Not doing too well with my GMAT. Need advice

dreamtobeabanker's picture
Rank: Baboon | 157

Hello WSO,

I am preparing for my GMAT in order to apply for top a 20 MBA program. After preparing for a month and a half, my GMAT practice scores seem to be pretty lousy (sub 620). I was always a terrible standardized test taker. I could do well in my APs, school/ college work, Math exams (Calc, Stats, etc), but I had tough time with critical thinking exam problems such as the SAT and now GMAT. I got into a ok college with a GPA 3.65 major finance minor econ, so I don't think of myself intellectually inferior, but I am a point of desperation.

I may not be able to apply for an MBA program, due to this gmat score problem, and I wondering if I am intellectually capable of achieving a score above a 700 or even a low 650. I was wondering if anyone has had a similar situation and how did they over come the GMAT.

Did you get a low score and still get accepted into your top 20 mba program? Did you get a special tutor? Use a special prep course? Bribe the GMAC (joking)? Pay Russian hackers to rig your score(joking)?

I am planning on appylying for the class starting in 2018.

Many thanks in advance

Comments (42)

Jan 20, 2017

OP- I studied by myself my senior year of undergrad (using review books) and got a 640 on the GMAT in 2010. I then put the GMAT on hold, and spent the next 4 years as a naval officer. I took the GMAT again in 2015, but spent the $1,200 to take an online review course from Manhattan GMAT (and put about 400 hours into studying). This effort paid off, as I ended up getting a 730 on the actual GMAT.

My point being- take a review course (I am biased towards Manhattan GMAT). It is expensive, but I promise it will help. Don't slack either- if the review course says to do 7 hours of quant problems, do 7 (or, preferably, more). You can definitely do it; the GMAT is a very learnable test. Just put in the time, be disciplined, and you'll get at least a 700. Don't get discouraged

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Jan 20, 2017

How many hours of study did you put in per day if you don't mind me asking, weekday vs weekend? Also, how many questions would you do per day?

Also on regards with Manhattan GMAT, I have one of their books but they seem to have very few questions. I've always heard good things about them, but based on their books they seem to focus on test taking strategies.

Thanks for giving your background and advice.

Jan 21, 2017

I would study for like 2 hours on weekdays and then 6-8 on weekends.

You are right, the MGMAT books themselves have very few questions, but they reference specific questions in the GMAT Official Guides. You will learn a concept from MGMAT (geometry, etc...) and then the MGMAT class will recommend problem sets of geometry questions from the OG; it's really well organized, and def cements the concepts in your brain.

Also, download the GMAT software from the GMAC website. You will get 2 free practice tests on an interface that is IDENTICAL to the real GMAT. I'd save these two tests for late in your prep, because nothing will be more similar to the real test. The scoring is very accurate too; I think I got a 720 and a 730 on my GMAC practice tests (and 730 on the real exam).

Aug 29, 2017

This is encouraging to me

Jan 20, 2017

Sub 620 is not too bad.
I would recommend that you study for the GMAT for 3-4 months and then try again.
A lot of people start with a mid 500 score spend a few months to a year and get 700+.
I recommend checking GMATclub for courses review and other people debrief for more information.
Good luck.

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Jan 20, 2017

The problem seems to be that I am stuck at 620 or below and I am not getting any better.

Mar 7, 2017

Try getting a tutor. There are likely aspects of the exam that you have issues with that you may not realize. I had a great tutor that helped me find and eliminate my weak points raising my score nearly 100 points in a month.

Jan 20, 2017

What's your score breakdown and how are you currently studying? Also consider taking a GRE practice test; that exam may be more suited for you.

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Jan 20, 2017

610 verbal 32 quant 41. Not very good and i seem to be stuck there

Jan 21, 2017

How are you currently studying? What has your routine been in the past? Agree with the posters above that it is a learnable test. The fact that you're achieved academically before and have gotten into the 600 range probably means you're not approaching it in the right way. If I were you I'd take a class or get a tutor that puts you on a strict plan. Learn all the fundamentals for math and verbal very well and then start doing problems. Make sure you time yourself and do a thorough review on all the problems you get wrong(even the ones your get right).

I'm sure you can break 700, you're just going to have to want to.

