I'm glad to say that after some hard work, I got a GMAT score that I'm proud of! I read a ton of posts on this forum that definitely helped me get my goal score. Let me take you through my journey, and hopefully you can learn from my mistakes
Here is an honest, journal-style in-my-head recap leading to my 730! Week of 12/3/2012:
Crap. I think I signed up for the GMAT in late December. Uhh, let me take a practice test...wait, my bday is coming up soon so instead I'm just gonna party for the next 10 days. I'll definitely start preparing after that... Week of 12/17/2012:
Okay. Haven't started studying yet, but I have a solid week off from work to really buckle down and study. Let me take a diagnostic test GMATPREP test, then spend 10 hrs/day working through OG practice problems, then take a final GMATPREP test the day before the exam. In college, I'd study the day before exams, so studying for 1 exam for a whole week should be fine! 12/19/12 GMATPREP1 (First Attempt): 640 (Q42 V37)
Okay. I can deal with that, I only had a loose understanding of what was covered on the GMAT. Once I work through the practice problems I can def. get a 700+ 12/21/12 GMATPREP1 (Second Attempt): 660 (Q44 V36)
Umm. Some improvement in Quant, I suppose that's good. I was an engineering student, I'm sure I can get a much better Quant score...40 points away from target, this isn't so bad. I just need to keep working through practice problems. 12/26/12 GMATPREP2 (First Attempt): 680 (Q47 V37)
680! Close, but I'm taking the test tomorrow. Can I really improve 20+ points in one night? Why isn't my verbal improving? I did like 100+ verbal questions and read the explanations. The questions on the prep tests seem a bit more difficult than the first 50 or so questions in the OG. I sure do hope that the OG isn't sorted by difficulty or anything. No, they wouldn't do that without any clear, obvious disclaimers. 12/27/12 (early AM, exam day):
Exam is at 3PM. Let me get a really intense workout beforehand, then have a huge, filling meal so that I am pumped up for the exam. 12/27/12 (3PM. Exam time):
I'm pumped up, I'm 30 minutes early, I know I can get that coveted 700+ GMAT score! I'm so energized from my workout and all those carbs I stuffed down my throat. Writing Section:
Okay, this isn't bad. Very simple argument, I'll just make an intro, body, and conclusion. IR:
WOW this is way tougher than I was expecting! These calculations are impossible!! How am I supposed to finish all 12 questions in 30 minutes when it takes me 6 minutes just to calculate something! I sure wish that I remembered how to do long division. Quant:
Hooray, first 15 questions were a breeze! Much easier than I've seen on GMATPREP. Hmm, these questions seem to be a lot more difficult now. Crap. I think I got ~10 incorrect questions in a row. Oh, great. 8 minutes left to answer 6 questions, this is going to suck. I failed. The only thing that would have led me to get a 700+ would have been a really great Quant score. This sucks. Game Over Verbal:
Screw it. I'm not taking a break. Let me just get through this, I don't want to be here anymore. Darn, I really messed up that quant section. I'm exhausted, I can barely keep my eyes open. Gosh these RCs are boring, and I can't ever find the error in these SCs. This whole verbal section is boring. I'm so sleepy. 12/27/12 Actual Exam #1 640 (Q49 V29 6AW 6IR)
49Q!! 49Q! Awesome! Oh, wait, what the heck!! 29 Verbal?!?!! I was scoring no where near a 29 verbal!! Wow, a 640, that's what I got when I didn't even know what was on the GMAT! With verbal scores like that how could I possibly get into a reputable GMAT program?! Week of 12/28/12:
Wow, there are a lot of forums online that are tailored to conquering the GMAT. I am going to sign up for the GMAT on 2/2/13 and make a clear, structured plan based on my new knowledge of the GMAT and the prep resources. My Plan:
Download all of the MGMAT books
and read them on my iPad at the gym. Focus strictly on verbal, and formulate a strategy for RC, CR & SC that I can employ on every practice problem. Fine tune the strategy and continue to attack the practice problems. Use the GMATCLUB forum to test myself with truly challenging questions.1/08/13 MGMAT 1: 650 (Q44 V35)
Hmm. I'm not thrilled with this score, but I heard that the Quant is very difficult on the MGMAT CATs. I at least have a methodology for attacking the verbal questions, but I'm definitely running into timing issues. Seeing a 30+ on the verbal is comforting. Also, it's sad that I find a 30+ verbal score to be comforting. 1/13/13 MGMAT 2: 590 (Q39 V32)
590!!!! 590!!!! Why is my score continuing to decrease!!! I finally wrap my head around some GMAT strategies, start feeling confident, and I get a 590?!?!?!!? This can't be correct! I really need to focus. 1/14/13 MGMAT 3: 650 (Q43 V36)
Okay, at least I'm back to where I was at the start of my prep. I'm going to pretend yesterday never happened. I know I can do better on the Quant, so I'm not too concerned with a Q43. I am just going to continue to practice OG problems and employing/fine tuning my strategy for tackling verbal questions. I just know my verbal will improve. 1/19/13 MGMAT 4: 670 (Q44 V37)
