Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Lessons learnt after getting a 620 GMAT score

The results are in. My first attempt at GMAT led me to a score of 620. I believe I can do much better though, so I've already rescheduled for July 11th to retake it. I learnt several lessons during this examination.
  1. The erasable notebook given in the exam is a little trickier to manage than typical pen and paper. It's just aesthetically different, especially as the marker I had tended to blot on the page since I tend to stick the pen to the paper while focusing trains of thought. The grid pattern and the nature of the pen also made it difficult for me to use them effectively, as my writing tends to be rather large, especially when I'm brainstorming or moving to a deadline. The grid squares, however, were a bit small by comparison. The layout of a monitor, keyboard, mouse and notepad on the desk given also was a little clumsy for me since I both write with and click with my right hand. I'll have to figure out a more optimal method now that I know what I'm dealing with.

  2. I need to learn to better clear my mind during an exam, it was too unfocused for me to think straight at several points. My stamina also needs to improve, inside the last hour of examinations I was terribly tired and hungry, having taken the examination through at 10am and missed lunch. These problems have never been a problem for me though in past exams, although it was several years ago that I had my last serious set of examinations. I have several theories as to why this was the case this time though. It could be because of the pressure of the moment, I do have much riding on getting a good score. This could have been because my mind was distracted by other personal issues. I had tried to clear my mind of the fact that my mom was awaiting surgery after having recently been hospitalised. I had struggled with finding focused study time in the week before my exam because of the increased demand on my time by family obligations related to my mom's illness. I had also tried to reassure myself that this would not be the last time I would be in such a quandary, where high professional performance was expected of me despite conflicting personal issues, and that I should use this as the example which I would set from here on. Despite the score, I still think I did well enough for a first attempt.

  3. I need to run through more practice questions. The quantitative questions really creamed me, and I did not do as well in the verbal section as I thought I would. The first thing I did Monday morning was order the GMAT Verbal and Quantitative Review guides, which contain a tonne more practice questions. I could afford to do better in both areas. It's a matter of being a little more crisp in the verbal section, and understanding better how to use the quantitative techniques required to tackle those presented. The questions I got in the real GMAT were much harder than any I tried in practice as well.

  4. I need to plan my essays in advance. The list of Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) topics are posted publicly, they're about 150 possible topics for each section. While I think I did a decent "Argument" essay, I felt like I struggled with my "Issue" essay because the topic itself was a bit difficult to grasp for me. To top it off, my "Issue" topic was the 3rd listed in the document listing all the possible essay topics, meaning I should have had a plan for it already if I'd prepared better. I don't intend to write the essays, but I do intend to go through as many topics as possible beforehand and structure stronger points for each, so that at least if I hit a challenging topic I already know I built a plan once, so building a new one for the examination won't be as difficult as it was the first time.

I'll be using a new study schedule focused more heavily on tackling sample questions for the next month as I prepare for the 2nd attempt at GMAT. We'll see how well this technique works in time.