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Mike’s GMAT Experience

This was a GMAT I was taking both for information-gathering purposes as well as with the intention of doing well.  It’s hard to balance those two.  My results (750, 98th percentile) are not bad at all, but certainly not the best I could do, were scoring high my sole goal.  My first time taking the GMAT, over a year ago, I got a 770 (V44, Q50).  Here are some thought on my experience.

NOTE: I skipped the AWA.  Since one of the purposes was to get an experience of what GMAC was doing these days, spending a 1/2 hour writing was not going to give me any more information about them. Since this does not play into the composite score, I simply left it blank.  I do not recommend that you do so if you are actually applying to B-school!


Integrated Reasoning

This section was the only one that felt like a time-crunch.  The first three were MSR questions, very detailed, which took an enormous amount of time to process.  After those three, I felt like I was playing catch-up during the rest of the section.  I can’t tell you the relief I felt later on easier-to-complete IR question types — “ah, just a graph!”  There were not many TA questions, and if I recall correctly, there were the most 2PA questions, which make sense, because that’s a highly versatile question.  Many of the 2PA questions were purely mathematical, but one was very much like a classic logic puzzle: a list of characters, a list of tasks, and a list of constraints (A can’t work with D, C can’t work on Task #2, etc.)  The GI questions were a fascinating array of graphs & charts & diagrams.  In addition to standard mathematical graphs (pie, column, bar, scatterplot, etc.), make sure that you are comfortable with reading flowcharts, including flowcharts with a variety of pathways.

I used the IR calculator very little, finding it much faster to estimate, especially using visual estimation with the graphs.  There were a few calculations, though, on which I did have to resort to the calculator because the numbers were too close and/or too complicated.



What always impresses me is GMAC’s ability to take basic math concepts and frame a question about it in a way one has never seen.  Even relatively standard question (percents, three-circle Venn Diagrams, etc.) were phrased in ways I hadn’t seen before: a unique combination of information given and information sought.  Kudos to them for their creativity!

It’s so important to be fluent and flexible with all the fundamental ideas: fractions, percents, exponents, & roots: you never know how the next math question could ask you to re-think any of those ideas.  In the Quant section, I used the notepad frequently, jotting down quick calculations, and especially for sketching diagrams when a diagram was described but not given.

As it happens, I did not see a whole lot of algebra: for example, nowhere on the Quant section did I have to solve two equations with two unknowns.  I did have one question on which having Pythagorean triplets memorized was a huge time-saver.  Of course, to some extent, both of those are examples of luck-of-the-draw.  GMAC has hundreds of questions, and you see only 37 on your unique Quant sections, so of course that may not represent the full gamut of possible topics, and may include one or two relatively idiosyncratic topics.



Again, I am impressed with the breadth and range of GMAC questions.  For example, many practice SC I have seen on the web, for example in the forums, are formulaic.  At Magoosh, we strive to avoid that in writing SC questions.  There is absolutely nothing formulaic about SC questions, about the splits they have, about the choices with which they confront you.

For the SC, many standard grammar issues, certainly parallelism, their single favorite grammar issue.  On several, though, the choices were demanding: they have a gift for capturing those gray areas in the mind of even a native speaker.  For any non-native speaker, this is so important: in addition to learning the rules of grammar, it is absolutely crucial to read high level English and to engage in conversation with highly literate native English speakers.

The CR followed the standard question types, no surprises there.  As always, GMAC is brilliant at constructing wrong-answer distractors.

On the RC, there was a heavy emphasis on the hard sciences, at least on the passages I saw.  Again, to some extent, this is also luck-of-the-draw, but it certainly behooves you to get into the practice of reading hard science every once in a way.  Scientific American magazine can be an excellent source for this.  I had three medium-size passages (3 questions each) and one long passage (4 questions).  Of course, the RC questions were clustered together by passage, but the SC and CR were interspersed.


Energy Level

I will say, this time sitting for the GMAT, energy was a challenge.  I felt sharp and focused through the IR & Quant sections, but I started to enter a different “zone” somewhere in the Verbal section — less present, less able to focus, less sharp.  I was definitely not at my very best through the end of that section.

