If you’re anything like me, you would have skipped over the introduction and come right to the beginning of Chapter 1. I would have thought to myself, okay okay blah blah, just get to the good stuff! Well, because I have your best interest at heart it’s imperative that you understand my why I decided to write this book. Yes, I’m forcing you to read the introduction. If you do that, you’ll truly get the most value out of this book. It’s a book that has a lot of valuable information in it. So we can do this one of two ways, you can flip back a couple of pages to the Introduction, or just keep reading! Okay okay, I’ll keep it short this time.
In January of 2010 right when I started prepping for the GMAT I realized that the GMAT exam is not trying to trick you. I think that since you can study for it and see your score improve, it’s a fair test in that it’s conquerable. Sure, different people will have an easier or more difficult time with the GMAT, but how one takes it is fair. Now, if you want to have a discussion as to whether or not the GMAT is a good proxy for how one will do in business school, that’s a discussion that I don’t wish to have.
Anyway, I digress. In order to get the maximum out of studying I began making notecards. If you’re a blog follower of mine then you’ll remember in the early days that I used to keep count of my notecards. This is something that I also used to do in high- school when studying for the SATs so it was not foreign to me. Initially, I only put Sentence Correction and Quant problems on the notecards but then expanded my horizons to all topics.
Also in January, I found out that I got an A in my Algebra class. Now many of you may be thinking, “Um, Richard it’s just Algebra – no big deal!” Well, you’d actually be
mistaken with that one. It was a huge deal because it was IMPERATIVE that I get an A in that class. I knew that I was going to take a slew of classes at NYU SCPS and that I would be submitting my transcript as a supplemental transcript to school. With this being the case, given my poor Undergraduate GPA – 2.56, it was imperative that I get an A in a basic Algebra course to show that I wasn’t a complete dud. Does that make sense? Hope so, because it’s very much so true. How could I possibly convince a business school that I had the quant abilities if at 29 I couldn’t even pass a simple algebra course?
This was around the time when I realized that people at this point – my friends and family – could not understand why I was spending so much time on the process. Here is an excerpt from my blog that illustrates how dedicated I was to embark upon this process:
“It definitely seems like a long time away, and it is, but the preparation needed for me to get into the top schools, warrants this much time. It will go by so quickly so I’m not worried about it. I’m young! It’s 3 years that will positively impact the rest of my life.”
I also paid for my MGMAT course at an info session. The MGMAT course was a gift from my mother. I was not making that much money in NYC at Bloomingdales.com ($54,000/yr) and was living in NYC, so to save $1500 in addition to rent, bills, etc etc was a tall order. Thankfully she was able to help me out. Some Christmas huh? The info session that I attended was not that informative, for me, only because at that juncture it had been my 3rd time hearing it. I mainly just went to be able to sign-up for the course and get my MGMAT books.
I must talk about this info session that I attended because I found it to be quite comical.
Now I'm not saying that I knew anything about the GMAT prior to deciding to go to B- School. BUT, I did research as much as possible online, before showing my face in public asking a bunch of dumb questions... So here are some of the questions that were asked, and why they were dumb (in my eyes).
1. The GMAT is computer adaptive. So if you answer a question correctly then the next question becomes harder. If you answer a question incorrectly, the next question becomes easier. With that being said the question a woman asked was... "So can you skip a question and come back to it?" When I heard this I thought to myself, “now let's think about this people, if the computer needs to know if you got the current question correct, before it gives you the next one - how in the world can you SKIP it?
2. Oh... this wasn't so much a question but these two guys kept asking about trying to cheat. Ok so for you guys who don't know, when you walk into the testing center, you're not allowed anything but your ID. You get your picture taken, finger print scanned and get your hand scanned. These fools were asking all of these "what ifs.." I'm sitting there thinking to myself "What if I hit you over the head with this pencil?"
Also... not many people know this but 25% of the questions on the test are experimental. The reason they do this is to test out new questions for the test, on real test takers - makes sense right? With that being the case think back to that adaptive nature of the test... you could be getting a bunch of hard questions and then all of a sudden a really really easy one... so now you have to think... either those hard questions were really
easy ones that I was getting wrong, which made me end up with this easy one... or this may be experimental... granted you can’t think of the test like that.
The reason they do this is to test out new questions for the test, on real test takers - makes sense right? So this woman asked "Can you skip the experimental ones?" I asked myself what is up with people asking if you can skip questions? I guess they were thinking back to their SAT days when you could leave questions blank. Ok then another person asked "do you at least know which ones are experimental?" You can imagine my face when they asked this question.
I saved the best for last! At the end of the 2-hour session the proctor is taking question. There was a guy behind me who asked if you know how you answered the previous question, as you're going through the test. So I'm thinking, does he really think that if you answer the first question right it tells you "CONGRATULATIONS YOU GOT IT RIGHT” If you’re reading this book and/or have picked up any other GMAT related books, then you are well ahead of a lot of people who are taking the exam.
As I continued to study for the GMAT day after day, I figured that I would go above and beyond what would make me retain information. I usually studied while in bed. Across from my headboard was a huge blank wall. I decided that I would make that my “wall of notes.” Some people may think that this is crazy, but I figured that at times when I would glance at the wall, I would be able to memorize some things. I remember having number properties and SC quick strategies on the poster bored. Did it help? I’d say so, because when you stare at something for months on end, you subconsciously retain the information. I was hoping that it would all come in handy during the GMAT.