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Jan 21, 2017

Well... I'm doing 15-20 problems a day and 30 on Saturday/Sunday not completely timed. I have been somewhat reviewing the problems that I get wrong, and I have started to notice repeated mistakes on what I think are tough questions. The problem is the OG review guide doesn't tell you what problems are tough and what "easy", more specifically what question would be a 600 lvl question vs a 700 lvl question.

Jan 22, 2017

Thats sounds like you're "studying" but there is definitely room for improvement. Just doing problems each day untimed without a formal review might not be enough for you. I stand by my original advice, get a tutor, find a new program etc that will help you get on a plan that you can execute.

Jan 21, 2017

Gmat Quantum online course is great and affordable - http://www.gmatquantum.com/sign-up/
You should focus a lot on verbal though as that's the way to raise your score quickly. MGMAT Sentence Correction and Critical Reasoning books are solid, I think reading comp is tougher to learn but just need to practice and continually read dense material such as the economist to get used to more academic type writing

Jan 22, 2017

Thank you everyone for your response. I will keep you posted on my progress.

Jan 23, 2017

Given your most recent scores I would advice you to really hammer down on the theory. I understand it might seem tedious or repetitive at first, but the questions you are getting wrong are in the 600-650 or even 550-600 range, and those mostly rely on a good conceptual understanding of the subject. Once you reach the 650+ range problems will start getting tricky in terms of phrasing/critical thinking/etc.

Best of luck! (P.s. although incremental increases in your verbal score will significantly up your total score, most MBAs will probably want to see high quant scores (47+) as well given your background).

Jan 23, 2017

I agree that you should study the concepts. It will feel repetitive. A lot of people do not like the Kaplan books because the questions are not actual GMAT questions (according to online reviews), but they do a pretty good job of explaining the concepts. Also, when reviewing questions you got wrong, check out gmatclub .com for some alternate explanations. The way to arrive at the right answer(especially quant) is not one size fits all. It's been mentioned on here, but download the GMATprep software and take their practice tests. The average of the 4 I took was 10 or 15 points off my actual score I think. You get two free and can reset, but you will get a few repeat questions. IMO it is worth buying the extra exam pack, as the first two are free anyways. Good luck

Jan 23, 2017

Take a class, for sure. They'll teach you the ins and outs of the GMAT and once you know how it works, you'll do well. Definitely focus on verbal, a mid to upper 30s verbal and a low to mid 40s quant will get you in the upper 600s.

Jan 23, 2017

I found that my best studying came once I started taking full (and timed) practice tests... I would do a full practice test every sat and sun about 4-5 weekends before my 3rd gmat (for my first two attempts, I had only done 1 full practice test and thought reviewing problems individually would be the best approach)... I think building your endurance is key, so forcing yourself to work through a practice test for 4 hours really helps. This will also help you quickly identify the types of questions you are seeing and learn shortcuts on how to approach them.

I went from 620->680->760 on my gmats, so don't lose hope and keep studying hard!

Jan 23, 2017

Yes you can. I went from a 580 (after a month of studying on my own) to a 680 after taking a Manhattan prep class and busting my ass to a 760 only 3 weeks later. Go to gmatclub.com and see their advice but i 100% rec. manhattan prep. Start narrowing down what you suck at and remember you can get so many points from verbal.

Jan 23, 2017

A lot of good suggestions already, and I will add my 2 cents for what its worth. I went from a 680 to a 740 in a month.

I mainly struggled with SC and to get better at it, I learned to identify the 6-7 types of problems that exist in SC. Once you can read the SC question and identify the structure, the answer becomes very obvious. I looked for key phrases to identify the structure. I didn't even read the entire sentence. In fact I recommend you don't read the entire sentence, because you end up picking an answer based on what sounds right, not what is grammatically correct.

Jan 23, 2017

My method was to buy and work through the Manhattan books and then I paid for access to the question banks on gmatclub.com and drilled questions nonstop and always read through all the explanations for all the questions on their forums. Well worth the money in my opinion.

