My GMAT Experience Going From 550 to 700 in 10 days

Coffee is required for beating the GMAT

I’m going to share my GMAT experience going from 550 to 700 in 10 days. If you Google around “how to get 700+ on a GMAT”, you’ll see dozens of plans and schedules that indicate you need about 3 – 6 months to get a great score. Depending on whether or not you consider 700 a great score (I do!), the ACTUAL time I spent studying was almost 10 days, and here’s the story.

I started learning about GMAT in late November when I knew that most business schools although they accept GRE, still consider GMAT significantly more preferable for MBA applications. I did the same thing I did with GRE, I bought a Kaplan book on GMAT.

Read the first few pages to get to know this beast called GMAT, turns out it’s an essay section, a relatively new Integrated Reasoning section, a Math (or Quant) section, and an English (or Verbal) section. I emphasize on using Math and English because I’m coming from a background of GRE.

Read a few more pages on Verbal and Math, and did a quick practice CAT (Computer-Adaptive Test) and received a 520. Wow! Give me a break, I was expecting 650 or so!

Turned out, it’s much more than geometry and algebra, it is actually a very comprehensive test of endurance, time management, reasoning, stress management, you name it … So I tried doing a couple of quant quizzes using Kaplan’s online resources.

The First GMAT Test

I swept away in work, and forgot about GMAT, until two days before December 28th when I had an actual test scheduled. I Googled: “how to score 700 on GMAT”, turned out I needed at least 3 months to get to that ­čÖü

To make matters worse, my test was in a different country┬á(4 hours drive though!). I gased the car, checked the tires, replaced the wipers, and hit the road. Next day is my test (how negligent I was !!!). Showed up 7:00 AM at the test center, and began the test 30 minutes later. Less than 4 hours later, I see 550 on the screen. Again, big disappointment ­čśÉ

The Second Trial

Quickly returned back to my home town, few days later registered for another test on February. I made a plan for myself, to make quizzes of different questions of both Verbal and Quant. When I finish each quiz, count the number of correct answers and get the ratio of how much correct answers I got, and then found a website that had a rough estimation that converted raw score to scaled score in each section and compared against it (PLEASE DON’T DO THIS, THIS IS ABSOLUTELY WRONG!!!). Nevertheless, I didn’t know that and kept on doing it. I did a good number of quizzes (maybe 10 or 12 in each section), but not one after another, rather distributed them among different times (Also, VERY WRONG!). And kept on estimating my score, in an absolutely wrong way.

I estimated that I’d receive 680, and I read in some website that Kaplan questions are usually tough, so I thought with myself that I’m already a 700 person.

On the day before my test, I had planned to take a practice test using GMAT’s own software available to download free after registering for exam. However, I was too busy at work training new employees, and having too many errands to do. The practice test got delayed until 6 AM the next morning! Literally 3.5 hours before my actual test. I did a couple of the questions on the practice test and I almost got all of them wrong. Honestly, I wasn’t terrified or anything, I thought I’m just not ready yet, but I’ll be ready in the next 3 hours. So, on to the test center.

Exam management was better this time, going to bathroom regularly, drinking water, etc… 4 hours later, I see 590 on the screen. I said to myself: You’re kidding right? Even the test center guy said, don’t worry I see lots of people getting the same score. I don’t know if he was cheering me up or discouraging me?

The Third Trial and Beating The GMAT

This time, I was much less motivated, and highly busy at work. New projects, new management, and much more responsibility. Right around May, I got motivated again to do the GMAT because I was determined (from the year before) that I want to get to B-school. I was convincing myself that a 590 won’t be discouraging, since there are people who get into HBS with a GMAT of 510 (Yes, that is actually correct, but it’s maybe one or two people!).

Three┬ámonths left, no prep. It’s late July, and deadlines are around the corner in less than two months. I calculated the latest date I can take GMAT on, and registered for August. Took 12 days off from work. Sat in the home. Bought GMAT’s official book + Manhattan GMAT CAT tests. I started doing all of the questions, in batches of 10. The actual studying started on the third day (10 days before the test). I did a whopping 80 quant questions. Next day, 5 reading passages, 20 sentence correction, and 10 critical reasoning. Next day, a CAT exam and a bunch of 10-question sets.

I went almost nowhere. Ate fast food from McDonald’s and Kentucky Fried Chicken (I hated myself but it was inevitable, I needed food!). I took almost one full day off having an all nighter with a friend, flying drones to capture landscape photos (I know, it’s totally crazy but that’s just me, I can’t not have fun!). Then returned back to the ritual. My CATs were as follows:

  1. GMATPrep: 570
  2. MGMAT: 590
  3. MGMAT: 620 (No AWA or IR)
  4. MGMAT: 650 (No AWA or IR)
  5. GMATPrep: 670 (No AWA or IR)

I was like: Okay, I’m in good shape now, I’ll get around 650┬áhopefully. Slept for a good 7 hours, ate a bunch of walnuts, drank a nice shot of Nespresso Peru (limited edition) coffee. Wore the most relaxed clothes, and drove to the test center.

I had an amazing feeling, that I’m ready to tackle this beast that most people are scared of. Started the exam at 9:30. 4 hours later, at the last Verbal question, and I remember it was an SC question, I was drained, but I took my time and answered it with the best of (whatever left of) my ability. Clicked next, and voila! I see 700. I couldn’t believe it, but it was true. A 700, Quant 48, and Verbal 38. With an IR of 7. I was like, now we’re talking!

The test center guy (the same person!) was like: WOW! Man how did you do it? I was so amazed by the score, I can’t remember what I told him. Got to my locker, and took my phone, and immediately texted a friend of mine that we need to get out and there is no going home, or doing errands today. And texted my brother the following: “700” + a sunglass wearing emoji.

My dad called me a few minutes later, and I told him the score. He wasn’t as happy as I was, because he was expecting more of me, but honestly, how much more can you expect from 10 days of prep? Or should I say 9 days, since I took one day off droning!

Anyways, I wanted to share this experience because it is both tiresome, and rewarding at the same time. It’s not as bad as it looks, but with proper training, you will get to 700, too. Trust me, I’m not saying cliches, I’m seriously saying, if you practice well enough, you really can get 700, or even more. Please! Just have more than 10 days so you don’t have to eat from KFC!

I want to thank everybody at GMATClub, seriously it’s the best resource you can use to study for GMAT. Specially, Bunuel and his amazing math explanations. A link to the amazing GMATClub forum. If you’re aiming for 700+, you HAVE to register in the forum and participate, it’s necessary, trust me!