Why this happened, I’m not sure.  The GMAT format is a long and demanding experience: make sure you are physically tip-top in every way you can.  For myself, I have been getting good sleep, and I haven’t had alcohol of any sort in about a week: both, recommendations I would make.  I had a large lunch the day before, so I had just a light dinner the evening before — perhaps a sizable dinner would have given me more sustained energy through the whole test, so that’s a recommendations I will make.  Arguably, my cardiovascular endurance level is not anywhere near peak condition: perhaps simply a more regular exercise routine would have given me greater stamina during the test: I will recommend regular exercise, for its own benefits as well as for your GMAT performance.  It probably didn’t help that I was in my early twenties back when Germany was still two separate countries: admittedly, it’s harder to give a practical recommendation along these lines (gather ye GMATs as ye may?)

The overall moral is: no matter how well prepared you are for the content of the test, do not underestimate the sheer physical & intellectual & emotional demand of sitting for a GMAT, and make sure your body & mind are in an optimal place to handle the challenge.


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21 Responses to Mike’s GMAT Experience

  1. jaspreet June 23, 2017 at 12:42 pm #

    Hi Mike,

    I’m a complete newbie in maths.I scored 35% in my 10 grade (Indian Standard ) and after that never touched any math book until 2015 when I decided to do the GMAT.I didn’t have any about the GMAT back then so I read manhattan’s foundation books and gave the GMAT exam and got 390.Now it’s 2017,by now I have learned quite a few things from khanacademy basicand pre algebra and soon moving to algebra 1 I have sent an email to magoosh asking at what level of math is required before purchasing your gmat membership as I have wasted so much time and money on GMAT stuff that I didn’t understand .My question is is it true that I need to have knowledge of college level of math or is it high school math.I believe this question will help many other people too.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert June 23, 2017 at 11:21 pm #

      Hi Jaspreet,

      The GMAT tests somewhere between what people would call “high school math” and “college math.” The main types of math that you will encounter on the test are:

      -Properties of integers
      -Real numbers
      —Ratio and proportion
      —Powers and roots of numbers
      -Descriptive statistics
      -Counting methods
      -Discrete probability

      None of these are super advanced, so the key to GMAT success is also mastering the test’s question types, which can definitely be done. I hope that helps! 🙂

  2. Al August 25, 2015 at 9:15 am #


    thanks for the rundown– very helpful.

    My question is, do they give you the notepad as you walk in before the essay/IR sections? I ask because, it would help me a lot to grid out the notepad for the quant section scratch work, including timing milestones, before the actual quant section begins. So would I be able to take a minute at the end of the essay section and map out my quant scratch sheet grid, then to return to that same notepad after the break between IR and quant, ready to go?


  3. AbhiJ October 24, 2012 at 9:15 am #

    You scored Q55, thought Q51 was the highest possible score. You faced only 3 RCs, 4 RCs are the norm. Seems you had somewhat of a different experience.

    • Mike MᶜGarry
      Mike October 24, 2012 at 11:55 am #

      Dear AbhiJ,
      Actually, both the Q & V scoring scale go up to 60, although it would be quite a feat to achieve 60 on either of them. As for the number of RC passages, that was a misprint on my part —– I just corrected that. Thank you for catching that.
      Mike 🙂

  4. Eraj October 18, 2012 at 7:47 am #

    Great job Mike! You did it, hats off! But actually, I kind of saw it coming and believed that you can easily ace it! I wish, I had that score, kudos to you!

    • Mike MᶜGarry
      Mike October 18, 2012 at 11:25 am #

      Thank you very much for your kind words!
      Mike 🙂

  5. GMAT Club September 27, 2012 at 11:54 am #

    Thank you for sharing! Would you mind sharing your Raw Scores for Q and V sections?

    P.S. I got 750 on mine (49,42) 🙂

    • Mike MᶜGarry
      Mike September 27, 2012 at 2:11 pm #

      My 750 was a Q = 55, but then primarily because I was running out of gas on that last section, V = 40. Not my finest, to be sure.
      Mike 🙂

      • Deepesh October 2, 2012 at 4:51 am #

        HI Mike a quick question on understanding what Q=55 and V=40 means …its more about the score it a complex scoring system ?

        I understand its 55/60 and 40/60 ..but in terms of interpreting how many questions were correctly answered over the total questions ? Or if u have a link to understanding the scoring would be of great help.


