Preparing for The GMAT

This article goes to all who are preparing for the GMAT or are planning to apply to B-schools and yet to start their GMAT preparation. I have scored a 710 in the GMAT, although not that great according to Indian standards. Indians on the whole have become very competitive and are scoring very high.

In this article, I wanted to discuss the strategies I used and I believe are sufficient for an average Indian GMAT taker.

Time required: Frankly speaking, this depends on individual to individual. I prepared for one month and I believe it was too less a time if your job is demanding in terms of time and effort. Because in that case, your per day contribution to GMAT preparation reduces. What I suggest is go through a standard book: Princeton Review or Kaplan, familiarize yourself with GMAT pattern and judge for yourself according to your capabilities how much time you need to devote.

Still, if I am to generalize, I feel, 2-3 months is sufficient time to familiarize with the GMAT pattern and practice enough. There comes a level after which there will not be a significant improvement.

Study material and Strategy: I strongly feel that if you go through a study material methodically, it's the best GMAT preparation one can do. Do not run after randomly collected material that is spread all over the Internet. Because in GMAT, the strategy and fundamentals for each and every section is important. So if there is bogus material with wrong answers, you will get yourself confused and fundamentals will not be strong.

I suggest fix a study plan for yourself and stick to it. The material I prefer is (in order):

1. Take up a basic GMAT prep book, preferably Princeton Review or Kaplan. Manhattan GMAT has recently gained a lot of popularity
but I haven't seen it, so I'm not sure how it is and Manhattan SC guide is the best available book for improving your Sentence Correction. But since it is expensive, I'll stick to the earlier options. OK, after picking them, get yourself familiarized with the GMAT pattern and take a feel of it. Divide your preparation into various sections:

  • Basic Math (QA)
  • Data Sufficiency (DS)
  • Sentence Correction (SC)
  • Critical Reasoning (CR)
  • Reading Comprehension (RC)
For those with a mathematical background, maths is very easy. It contains elementary level mathematics in which you can score 100% with a little attention. DS becomes a little tricky but can be overcome with a little practice, alertness and a habit of double checking every answer. In maths section, you have plenty of time available with you. You have around 41 questions and 75 minutes which is more than sufficient. That gives around 1.8 minutes per question which is a lot of time. That is because there will be questions which you can solve within seconds and can double check your answer (important) in a couple of seconds extra. This way you can get more time per question on the relatively difficult questions.

Now comes the Verbal section. This becomes a little tough but with logic and presence of mind, it becomes a cakewalk.

2. Now once you have familiarized yourself with GMAT pattern and difficulty level, go through basic fundas of each of the above mentioned sections through the basic prep books. Then take up a diagnostic test. Once you register for the test, you will get a CD from Pearson which will have some practice section tests and 2 full length tests. Take the first full length test. Utilize the full time available for each section. See where you stand and start prep.

3. Online resources: There are plenty of online resources available but the ones which are more popular are:

I suggest take active participation in the discussion forums on these sites as these will help build your fundamentals. In the meantime practice section tests you have got from Pearson. Also, with Princeton and Kaplan, you will get practice section tests and full length tests. Do take a practice test on every weekend and monitor your growth.

4. Official Guide: The most important resource. The Official Guide, or OG as it is commonly referred to as, contains a whole lot of questions to practice from each sections. this is prepared the people who prepare the GMAT tests and contain questions which have already come in earlier tests. I suggest spending daily at least 1 hour on this and keep a not of every question you did wrong. Revise those at the end and remember the mistakes you did.

IMPORTANT: Do check out the explanation for each and every question, even those you did right. this will help you know why other choices are wrong and whether your reason was the correct one.

All the best for your GMAT preparation. I will post more on specific details later.

Calling all Oversleepers

Steve Pavlina is a genious. That was another problem of mine. He suggested a solution to get rid of procrastination. Now he told me "how to become an early riser".

