Friday, January 18, 2013

GMAT Round 3... Ready... Fight!

I have three weeks until I take the GMAT for a third, and hopefully final time.  I am feeling confident.  Much more confident than the last two times I took the test.  Here is a break down of my battle to beat the GMAT so far:

Round 1:
I began studying for the GMAT in late 2011.  However, my study was sporadic to say the least.  I would study a half an hour here and there.  It wasn't till about April of 2012 I began studying more seriously.  I had almost completed the Kaplan GMAT Premier study guide, but since my review took over six months, I decided to go through the book once more at a bit faster pace.  I was still pretty green to the whole GMAT process.  My test date set for mid-May.  With that day coming up fast, I decided to take a practice test.  I had used Princeton Review's practice test for the GRE a few years back, so I decided to try out their GMAT test (terrible comparison to the real version of the test by the way).  I felt good about the test, but when I hit submit, the score I saw felt like a kick to the groin... an abysmal 530.  I was shocked.  I had hopes of getting into a top b-school, but with a score like that, could I even get into the University of Phoenix?  Needless to say, that score shook any confidence I had going into the test.  I decided to postpone my test for a month and really hit the books.

I blasted through the rest of the Kaplan study guide.  I took another practice test, but this time it was from Kaplan (another terrible version).  Again I scored below a 600.  It was a rough night in my household.  I was depressed.  Not wanting to spend another $50 bucks to reschedule my test date, I decided to just give it a shot and see how I do on the real thing.  I figured I would use it as a gauge and try again in a few months.  I was planning on applying to b-school the following fall anyway, so I figured it wouldn't hurt.

Three nights before the test I logged on the just to confirm my test time, testing center location, etc.  It was then I finally remembered that the GMAC offered two free practice tests!  I don't know how I forgot, but I decide to give one a whirl and see how I do.  I figured this would be the most accurate gauge of how I would do on the real thing since it was created by the actual test takers.  That night I stayed up till 1 am finishing the exam.  I was exhausted.  Excited that I was finally done and could go to bed, I hit the submit button.  I fully expected to see a score in the 500s.  To my surprise I scored a 680!  I was so happy I jumped out of my seat.  I yelled at my wife who was up late engulfed in some crazy novel, "Hey, I'm not too big of an idiot!"  I thought to myself, maybe, just maybe I could pull of a halfway decent score on Saturday.

I went to bed early Friday night to make sure I was well rested for the test the next day.  I woke up around 6:30 am to get ready.  I hit up a gas station before to grab a couple Mountain Dews (I am a sucker for the Dew) to make sure I stay awake and alert during the test.  I arrived at the testing center about a half an hour early.  I sat in my car and review a few last minutes essay writing tips (I had focused all my studying on the Verbal and Quant sections and didn't really prep for the essay of the IR section).

I went into the test feeling really good.  The essay and IR sections went very smoothly.  The verbal and quant sections seemed easier than the practice test.  When I was finally finished, eager to get to my score, I entered in all my demographic info as fast as I could.  Finally the score.  I was blown away, I got a 700!  I can't describe the feeling that went through me.  It was a combination of excitement, stress relief, and pure joy.  I seriously felt like crying.

I walked out of the testing center overwhelmed and called my wife to share the good news.

Round 2:
It was June when I first took the GMAT.  Just a couple days after the test I decided that I would try and apply to b-school that fall.  It didn't leave me much time to put together applications, but I thought I could do it.  One thought that kept looming in the back of my mind was, "I didn't really study too hard or that efficiently for the GMAT and I got a 700.  I should try again."  It was also bothering me that I scored a 47 on the quant section, when on the practice tests I took, I was scoring at least a 49.  I knew I could do better.  After a couple weeks, I decided to start studying again, while prepping applications, and give it one more shot.  In the end, I believe this decision contributed to me not being able to put together as solid of applications as I would have liked.  Cramming studying in with applications just wasn't a smart move.

Anyway, I did feel that I studied better the second time around.  I feel like I found better resources and I also utilized the GMAC's material much better (the Official Guide, GMATPrep, etc.).

