760 on GMAT -- Game Plan

NoName's picture
NoName - Certified Professional
Rank: Orangutan | banana points 368

Hey everyone,

Just took my GMAT this morning and scored 760 (IR8/Q50/V44), which is at the 99th percentile. While this is certainly not the limit of what many of you could score, I think my experience going through the process might be valuable to share, so I'm hoping at least a few people can learn something new here or at least gain some confidence.

I started studying about 5 weeks ago. I am starting with MBB in a couple weeks so yes, they paid for a full prep course, but I elected to take the self-study package rather than the in-classroom package. I got the Manhattan GMAT (MGMAT) Interact package that came with 12 study books, the Official Guide, the Official Review books for quant and verbal, online lessons, and 6 online computer-adaptive tests (CATs).

This is definitely not a marketing post for MGMAT -- while it had a lot of good resources, it had its serious flaws as well. I appreciated having books for literally every topic covered on the GMAT, but I also found that it was way too much information. It seemed like the books were written for an absolute beginner, so I found myself skipping through most of the pages to find the crucial bits of information that would actually help me on the exam (i.e. the typical Pythagorean triples or the common formats of critical reasoning questions). In the end, I decided that the information in the books was not anything that I couldn't learn myself by doing a lot of practice problems.

Speaking of practice problems, that was exactly what I did for 5 weeks. I did practice problems every single day. For the first 2 weeks or so, I worked exclusively on problems in the MGMAT books. However, once I took a couple practice tests (also from MGMAT), I found that the difficult level of the book problems was misaligned with the practice tests, and I wasn't scoring very high (670-680 range). I did some research online, read through some forums, and discovered that a lot of people have come across the same issue.

The MGMAT book problems just aren't calibrated correctly to the actual test. In addition, a lot of people have found that the MGMAT practice tests are much harder than the actual test. I definitely agree. My average MGMAT practice score (from three tests) was 680 (Q46/V37), whereas the average of my three scores from GMATPrep tests (the official practice tests, and yes I purchased additional tests since you only get two for free) was 770 (Q50/V45). Two things to note here: 1.) the MGMAT tests are indeed much harder than the real thing; 2.) the GMATPrep scores were very close to my actual score. (I should add that I took the practice tests roughly one week apart from each other and left a week between my last practice test and the real GMAT.)

So, for the next 3 weeks, I did problems exclusively from the Official Guide and the Official Review books for quant and verbal. There are about 1500 problems total across the three books, and yes, I did every single problem. This isn't that bad -- it took me about 3-4 hours each day. Then again, I did this before I started working, so if you're working full time, you probably want to start 2-3 weeks earlier. It really helped to do these problems because of two reasons: 1.) they are retired from actual GMAT exams, so they reflect the actual difficulty of problems on the GMAT; 2.) just by the virtue of doing so many problems, you learn a lot of concepts and become familiar with the types of questions the GMAT will ask you. Definitely review the solutions to any problems you can't solve intuitively! The goal here is to make GMAT problem solving somewhat intuitive and quick.

You might notice that I haven't mentioned anything about the AWA (essay) or IR (integrated reasoning) sections. This is intentional. They're not part of your "total" numerical score, and business schools don't pay a whole lot of attention to these sections. However, it is important to at least perform satisfactorily on these. So, I'd recommend doing 2-3 practice essays according to one of the many templates available online (here's one: http://gmatclub.com/forum/how-to-get-6-0-awa-my-gu...). It's not rocket science; just find 3 flaws in the argument, and write a 5-paragraph essay describing the flaws and how to address them. For IR practice, you will be doing this during your practice tests, so no extra work needed there.

In the week leading up to my GMAT, I tried to take it easy. I actually took two days completely off in the middle of the week and did absolutely nothing related to the GMAT, just to relax my mind and let things soak in. It's just like physical training -- you need rest time so your body can get used to the training you've been putting it through. For the last couple days before the GMAT, I finished off the last 150 or so problems while still trying to relax as much as possible. The most important thing for me was to maintain a positive attitude. I hung out with friends, played golf, went to the gym, and generally did things that made me happy. I find that when I'm in a good mood, my brain tends to work better.

On the morning of the test (I scheduled it for 8am), I woke up early and had a good breakfast (definitely get some protein and carbs in there). I then did 3 practice problems of each type -- problem solving, data sufficiency, reading comprehension, critical reasoning, and sentence correction. However, I didn't look at any of the solutions -- this is very important! I repeat, this is very important!! The worst thing you can do for your confidence is to find out that you're getting problems wrong on the morning of your test. Do the practice problems, feel confident about your answers, and get out the door!

During the exam itself, I forced myself not to think about anything but the problems in front of me. It's very tempting to worry about the problem you just messed up, or what your score might be (since you get the score immediately following your exam), but all of this will distract you from doing what's most important, which is solving the problem in front of you. I've heard this said before, and I'll rephrase a little: it's not about conquering the GMAT, it's about conquering 37 individual quant problems and 41 individual verbal problems. As I mentioned above, my GMATPrep average score was 770, while my actual score was 760. I think this is because I psyched myself out after stumbling through a particularly challenging IR section. I kept thinking about that during the rest of the exam, which may have reflected in my slight score drop. And of course, be sure to drink plenty of water and eat some healthy snacks (i.e. bananas or granola bars) during the breaks!

