August 28, 8:00 a.m.Study duration:
Mid-May to test dateBooks & materials used: Kaplan GMAT 2010
-2011 Premier, OG12
, OG Quant
, OG Verbal
, MGMAT Sentence Correction
, MGMAT Number Properties
, GMAT Club forums
I decided in May to take the GMAT, downloaded the GMAT prep software from and took the test pretty much blind. I got a 630, something like Q42, V35 (I HATE that you lose your scores on the GMAT prep software). I had decided that I was going to have to score well enough to get into a top part-time program. I figured a 630 was a high enough score to build on to get a 700 or so, especially since I was absolutely dumbfounded by sentence correction and data sufficiency. Scheduled the GMAT for August 19, and bought the Kaplan
, OG Quant
, and OG Verbal
. I started out doing all problems timed, which I have mixed feelings about. Another very useful, highly recommended resource is an error log
I used the “friendly error log
by saruba”, but I didn’t really need all the functionality - I just used the list so I knew which problems to revisit down the line.
I began with study approach outlined on the forum here: gmat-study-plan-for-gmat-novices-start-your-gmat-journey-80727.html
I planned on spinning June on Quant, July on Verbal, and August on my especially weak areas, practice tests, and strategy.
I began on the quant section of the Kaplan
book in early June and went through it quickly. The theory, explanations and problems are really pretty elementary - the best information I received from the quant section was the “1-2-TEN” explanation for DS and their tips for guessing and estimating. I mainly spent the rest of the month going though quant problems in OG12
and a couple problems on the GMAT club forums. After doing the first 30 OG12
questions in order, I realized I needed more of a challenge. My solution was to do every tenth problem rather than all problems in order. So now, I was doing problems 31, 41, 51, etc. This way I got some warmup problems and some difficult questions in every session, and ended up doing 35-45 timed problems a session, lasting about 1.5 hours, making my sessions similar to a test. I did most of the problems in OG 12
by the end of the month.
I attacked verbal in July in a similar manner, only this time I began doing every tenth RC and SC question in OG 12
, and just did RC in order, because RC came pretty easily for me. I also tried to do about 5-10 quant questions a day, also. Midway through July, I realized I was struggling most with Number Properties and Sentence Correction, so I purchased the MGMAT guides
for both. (The reviews of their CAT’s were also a major plus). Once these books arrived, I decided to start my practice test, weak spot review a couple weeks early.
The first practice test I did was Kaplan
’s online test. I also did 3 or 4 of these included on the CD but I won’t bother looking up my scores on these because I felt like the scoring was complete garbage, as many have mentioned here. They are fairly useful for timing purposes, however. I just wouldn’t bother looking at the scores. I did most of my early tests in the library or my house in the evening after work. In retrospect, this wasn’t the best way to get accurate scores - fatigue was always a big problem, as I felt like rushing through the second half of verbal just to see a score. The first MGMAT test seemed RIDICULOUSLY tough, especially in quant. I was rushing the entire time, thought the questions were extremely difficult, and barely finished. They got easier as I got used to the timing and worked on my weak spots - you should spend a lot of time reviewing what you got wrong and what you spent the most time on. This is essential! Anyway, here are the MGMAT scores (none were taken w/ AWA):
MGMAT 1: 690, Q45, V39
MGMAT 2: 700, Q46, V40
MGMAT 3: 720, Q47, V42
MGMAT 4: 710, Q48, V38 (I did this one in my hotel while travelling for work, the dropoff in verbal was a direct reflection of how exhausted I was. I just couldn’t focus at all. This showed me the importance of being well-rested and testing your fatigue at the same time of day as your test.)
I did about 1 test a week - the rest of the week I did a few problems from the OG Quant
and Verbal books and a few problems I had gotten wrong previously on my error log
. At this time, I also took a step back and stopped doing all questions timed. Why? I realized that rushing through a problem I failed to understand was a complete waste of my time - spending the extra time and discovering the solution on my own often helped me gain a better understanding of the concept, however, and would therefore help on the real thing.
