Tuesday, August 2, 2011

My GMAT journey - a debrief on a 770 and 6.0!

Well, my first and most important advice - have a good night's sleep before your GMAT! I know that I got a good enough score and that I shouldn't be complaining, but believe me, its a very important advice.

I have always had difficulty in sleeping properly before any important exam, and unfortunately this time was no exception. I lay on the bed for atleast 6 hours but could sleep barely for 3. And somewhere it did have an impact. I never expected to score below a 51 in quants ( I am another Indian engineer :wink: ), yet I did lose out on the crucial score. However, thats a matter of the past now, and on to the real deal - my debrief.

I started preparing for my GMAT around the 2nd week of June. I had just finished with 2 back to back semester exams, an ordeal which was almost 2 months long. So it took me some time to get into the proper groove of things. The first thing I did was to take the OG diagnostics test (Its one of the best things to judge your current level of preparations, albeit being a little tougher than the actual GMAT). I wasn't expecting too great a performance, but I think I did pretty well. Many people suggest that the first GMATPrep should be taken when you are starting with your preparations so that you can identify your strengths and weaknesses, and then proceed accordingly. However, I think the diagnostic sufficed for that purpose. I didn't want to waste such an important resource. I knew that quants wouldn't be much of a trouble, and that I would have to mainly concentrate on my VA. And the diagnostics indicated the same thing. I would also recommend everyone to check out the GMATclub forums regularly and to also sign up for the question of the day emails. This club was a very big help to me right from understanding how and what to start my preps with, to the best books for each section and also for identifying the best practice mocks. I am really thankfull to you all!! :-D

I started with the Powerscore CR Bible. Its a brilliant book and a must have for anyone who wants to improve or brush up his critical reasoning skills. I was fairly confident about CR and RC ( I got only a couple of questions wrong in the diagnostics in these sections), however I figured I would start with something easier so that I could boost my confidence a bit. I was frankly never expecting that I would achieve more than 700, and 720 was my dream score. Along with CR, I started checking out grammar. The grammar we were taught in school was hardly the tip of the iceberg, and I couldn't even understand half the explanations given for the SC questions in OG. The book I went through was Kaplan Verbal Foundations. Though we Indians consider Wren and Martin to be the bible for grammar, the book looked too drab to me, and too detailed as well. And I kinda liked the content and presentation of the Kaplan book. After reading through verbal foundations, I started with Manhattan SC. The book is by far the most important book to have in your arsenal for GMAT preps, after the OGs of course. Its a brilliant book and a must have.

Around the 24th of June, I gave my first GMATprep test, and surprise surprise I scored a 750 (Q51, V40)!! As I said, I had never expected such a huge score and was a little dumbstruck. I thought maybe it was a lucky shot or something. Quants was a cakewalk(as i had expected) and I didnt get even one question wrong in that section. VA was much easier than I had expected and my bottleneck seemed to be SC (I had 8 wrong in SC and 1 in RC, none in CR!). So my analysis till then had been correct about my strengths and weaknesses. I came to know that GMATprep is a little easier than the actual GMAT and so I estimated my level to be at around 700 at that time.

I had my work cut out. I needed to pay attention to SC, while practicing all the other sections. This is when I picked up the OG. Its the best aid in your preparations for GMAT. If you try to learn from both the questions you get right and the ones you get wrong, it helps you improve drastically. My real preps began around the start of July. The books I used during this period were the Verbal OG, OG12, Kaplan Verbal Workbook(some additional practice) and Manhattan SC. I also went through Manhattan RC(for lack of other resources on RC). I think you can give it a read through in case you want to pick up a few pointers. But its not so useful that it can be counted as a necessity.

I had around a months time left for my preparations (I had scheduled my GMAT exam for the 30th July in May itself). I tried to be as regular with my studies as I could and was giving around 5-6 hours every day on the weekdays(weekends were mostly wasted). In the last three weeks before my exam, I started giving MGMAT mocks. I took one mock every 3 days or so. I also tried out Knewton, Veritas and 800score. But out of these I found MGMAT to be the best one. Knewton's quants is weird, although its VA is almost on the mark. Veritas was OK. MGMAT quants was a little tougher than the real GMAT but I didnt really face too many problems with that. My score in quants was consistent at 51. VA seemed almost the same as the real GMAT. But I loved the review interface of MGMAT, it was very intuitive and gave me lots of useful feedback. My scores were as follows:

