So, here's a summary of my prep. Early June:
I signed up early June for the Aug 2 test, leaving myself the opportunity to retake if necessary before Round 1 app deadline. Kind of procrastinated for about a month until the end of June/early July.
4 weeks before test:
Took the Diagnostic test in the OG11
. Scored "Average" in PS and DS, "Above Average" in CR and RC, and "Excellent" in SC. So I knew right from the outset that Quant was my weak area. 3.5 weeks before test:
Got a copy of the Kaplan "Higher Score on the GMAT"
CD and got to work reviewing sections and taking short practice tests. Took the Kaplan
Diagnostic, it came out a 570 (depressing...). Began working through the software's review sections and short 15-25 minute practice tests. I stayed fairly disciplined, spending anywhere from 30 mins to 4 hrs a night throughout the week for a few wks. Meanwhile...
I visited GMATclup almost everyday, read a lot of peoples' success (and failure) stories to get a sense of the experience itself. And I also worked a few questions that people posted in the forums, reading explanations and getting a sense of which problems to tackle and which ones I should just skip.Two weeks before test day:
A couple weeks in to my study, I took GMATPrep #1. It came back 640, Q37 V41. That was an encouraging sign. It felt like I was making some progress in narrowing the gap between my Q and V, and also improving from my Kaplan
Diagnostic. I kept truckin' along in the Kaplan
software. Also, I took a quantitatve 800score.com test. Seemed to help a bit with timing.10 days before test day
I used an error log
spreadsheet that I found on the forum to get an idea of where specifically I was weak. Everything was pointing to weak arithmetic, geometry, and number properties mostly (OG11
calls this "operations on rational numbers"). Obviously I knew I couldn't repair years of "average" math skills in just two weeks. So I just tried to get more practice with these problems in the hopes that it would raise my Q level to a somewhat acceptable area. I honed in on PS questions. Did roughly 100 questions in the OG11
, maybe more, over a week's timeframe. Took another Kaplan
CAT. It came out 540. This crushed my confidence, but I just reminded myself that Kaplan
scores tend to be lower than actual scores (that's how Kaplan
is able to "guarantee" higher scores!!!! =D )5 days before test day
Started to relax in my studying. Did minimal practice problems. Just basically read through forums, experiences, made sure I was eating just right, sleeping well, and made sure I had the whole day off work for Monday's big day.Weekend before test day:
Took GMATPrep 2. Came back 600. OUCH!! Confidence was crushed. At this point I began to get worried, bracing for the worst. I furiously read stuff on the internet and played with the GMATClub score calculator. Everything pointed to a possible score from as low as 570-ish to 680 or 690 on the high side. I essentially gave up on my 700 goal short term, instead hoping for at least a 650 or 660 on a good day. I drove over to the test site in advance just to scope out the place and see where my corpse was going to be buried. Test day:
Got up at 8am for my 2pm test appointment. Got there early, started my test half an hour early and finished an hour early (I didn't use the full 8 min breaks or w/e). AWA's were pretty easy as I got into testtaking mode. The Quant seemed slightly tougher than my GMATPreps. I would run into a tough question, give it my best guess, only to find what seemed to be an easier question afterwards (D'oh!!). Then, I would panic when I struggled with the "easy" question, too! (D'oh!!). As usual, I rushed for the last 5 or so questions and had to scramble on the last couple. Verbal seemed about in line with all of my practice tests, although I was more rushed for time at the end than I had ever been in Verbal. I guessed on a lot more Verbal questions than I ever had previously, and truly just clicked any random answer for the last few, just to make sure time didn't run out before I finished.
Score came back: 700!!! 90 percentile. 44Q 41V. Totally unexpected. 100 pts higher than my most recent GMATPrep 2! 160 pts higher than my most recent Kaplan
CAT! And my quant was actually higher than my verbal (who woulda thunk??)
Tips and Takeaways:
1) Have some kind of plan, depending on how you study/practice best.
2) Have a backup plan, in case you need to retake.
3) Remember that scores can be arbitrary, especially the real thing. Take your practice scores with a grain of salt. A few questions one way or the other can throw you in a completely different direction.
4) Hone in on your weak area(s). Mine was a few math subareas. A few weeks of solid practice seemed to help out a lot, if only to familiarize myself with the format of the questions.
5) Eat, sleep, and feel well for the test.
6) Schedule a later appointment time, if possible.
7) Chill out in the days before the test
8) Pay attention to timing. You do NOT want to run out of time with unanswered questions!!
9) Most important, make sure to eat lots of mac and cheese through your prep, as well as right before you take the real test
Good luck! Hope this was helpful!
"If everything seems under control, you're just not going fast enough." - Mario Andretti, Italian-American racecar driver champion