First, I'd like to say thank you for everybody who participates on these forums. I trolled around the forums for a few months and picked up a lot of useful information. I am glad to finally be done with the GMAT and I hope that this guide can help some people out there. I definitely made a lot of dumb mistakes during my first two attempts and I think that many people will be able to avoid the same mistakes after reading this.
This exam shouldn't be underestimated by anybody. It doesn't matter what you accomplished in the past. I went to a top business school for undergrad and graduated with a nearly perfect GPA. I thought that the GMAT was going to be a joke and I was going to get a 700+ off the bat. I first took the GMAT about a year ago without any prep at all. I spent time on the exam reading over what the rules for DS quant questions were. Now that was just plain stupid. I scored a 640 (39Q, 39V, 6.0 AWA) and I think that I got VERY lucky on the verbal. I should have taken a GMATPrep exam to see where I stood before taking the real exam - I could have saved $250, one Saturday, and much needed energy. After receiving a 640, I decided I was going to revisit the GMAT a bit later (I was starting a new job with very long hours).
Seven months later I began studying for the GMAT. I went through all of the ManhattanGMAT guides and did OG. I focused more on math because I knew that I could improve my quant score significantly (math is definitely my strongest out of the two). I took a few ManhattanGMAT CATs and scored 680, 690, 690, 710. Because of my job I didn't have too much time to study and I spent maybe a total of four-five weekends and a few hours on several weekdays to prepare. I didn't have too much time to study so I didn't approach verbal too carefully. I didn't sit down and try to understand why each answer choice was wrong - I just practiced spotting correct answers. Again, this was a big mistake. Don't take the exam unless you had sufficient time to study and feel ready (unless there are certain circumstances and you absolutely have to take the exam before doing more studying). Once again, the result was a 640 (45Q, 34V, 6.0 AWA). Wow! I was shocked... I studied this time and knew the exam inside out but got the same exact score. I was very upset because I felt like I was going to score 650-720 after my prep. I was also discouraged from taking the exam again.
A few months later, I decided to give it another go! I knew that I could do very well if I tried hard enough and if nerves didn't get the best of me on exam day (I am good test-taker and aced some of the hardest exams in college, but I am a terrible standardized test-taker. It took me three tries to get to a good SAT score.). I scheduled my exam for September 27th (today!) and had a little less than two months to prepare.QUANT
I am naturally strong at math and I knew that I could score somewhere in the 47-50 range. I did the Math OG
workbook over again in one sitting and I got only two questions wrong total. That was really encouraging! I then went through the ManhattanGMAT guides again. I then did 9 of the GMAT CLUB Challenges
. These were great! The questions gave me the prep that I needed. When I took these exams, I used ReviewMode and reviewed every question after I finished it (these tests aren't too great for timing so I wouldn't suggest to use TimedMode).
Here are my scores:
Test Correct Total % Correct Mean time msec Percentile
m01 29 37 78.4% 0m 00s 10 84.3%
m02 33 37 89.2% 0m 00s 8 94.5%
m03 32 37 86.5% 0m 00s 7 92.5%
m04 34 37 91.9% 0m 04s 409 100.0%
m05 33 37 89.2% 0m 01s 120 100.0%
m06 28 36 77.8% 0m 00s 14 89.7%
m07 28 37 75.7% 0m 00s 8 85.7%
m08 29 37 78.4% 0m 00s 41 90.9%
m09 30 37 81.1% 0m 03s 304 92.6%
After doing all of these problems, I knew what my weaknesses were. I was very strong in algebra, geometry, and anything that didn't inolve translating a paragraph into equations. Whenever I had a word-problem, I automatically assumed that just because the question was long it was going to be difficult. So I took two full days and did nothing but ratio, rates, sets, probability problems. I did about 120 of these total (I used ManhattanGMAT question banks). I was very confident about these types of problems after those 2 days! I would definitely recommend identifying your weakeast areas in quant and then taking a few days to focus on them.VERBAL
Verbal was much tougher than math for me. I was very good at CR and RC but SC always messed me up (I am not a native speaker - English is my third language). I did all of the CR and SC in the OG. I did about 150 SC from the 1000SC file. This time I focused on every answer choice and really understood what was wrong with each incorrect answer. ManhattanGMAT SC "Bible" is okay but it is far from a "Bible" in my opinion (especially now! - I will comment on this later). To do well you have to fully understand everything that is in this SC book, but just because you know the book inside-out, it doesn't mean that your accuracy on SC will be greater than 90%. The best way to improve SC skills is to practice. Just do problems and write down any important concepts that you come across. I kept a log of all the idioms and other grammar rules that I ran across.