This is around when I started to not go out and socialize with my friends. I knew that it was imperative for me to study and plus the MGMAT course gave A LOT of homework each week. It didn’t really phase me and I had warned my friends that this would happen. While taking the GMAT course, I told them not to call or text me on a Friday or Saturday night to ask me to meet them out or ask me what I was doing. I would usually meet my friends for lunch or maybe some coffee, but then I had to get back to studying. It’s interesting when you start studying grammar essentially, because I found myself starting to correct my friends in normal conversation. Of course, to them that was incredibly irritating, but I honestly didn’t care. It helped reinforce different topics for me and if they thought I was wrong (sometimes I was) then even just “arguing” about it was still helpful. In doing this, I was able to finish the Powerscore Sentence Correction book, which I find to be incredibly helpful and very hilarious. The examples that they use frequently made me laugh, which was a welcome departure from some of the dry other books out there. To this day I still recommend this book to people who say that they are starting to study for the GMAt.
Towards the end of January, BeatTheGMAT.com was running a contest for its members. The contest was simple. The top 5 people with the most comments after a 30 day period would get to choose among four or five prizes. I don’t remember what all of the prizes were but I believe two or three prizes were free GMAT classes. Veritas Prep, Manhattan GMAT and another company offered free classes. The prize that I had my eye on was a free admissions consulting package for one school. I was so excited when I saw that this was an option and I knew that I would get it. I was already frequenting the website and making posts, so I thought that I had to essentially keep doing what I was
doing. When the first daily update came out, I saw that I was in 3rd place. I didn’t know how many people were participating, but to see that I was 3rd was a pretty nice surprise.
So the contest was ongoing but I still needed to focus on studying for the GMAT. A week before the start of my first MGMAT course we were required to take our first Computer Adaptive Test (CAT). This would basically give us a benchmark for ourselves going into the GMAT class. I studied all week to take the exam and was actually quite nervous on the day that I took it.
My goal was to score a 600. Looking back on it, it’s funny when people say, “My goal is to get a ________” on this exam because you can’t do anything to change what you’ve received – except study more, but in that split second after you click to view score you experience a whole flood of emotions. In any event, I ended up getting a 590 on that first practice exam. My goal for the REAL GMAT was a 700 at the time that I took the first practice test. When I got that initial 590 on the practice I decided that I would increase my target score to 710. I mean in hindsight, I could have increased it to a 750 and it wouldn’t have made a difference. What I know now is that studying to increase your score from say a 600 to a 650 is much easier than studying to increase your score from a 700 – 750. That 10 point increase that I increased by target score by would not have even made a difference because that small differential in score is very minute.
Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised with the 590 because during the exam, I felt like I was getting every single question wrong. When I was studying, I was focusing on Verbal because I knew that I would be able to increase my Quant score in as shorter period of time – or so I thought. I was nervous for Verbal and wanted to focus on that. Turns out I surprised myself, because my split on that 590 practice exam was 37/37. I was okay with that score because I hadn’t even taken the GMAT class yet, but I knew that If I got that score in April (which is when I planned to schedule my exam, that I would be devastated.
I remember before taking the exam I was thinking about simply not taking it even though it was prescribed by MGMAT. I didn’t think that I was fully prepared, but then I thought about what everyone says about the GMAT. They say that you should get the first practice exam over with so that you know how much work you have ahead of you. I faced my fear head on and conceded to everyone’s advice. It was at the point when I saw my score that I realized that this road was going to be very long and arduous. I still had a very positive outlook though and I was glad that I could go to my first GMAT class having done all of the pre-work.
The following week, I had my first MGMAT class. It was a very humbling experience. I remember walking to the class and being excited to “officially” start the studying process. I considered that day to be the office start of the process even though it had been months and months of preparation leading up to that day. The class was a 9-week class and went from 6:30pm -> 9:30pm at the MGMAT offices in Midtown Manhattan. There were about 16-18 students in the class and we were a very diverse bunch.
That first night we did a basic GMAT review and discussed Data Sufficiency (DS). I thought I had prepared well enough that I would be able to tackle basic DS questions, but I was quickly humbled because I was unaware of the many nuances. That night we got the full syllabus for the course and I had completely underestimated how much work there would be or how much additional material was available online through the
MGMAT website. There were many videos that we had access to as paying students. I’m not sure if they were the same videos that the students get who take the online course, but I’m glad that I had them at my disposal. As a paying student, I also had the option to get 30 minutes/week of online office hours with a phone call.
What’s interesting is that I likened this to private tutoring and had planned on using this service each week because I had looked into private tutoring and it was incredibly pricey. You’ll see the irony in the future.
During this class I realized that everyone has their own mental process in approaching these problems. There was a situation where one person was thinking of an answer from one angle, and someone else the complete opposite from another angle. The teacher was able to get everyone on the same page, by realizing how each person arrived at his/her answers (one right and one wrong, but neither understood why they were right or wrong). Just this skill alone, when compared to another prep company I checked out would have sealed the deal for me. I think another teacher would not have been able to recognize the students' though processes and would have simply said "no... this is how you're supposed to do it."
Another thing about the class that I liked is that it was all not taught via Power Point slides. The basic material and problems were in the Power Point, but when working them out they're done on the board.