To all oversleepers and to all people who want to become an early riser, go throught his article. A long one, but really helpful.

If you found this helpful, he has written more on this: How to Become an Early Riser - Part II.

Found a help - Overcoming procrastination

Man, who knew I wrote this article. Yesterday I wrote "Procrastinating me" and today while browsing, accidentally, I found this article - Overcoming Procrastination.

Long one. But interesting and helpful.
For those like me, go through it "now". Do not leave it for tomorrow.

Procrastinating Me

Yes, I know someday I will fall, and fall real hard. Because of this..... habit, characteristic, or whatever you may call it. But I have it in me and I really do not like it. I never learn.... rather I don't learn (I changed the phrase because somebody told me:

"Always and never are two words you should ALWAYS remember NEVER to use."

And because I don't learn, I am writing it down so that everybody in the world knows that I am trying to improve.

I have to apply to ISB this year and the deadline is fast approaching. The deadline 10th Dec and now there's hardly one and a half month left and I haven't even prepared a rough draft of my essays. This is my third attempt and I do not want to ruin it. I want the progress chart to reflect progress only.

Attempt 1: "Ding"
Attempt 2: "Waitlist"
Attempt 3: Has to be "Admit"

Even though this habit has been too rough on me in the past. Whatever failures I have had in the past, my contribution to those have been major. And of that too, procrastination was a big reason. I'm gonna start fast and I'm gonna start now.

Do I really need an MBA?

I completed my engineering in 2003. I so much wanted to crack CAT. To do an MBA. Just because I know I was competitive and I wanted to prove it to everyone. That was my first attempt in 2002. I got 98.74 percentile but no call from IIMs. Maybe they didn't like my performance in Verbal. I joined Infosys, working as a software engineer, just like thousands of others were doing, not knowing why. Then I took my second attempt, in the midst of a new job and moving to new city (Bangalore). Bad attempt. Forget the percentile.

Then came 2004. Now I was determined. I had to do it this time otherwise I will stay underqualified, you know. Prepared well, but not well enough. Didn't do too well. Then I thought of ISB. I had 2 years of experience under my belly. I am intelligent. Yes, that's the place for me. But it is November. The deadline for applying to ISB is 15th Jan, 2005. So took a GMAT appointment of 5th Jan, prepared for one month and somehow scored 710. Again, screwed my verbal. In the meanwhile, also wrote my essays in a jiffy and for obvious reasons, got rejected.

No issues, I had to look after personal matters. So forgot MBA for a while. Then the season returned and I applied for CAT and ISB as well. Did some serious preparation this time and missed out on improving my verbal again. And go 98.48 percentile. No calls again... But didn't forget to improve upon my essays this time. Applied to ISB, got interviewed. he interview didn't cross my atisfaction level and I got waitlisted. That was the trigger. I had to build upon my resume. I wrote the exam for MENSA bangalore membership and got through. This was the proof that I was eligible enough to do an MBA and wrote about this and my brief onsite stint to ISB. I had also learnt basic French during this time. Butit seemed like they had made their decision and were not interested in taking me.

Now I have a nice job where I have built up a very good reputation. I got married, but my wife, my life, is working in Hyderabad. So I tried for a job there, the only good telecom company in Hyderabad, Qualcomm and got through. They are offering a good package. The work is too good. And now I am thinking, should I really do an MBA? Just because I'm not satisfied with only one degree and want to study more? I have a good opportunity. I am good in telecom fundamentals. I can stay in Qualcomm, work on newer technologies and grow with it. That's a very good option. Rather I can dream of growing with the product into product management or sales.

Another factor adding to my dilemma is that since now I'm married, the expenses will also increase. I will be buying a car, probably a house. Where will the money come for an MBA. And I have already stayed away frm my wife for a long time, I do not wish to stay apart again.

I will fight this dilemma, and let you know what I decide upon. Till then, I'll prepare for CAT. I got nothing else to do and CAT season is back again with another Diwali. ;)