For CR, I think the best book out there is by PowerScore. It really helps you dig deep into the CR questions and improve accuracy... I went from answering about 80% CR questions correctly to about 93%. When answering CR questions the key is to think about the conclusion of the question stem. Don't proceed to the answer choices before fully understanding what the argument is trying to say. I re-read the question stimulus at least twice before answering the question - this REALLY helped me. I think the PowerScore book should be considered the CR "Bible."
For RC, I didn't really practice much. This was my strongest area and I felt that specific questions wouldn't help too much. Science/economics passages were cake for me and I understood them very well, but passages that were about philosphy or literature were terrible for me! I couldn't fully understand them for the life of me! Instead of doing RC questions, I read WSJ/CNN/Research Reports/lots of different articles for my job.
I took two GMAT Prep exams before my third attempt. My scores were 710 (49Q, 37V) and 730 (48Q, 42V). These exams are very close to the real thing and I suggest that everybody take these CATs before taking the real thing. They give you an opportunity to get your timing right. Manhattan CATs aren't representative of the real thing (math problems are way too involved).EXAM DAY
I ate a ton of pasta the night before! It helped me fall asleep and gave me the energy on exam day. I like to sleep-in and scheduled my exam for 12:15PM. I had my normal breakfast, showered, did a few sets of push-ups to help me wake up and then walked to the test center.
AWA - went pretty smoothly. I didn't waste too much energy on these. I wrote five paragraphs each (about 5 sentences in each paragraph) and finished five minutes early. I let the timer tick down to bout 10 seconds (stretched while in the chair for four minutes), clicked submit and then took the 10 minute break. Went to the bathroom and splashed cold water all over my face to wake me up and keep me alert. Didn't drink any water!
QUANT - Gah! Question 1 wasn't like anything that I have seen before. It was really weird. After 2 minutes I was about 90% sure of the answer and just decided to run with it. I knew that I could easily bounce back even if I got the first question wrong. The next 19 questions weren't much of a problem. I finished most in about a minute and built a great 10 minute buffer for myself. Questions began to get harder and I started spending more than 2 minutes on certain questions. I honestly thought that I got around a 49 after I was done... I guess I wasn't careful with some of the questions. The quant was very similar to GMAT Prep (much easier than the GMAT CLUB Tests
VERBAL - Started off with some pretty basic CR. The CR throughout the entire exam was very close to GMAT Prep. Nothing noteworthy here. I was lucky and every RC question I was able to understand pretty quickly. I understood each passage pretty well because I re-read each one and took careful notes. These were also in-line with GMAT Prep. Now SC was a different story. In about 5-6 SC questions, I couldn't apply any rules that I learned. I couldn't always find splits too. I had to go with my gut. I think understanding the content was the key to these questions, and not focusing on some blatant grammar issue. The hardest SC questions were the shortest ones too! The other 6-8 SC questions weren't too difficult and were in-line with GMAT Prep.
I was extremely happy when I saw a 710 92% (48Q 84%, 40V 89%). I was expecting another 640 lol.
I think that the most important thing is to try to concentrate very hard on the last 5 Verbal questions. By the time only 5 Verbal questions were left, I was tired and was eager to see my score. Instead I told myself that if I don't answer these last 5 questions well, I am not going to see anything close to a 700. So I concentrated as hard as I could. Those 5 questions can make a huge difference!
(I will add more helpful stuff to this later)