Jan 23, 2017

OP, there could be so many non-issues here and it honest all depends. Here are a few tips I found to be most helpful:

  • Best value I got from MPREP and Veritas was their practice CATs. Very useful. You should be taking a practice CAT at least once/week. It helps you with your timing (not sure if that's an issue) and also throws a variety of different question types at different levels, and once you've taken a few tests over a certain timeframe, you can estimate your ability more precisely
    -> Study your CAT results. Do you have any timing issues? Notice you're spending too much time/getting too many problems wrong in a particular area?
    -> Whats great about MPREP practice CATs is that each question is categorized and you're able to see time spent on a problem
  • Utilize GMATclub.com. Learn how to navigate very well. Especially useful for alternate problem explanations.
    -> Put this together: once you find your "holes" as evidenced from your practice CAT, drill drill drill questions from GMATclub. They separate questions by topic areas and by difficulty
Jan 23, 2017

Thanks everyone. Much appreciated. I will take note of all of your suggestions and I will take a prep class.

Jan 24, 2017

Consider taking the GRE instead. @Xepa did this and is at Wharton.

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Jan 24, 2017

Something I'm debating, what is the rationale behind the difference?

...

Jan 24, 2017

GRE is easier tbh for most people from what I've read. Tons of Humanities and liberal arts majors take the GRE since it has way less math.

Jan 24, 2017

Other people have made great points; I'll add mine as someone who improved from a low 600's on my first GMAT practice test to clearing above a 750 on the real thing and received a BB offer from a non-target B-School and non-target undergrad.

Asking if you can get a low score and get into MBA programs is the wrong way to think about it. You might break in with a low GMAT balanced by some other extraordinary factors such as work experience or under-represented diversity (URM or gender), but you will then run into the challenge of recruiting for banking with a low GMAT. (Yes, we check the resume for it, and if it isn't there, we assume it's sub-700 and will ask in informationals or first-round interviews).

For non-target candidates, this is just another data point nail in the coffin that will impede your recruiting efforts. Also, since it is almost 100% within your control, unlike your undergraduate GPA which is already cemented, you should prioritize getting a 700+ score at this stage above almost all else. If you are not an under-represented minority, you will have even less room for error. Definitely get all your ducks in a row.

If you really want to do what it takes to get a 700+ GMAT score, you need to put in effort (hundreds of hours) and study efficiently (targeted on improving your weaknesses). Others in this post have already covered what it takes, and I would
add Reddit's experience to the mix
https://www.reddit.com/r/GMAT/top/?sort=top&t=all . Happy to answer other questions that are not personally identifying.

[P.S. MS does not change the validity of my advice, if you have an argument, reply to my comment]

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Jan 24, 2017

Some great comments and advice here.

I would also recommend checking out Magoosh. Their videos and practice problems are fantastic and the whole premium package is only $149. Their videos cover every topic in enough detail to really grasp how concepts work, how the GMAC structures questions, and how to avoid various pitfalls. As a caveat I used it mainly for quant with a little verbal and IR as well.

I went from scoring 690 on my first real test (June, using MGMAT and GMATPrep questions and practice tests) to 750 (98th percentile) on my second attempt after using Magoosh. The key, however, isn't the material you use, but how you use it and how disciplined you are. After scoring that 690 I was demoralized but vowed to work harder to improve my score since I had scored 720 on a couple practice tests. After signing up for Magoosh I watched every single quant video and about a quarter of the verbal videos (where I needed improvement). I usually watched the videos and did practice problems through Magoosh's online portal and mobile app for 2-4 hours per night and 6-8 hours on Sundays. On Saturdays I would go into the office and take a practice test in the morning to replicate real test-taking settings and have a quiet place to concentrate.

Hope this is somewhat insightful and best of luck! Stay focused and disciplined, know your weaknesses, and improve on them and you'll be fine.

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Jan 24, 2017

Just keep up the grind. It can be kind of demoralizing for sure when your score isn't going up. MGMAT guides + OG + GmatPrep should be sufficient to score 700+ with ~3 months of prep.