In early August, I had a family emergency that really threw off my schedule and forced me to reschedule the GMAT from August 19 to August 28. I looked through some brief AWA guides, thought it looked pretty simple, and decided I was ready for a full blown GMAT Prep exam complete with AWA. I made sure I had plenty of time and was well rested. The results:
770! (Q50, V46, I think)
Wow! I thought it was an anomaly - I’d never even sniffed 740 on the MGMAT or Kaplan
CAT’s. So, I kept doing new problems and old difficult problems, and on the Saturday before my test, I decided to do my fifth MGMAT CAT at 8:00 AM (same time as the real thing).
I ended up with a 760! (Q49, V45). At this point, I’m still not convinced that I might be a 99%’er. So I take my final GMAT Prep the Wednesday before the real thing: 770 again! (Q49, V47)The "Real Thing:"
The day of the test, I arrived to the testing center about 40 minutes early (after a 45 minute drive), grabbed some starbucks around the corner, and went inside. For whatever reason, I really didn’t look into what the test center would be like. I brought some snacks and the coffee I mentioned, but I wasn’t prepared for the masses of noisy people taking various licensing exams at the same time (or the rude administrators). I brought earplugs, but was told I could only use earplugs supplied by Pearson.
The AWA went by without any issues, except my break was too long and I lost 35 seconds on quant. I freaked out about this for a while, but got on track time-wise after a few easy DS problems. Most of the quant section was pretty straightforward, with the exception of some absolutely wacky geometry problems that I didn’t even bother trying to compute - I went straight to educated guessing and focused on the content I knew (which was all but 2 or 3 questions). The problem was the Starbucks I so wisely purchased earlier really, really made me feel the urge to use the restroom. The final few problems were tough, and afterward I thought about the guy on the forum that got a 790 by not using the restroom and chuckled to myself in a very dorky, gmat-clubber kind of way.
Verbal had no surprises, but I was kind of worried about my performance when I didn’t see a “bold” CR question - my last 3 prep CAT’s all had bold questions, and their absence made me think I wasn’t doing well. No worries, though, the results:
770, Q49, V47
Now, instead of just looking at local weekend programs, I’m going to shoot for full time at Haas, Kellogg, Ross, McCombs, (and maybe Sloan) with the goal of going into cleantech product management or corporate sustainability after graduation. Hopefully my score helps with scholarships!Some general thoughts:
You don’t need to get 90% of questions right in your prep to get a great score. MGMAT provides great reports on how you do on the different types of problems, and I was hitting like 20% on 700-800 level SC questions. I also missed at least 7 problems in the quant section of each CAT I took.
Practice tests are essential for timing and endurance. Try to simulate them as closely as you can to the real thing.
The marker boards are somewhat annoying, but I only practiced on pen and paper and had little issuesVerbal:
There is absolutely no substitute for the Official Guide. Every other source frequently employed questionable logic on several problem, in my opinion. I never encountered an OG problem that I missed and didn’t see why. You should do every single OG Verbal
Everyone raves about MGMAT SC
, but I didn’t get a lot out of it, honestly. The first chapters were fairly basic to me (I am a US Native), but the advanced chapters were far to advanced for me to retain anything. Again, OG, OG, OG is the key to success here.Quant:
Probability isn’t a big deal. I never spent a great deal of time learning advanced probability problems - learn the most basic probability concepts and you will be fine.
I got the most benefit from reworking problems I got wrong previously. I missed enough in my prep that I didn’t even bother reworking problems I guessed on - on problems I got wrong.
Know the concepts! A lot of people say do everything timed, but working through difficult problems untimed will lead to success in a timed setting.
GMAT forums are a great source - explain solutions to others if you can.
I know I benefited a great deal from these forums, I hope this can be my way of giving back a little.