I've been a very casual member of the GMAT club over the last couple of months, so I wanted to give back a little bit by sharing my success story with the GMAT.
I first took the GMAT in February and scored a 610 (34Q/39V). I prepared for the first test for about 5 months. I used the Princton Review books and practice tests, the official guide, and the powerprep CAT practice tests. I really didn't have a strategy in my first time around, except that I wanted to get exposed to as many questions as possible, so I just kept going through the questions and taking the tests whenever I had some free time on evenings and weekends. I used no logs and I paid very minor attention to re-working the problems I missed on my test. My scores on the practice tests were:
Princeton Review: 690, 660, 670
Powerprep: 610, 670
The week before my test was very stressful and I didn't spend any time on test preparations. Projects at work were blowing up and I ended up staying at work until after 2am on some evenings that week. Additionally, my grandmother had a mild heart attack two days before the test, which certainly didn't help with the focus and mental preparation. I decided to take the test anyway. With my practice tests ranging between 610 and 690, I figured I was sure to get at least a 650 on the test, which was okay for the programs I was looking into. 700 would be fabulous, but 650 would be a success.
While taking the first test, I found that I had not prepared to the extent necessary to do well. I was simply not prepared for how quickly time goes by in the test center. When my first 30 minutes elapsed just as I had marked the last period of the last sentence for my first essay answer, I knew it was going to be a long day! I understood generally what type of questions would come up in the quantitative section, but I didn't understand the concepts well enough to adjust to the different way the questions would be thrown at me. For example, I had studied the work problem formulas for a straightforward work problem question (i.e. John does the work in 8 hours, Tom in 4 hours, ...how long together...). Instead, I was dealt a question that asked for ratio of output of two workers to the output of the other worker - not bad if you understand the concept behind the formulas, but terrible if you don't! Needless to say, I was disappointed when the score of 610 flashed on the screen.
After waiting a couple of months and discussing different options, I decided I would need to take the test over again if I wanted to be sure I would get into a decent program. I rescheduled my test for June 8th and began preparing for the test during the first week in May. This time I had a better idea of what I needed to prepare for. I focused my attention specifically on quantitative since that was the section that gave me the most trouble. I purchased a 3-ring binder and began filling the binder with math information to assist my studies. My first task was to go through the PR book and write out all of the important formulas and concepts. Additionally, I tried to find different math examples for each concept I had difficulty with so I could add the sample problems to my notebook. I purchased 3 new study books: Kaplan
, Kaplan 800
and Kaplan Math Workbook
. I went through the math sections and practice tests for each book. The Math Workbook was extremely helpful since it had so many practice problems. My test prep strategy was different this time around. Instead of simply going through as many math problems as possible, I put a great deal of focus on the problems I missed. Every time I took a practice test, I printed out or hand wrote every problem I missed or didn't get to, and I put the printouts into my binder. Part of my prep each night would be to go through each missed problem again to see if I could do it without help. If not, the problem would get highlighted as a "major review" item and I would keep it in the binder. As I began understanding the concepts and getting the questions correct without help, I would toss the questions out of my binder. Keep in mind, I was also filling the binder almost daily with new questions since I continued to take new tests and retake old tests online. The kaplan
tests were definitely helpful since they were more challenging than the others and helped me to think through concepts in more diverse ways. It's kinda like in baseball where the person on deck to bat pratices swinging the bat with the weighted doughnut on the bat. The key for me was to think faster on the real test. The results of my kaplan
practice tests were 500, 600 and 600.
The weekend before the test, my wife, who is pregnant, had to have emergency surgery to keep her from going into labor way too early in prenancy. Needless to say, I wasn't able to focus on studying the last 3 or 4 days before my test. I was very nervous about taking the test again since these type of traumatic experiences kept preceeding the test day. In the end, we decided that I had prepared enough that I should just go through with the test.
The second test experience was much better than the first. I was very confident with a good number of my answers, I saw more difficult questions appearing which was a good sign for me, and I tracked very closely with the allotted time during the test. I saw one probability question and 1 combination/permutation question. At the end of the test, I pressed the confirmation button to view my score and I almost jumped out of my chair when I saw my score - 710!! I really couldn't believe it! It was very validating to see that I could improve my score by 100 points with some focused studying and confidence in my abilities.
Now I'm questioning whether I should re-think my application strategy and try for a top 10 school or just continue on my original path of getting into the local state university evening program. Regardless, it's very nice to have that choice to consider.
I also want to give credit to the GMAT Club web page. Although I didn't post very many questions or responses, I certainly did benefit from the knowledge and motivation of the other members! I really appreciate that I had the opportunity to make use of this site during my prep period.
For those that are struggling to get a score above a 700, my recommendations to you are:
1. Get exposed to as many GMAT type questions as possible
2. Know your weaknesses intimately - don't continue working questions you know!!
3. Make sure you have a very good understanding of the basics and don't get too caught up in the most difficult questions (i.e. probability, comb/perm, etc.) You won't see those questions very often and not at all if you can't work the standard questions (i.e. work problems, ratios, geometry, rate/time/distance, dilution, etc.)
4. I would recommend using Kaplan
in your studies since they are more difficult than some of the others.
5. Don't underestimate how quickly time goes by in the testing room! You will probably move faster during practice than during the actual test - practice your speed.