1 year later)
Kaplan 5 – 660 (1/6/13)
GMATPrep 2 – 680 (2 days before test)

GMAT – 720 (!!!)

I took the test yesterday and I’m so pleased. I really wanted a 7 at the front. I think my scores showed me three things;
[*]1) I progressed pretty steadily. Regular practice tests helped me to track progress and a trend gave me confidence.
[*]2) Kaplan tests are HARD. I googled this a lot, consensus seems to be Kaplan is about -20 on the official test. I actually think its slightly more, 30-40 pts maybe.
[*]3) Test performance is REALLY important. The last two weeks, I ate well, slept well and made sure during the test I was well hydrated, took all the breaks and stretched out. Its difficult to concentrate after 3 1/2 hours so you need to practice this.

My Own Bits of Advice

Focus on your weaknesses. My job involves analysing data, spotting weaknesses and addressing them. I did the same with myself, with the error logs elsewhere on this forum. They’re a pain to do, but it pays off. In the last week, I went through and re-did every question I’d got wrong in a practice test, and any I still got wrong I read the explanation in detail. This helped a lot.

Be prepared for the lows. I almost gave up a few times, I was concerned about how I’d pay for business school etc… Go get a pizza or something and start again tomorrow.

Don’t worry too much about this forum. There’s loads of great advice and information here, but it can be demoralising – everyone seems to get 750+, standing on their head. I’m sure for every superstar there’s 99 others struggling through like you using it for advice.

Take 1 question at a time. I had tests where I thought I’d done well and was disappointed, and had tests where I thought I’d screwed up and surprised myself. You simply cannot predict computer-adaptive tests, a hard question you can’t answer normally means you’ve moved up a difficulty level and is often a good sign. Tests on paper can be read through and you get a feel for how you’re doing – these are different.

PS = problem solving
DS = data sufficiency
SC = sentence correction
CR = critical reasoning
RC = reading comprehension

It took me ages to find that out.

If you made it this far, well done. I’m off to put my head in ice to get rid of my hangover. Hope this was useful!

Original post on and some useful follow-up comments: