I know it's just a silly test but I'm so excited that I don't even know where to begin or what to do now. I started in late October 2008 with a 530 MGMAT CAT score and finished the GMAT on Wednesday with 740 result. I am no propeller head so this can be accomplished with time and good study habits. It may take 1 month for the gifted ones out there, 3 months for others, or maybe even a year if you completely screwed off during high school math classes. But eventually things will click. Below is my debrief:
I first thought about an MBA back in 2001 when every other NYC investment banking turd that I was working with at the time told me that I had to do it. So, being young, being dumb, and in over my head with these guys, I followed the crowd. I took a Kaplan class and studied (while working long hours) for a few months before taking the GMAT. Back then I used to put so much pressure on myself that I'd simply have a meltdown on these things. Rule #1 of success on this exam: chill out dude, it's just a test. 1st try 590 (Q44, V27), 2nd try 630 (Q44, V33). I was completely crushed, embarrassed and just gave up on the MBA idea. Although I realize that a 630 isn't bad, I was confident that the net present value of my MBA would certainly be negative. I was not going to get into a top program and I have a somewhat non-conventional opinion on the MBA degree that just forced me to forget about it.
Fast forward 7 years later...I'm in Boston now, unemployed, and thinking a lot about my future so I spent a couple days researching GMAT prep programs in late October. I had never even heard of ManhattanGMAT but most reviews pointed them out as the best of the bunch. So, since I despised my Kaplan experience and obviously the results, it was a no brainer to check out a free class class.
The instructor was Eric Caballero and his teaching style actually made the subjects interesting and fun. My only concern was that the MGMAT curriculum would be similar to the Kaplan class that I took in '01/'02. Perhaps Kaplan is much different now so I won't bash them too bad but I remember a lot of focus on "Backsolving" and other educated guessing techniques that just didn't work for me (I still find them almost useless.) I also don't recall much focus on Reading Comp or Critical Reasoning techniques, which was a big help to me this time around. Nor do I remember ever seeing OG questions. It was all Kaplan books and practice tests. Anyway, I knew that taking a class would at least get me focused so I forked down a few unemployment checks on it.
About halfway through the syllabus I began to get some sort of sick enjoyment out of this stuff, almost like a puzzle addict. The MGMAT guides were excellent and I followed the heavy syllabus pretty closely (did all the assignments and online labs but usually didn't get to do many OG practice problems). However, I didn't really get serious until after the class was finished in early January. I have a bit of a competitive streak in me and tend to go "tunnel vision" on things that I sincerely commit to doing. So, with the distracting holidays behind me, I completely immersed myself in GMAT for the last 2 months determined to not only erase the embarrassment of '01/'02 but also to beat the hell out of this exam in general. So, although my competitive side is telling me that I could have done better on the test (I need therapy!), I know that a 740 is plenty good enough and I'm happy to say that I achieved my goals. Below was my progression:
MGMAT #1 530 (46%) Q28, V35 (24%, 77%) Oct 24
MGMAT #2 690 (91%) Q44, V39 (73%, 89%) Jan 21
MGMAT #3 710 (94%) Q44, V42 (73%, 96%) Feb 3
MGMAT #4 680 (90%) Q43, V39 (70%, 89%) Feb 10
GMAT Prep #1 690 (88%) Q47, V39 (79%, 87%) Feb 22
GMAT Prep #2 730 (96%) Q45, V45 (75%, 98%) Feb 25
GMAT real 740 (97%) Q49, V41 (88%, 92%) Mar 4
Further thoughts on MGMAT:
Outstanding. I always considered my quant skills slightly above average, not engineer good but above average. The strategy guides teach all the basic rules that need to be memorized in order to do well on this. The MGMAT guides alone are sufficient to get a 640-680 score. However, when used in conjunction with the online forums (both MGMAT and BTG), one's understanding of these topics explodes as you figure out the different ways of asking about the same subjects. I did just about all of the Problem Solving and Data Sufficiency questions in the OG 11th Ed and Quant Review, taking notes on tough questions and lessons learned. However, most of the OG answer explanations stink at best. Without the MGMAT and Beat the GMAT forum discussions on just about every OG question out there, I could never have fully understood the topics tested. On the MGMAT CATs and the OG questions, I spent a silly amount of time on the forums, reviewing different ways to answer each question and the theory behind it. Relative to other people who have posted their results on these forums, I don't think I did nearly as many questions but I spent an absurd amount of time understanding each one that I did do. The MGMAT explanations to the CATs, Question Banks, and Challenge Questions were thorough and very helpful but even more discussion on them was available in the forums. I have to say, primarily because of my score jump, that the MGMAT quant in general is more difficult than the GMAT Prep and the real GMAT (especially Geometry). I did not feel that I had done well when I had finished the Quant section on Wednesday's main event (I had to guess on question #1!) so I am pretty shocked by my jump in score.
My bread and butter but historically also my achilles heel. In high school, I had a drill sergeant of an english teacher for 2 years who permanently branded parallelism and proper grammar in my head for life. So, from the get go I was killing SC questions, similar to my experience '01/'02. However, as evidenced by my poor Verbal scores back then, I could never get to flash the grammar skills on the GMAT. Since my early school days, teachers have been trying to get me tested for some sort of reading disability. I could never digest what I was reading without having to reread things immediately after. SAT and GMAT RC questions were impossible under the timed conditions. I would never finish things like reading comp questions in the allotted time. It was torture and I dreaded those types of questions. But for whatever reason, after once through the MGMAT RC and CR guides, that problem disappeared forever (where the hell were you for the SATs?). Maybe I got better at critically reading things over the past 8 years of working in a high paced, sink or swim Wall St. environment but still, something clicked when I read those guides. I got so good at RC/CR on the CAT exams that I barely even bothered to do the OG problems (as I look at my OG tracker, I only did 12 RC passages and about 24 CR questions). Because of this drastic improvement in these areas, I not only was able to use the grammar skills to push it on high level questions throughout the verbal section but I also hoped for as many RC questions as possible for easy, quick points. All that said, I'm slightly disappointed in my Verbal score. I got tied up on some hard SC for too long and had to hustle through a couple RC/CRs to catch up. I think another 2 points puts me into the 750+ range but whatever.
I did little to no prep for this. Study consisted of a brief discussion in class, the online lab, reading a few 6-score topic and essay examples, and practicing on the 4 CATs and 2 GMAT Preps. I hope to hell that it was enough.
As I mentioned, the content in the forums was a vital study aid. One issue, however: about a month ago MGMAT changed up the search function in the forums. I'm not sure what they did but the new "search" function is garbage. I won't get into it unless you really care but try searching the MGMAT forums for a few Number Properties or Equations, Inequalities, or VIC OG questions that you know have been discussed there. There's a good chance that the query will not produce the threads. I can't emphasize enough how important Ron and Stacey were (on both MGMAT and BTG forums) to my understanding of the topics. They are like 24/7 private tutors so thanks guys. But the forums are useless if your search produces no results because of a technology hitch. Someone has to fix the MGMAT search function.
One other comment regarding a class: Most of us want to get this test over as soon as possible. So, if you're signing up for a class (and I do recommend you do if for no other reason than to mold good study techniques), then I suggest checking the class schedule. DO NOT take a class that will be broken up by holidays, vacations, etc. I found momentum to be a strong ally for this stuff but it kept getting cut off by Thanksgiving, Xmas and New Years'. There were 3 weeks between the next-to-last and final class. That's not how you want to finish up when you're hoping to fire out of the gate on your own when the class is over.
Originally I was hoping to squeeze in to school for Fall '09 but after pouring through these forums over the last month looking for 3rd round application information, I concluded that it was going to be a waste of time and energy on my part. The impossible 3rd round numbers just don't make the stress worth it. Besides, the job market could still be terrible 2 years from now so what's the rush. Another year might provide more clarity. I know the adcoms and the consultants out there will tell you to go for it but they've got little incentive at this point to turn away business. So I guess I'll spend the next 6 months visiting schools, researching programs and eventually submitting some applications. It should be fun.
Anyway, I hope that's helpful. Thanks again everyone, especially Eric, Stacey and Ron from MGMAT. Remember to commit to good study habits, study at your own pace, and most of all remember that it's only a foolish test. Don't beat yourself up if you get knocked down. Let me know if anyone needs further advice or clarity.