Test day came, this time it was in September.  It didn't go as well as the first day.  My first mistake was signing up for a 1 pm test time.  I had to run a few errands in the morning.  We ran into a few unexpected problems that put me in a bit of a bad mood.  My wife had to run somewhere, so she dropped me off and I got on my motorcycle and headed up to the testing center.  I ended up leaving for the test about 30 minutes later than I wanted to.  Because I was on my motorcycle, I was not able to look at the directions and I ended up missing the freeway exit.  Flustered, I pulled over, looked at the directions and headed to the center.  I ended up arriving about three minutes late.  When I tried to open the door to the building it was locked.  I didn't have the number to the testing center, so I called my wife to have her look it up at home.  She gave me the number.  I didn't have anything to write with, so I had to memorize it.  I started calling the number I thought she gave me... no answer.  Tried again... no answer.  I called my wife back and realized I had a number backwards.  Finally I was able to get a hold of the testing center receptionist who came and let me in the building.

I checked in and settled into my seat.  My heart was still racing as I started the test.  It took awhile for me to calm down, but I never felt like I got in the groove.  When I finished the test, I was disappointed to see my score had dropped to a 690.  I went home frustrated that I had spent all that extra time studying instead of working on applications.

Round 3:
So here I am, hopefully the third time is a charm.  This time around I decided to ramp up may arsenal of study materials.  In preparing for the essay portion of the test the first time, I bought the MGMAT IR and Essay study guide.  I was a hug fan of it and decide to get a few of the verbal and the advanced math guide.  They have been my favorite study resources thus far, I highly recommend them.  I have three weeks left till test day.  I have been studying like crazy the past month.  I hope it pays off.

Many people has questioned why I have decided to take the GMAT again... well, I think I will save the explanation for another post.

“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.” - Colin Powell

Friday, January 11, 2013

So it begins... again (the inaugural post)

Yesterday I was officially dinged from the final school I applied to in the first round this application season... so the journey begins (again).

It's hard to believe that I began studying for the GMAT almost one year ago.  I began this journey with the goal of attending a top b-school, now here I stand with only rejection letters in hand.  The past month has been a little more than disheartening; however, it has helped me realize that maybe I didn't take this process as seriously as one should.  Did I work hard?  Did I spend countless night staying up studying for the GMAT, prepping application, and writing essay after essay?  Yes, but maybe that was the problem.  Looking back, I can see that I tried just a little too hard to get my applications in in the first round and ended rushing things.  Old undergrad habits of procrastinating seemed to slip in.  As an undergrad, studying, doing well on test and assignments came easy.  I think in some way I thought this is how the b-school application process would work.  Boy was I wrong!

As I started receiving my first round rejection letters, I began contemplating what my plans were for second round apps.  The more I thought about it, the more I realized I did not want to settle for a "safety school."  Another blogger I closely follow, MBAover30 said, "you should not apply to any school that you would not go to just because you feel that you are a 'shoe-in'; and that has nothing to do with rank. It has a lot more to do with fit. Here’s your acid test: if you got in with NO money, would you attend and gladly pay your loans back over the 2-10 years after you graduate? If your answer to that question is not “yes”, then do not apply."  That is how I feel.  Every school I had listed as my "safety school," the ones I was planning on applying to second round, all failed the acid test.

So here I am, studying to retake the GMAT in another month (G-Day: Feb. 9th).  Am I back at the starting line?  Some might say so, for awhile I even thought so.  Was all the time and money I spent on GMAT study guides, applications, and flying out to schools for class visits and interviews?  After the first couple dings, I was beginning to feel that way, but now I know it will just give me added foresight for next year.  I am disappointed I didn't get to start school this fall, but timing is a very important factor in getting an MBA, and honestly, one more year of work experience for me will only make me that much more prepared (I started working at a bulge bracket investment bank less than a year ago).

This time I will be better prepared.  I will dig deeper.  I will worked harder and smarter.  Last time I was knocked down, punched in the mouth with a much needed reality check, but this time I will make it.

"The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses-behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights."~Muhammed Ali