Jan 24, 2017
  1. Buy the Manhattan GMAT books. They are the GMAT bible.
  2. Buy the Official GMAT guide with its however many hundreds of questions.
  3. Work the MGMAT books. BUT, and this is huge -- don't passively read. Read a concept, read it again if you need to, read it 5x more times if you really need to, and then do 10+ problems, of varying difficulty. I'm serious. This is absolute key. Passive reading may work for some, but for many it'll be a waste of time and effort. The GMAT is a test you can learn -- the best way to do this is through doing problems after each concept. If you get something wrong, go back, understand what you got wrong, and then re-do the problems the next day until everything is right.
  4. It takes different people ridiculously different amounts of time to study for the GMAT. I know a friend who needed 2 months to get a 780. No joke. I know another who studied for over a year and could never break 720. Another studied on and off (I strongly recommend against this) for just under a year to get a 760. I took 6 months to get to a 750.
  5. Discipline is key. Constant repition is also. Every day you should be doing some kind of GMAT work, even if you take only 10 minutes to answer the GMAT Club's questions of the day.
  6. Don't get discouraged. See #4 and #5 when you do. Different people need different amounts of time. Discipline is key.
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Mar 1, 2017

Thanks man. I'll follow your instructions

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Jan 25, 2017

Would taking the GRE be acceptable for a top 20 b-school? I have a finance major and work in financial services in MO functions, I'm American born and raised native english speaker. I took a quick look at the GRE and it does not have sentence correction (I've sucked a grammar since grade school).

Jan 25, 2017

I totally recommend having private classes. I didn't take them because I passed all CFA exams on my own and thought that it would be the same for GMAT. However realized that GMAT has many tricks, unlike CFA exams.

Got stuck at 690, but I would bet I would get +700 with classes.

Got accepted at a top 10 MBA outside USA (LBS, INSEAD).

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Jan 26, 2017

Agree with above posts.

I was also having hard time improving my score. For me, the anxiety was a big factor. I would do well on the practice CATs but when it came to the real test, I would get super alert and stressed. I did more practice CATs to overcome the anxiety.

Hope it helps. You re not alone buddy! Just more practice and figure out where you are messing up - the studying part or timing .... or like me the anxiety.

Good luck!

Best Response
Jan 26, 2017

OP, I'm on vacation and forgot my laptop, so I apologize in advance for not reading all the posts on this thread, but you didn't even list how you've prepared, making it almost impossible to give you guidance. Here is what I did as an undergrad to score a 700. I am confident that if I retook the exam, I could score well over 740 because I really did not do a good job at preparing for quant the first time around.

  • I don't know how the essay section has changed, but Google "GMAT Chinese Burned" and read that guy's post. Again, that essay part might now be gone.
  • Get the Manhatten books (should be ~$150 or so), all THREE official guides (the fat one, the verbal, and the quant), and the advanced math Manhatten book.
  • Set a deadline. I personally study much better if I know that I only have X more days/weeks. I also study better on a tight schedule and if I give myself one day a week off. Find what works best for you.
  • I don't think you broke out your score, but if you're a native English speaker (I'm not) you should be scoring very high, as in >95th percentile, on verbal. If you're struggling with verbal, start reading more. Google "GMAT fiction", print out that list from GMAT Club, and dust off you library card. The verbal section should be a cake walk if you read quality books regularly.
  • Forget the unofficial practice tests. I would only use the official tests. I got mine in a CD, but I think GMAC lets you download them now. Call me crazy, but I don't see the point in taking practice tests that are not official. To do well on the GMAT, you need to understand the concepts so that you can use tricks to solve the problem. If you're solving the problem outright, you're losing valuable time. Because of this, more difficult problems from unofficial practice tests make no sense. Just my two cents. YMMV and all that.
  • Once you are in the upper 600s or low 700s, try to get books specific to one area. Jeff Sackman (sp?) makes great quant stuff. There are great LSAT books that help with critical reasoning. You will need to Google this yourself as I took the GMAT a while back.

I hope that helps. Don't apply with your current score. You're really doing yourself a disservice. I honestly think you just failed to prep correctly. Good luck.

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Aug 29, 2017

You are fully capable of getting a 750+ gmat score I promise you that. I got a 2.5 in college, average school, and studied my way to a 750. If I continued to study I have no doubt I could have gotten an 800, and my starting point was a 500... This is not BS, I'm not smarter than you, I just worked harder. If you really want to do well than stop whining and study your ass off - 25+ hours a week of efficient effort and you'll get there no problem. Treat it like a full time job for the next month. If you don't get there it's not because you're not capable it's because you didn't work hard enough.

Aug 29, 2017
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