GMATPrep1 - 750 (Q51, V40)
MGMAT1 - 730 (Q51, V38)
MGMAT1 - 750 (Q51, V41)
MGMAT1 - 760 (Q51, V41)
MGMAT1 - 780 (Q51, V45)
MGMAT1 - 740 (Q51, V40)
MGMAT1 - 780 (Q51, V45)
GMATPrep2 - 780 (Q51, V45)

I re-read Manhattan SC twice. Read through a lot many articles in this forum and loved some of them (like the one by chineseburned for AWA). I also went through all the manhattan quant guides, but didnt solve the exercises in them. I liked the DS strategies that they had. One of my biggest mistakes was to neglect my AWA. Especially since I had not written an essay in almost 5 years. I only read through a couple of chapters from Writing skills for GMAT and GRE and a few articles from the forums. However, I did write atleast one essay in every mock I gave. In the last two days, I also practiced from GMAT Write. I got a 6 in the Argument essay and a 4 in the issue essay(both in timed conditions). As a result, I am still worried about my GMAT AWA.

I am really thankful to all the forum members who helped along the way and to two of my friends who prepared for the GMAT along with me. Couldn't have been able to do it without help from all you guys.

I would also like to apologize for the poor grammar, diction and structure of this debrief. I profess to be a poor writer and another reason why I don't post too often on the forums. I also am still tired from the day I had yesterday. However, if you could suggest any ways in which I could improve this post, I would be happy to do so. :-D

I will continue to go through the forums and try to help all the people I can. I will be applying to HBS 2+2 and am already in the 2nd stage of the ISB YLP program. I am still confused about which other colleges I should apply to, and would love to get any suggestions.

For now, thanks for letting me bore you with my blabbering and I hope you had something to gain from my experience. ciao!

Please leave your comments on the post.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

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Friday, February 18, 2011

The aftermath of 127 hours

What does a person think after watching a movie like 127 hours ........ Thats it. He can think of nothing! Thats the kind of power that the movie holds. Rather, thats the kind of effect that James Franco's acting has on you. The last scene(without divulging any part of the story) leaves you wondering about so many finer aspects of life and about life in general. Who are we? What are we supposed to do? What is the right way to do things? Is it ok to be selfish? Or is being supremely selfish, another means of completely neglecting the self? Its a paradox - but a paradox which seems to consume your mind each time Franco says - "I should have left a note."

Some people might not like the movie for its gruesome scene. While some others would not be very happy about the entire premise of the movie and how its about a guy's arm trapped under a stone. But, nobody can deny that, its when such circumstances are created, that an actor's true ability comes to play. If and how he manages to keep you engrossed and enthralled, is what proves the actor's mettle.

And Franco does that amazingly well. His anguish, his pain, his misery, his acceptance of seemingly inevitable death and then his fighting back with renewed vigor, his describing his own piss as musky whiskey, his replaying of the girl taking of her top, his thinking about the love of his life - all these and more such moments are brought alive by Franco and make you identify with him. You are actually made to wonder about what would you have done had you been in his place.

And then the final scene. The way he carries out the blood curdling scene at the end of the 127 hours, how does a person decide to cut off his own hand?? How does he have the will to do such a thing? How does he manage to walk back after that? And I have been hearing of people vomiting and fainting by JUST WATCHING THE SCENE!!

The movie is a must watch by all counts. Great acting and great direction. They make you long for the next master class by Danny Boyle or James Franco.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Love by Pablo Neruda

Not written by me. But one which expresses a lot.

What's wrong with you, with us,
what's happening to us?
Ah our love is a harsh cord
that binds us wounding us
and if we want
to leave our wound,
to separate,
it makes a new knot for us and condemns us
to drain our blood and burn together.

What's wrong with you? I look at you
and I find nothing in you but two eyes
like all eyes, a mouth
lost among a thousand mouths
that I have kissed, more beautiful,
a body just like those that have slipped
beneath my body without leaving any memory.

And how empty you went through the world
like a wheat-colored jar
without air, without sound, without substance!
I vainly sought in you
depth for my arms
that dig, without cease, beneath the earth:
beneath your skin, beneath your eyes,
beneath your double breast scarcely raised
a current of crystalline order
that does not know why it flows singing.
Why, why, why,
my love, why?