You'll do great. It's not 100% a test of intelligence. At least half of it is preparation and confidence.

I know that was a lot of information. Here's the tl;dr summary:

  • Do every single problem in the Official Guide and Official Review books for quant and verbal. Don't bother with other sources.
  • Keep a consistent schedule (i.e. study at the same time every day).
  • Do regular GMATPrep practice tests (about a week apart). It's definitely worth purchasing the additional two tests. Other companies' tests aren't good indicators of actual GMAT difficulty or score.
  • Do 2-3 practice essays according to any of the AWA templates out there. No need for additional IR practice beyond practice exams.
  • Take it easy in the week leading up to the GMAT. Work on maintaining a positive attitude and a healthy body and mind.
  • During the test, focus on each individual problem instead of worrying about problems you may have gotten wrong or your score.
  • Stay confident!!

Let me know if I missed anything or if I can answer any questions!

Financial Modeling Course

  • Get An Edge For Your Interviews & Finance Career
  • The Best (and Most Affordable) Financial Modeling Self-study Courses.
  • WSO Members receive a 15% discount

Comments (51)

Aug 26, 2014

Bookmarked for future reference.

Aug 27, 2014

Very nice post, thanks a lot!

Although I will be taking the GRE instead, but I can definitely use your strategy.

Chill

Aug 27, 2014

You got 760 on the GMAT and you still don't know the difference between "i.e." and "e.g."....

    • 2
    • 17
Aug 27, 2014

This is great! Thanks for posting this!

Aug 31, 2014
Oreos:

You got 760 on the GMAT and you still don't know the difference between "i.e." and "e.g."....

Thanks for pointing that out. Just goes to show that the GMAT is a test of very limited knowledge!

    • 1
Free Consultation

We know you have questions as you prepare to apply to your target business schools. What are your chances of being admitted? How can you differentiate yourself from so many other applicants? What is the best way to showcase your accomplishments or mitigate your weaknesses? Start getting answers to all your questions by taking advantage of a free 30-minute consultation with an expert from MBA Vantage Point team. Learn more.

Aug 28, 2014

don't be that guy

WSO's COO (Chief Operating Orangutan) | My Linkedin

    • 2
Aug 27, 2014
AndyLouis:

don't be that guy

haha, why's everyone getting so pissed off? If someone struts into a room saying follow my lead, then falls over, i'm going to laugh.....

    • 1
    • 2
Sep 1, 2014

Don't be that guy that puts your gmat score at the top of your resume

    • 1
Sep 24, 2014
Jared Dillian:

Don't be that guy that puts your gmat score at the top of your resume

For MBA, BB, and MBB applications, gmat score (especially one this high) should absolutely be listed, usually under your most recent educational institution.

Aug 28, 2014

why all the downvotes? he's right

    • 1
    • 1
Dec 28, 2014
Oreos:

You got 760 on the GMAT and you still don't know the difference between "i.e." and "e.g."....

Not sure why he got MS'd all over...its a pretty funny comment ;)

Aug 27, 2014

I had the same experience and got the same test score of 760 (Q48, V47). MGMAT was great, but the tests were overly difficult compared to the real deal. I really focused on the official guide problems instead, which boosted my score.

Aug 28, 2014
masterg:

I had the same experience and got the same test score of 760 (Q48, V47). MGMAT was great, but the tests were overly difficult compared to the real deal. I really focused on the official guide problems instead, which boosted my score.

Same for me, with the same 760 score (Q49, V46).

Sep 24, 2014

Congrats on the great score!

Free Consultation

We know you have questions as you prepare to apply to your target business schools. What are your chances of being admitted? How can you differentiate yourself from so many other applicants? What is the best way to showcase your accomplishments or mitigate your weaknesses? Start getting answers to all your questions by taking advantage of a free 30-minute consultation with an expert from MBA Vantage Point team. Learn more.

Aug 28, 2014

Thanks for the post, plan on writing in the next 6 weeks and this was similar to my study plan. Congrats on the score.

"Be first, be smarter, or cheat!"

Aug 28, 2014

Good work. This is basically exactly what I did (6 weeks total time) and scored similarly. Congrats!

Aug 28, 2014

Well done, I will review this before I begin studying for the GMAT

Aug 28, 2014

Bookmarked this post for future reference. Congratulations on the stellar performance! Thank you for the insight!

    • 1
Aug 28, 2014

got mine coming up in a few weeks, thanks a lot for the post, this is great

Aug 28, 2014

Thanks for the post

Aug 28, 2014

Same plan, same score 760 (Q49/V46). Only thing I'd add is to buy the GMATPrep Question Pack too.

Aug 28, 2014

Thanks! Bookmarked for future ref.

I like the little mind game you played on yourself before you headed out. GG.

Aug 28, 2014

Wow, seems like everyone on this site is a MENSA style genius. Any tips for verbal? I think when you get to the point of V44 and above you are only getting about 3-6 wrong.

