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Introducing The Phoenix Who Scores a 770 On The GMAT

I’m a 28-year old Indian male with an M.S. in electrical engineering from the University of Michigan. I’m in my fourth year in agribusiness in India and my dream school is Stanford.

My profile is a little weird because after my electrical engineering I came to India to my family business of floriculture/horticulture. I don’t know if this will give me an advantage or put me at a disadvantage. Any thoughts?

I am also married with a seven-month-old baby!

So after spending well over a month studying for the GMAT, I recently had an early morning appointment at 8:30. The test center was faraway  so I left @ 7:00 to reach the center by 8:00. Unfortunately, I had a restless night and did not sleep too well – don’t know why. The effects were going to manifest themselves later. The center was closed even at 8 a.m. and almost all the test takers were already present. The proctors arrived soon enough and let each one of us in, one after another.

I settled down at my desk and went through all the tutorials, selected my schools, and then came the AWA Argument prompt. The prompt was easy and I was able to comfortably finish it. The keyboard, however, was not up to the mark and slowed my typing down. No worries, though. Next was the issue prompt. It seemed easy enough and I started typing after noting down the possible reasons. When I completed my 2nd para it struck me that I had misinterpreted the prompt and was writing in a completely different direct. For e.g., if the prompt was “X is causing Y and Z”, I misinterpreted it as “Y and Z are happening; Is it harmful or not?” when it really meant “X is causing Y and Z; Yes or No?” – Sheesh!. By the time I realized this, I had 17 minutes left on the clock – panic ensued. All my points were shot; I had to rework the first paragraph; Rework the 2nd paragraph and quickly write the rest. I managed to finish everything in time but it still felt short of a great essay. Of course, by itself the AWA doesn’t mean much but what is important is its aftereffects.

The AWA left me in a frazzled state of mind. This coupled with a lack of sleep the previous night meant that I was not in the best of mental conditions. Its effects were evident as soon as I started my Quant section. The first question was a simple algebraic one but I took 5 minutes to complete it. Normally I would have done this in 0.5 minutes, not 5 minutes. I made one silly mistake after another. The second question was quite tough and I took another 5 minutes on it. I was now really panicking. The two questions really shook me up and I concentrated much harder on the next questions. However my game picked up only after the 15th question or so. I think I pretty much answered every question correct after that. Towards the end the questions were easy and I really wondered whether I had messed up resulting in easy questions. In the end, ironically enough, I finished my Quant section with 17 minutes left. The irony was killing.

I was still shaken and believed that I had messed it up. I knew that this will affect my Verbal section adversely so decided to calm myself down in the extra time. I told myself that it is not the end of the world and even I did screw up the Quant section I must make it up in the Verbal section; I simply could not afford to take the test another time or live with a low score. I calmed myself took the break and came back ready to attack the Verbal section. I started off quite well until I was hit with the first RC. It was a short and tough RC. Managed to finish it and move on. Overall I did well and finished just in time.

It was time for the experimental section. I was curious to see what it would be like. The questions were refreshing and section quite interesting overall. The takers of the new format will have a good time ;). There were 12 questions to be answered in 30 minutes. I did 6 of them seriously and then started giving up. I was anxious to see my scores. I guessed the rest and moved on. Quickly chose to report my score and just get it over with. Was overjoyed and surprised at the score !

Even though I got a high score, I was shaken by how much effect the lack of sleep had on my state of mind and performance. It could have really messed up my score. I think what saved me was the huge amount of practice I had put in and the fact that I am used to taking tests with little sleep. In my undergraduate days, I had taken tests with no sleep the night before !

Key lessons:

1. Getting good sleep the night before is critical. Do what you need to but get good sleep.

2. Ready the AWA prompts carefully.

3. Practice a lot. Even if you have become good at answering well, practice. It will do you a world of good during the test when faced with stressful situations. The practice will kick in and take over. You will be on autopilot the rest of the way.

4. Even when faced with tough questions, move on with determination. GMAT will reward you for this.

This report is adapted from The Phoenix’s blog posts at “The MBA Roller Coaster.”