I have planted lots of trees right from my childhood in several cities in India. But, last Saturday I did the same in Chicago by volunteering along with a group and planted lots of pine trees. ‘Trees Across the Miles’ is a Not-For-Profit organization run by Harold, a part-time employee of a Landscaping agency and has been doing it since 1990s. I came across the event while I was just browsing ‘Volunteers’ column in Craigslist. The moment I read about trees and green cover, I shot a mail to the group and confirmed my participation. The unpleasant weather did raise a lot of question marks, but what the heck I had made up my mind and nothing could stop me.
As usual, I reached the planting location on Indian Stretchable Time [15min later] and was guided by Harold on tree planting tips. Right-sized holes were already dug by using power-drill and I had to just plant the seedlings, cover up the root with several layers of soil, lay the metal support columns and cover with metal mesh. Of course, I had to water them and someone had to secure the mesh to the columns. Tree-planting is nothing new to me as I did a lot of gardening since childhood until 2000, when I ceased being ‘down to earth’ in my acts.
I felt a little weary, but I had this weird feeling of happiness that one feels after helping a needy person. I also noticed that the residents of the locality did turn a blind eye to our activities. I have seen the local folk generally turn inquisitive and ask a few questions, but this Saturday everyone was probably preoccupied with their Saturday night parties. Or may be they thought that the volunteers were actually paid-landscapers doing their job. Whatever it is, the true beauty of such ventures will come to light only when the local community gets involved in such ventures and take care of their own backyard. There is not much that can be done by a group of 15 volunteers, though their role is commendable. So it is entirely upto the gas-guzzler driving, the inconsiderately littering, the consumerist and ignorant populace to pick up the hint that their next summer and winter are going to be hotter and colder than hell and that they must do something about it. Planting a tree is the best way to start. I don’t mean that a tree is a definite solution that will save this world, it is just symbolic. A mind that thinks about a tree will slowly realize about other eco-friendly aspects and will work towards a sustainable tomorrow.
Hm, where is Mr Al Gore- the potential Green president? Will he ‘run’ for the Prez or will he be side-lined because he doesn’t look ‘fit’?
My GMAT preparation started in the 3rd week of January and went on till July-end, sometimes on full throttle, some times just idling and making no progress. I bought a laptop and ordered the Official Guide 2006 online in Amazon. I already had a Barons GMAT guide, bought only for its cheap $, to familiarize with the different sections, scores and timelines. I also bought a Kaplan 2006 edition in India to utilize my wait time before I flew to Chicago. Amazon took its own sweet time to deliver the books and I was forced to go online for GMAT tips and tricks even before I learned ropes. I read and reread lots of ‘My GMAT’ stories like this one in gmatclub.com, pagalguy.com and similar websites. I made a mental note of the books, methodology, preparation time and exam tips from the 100s of confessions that I read and decide to carve my own customized plan for I believed what clicks for one person may not even be within scope for another. I also jotted down my strengths and weakness to come out with a balanced plan. To my horror, I found out that the weakness section was overpopulated like India and the strengths section was like Death Valley-CA.
Most of February was spent in dreaming about scoring 800 and getting admitted to Stanford, Harvard etc with a free ride and didn’t accomplish much in terms of preparation. But, I read lots of magazines and blogs online. I also referred a basic English grammar book and kept drawing detailed plans of taking GMAT in Mid-April. I was sick of waiting for my Official Guide and began preparation with Kaplan 2006, of course punctuated with a lot of dreams about getting that $200K-job post-MBA, Triumph Rocket III, Open-top Roadster etc. I was also annoying my roommate with all the phrases that I came across in my prep. Then, a hefty parcel arrived from Amazon.
It was in March that I took a GMAT sampling test and realized that I need to keep myself awake for the full 4hour test duration to even go past 700, let alone 800. I was shuffling preparation between Kaplan and the Official Guides [called OG]. I maintained metrics for the percentage correct in each section and prayed that it improves quickly. But, I missed an important point of understanding each and every answer and why not the other answers. This proved very troublesome later on and I had to put in a titanic effort in the later stages to arrest this shortcoming, I was regularly solving problems for about 3 to 4 hours every weekday and about 5hours interspersed with TV, eating, sleeping on weekends. I found early mornings to be the best time for preparation and allotted the 2am to 6am time zone for the same. Initially, it was difficult, but later on got used to it.