Aug 31, 2014

Reading Comprehension -- Practice reading detailed articles very quickly grasping the main points. Also, try to remember key words as you read, because some of the more difficult questions will require you to refer to a single particular sentence, and if you missed that sentence, you'll miss the question.

Critical Reasoning -- This is where MGMAT was actually useful, because I learned all the different types of critical reasoning questions and how to approach each one. I'm sure each test prep company has a similar book that will explain the same concepts.

Sentence Correction -- I wouldn't spend a whole lot of time learning grammar rules or idioms unless American English isn't your first language. Just be very meticulous in comparing the answer choices to determine exactly how they are different, and select the answer that is the "least wrong". Be very very careful here -- it's easy to miss a word that is the key to getting the problem correct!

Aug 28, 2014

If you only started studying 5 weeks ago that points to that you already had the majority of your ability prior to test preparation. Think about anything you've done for 5 weeks and there really isn't a single thing you can become great at lol without an already tremendous base.

That is kind of common sense. So if you think anyone can make a vast improvement in their scores in 5 weeks then you're prob out of touch with your average guy. You prob went from the 96 to 99th percentile because of your prep haha. Hardly astonishing. Good job though as you obviously have more ability than most.

    • 1
    • 1
Aug 31, 2014

You're right (I had a 2400 SAT). But as I mentioned in the original post, at the very least, I'm hoping everyone can gain a little confidence from reading about my experience! It's not necessarily about scoring in the 99th percentile -- it's more about scoring at the top of your ability level.

Aug 28, 2014

Well if you want people to be inspired you need to do something that you're not very good at then make a big improvement and actually have to fight for it.

A guy that can naturally bench press 300 pounds and lifts his max to 320 isn't really that impressive.. except for fact he is naturally strong. A guy who only can bench 100 pds then ups his max to 250 is a lot more impressive because of the work he had to put in and the sacrifice he had to make. So if you come back and tell us a story where you trained and trained and trained to achieve something (or improve the world.. something to that effect) that you weren't very good at to begin with that might work a little better. Just my opinion though..

    • 4
Aug 31, 2014

You're totally correct -- I had just hoped that by sharing my experience and trying to make it seem not so "scary", some people might feel more confident going into the test!

    • 1
Aug 29, 2014

Congrats on the score and your MBB job.

Would be cool if you did another post on your experience while applying/getting into a top b-school but I guess that's...2 years away?

Aug 31, 2014

Thank you! I'll be applying to b-school in about a year, so not too far off!

Aug 29, 2014

where do you find the GMATPrep tests?

Aug 29, 2014

Also, does it matter which edition of the official guide and official review books for quant and verbal I get?

Aug 31, 2014

GMATPrep is software you can download from MBA.com.

I don't really think the edition matters... I had the newest editions, but you can probably get away with an older one. You're just going to use it to do practice problems.

Aug 29, 2014

Great write up, thanks for sharing!

Aug 29, 2014

As a Kellogg Alum, you guys need to live by the golden rule of the GMAT inherent to MBA admissions, especially in these times with much heightened competition:

A good score won't get you in, but a bad score will keep you out.

GL.

Aug 29, 2014

MBB will pay for gmat prep before you start? that's pretty nice

Aug 31, 2014

Indeed, it is very nice!

Aug 30, 2014

Congrats on the score! my test coming up in a month.

Aug 30, 2014

Book marked for future reference. Well some on the score.

Strength & Honour
Lads pass exams

Aug 28, 2014

Haha I gotcha.. well if a test scares you, you might have other issues but a being a little bit nervous can be a good thing.

Aug 31, 2014

Good write-up. For those coming from an unrelated educational background, say liberal arts, and working in a different field, you'll need more than 5 weeks.

Sep 2, 2014

interesting

Sep 24, 2014

Hey, I am planning on starting to create my study plan in the next couple weeks and had some questions for you.
1) Did you at all use the online resources? I am thinking about just buying the books you mentioned in the post instead.
2) How much does the GMAT change on a year to year basis? I know that the 5th edition of the set of 10 books is out, but a 6th edition is coming out in december. Should I wait, or does it really not matter?

Aug 29, 2014

Good job on the GMAT..but you do know the cardinal GMAT rule for B-school..a good score won't get you in but a bad score will keep you out.

Good luck.

Aug 15, 2015

Thanks for the post and congratz on your success.

Aug 29, 2017

Bookmarked!!!

Jan 18, 2018

Question: would you consider preparing for the GMAT only with the 3 OG books and 6 CATs? (i.e. no prep course)

Best Response
Jan 18, 2018

If your initial practice tests are 700+ it may be enough.

My first exams with minimal study were in the 580-610 range. I ended signing up for online classes (Veritas Prep with Ravi / Math Revolution online course), as well as GMAT Club's question bank. Ended up improving my score by 150+ points.

I'd recommend also checking out the "How I got a 770 on the GMAT . . . whitecollarandsuspenders version" post

    • 3
Jan 18, 2018
Jan 18, 2018
Jan 18, 2018