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To Tackle The GMAT You Need Outside Help!

HEC Paris applicant on how she overcame the dreaded GMAT

By  Paméla Chin Foo

Wed Aug 18 2010

Last time I posted a blog I was explaining my school selection methodology. Now with my b-school selection in mind, I checked their GMAT range. You can find them in the b-school profiles from Business Week.

At that time (using data from the 2007 intake), they were as follows:
London Business School
Mean GMAT score 682
Median GMAT score 680
Middle 80% range GMAT from 620 to 740

Mean GMAT score 657
Median GMAT score 655
Middle 80% range GMAT from 600 to 780

Basically, a score of 680 would give me good chances to both LBS and HEC and that’s what I aimed for.

Note: I never aimed for a 700+ score. Of course, getting such a score is nice to have, but I’d rather spend time polishing my essays than studying for the GMAT. Reading stories of people getting dinged without interview despite a GMAT of 750 make me believe I was right.

I took a free trial test at the Paris Kaplan center without knowing anything about the GMAT and scored 610.

As it was my first interaction with the test ever, I was surprised by the way many of the questions were formulated. I found there was a lot to learn. I then registered for a 1 week training session at Kaplan in order to ramp up quickly and learn a few GMAT tricks. The training session also included a set of 10 online tests which I found very useful.

My GMAT Preparation Method:
Note: I did my studies at Kaplan but I’m sure the method I used is applicable to other GMAT preparation centres.

Learn to quickly identify your weaknesses on different question types. Not only data sufficiency vs. Problem solving, or critical reasoning vs. sentence correction vs. reading comprehension, but in terms of geometry vs. algebra vs. probabilities.

It will allow you to identify exercises to focus on, especially if you have a fat book like they have at Kaplan with many exercises based on types.

If you can, also identify the time you spend on each question type. (For Kaplan online test users, it’s written on the result sheet). Matched with the error rate, it provides available information about which types of questions gather a lot of errors and waste of time. This information can help prepare your test strategy.

Always make a documented guess on certain types of questions in order to save time to secure others.

Alright, time-off for a bit.

One thing I did that was pretty unconscious was that I decided to spend my last week of cram studying… in Tokyo.

Yes, that’s right… Japan.

So here I was, a 12 hours flight away and recovering from a 7 hours jet-lag, studying for my GMAT in the library of the University of Tokyo. I don’t recommend it to anyone, but studying for the GMAT at Todai fits my bill for cool activities ;)

It was in early August and besides studying I enjoyed the late hanabis in town, which was fantastic. The move was bold, but I can’t say I regret any of it.

I came back from Japan the night before my GMAT exam - which I sat in the morning of August 11th.
A few hours later, my score came out:

Verbal 34 - 69%
Quantitative 48 - 84%
Total 660 - 83%

A few weeks later, I received my analytical writing assessment results as well: 4.5 - 42%.

Actually, I was a bit disappointed as this score was lower than my 680 aim (and I had scored 700+ during my training), but the fact was that the score was well within the 80% range of both LBS and HEC (for which it was higher than the median).

So, instead of re-sitting the GMAT to improve my score, I decided to focus on writing fantastic essays.

Paméla Chin Foo is in the first year of the MBA at HEC Paris. This blog was originally published on May 24th 2009.