I've been living in Beijing for the past three years (born and raised in NYC), running bars/restaurants/clubs before working with a vodka company. I came back to the States in August so I can start acting my age (26) and getting on with my life. Fortunately/unfortunately, I moved back in with my parents - which allowed me the wonderful opportunity to study without having to work. I understand that many people do not have this chance - but I know that if I had to work full-, or even part-, time, I couldn't have gotten this score.
I wanted to apply this year for fall 2011 admission, which meant I had very limited time to get the GMATs out of the way and complete the apps by round 2 deadlines. So I cut off all contact with the rest of the world and entered into what I aptly named the GMAT Cave. I studied almost every day for roughly 10+ hours for two months.
All Manhattan GMAT
resources. I have not used any other materials, but I was extremely happy with my experience with MGMAT. I believe that short of taking the actual test and studying for you, MGMAT gave me everything I needed. I am a huge fan of MGMAT. That said, I honestly don't think it really matters what program or company you use to help you study. However, I do have two nuggets of advice:
1. Squeeze out everything you can from what you've got. Use every resource available to you that comes with your program/guides/etc. Use every office hour. Watch every online lesson. Go to every single class. Read every single page. Do each and every problem - and know it inside out.
2. Don't mix materials. Stick with MGMAT or Kaplan
or whatever it is you are using. Each of them have different methods and styles, and it will just be confusing if you mix them. I personally feel that whichever you choose, it will be more than enough material to help you reach your goal. You don't need four different guides for CR. PIck one and study the shit out of it (rule #1 restated).
Like I said, I studied almost every day for 10+ hours. I signed up for MGMAT classes
and picked up the books two weeks before the course began. I started the curriculum on my own and followed it precisely - just sped it up, covering up to half a week of work per day. By the time classes actually began, I had already completed more than a third of a material. I went to every class, used every office hour, watched every online class, and read every page in every guide.
(I took a practice test just about every other week or so.)
1. gmatprep: 530
This was my first experience with the GMATs, and the first time I had ever seen any GMAT problems. It was unnerving and stressful - but it was what I needed to know that I should probably take classes and really buckle down to get my goal of 700+. (Unfortunately, I don't have the score breakdown.)
2. mgmat cat: 640 (Q43/V34)
I've gone through a quarter of the course material on my own before classes began.
3. mgmat cat: 660 (Q46/V34)
4. mgmat cat: 530 (Q23/V40)
I ran out of time for the quant section and got the last 14 wrong. After this test, I took time management very seriously. I usually would be left with 15+ minutes in verbal, and rush through the last 10 quant problems. So I focused on not spending more than 2 minutes on each question. Almost every problem you spend more than 3 minutes on, you get wrong anyway. You just need to learn how to get it wrong faster, so that you can move onto problems that you can figure out.
5. mgmat cat: 640 (Q43/V34)
I hit my ceiling. I've completed the course and it didn't seem like I'm going to get past that 700 mark. But my teacher suggested that I chill out and just keep practicing OG problems. I used MGMAT's OG Tracker spreadsheet and set it up to guide me to do an equal number of questions every day of varying difficulties. (Following the MGMAT curriculum, you do about 1/3 of the OG problems over the course. This leaves the majority of the problems to practice on with everything you learned.)
6. mgmat cat: 710 (Q46/V41)
This is basically my highest ever quant and verbal scores so far combined. Around the 4th day of starting the OG problems, I began to get comfortable with the structural make-up of GMAT problems. By day 6 or 7, I began to be able to pinpoint what kind of problem it was going to be and how to be mentally prepared for the calculations that would be needed. I can start to predict what they're going to ask before I finish reading the problem. By day 9 or 10, I understand how to shift my thought processes so that I can solve the problems within 2 minutes. I focus on speed and educated guessing. Also, I realize that I'm making a lot of stupid mistakes: misreading problems and/or answer choices, making absolutely asinine calculation errors, "adding" my own information when it's not given in the stem, etc.
7. mgmat cat: 720 (Q46/V42)
I have completed every single problem in all three OG books - each is timed and error logged using MGMAT's error log
spreadsheet. I reviewed each one I got wrong and made sure I understood it fully. Occasionally, I'd run into a problem that is way over my head. In which case, I just let it go because I don't really care about being able to know how to do a 750+ problem when I can focus on a 700 level problem.
