I get easily annoyed with people who won't let things go. People make mountains out of molehills and obsess incessantly over things that ultimately are NOT THAT DEEP. They repaint the same wall over and over again because the color just isn't right. They play the same video game ad nauseum to best their already ridiculously high score. They can't move on to other things because they have yet to build a bridge and get the hell over it.
Such is the case with my relationship with the GMAT. The GMAT, that necessary evil that nearly every MBA applicant must endure (although for some it's the GRE). The exam that claims to only test what you learned in high school but somehow never actually serves up a problem any high school student would see. The GMAT, nearly 4 hours of mind numbing, nerve wracking, vomit inducing hell. After suffering through the GRE back in 2006 I promised myself that I would never take another standardized test again. Promises are meant to be broken.
In August 2010 I found myself at Borders purchasing the Kaplan GMAT 2011 Premier study guide (w/ CD-Rom). Over the next 2 months I also purchased the Official Guide for GMAT Review 12 edition, five Manhattan GMAT math strategy guides, and $79 worth of practice tests from www.gmatclub.com. I pored over fractions, prime numbers, and probability. I spent hours trying to comprehend the intricacies of data sufficiency. "Is x greater than 0?" Who the hell knows?
I would come home from work and attack practice problems until after midnight. My Saturdays consisted of practice exams followed by a detailed review of all of the questions I missed. There were a lot of them. I was consumed by the GMAT for well into the fall until one phone call rendered a November test date irrelevant. I got a new job...a job on the East Coast. After more than 8 years in the Midwest, I was finally coming home. Well close to home. Philadelphia is NOT New York City, but it's closer than Grand Rapids, MI and Minneapolis, MN could ever be. I packed up my GMAT study books along with my living room, bedrooms, dining room, bathrooms, and kitchen. I didn't look at anything GMAT related for months.
GMAT studying resumed with the new year. I planned to take the test in the spring so that I would have plenty of time to work on my applications. While I knew taking it early gave me time to retake it if necessary my plan was to make sure it would not be necessary. The GMAT is a $250 investment and I only wanted to invest once. With that in mind I was aiming high. When I first started started studying back in August I would have been happy with a 650 and elated with hitting 700. But trolling GMAT and MBA forums has a way of raising the bar. A 700 was no longer good enough. I wanted the holy grail: the 99th percentile. I wanted to go where only 1% of test takers go. I wanted to enter the exclusive club dominated by Indian engineers and Chinese finance jocks. I wanted to be more than great. I wanted to be exceptional. Plus, I realized I needed that kind of score. In full disclosure, my undergrad GPA left much to be desired (that F, second semester senior year was the nail in my GPA's coffin). I knew that I'd need a nosebleed score to truly offset it.
Studying became my life from February through May. I even enrolled in a prep class through Veritas Prep. On May 21, 2011 I headed to the testing center ready to annihilate the GMAT. After 2 essays, 37 quantitative problems, and 41 verbal questions I'd say it was a draw. 710. Q48, V40. 92nd percentile overall. Womp, womp. It's a decent score. Hell, it's a really good score. But I wanted more than really good. I wanted jaw-dropping. What I got was plenty good enough.
That's the dilemma. Do I take good enough and run with it? Or do I cough up another $250 (that my employer will NOT reimburse) and go for the score I really wanted? Now that I've seen the live test I'm pretty sure that I can improve my score with some more focused studying and lots more practice tests. My Verbal score can definitely go up. For the first time in my life I didn't reach the 90th percentile in the verbal section of a standardized test. It hurts my pride because Verbal is my thing. It's what I do. Ironically, I performed surprisingly well on the quantitative portion of the exam. While I usually hover between the 60th and 65th percentile in quant, all of my studying moved me into the 82nd percentile on the GMAT. Ahh, there's the rub. There is a very distinct chance that I could retake the test and raise my verbal score but lose ground in the quant. Plus, retaking the test doesn't really do me any good unless I can raise my score by 50+ points. Getting another 50 points out of the GMAT is much easier to do at a 650 than a 710.
I also know that there are many people who would kill for my score and can't catch a whiff of it no matter how much they study. However, every time I see someone with a higher score, especially a 760+ I know that that could be my score too. Yes, I worked my butt off for that 710. The amount of work I put in should tell me that I performed to my ability level. Yet something keeps nagging at me, telling me that 710 is just a baseline. Something keeps telling me that I didn't take as many practice tests as I could have, that there are other study guides I could review. However, people (very knowledgeable people) tell me to focus on my application essays and let the score ride. Maybe they are right. But there's something about the GMAT that just wont let me build that bridge and get over it.