Breaking 700 On The Third GMAT Practice Test

Mood: Caffeinated (Drinking a mocha at 9:45 pm at a local non-chain coffee shop. Proud I’m supporting our local small businesses!)

Music: Melodramatic piano rock. My attempts at studying last weekend were slightly hampered on account of our house being taken over by a group of snowboarders (acquaintances of my roommate) from Tahoe who were crashing with us for the weekend.  They blasted Gucci Mane, drank my mango lemonade and left our living room smelling questionably, but they were very nice and before leaving, cleaned the entire house while we were at work.

I retreated to our deck armed with the OG to the GMAT and revisited my Keane Pandora station which I had not listened to in quite some time, but am getting hooked on all over again!  Lesson learned: there are bound to be distractions beyond your control, so find other places of refuge if needed.

One sentence summary of this posting: I’m making progress on my GMAT studying!

As I was studying today, I heard the familiar chime of a new email.  Except for this time, it wasn’t coming from my iPhone, it was coming from my iPad.  I received a new iPad 2 from my company for the purposes of “increasing productivity”.  Now that I have one, it’s become my constant companion and I’m continually finding new uses for it (just downloaded some GMAT apps).

My roommate was hosting a friend’s bridal shower at our place so I had to find a quiet place to study.  In my city, this is more difficult that you’d think..  Ruled out the neighborhood bars and restaurants (why be tempted by microbrews and tasty food while I study? See beef jerky incident of the April 18th posting)…. library was closed, too dark outside… so I drove down to a cute dessert and coffee place that was open late.  Besides the occasional and startling banging of the espresso scoops, this is a decent place to camp out.

So back to the chime…email from GMAC reminds me that I am only less than a month away from my exam, which I am acutely aware of.  Nope, it’s not just the neurotic post it notes stuck around my room – “Age is just a number but 720 is not!” “(insert top school name here) or bust!” “You can do it!”

654…3….more weeks of social suicide!” I’ve found myself canceling dinner plans, postponing planning a historic pub crawl with my young professionals organization, adios gym and kickboxing classes all so I can fit in 3 hours of studying a day 3 weeks before test. Training for a half marathon? That can wait too, I’d rather chase a good score 🙂

I was beginning to think that this was all in vain…until I reached a breakthrough this weekend.  On my third practice test, I broke 700! 710 to be exact, up from 630 the first time and 660 the second time. It was quite the exhilarating feeling!  Sure, that is still lower than my target score and I took the test in sections while skipping the AWA but I plan on soon taking a practice test mimicking the actual exam for a more authentic experience.  Seeing that score flash up on the screen was reassurance that I need to keep trucking along, and I reminded myself that it can only go up if I keep up the pace.

This progress is very encouraging. If anything, it’s comforting seeing that getting my priorities straight while sacrificing “fun” is really going to pay off. I’m not necessarily talking about going out on weekends, but rather summer activities that I’ve been looking forward to, as sunshine and lack of rain here is a rare treat 🙂  I’m skipping out on a big rock climbing adventure with our interns, road trips and, most importantly, working on my Vegas poolside physique (ha) in exchange for that glimmer of hope of decent score.

My friends have been understanding and encouraging, though I’m thinking of ways to be less awkward when explaining to coworkers who are in the dark about my MBA plans why I can’t attend happy hours and work related social functions. I can only see the dentist/optometrist/psychic so many times in a three-month period!  As balanced as I am and as much as I value symmetry (I am a Libra!), I wholeheartedly acknowledge that the GMAT is tipping the scales (pun intended) and I’m okay with that. Deep down I know I know this stuff, I’ve learned it before and I was fairly good at this, and I’ll do whatever it takes to make sure I’m giving it my 100% effort, to the best of my abilities!

Here are my strategies for studying which I believe have been helping:

1.  I now attack every critical reading passage with the fervor of reading a new Cosmo issue – a guilty pleasure but admittedly entertaining. I head into every passage as if it is the most interesting thing I’ve ever read, an approach recommended by Manhattan GMAT.  Gravitational Pressure of Terrestrial Environments? Heck yes! Bring it, “How to tell if He’s Lying/Cheating/actually more interested in my guy friends” has got nothin’ on you!  Attitude is key, feigning interest is a must if I’m to stay awake during this part of the exam, the highest likelihood of zoning out.  Hey – I figure if I’m not feigning interest in random guys that approach us at the bar, I might as well be doing on the GMAT reading passages :). Also, summarizing as I go has been helpful as well as mentally recording the author’s main point.

2.  Data sufficiency – AD or BCE. I write this down on the page and it helps, as well as avoiding the temptation to look at B while working on A. Cover that sucker up!  For the sake of speed, I’m memorizing the cube root of numbers and practicing long division.  Ultimately, the more practice I have, the more familiar I am with questions and hopefully they’ll feel like like second nature.

3.  I’m getting better at recognizing sentence corrections errors and even found my emails at work have improved. Subject-verb agreement, pronoun modifiers, I know I’m making success if it’s impacting my life outside of the GMAT.  I’m picking apart logical assumptions in the news (yes, Michelle Bachman I’m looking at you) and focusing on the information at hand.

4.  Being comfortable with the different strategies to tackle problem solving questions: picking numbers, algebra, or drawing pictures. I know what works for me and am always pleased when I can find the answer quicker and in a more straightforward manner than in the back of the book. Take problem 8 on page 51 in the GMAT Official Guide for example – their approach was a drawn out process of solving through algebra- I instead chose numbers and was able to quickly and confidently find the answer!

Less than two weeks before G-day! Wish me luck. Heck! Let’s send good vibes to everyone sitting in a GMAT test center, earplugs in place and dry erase pens tapping away!

Until next time,


Ps. This posting was entirely drafted on my iPad. Dear Steve Jobs:  Thank you for creating a product that, even though it sounds like it belongs under my bathroom sink, I’m quickly realizing I cannot do without!

Mango is a consultant in the Pacific Northwest who is applying to business schools so she would graduate in the Class of 2014. This report is adapted from her blog posts at Por qué MBA? One Girl’s MBA Application Journey!

Her previous posts on Poets&Quants:

Introducing Mango and her pursuit of a seat in the Class of 2014

Why I’m Applying to Business School

Applying to B-School Is a Marathon–Not a Sprint

Making a Date With the GMAT