A few more months of similar pointless preparation ended in me trying out mock test thinking that I will score 750+, but I didn’t even touch 600. I was kissing the earth, feet firmly on the ground, and at my humblest. I even had thoughts of not doing an MBA, becoming an entrepreneur [a successful one?] and do MBA-bashing. But reality struck me hard and fast and I redrew my preparation plan and postponed the likely test date by a month, which I ended up repeating often. I was good in Problem Solving [PS] and Critical Reasoning [CR], but had a few problems and made silly-mistakes in Reading Comprehension [RC] and Data Sufficiency [DS]. But I was totally rubbish in Sentence Correction [SC]. To stem this down flow of marks, I bought Manhattan SC guide and started again from the basics and felt confident about systematically solving SC problems. For the other sections, I didn’t follow such detailed techniques as I was fairly familiar with such problems for a long time and solved them instinctively.
I also had to hoard lots of mock GMAT tests for the last few weeks and made a list of tests available with me GMAT Prep, Kaplan, Manhattan GMAT, some free tests. I also took some tests to know where exactly I stand- I was outside the competitive zone with scores beginning with 5s and 6s. I was unhappy with my performance for I felt competent enough when analyzing the test answers. I generally made mistakes in the last few eliminations and made a bulk of mistakes in SC. With distractions like long weekends, Chicago summer daylight, Auto racing season, movies etc I booked a test date for July-end through mba.com and drafted a last mile plan. Whether I followed it or not is a different issue. I also bought Kaplan 800 to aid my high ambitions.
Having survived this schedule for nearly 5months, I was ready for the last month drag with full focus on the test. I even gave up cooking and ate in restaurants to eke time from my daily grind and invest in my preparation. It was frustrating, demanding and exhausting me for every friend I knew was enjoying the summer sun and hitting New York, Niagara, Oregon, Virginia and was only distracting me. But I remained steadfast and even cancelled my plans to go to Indianapolis to watch the Formula 1 Grand Prix and Monterey CA to watch the MotoGP and I didn’t even know whether I will get a second chance to watch Grand Prix races in my life. For a self-confessed auto-maniac, it was a tough call for I knew that was the closest I would ever get to a Grand Prix venue and season. But nothing could stop me, I had banished all such temptations from my mind and picking up valuable experience from the many mock tests and was hurtling towards GMAT.
On THAT day, I completed the test and walked out of the test centre, not an unhappy man, and decided to go ahead with the application process.
The material, preparation methodology and online resources are available in heaps for any person targeting GMAT. But this write-up will be useless if I don’t give my plan for GMAT as if I were to take it up again. So here it goes - Order the latest GMAT Official Guides - Buy Kaplan premier and start solving problems - Solve sectional problems in Kaplan - Take the mock tests in Kaplan - Introspect on the scores and draw up the strength and weakness chart - Buy Manhattan SC guide, learn only the types of SC questions tested in GMAT and use a good grammar book for help - Join a GMAT prep group, online or physical, and share inputs - Join online forums like GMATClub, Pagalguy and ScoreTop, solve questions online and discuss results - Solve questions in OGs and pay attention to every question and answer. Maintain metrics. - Take GMAT prep mock tests and concentrate the next stage prep on all areas - Buy Kaplan 800 and solve difficult problems - Take Manhattan GMAT mock tests - You are ready for GMAT
My estimated preparation time should be 4months with 4hours preparation per day [4x4]. Make good use of weekends, chill out frequently and read a lot. Be prepared to turn around and attack when the first attempt yields an unsatisfactory score.
I have made up my mind to revive my blog which had been in deep slumber for the last 8months. But, I am doubtful in which direction this blog will head. Will it be personal, IT professional, Bschooler, traveller, political, opinion or junk mix? Junk mix seems more like it though I will refer to my biker blog from time to time to keep this blog off grease, oil, rags and dirty palms.