I feel like I have gained a lot from reading others' stories here, so I feel that I should share my own.
My GMAT experience started about two years ago. I was working on my bachelor's in accounting and knew that I needed the GMAT to get into a MAcc, which I was considering doing before, or in conjunction with law school, so I decided to give it a shot. I read up on question type, time per section, etc, downloaded gmatprep and took test 1. I saw 710 with a 44,44 split and was pretty happy. I didn't know much about how the scores were used, but the programs that I was looking at all had GMAT requirements below 700, so I signed up for the test. In the mean time I think I pulled out OG 12
a few times and watched some of the khan academy GMAT videos. I took the test about a month later and got 690 (46Q,39V). I was satisfied for the time being and turned my focus to the LSAT.
By the time that I took the LSAT, I had already decided against law school, because the legal profession is not doing too well. But I had taken a course, so I took the LSAT and got a 169. I only mention this because I felt like it was great for critical reasoning and reading comp.
After another year in school and helping a professor with some research, my sights turned to a PhD in accounting, where a 690 is barely an admissible score anywhere. I started taking some more math in preparation for this; did Calc 1 and 2, Stats, and linear algebra, along with the rest of my bachelor's. I took another crack at GMAT Prep 1 in the middle of this and pulled a 760 (49,44) I was elated, but didn't trust it because I had seen that test a year prior.
I bought the Manhattan advanced quant and three verbal books. The verbal stuff was just boring after serious LSAT study (this was a bit of a downfall for me) and the advanced quant would constantly refer to techniques from their other quant books that I hadn't read. However, there was still plenty of good stuff in there and I ended up really enjoying the online problem sets. I occasionally picked that book up until the beginning of this summer, when I realized that I have to apply to programs this fall and I had better get serious. I also took a Manhattan CAT in here somewhere and got a 710, but I don't really remember when, or the break down.
Because I had taken the LSAT course, I could take a GMAT course from the same company for very cheap. I haven't really seen people say too much about courses in these, but I was also engaged all summer, along with having an internship that involved a long commute, and there was no way I would have been diligent enough to set time aside myself. Besides the time organization, the most valuable thing that I got out of the course was the fact that you can use more strategy than math in the quant section, namely backsolving, plugging in numbers, and estimating. Besides that it was a review of math that I had reviewed on my own recently through other classes. I almost ignored the verbal section (in retrospect this was somewhat stupid), but I did do the sections in the paper tests and went to the classes for some review along with a few times of pulling out the verbal section and answering questions. I missed one critical reasoning question in my prep and I think that this was due to the LSAT study, I should have concentrated mroe on SC.
After the first couple of weeks into the course I retook GMAT prep 1 again (I wanted to save 2 for just before the test.) I got 760 (50,44) and an 8 on the IR section. From here I started going through the OG 13
, the Quant supplement, and the old paper tests that I got through the course. I found them all very helpful. I have seen a lot of comments about how the OG doesn't get as hard as the real test. I think that this is somewhat true, but I was equally as stumped on some of the OG questions as I ended up being on the test. The biggest difference for me was that when I saw them in the OG I could sit and think about them for a few minutes and then attack them, I didn't have that luxury on the real thing and ended up having to narrow it down and guess a couple of times. I also played with some of the MGMAT advanced quant problems. I really liked these, but they have a different feel than the real problems. The Manhattan one's seemed like they required you to plug through math more, while the real ones all seemed to have an easier way to look at it, though there was still plenty of math to do.
With 2 weeks before my test I finally did GMAT prep 2 and pulled a 760 (51,42). I was really happy to see that 51 on a test that I hadn't been exposed to previously. I finished up the course, got through all of the quant problems in the OG and all the problems above 50 in the supplement.
Test day came and I got there a fair amount early (I had a 2:00 p.m. appointment.) I brought some gatorade and nuts, along with my books. I redid a few problems and went into the center, where they let me start about half an hour early. I went through filling out the beginning info and started the writing and made sure to finish a couple minutes early and relax. (This left me with a 5.0 AWA, but I'm fine with that.) IR came up and the first problem was a pretty complex question about people visiting foreign countries. After 4 minutes or so I had narrowed down the answers and moved on. The rest of IR went smoothly and I finished about 6 minutes early, despite my extra time spent on question one. Then came a quick break - I took a drink and went to the bathroom for good measure. I came back and Quant started smoothly. 7 or 8 questions in they started getting a little more complex. Questions 30-32 or so were all very difficult geometry (definitely my math weakness) data sufficiency questions, maybe this is where more time in Manhattan could have helped. I was a little disappointed to see them get easier after that, but ended up finishing with about 30 seconds left on a question that I still am not sure about. I really don't remember the verbal, except that I kept worrying about my final quant question. That couldn't have helped.
I submitted the last answer and accepted my score. I was pleased to see a 750 (50q,40V). I met all of the goals that I had originally set for myself with the GMAT. The IR and AWA came back a bit later. 8 on the IR and 5.0 AWA.
As I stated in the title, I don't think that this is a replicable study model, but there are a few things that I learned. First, do all of the real GMAT questions that you can, I felt like these prepared me far better than any of the other stuff I looked at (and I did look at other advanced quant stuff.) Second, I know that this has been said before, but let the bad questions go, I am happy enough with my verbal, but I definitely could have gotten a higher score there if I had been able to concentrate. Third, be sure to study for the whole test. Even though I was retaking this test to boost my quant score, I am a little disappointed that I didn't put more into verbal. I think that I could have gotten 99th % overall with a little more work and I didn't do it and there are a few schools where that would still help me out. Finally, integrated reasoning is very much like the practice. Spend a little more time on the harder questions, because it is not adaptive and there are easy ones in there to help you make up for it. I also felt like it was a nice warm up for quant.
I hope someone can pull something useful out of this for themselves.
Thanks for reading