        • Mike MᶜGarry
          Mike October 2, 2012 at 10:18 am #

          Deep: I’m sorry, but this is like asking: “Explain in one sentence how to determine what the price of gold will be next week.” You have no idea how much complexity lies beneath your seemingly simple question. GMAT score is determined by a proprietary algorithm which GMAC has never released. First of all, even if I knew it, it would be 100% illegal to publish it on this blog. Furthermore, unless you have a PhD in something like psychometrics, you probably wouldn’t even understand the algorithm. There is absolutely no simple formula — this many right/wrong means this score, I will suggest, check out this blog where I discuss the CAT in detail:

          Does all this make sense?
          Mike 🙂

          • Deepesh October 2, 2012 at 11:14 am #

            Mike..thats perfectly fine..I’ll go through the link you shared….its just that I was wanting to improve my score and though realize content is more important so was trying to solve the puzzle…anyways every question requires the best answer in the shortest possible time..thats the true game I think…

            Appreciate it though..


            • Mike MᶜGarry
              Mike October 2, 2012 at 2:42 pm #

              Yes, the that’s the true game. When you’re in the real GMAT, do your best on the question in front of you, hit submit, and forget about it.
              Mike 🙂

  6. Deepesh September 27, 2012 at 10:08 am #

    Hi Mike…thanks a ton !!

    I have been waiting ever since u published on the blog u’d be giving the GMAT again to taste the flavour this time.Truly well elaborated, must have been a task estimating the patterns and scoring well too..more appreciative is the way u present it here..communicating it flawlessly. Truly agree with the part on physical stemina, I have been trying to research various ways of kinds of dinner to have the night previously and foods to have in morning for quiet concerned this way ..being I’d want to proceed the test with high energy levels and excellent concentration and sharpness.. but for some reason get psyched out initially..guess its something with the diet..I faced this recently while giving the TOEFL(giving back again after 7 years) too..guess good sleep and an excellent diet are important too…

    Apart Quant and Verbal is good..but IR seems to be the pain quiet intimidating infact..are the IR questions adaptive in nature too..incase u get one wrong the next difficulty level would be of a different level ?

    In any case Kudos to the excellent performance..always look forward to reading your blogs and scheduled for Nov 6th..

    Thanks again..

    Cheers !


    • Mike MᶜGarry
      Mike September 27, 2012 at 10:18 am #

      The IR section is NOT adaptive — you just get a batch of 12 questions, and however you do, those are the questions you get.
      Thank you for your kind words.
      Mike 🙂

  7. Voodoo Child September 27, 2012 at 4:51 am #

    Mike – Congratulations! Thanks for your comments. Do you think that the CRs were similar to OG or tougher than OG?


    • Mike MᶜGarry
      Mike September 27, 2012 at 10:04 am #

      Voodoo — I would say the CR on the live GMAT were on par with CR in the OG. The OG is an excellent guide of what to expect in many ways.
      Mike 🙂

  8. Leandro Portela September 27, 2012 at 4:10 am #

    Thanks for your post!
    Your advices go far beyond math and verbal contents. That´s why I really love magoosh!
    And Mike, go to bike and get hiked!

    • Mike MᶜGarry
      Mike September 27, 2012 at 10:05 am #

      Thank you very much!
      Mike 🙂

  9. Charlotte September 26, 2012 at 10:53 pm #

    Thank you! That’s an interesting summary!

    I personally have given myself a break from GMAT after 100 hours of studying and not much improvement (first test 540, last test -one of the GMAC free ones – 580). I bet it’s verbal that kills me, although quant needs some work on too (I’m just so unused to mental calculation)!

    What would you say it’s “high level English” lecture material? (I am outside the US, so online versions would be much appreciated) I don’t really have much access to “Highly literate natives” unfortunately. What do you recommend to boost the verbal section a bit?

    • Mike MᶜGarry
      Mike September 27, 2012 at 10:11 am #

      I would say: develop the habit of reading the New York Times & Wall Street Journal, two fine newspapers, as well as two periodicals: the Economist Magazine and the New Yorker. I believe if you pay, you can get full access to these online. Those are excellent sources in print. If you go online, I believe you can get access to the Jim Lehrer News Hours on PBS — that would keep you well informed of political issues, and the level of discussion tends to be quite high. I hope this helps.
      Mike 🙂

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