670! So close. I'm a little concerned that I have not broken a 700+ score once, and I'm taking the GMAT in about 2 weeks. Maybe I should reschedule? No, I know how crazy work is going to get in February, and I won't be able to dedicate the required amount of time. I am going to continue to fine tune my verbal strategy and work through practice problems from OG or online. 1/23/13 MGMAT 5: 670 (Q44 V37)
Hmm, at least I'm not declining! I feel like I'm on the right track. I just need to really engage in the verbal section, and pretend like I'm interested in these random topics. Actually, some of the RCs are pretty interesting. Maybe I should start reading on my free time? I know my verbal score is a 37, but I feel like I'm better than that. Let me take a GMATPREP test tomorrow. 1/24/13 GMATPREP1 (Third Attempt): 710 (Q47 V40)
FINALLY!! I broke the 700 mark!!! Who cares if this was my third time taking GMATPREP1, I broke a 700!! Something really clicked for me during this exam, I feel like I'm actually engaged in the material on the verbal section. I definitely don't need to take as many notes, and consequently, I am not running into any timing issues. 1/26/13 MGMAT 6: 710 (Q48 V38)
710!!! GREAT!! I broke 700 twice in a row!!! I'd like to see a 40+ verbal score, though, I want to prove that I have decent verbal skills since I have such a strong engineering/quant background. This might be the last test I take, I know next week is going to be a 80+ hr work week, with a ton of travel. 1/27/13 GMATPREP2 (Second Attempt): 740 (Q48 V44)
740!!! Shocking! I'm glad I decided to take another practice test. A week ago I was unable to get out of the 600's. The verbal section was really interesting to me, and my strategies appear to finally be paying off! This is probably the last time I'll be able to study extensively, so I'm confident, and will focus on work the next 5 days. I wonder if anyone will notice my new, confident, 700+er swagger. 1/30/13:
On a plane to Detroit. Why does the person next to me keep trying to make eye contact? Oh, I see, just a recent GMAT-test taker trying to strike up small talk because I had my GMAT prep books out. Wait, what did she just say?? There is a calculator available on IR??? I feel stupid. 2/2/13 (exam time):
Got my yellow (energy) vitamin water, a kit kat bar, and a large bag of an "energy mix" of nuts. This time I am ready to make good on my 8 minute breaks, and all the online advice I got stressed the importance of breaks. Also, last time I almost fell asleep during the verbal section. Writing Section:
Pretty simple argument again. I'll just pretend like I'm writing an email to a client (organized, concise, etc.). IR:
That calculator sure comes in handy... Break1:
Alright, first 2 sections down. Time to go to the bathroom, drink some energy drink, eat some nuts and have half a kit kat bar! Quant:
Crap. 1st question I have no clue how to answer, I really wasn't diligent on memorizing my math rules. Hopefully I can still pull this off. Break2:
Alright, the Quant was okay. Either way I am not going to dwell on it AT ALL. It's now time for the rest of my vitamin water, kit kat, and some more nuts. Oops, I spilled half my bag of nuts on the floor. Oh well, I'm not going to draw attention to myself, and I'm not going to dwell on that until after the exam. Verbal:
These RC passages are VERY interesting! (or maybe I finally was able to convince myself that this material is interesting) 2/2/2013 Final Score: 730 (Q48 V42)
YES! Target Score! I'm done!! It's Saturday night! Time to burn my books and get drinking!
Let me summarize my key takeaways in a clear format:
(1) 1 week is not enough time. 1 Month is probably not enough time, my guess is 2 months would be ideal to prepare.
(2) Study smart. Pick a couple of prep books, read them, absorb some of the strategies they recommend. Make your OWN strategy, based on what works for you. Practice using this strategy over, and over, fine tuning it until it is second nature to you. Read the forums for advice and additional practice problems. Don't stop practicing, just continue to fine-tune your strategies until you are happy with your performance.
(3) Convince yourself that verbal section is actually really interesting
(4) Bring snacks to the exam, take your breaks as an opportunity to clear your mind. Buy the yellow vitamin water. Yellow is generally my least favorite beverage color (because of its resemblance to ...), but it worked.
(5) Confidence. My first 8 or so practice tests I received the same score (~640 - 680 range). I was convinced that since I never took an English class in college (engineer), I was hopeless on the Verbal section. %ile-wise, my verbal ended up being much stronger than my Q. For me, the GMAT was really a mental game.
There is my recap! I hope there is something of value in my debrief!