Well, it looks like I'm not a hopeful anymore! I officially joined the 700 club today with a 710 (46q/42v).
This was not a fast or easy journey, so don't expect a story about studying for quick 2-3 months and acing the test on the first try.
I'm Brazilian, 24, female, majored in Journalism and currently work with advertising/marketing. The last time I saw math was in High School - and even then it wasn't my main priority at school. And english is not my first language.
The GMAT was clearly not made for me.
However, I was determined to break the 700 barrier so I could at least have the chance to apply to any school I wanted to.
I started studying for the test in June of last year. However, I didn't study for the GMAT. For 6 months, I studied high school math. I work full-time so it took me a while to go over the basics.
Surprisingly, despite english not being my first language, I did really well on the verbal section when I started doing mock exams, in the end of 2010. I decided to take the test. I went in once and freaked out and cancelled scores. That should have been the red light that I wasn't ready. But, I wanted to apply for 2011 so I scheduled the test for 30 days later, in December, 2010.
I got a 580. (35v/35q). I was really upset. I felt like I wasn't capable of getting into a top business school. I was doing 650-680 on the prep tests so my score definetly scaled down but I learned that in the test date, that can happen.
I decided to take January off with a clear plan: work vacations were arriving, so I decided to take the 2-week manhattan bootcamp in NYC with a friend. The experience was great. I'm not sure 2 weeks of classes helped me that much but it provided the boost I needed to go back out there and beat the gmat.
If I'm unsure as to whether the bootcamp per se helped my score, I'm 100% positive that the Manhattan books
In March, I started reading all the math guides, doing every in-action and every OG question. I didn't read the advanced sections because I knew that my target was a 44-48 and not a 49-51 on quant.
The books were absolutely AMAZING. It was very important for me to go over basic math with a tutor for 6 months. That knowledge coupled with the Manhattan books
really helped me on the quant section.
I remember that the first time I went to take the test in December, I had a sheet with a million formulas for a million different things for the math section. Today, I went in the test center with only the really basic geometry formulas memorized. That is what the Manhattan books
do. They teach you the concepts, and that really helps ease the anxiety before the test.
For verbal, I have to say I didn't do much. Even though I'm not a native speaker, I have a naturally ability for Verbal. Reading Comprehension was very easy for me. I didn't study at all. Critical Reasoning got tricky at times, so I came to GMATClub and downloaded a member's CR guide (Whiplash's bang bang guide). Sentence correction was my biggest weakness in verbal, so I read the Manhattan SC guide. The first chapters really helped me, S-V-A, pronous, modifiers (specially modifiers)... I didn't really like the Idioms list. I would say that if your english is fairly fluent, play idioms by ear. The list of idioms may confuse you even more.
For quant, besides going over every strategy guide, I kept an error log
for my OG mistakes. Manhattan has a really great OG tracker, you may tag each question as (do again) and you can basically just print them later. That really helped me since I'm not too good with excel either.
I also did a few Manhattan cats. Although I could never do well on those tests, they really helped build my stamina, specially on the quant section. The questions were so hard that when I moved to GMATprep I felt like the quant section there was a breeze.
My gmat prep scores were 670 (42q/40v), 680(48q/35v), 700(48q/38v), 720(47q/41v), respectively.
I must say that these tests did NOT build my confidence. I had exhausted them back in December when I first took the test, so I felt like they weren't indicative of my real ability. I didn't really remember the math, maybe 1-2 questions per test, but I did remember some of the verbal, specially the passages. I was freaking myself out about these prep tests. I thought that if I could only reach a max of 720 on a test with repeated questions, how would I break the 700 barrier on test date?
This weekend, I decided to take it easy. I did take a gmat prep Saturday mornig though. But that was basically it. Yesterday I went over the essays structure and went to sleep fairly early.
I had a good night of sleep, surprisingly. My test time was 8am. I stopped to have a nice breakfast and then went to the test center. It was very full. The essays went by fairly easily. If verbal is my forte, essays are my forte +.
I was confident going into the math. However, my math test was an ABSOLUTE nightmare. Literally, it was horrible. I got stuck in the first question, took 6 minutes and could not arrive at an answer. I had to guess. After that, I don't really remember much. I just felt like I got NO easy questions. Zero. I feel like I was getting everything wrong. I swear. There wasn't one single question that went by easily. In the second half of the exam, I got a hard combinatorics question. For a minute I thought there could be hope for my quant test but I then quickly dismissed it as the question bank having run out of easy questions. Still, with time running out, I figured that it was a good time as any to start guessing. I guessed about 3-4 questions, some more educated than others. I feel like this was REALLY important for me. That way, I got to finish the test, which I believe is one of the most important aspects of the quant section. If you are behind between 15-25, it's the time to guess. I finished the section, barely.
I got out feeling MORTIFIED. I was 100% sure that I was a goner. I remembered my dad telling me not to cancel scores, just go for it. With that in mind, I knew I had to ACE verbal. Not for a 700+, that seemed impossible for me. But to get out of an embarassing low 500 hole that I genuinely believed I was in. My goal then became to break the 600 barrier, literally.
If the Quantative test was not the test for me, the Verbal one was. I felt confident about most questions. I did well on the passages. Sentence Correction felt good. I started getting really hard CR question about evaluating the argument - which I know are really tough questions. I felt good. I'm used to having 15-20 extra minutes when I finish verbal, but this time, I took my time. I had exactly 2 minutes on my last SC question.
When the test was over, I started getting REALLY nervous. And I had to do 12 extra experimental questions. I had 30 minutes for that. Sorry GMAC, but I guessed all 12 in 5. I really wanted to help GMAC but I literally could NOT concentrate.
After answering the basic information, I hit report scores.
I am still shocked beyond belief with my quant score. Not because I can't score a 46q - a mediocre quant score - but because my quant section was an absolute disaster. I literally think I guessed right, specially on that 6-minute first question.
This is my story. I know that a 710 is not a good score for a lot of people here, but considering my background, it is enough for me. I'm happy. I'm also happy with the way I studied. It took me a few months... it was slow and steady. I went to work, I went to the gym, I travelled, I went to every party I wanted to go. However, I tried to put in daily 60-90 minutes for the GMAT. It worked for me.