8. gmatprep: 740 (Q47/V44)
9. actual gmat: 750 (Q48/V46)
I've learned that it is not so much about the answers, but more about the process in which you get the answer. When reviewing problems, there are three things I want to make sure I can do before moving on:
1. Do I know why every wrong answer is wrong?
2. Double check for tricks and short cuts.
3. If something in the stem was changed, would I still know how to solve the problem? (This is something they did a lot in the MGMAT classes
. They take an OG problem and change it slightly (by changing a positive integer to a negative integer or a fraction or zero), and then it becomes not about the answer but about the make-up of the question.
If you can do those three for an OG problem, you're done with it - and you should be able to solve anything even similar to it on the real test.
This is something you learn from MGMAT. You memorize it and write it down on your scrap during the test. This was super important for me (as learned from my third practice test). I wrote this down every time I started a new scrap page.
If I was ahead, I gave myself an extra minute to solve a tricky problem or to reread the answer choices. If I was behind, I made an educated guess or limited myself to 1.5 minutes max.
Here is a chart of where you should be at what time:
time remaining - question you should be at (multiples of 7+1)
time remaining - question you should be at (multiples of 8+1)
---4 Days Before the Test:
I went over the AWA topics posted on mba.com one last time and practice thinking of examples quickly. I used this guide
to help me get my 6.0 score.
I walked past my testing center building so I know exactly where it is on test day. It was raining and cold… and I got sick. Very sick. I was in bed for 3 days and had frustrating dreams of trying to solve inequality data sufficiency problems or of trying to read the computer screen and not being able to decipher the words. I cried in my dreams.
I woke up too weak to be anxious. I figured that I could always take it again and know not to feel bad for myself because I know I worked really hard and relearned what a factorial is. I told myself that this still has the possibility of being the first and last time I ever take the GMATs - I told myself that I will treat each problem with a melodramatic air of love and preemptive nostalgia because it may very well be the last GMAT problem of its kind that I will ever try to solve again for the rest of my life. This turned out to be true. 750
I did a booty shaking dance in front of the security window. That footage is going to be worth some money one day.
I went through many levels of mental and emotional preparation throughout the entire 2+ months. I'm generally a pretty optimistic person, but I also put A LOT of pressure on myself, and I noticed that things really turned around when I reached this certain understanding:
I had been studying so much and given up everything for this test. I knew that I was doing my ultimate best, and that there's nothing more I could humanly do. I wasn't going to beat myself up over anything because being in the GMAT Cave is hard enough. This sudden realization resulted in some major shift - and my practice scores started going up (passing the 700 mark), and I began to really get a grip on the problems. I started achieving insane laser focus, and best of all, I just wasn't afraid of the test anymore.
When this happens, you kind of become badass - in a good way. And I believe that this may have been one of the biggest factors that helped me break the 700 barrier.
As for daily GMAT Cave life, I studied roughly 10+ hours a day. I treated it like it was my full-time job. While I didn't break down what I needed to do by the hour, I had a pretty serious daily plan that I tried to stick to.
Also, it was never 10 hours of just solving questions - that wouldn't help anyone. The biggest chunk of time went to actually following the MGMAT curriculum - reading the books and solving the problems, watching the 3 hour classes, rereading things i didn't fully understand, and, finally, solving problems. I would do easy/medium/hard problems every day from every type of problem... so there was enough non-difficult stuff in there to keep it "fun". For the problems I got wrong, I spent a good 5 to 10 minutes on them to make sure I knew it in and out.
That said, it should be noted that such a day is a high-focus day. When you don't have friends or facebook, you get bored. You start doing nutty, cabin fever things. I had to take it step by step. The daily schedule I made was tinkered with throughout the day, changed, modified, scrapped entirely. Some days, I was mentally tired and couldn't look at my books, and, instead, ran away to take a long, long bath and veg in front of the TV. Other days, I wanted to make love to my books and flashcards because they made me feel so smart. When things got bad, I got back onto the forums and read all the great posts to encourage myself.
You know yourself best - listen to what your body and mind says. And when it's time to study, FOCUS. Don't waste your time half-assing it. Either you are focused, or you walk away from the work and come back in 15 minutes when you are ready. You should have only two types of modes: High-focus or Decompressing. If you don't feel yourself 100% there, go smoke a cigarette, take a nap, take a shower, eat a snack, watch an episode of your favorite show - just stay away from GMAT stuff until you've fully recharged. then go for it.
Also, eat right and exercise. Sleep. If you stay in shape, your mind can work faster and better.
---Random Note About CR Problems:
CRs were hell for me. Even after I went through all the MGMAT material, I didn't really grasp CRs until doing about 75% of all the OG CR problems. And the only reason why I started to understand what was going on was because I had simply done so many, reviewed so many, and gone over why each wrong answer was wrong so many times. This was the last piece of the puzzle to fall into place - and it happened about 5 days before the test.