My GMAT experience: 610 (V36/Q38) to 760 (Q49/V45) in 70 days with a full-time job and as a non-native speaker

Executive summary:

  • Prep overview
  • Personal background
  • TTP
  • Prep strategy
  • Quant prep
  • Verbal prep
  • IR & AWA prep
  • Exam experience
  • Ending note

Prep overview:

  • Total hours of preparation and tools used:
  • TargetTestPrep: ~100h

  • OG practice: ~50h

Study schedule: 2-3 hours early in the morning before work


[01/05/2023] Practice 1: 610 - V36 | Q38 (cold)

[01/11/2023] Practice 2: 660 - V41 | Q40

[01/27/2023] Started TargetTestPrep subscription

[02/03/2023] Practice 3: 720 - V40 | Q49

[02/10/2023] Practice 4: 720 - V40 | Q48

[02/12/2023] Practice 5: 720 - V41 | Q48

[02/17/2023] Practice 1: 760 - V44 | Q49 (retake)

[02/22/2023] Practice 6: 740 - V44 | Q47

[02/24/2023] Official 1: 660 - V38 | Q44

[03/23/2023] Official 2: 760 - V45 | Q49 | IR6 | AWA5

Personal background:

UG SWE Major (GPA ~ 2.9)

WE: 2 years SWE, Entrepreneurship & Product Management.

Non-native speaker - From Hyderabad

First experience with standardized tests

TTP platform:

My entire strategy depended on TTP and honestly, I couldn’t have progressed as rapidly without it. Assessing my progress without the analytical dashboard would have been a chore. The ability to create custom practice tests made it very easy for me to try my weaknesses and focus on what mattered. The quantity and quality of the exercises and solutions are simply outstanding.

Furthermore, the TTP team was extremely responsive to all my questions and supportive throughout the process.

Do yourself a favor and give it a try, you won’t regret it.

Prep strategy:

My prep strategy was primarily practice based for Quant and Verbal. The only readings I did were the solutions to the exercises I failed. I didn’t really go through any courses other than that.

There are two reasons why I didn’t follow the time/stress-tested track laid out by TTP:

Lack of time

Optimizing Efficiency: TTP’s waterfall approach, while great for most people, didn’t quite resonate with me. I felt like I had a relatively good foundation, both quantitatively and verbally, and I needed a firm adjustment more than a complete overhaul.

The OG practice tests were used sparingly throughout my preparation to assess my overall level of preparation. I systematically reviewed all the mistakes I made on OG using GMAT Club.

After my first official test, I had attempted all of my mock exams and felt that there was too much redundancy for the retake score to have any substance. So I focused on the ttp during the 3 weeks between my first and second.

Quant prep:

My approach with the quant was fairly simple:

(1) Do custom practice test (31 hard/medium questions all chapters) with timer.

(2) Review mistakes

(3) Evaluate weakest chapters (analytical dashboard)

(4) Do 30 hard/medium questions on weakest chapters - no timer, focus on getting it right.

(5) Review mistakes

(6) Return to (1)

To help me assess my progress more quickly, I created a spreadsheet to which I fed my analytics to and which gave me an instant view of my weaknesses. I calculate a score that uses accuracy, quantity, time, and relative importance of chapters to determine my relative readiness for each chapter. Since the score is relative, my weakest chapters are constantly changing.

r/GMAT - Progress Assessment Spreadsheet

Progress Assessment Spreadsheet

So, each day I can open my sheet and choose the 3 weakest chapters I need to improve upon. When I’m done for the day, I update my sheet and get a new group of weak points to work on the next day.

From time to time, I take a diagnostic practice test to assess my overall preparedness.

My reasoning was that if I was able to score +85% on the TTP custom practice tests, I should be ready for the real thing.

Over time, my average accuracy on the TTP diagnostic test went from 60% to 90% and my relatively weak points were quite strong.

I attempted a total of about 1200 exercises, which was not even 50% of all TTP’s exercices.

Verbal prep:

With the exception of two outliers (cold and first official), I always scored decently on Verbal (+40). Oddly enough, I barely prepared for it (~20h including OG practice).

I think the main reason is my reading habit. I love to read. A lot of nonfiction books, non-contemporary novels, or undergraduate textbooks and research papers. I also actively annotate most of the books I read.

For anyone who struggles with verbal, I suggest choosing challenging books and actively reading them 2-3 hours a night before falling asleep.

Critical reasoning and reading comprehension problems were a non-issue and most errors were due to fatigue or lack of concentration.

At first, solving sentence corrections was mostly based on intuition and that worked well. But due to the lack of a clear solving process, my results varied from test to test. After my first official test, I focused on the hard and medium TTP questions and I thoroughly reviewed the solution. I think this probably saved me on the second official test.

Most of the verbal studying took place after my first official test.

I attempted 360 out of the 573 questions on TTP.

IR & AW prep:

For IR, no prep other than the OG practice test. If you are good with CR, RC and ok with quant, IR should be a breeze.

For AWA, I read this. Practiced once or twice (~2hrs total). I probably could have gotten a better score with better time management.

Exam day:

Official 1 (660): Quant —> Verbal —> IR —> AWA

I hadn’t slept at all in two days and had averaged two to three hours of sleep the week before. Insomnia is a recurring theme in my life for personal reasons.

I had booked for 10:30am and since it was clear I wasn’t going to sleep, I decided to go for a run at 6am and then take a cold bath to get some energy. After a quick breakfast and some much needed coffee, I sat down in front of my computer to write.

The proctor was very thorough in checking everything and after 20 minutes I was able to start the exam.

As soon as the quant started, it was pretty obvious to me that I had made a mistake writing the exam. My pattern recognition skills were failing and I had a terrible headache that completely obliterated my time management skills.

The verbal section was worse in nearly every way. I had to reread sentences several times to get the gist of them. Which, as you can imagine, did wonders for my timing (/s). I had to guess for the last 10 questions, which might explain my lacklustre result.

By the end of the verbal exam, I was pretty much convinced I was going to have to retake, so the IR and AWA were more about trying to stay awake than anything else.

Official 2 (760): Verbal —> Quant —> IR —> AWA

This time, things were less hectic. I managed to sleep well all week leading up to the test and got a good three hours of sleep the night prior ( which, given my prev experience, I was very thrilled about).

I also decided to start with the verbal to avoid the attention fatigue of my first exam.

The verbal was more difficult than expected and I remember a series of RC questions that I really struggled with and had to mostly guess (which had never happened before).

The Quant was a breeze. Focusing on the hard and medium TTP questions paid off. Most of the questions seemed accessible. The hard questions were easier than the harder TTP questions. The easy questions were a great confidence boost.

My score on IR & AWA ended up being relatively low but I’m cool with it.

Post exam:

I was placed on administrative review, which I expected considering my score increase.

Overall, I wasn’t really worried because I think AR is now standard practice for 700+ scores. I received the official score on April 13, which was 3 weeks after taking.

Ending note:

The GMAT is fairly deterministic and I think 700+ is attainable for most. I had a good baseline both in quant and verbal, but overall, I think the 150 increase is largely achievable with the right methodology and progress assessment.

FOCUS: Most of the mistakes I made towards the end were due to lack of focus. Meditation and sleep (when my brain allows it) helped a lot.

PRACTICE: fail repeatedly until you can succeed consistently. Practice as much as you can and focus on solving difficult problems, no matter how long it takes.

For me, TTP and OG practice are a no-brainer.

Best of luck!