Before I write anything, I would like to thank this amazing forum for the awesome community that it has establish.
Alright, I took GMAT yesterday and scored 700 V49 Q35. Although, I am not super disappointed in the score I should have done better, especially as I could not complete the verbal section (timed out before I could see 41st q - I know it sounds stupid!). In addition, I started my Verbal section 45 seconds late due to the delay in the break.
Background: 31yr; BTech (IIT Kanpur). Target school: IMDMy Preparation & Practice Scores:
I started some prep in May (1-2 hrs a week) and it just dragged in Jun and July (3-4 hrs a week). I had completed quant basics + some verbal basics upto July-end. My prep really started around first week of Aug (took MGMAT1) and then it picked up in Sep (took MGMAT2) (it was also quite busy at work in Sep but I managed). My prep time for different sections/sub-sections would be SC > Quant.> CR > RC.
I think I tried to cram too much in last 1.5 months (esp. SC) and this test requires you to internalize these concepts because it tests your application instead of theory. I felt I needed more time - not so much actual hours of study but more of a spread i.e. more weeks with less hours per week, so that I can internalize the concepts and make them second nature. Unfortunately, at 31 with a hectic job, this could have been a constraint (losing focus as you spread it over more weeks) and hence I booked the exam date and atook it. Furthermore, in Aug-Sep, I got a promotion and had to finalize a deal to buy a house (it was an awesome deal, I could not postpone it but I had to evaluate several options before taking the final call)
MGMAT1: 670 (Q47, V34)
MGMAT2: 710 (Q48, V38)
GMAT Prep1: 740 (Q50, V41)
GMAT Prep2: 750 (Q50, V41)
Although, I have access to all MGMAT tests, I only took 2. I had limited time on weekends and did not want to take a test every weekend. So, I decided to only use two and then in the last week of prep moved on to GMAT Prep.Material used
1. Jeff Sackman
's Challenge Sets: Awesome - can raise your score to Q49-50 range. Very GMAT like questions.
2. MGMAT stuff: SC + Number Prop. book - Awesome, Rest of the stuff (other quant books + RC, CR) - reasonably good but not too helpful for someone looking for 700+
CR + RC books: Concepts - reasonably good but again not too helpful for someone in the range 680-700. Practice questions (both in CR and RC books) - Awesome, some really good questions/passages!
: SC course - Awesome +++ really Awesome. I only started this course from last week of Aug and could only do the concepts and exercises once and regret not being able to do them second time. This is worth every penny esp. for non-natives.  CR course - I could not complete this course (as I purchased this part towards the end mainly to review concepts). I did have some additional learning while doing this course esp. Pre-thinking part!
5. Powerscore CR
: what can I say, the name says it already - it is the Bible (except: I think it is crazy not to read the question first in CR)
6. OG 12
, Verbal & Quant Review: Quant - did last 20 qs from OG 12
, did not touch Quant review. Verbal - did all SC questions (particularly from 100-140 multiple times), CR (completed once), RC (only 4 passages).
7.  GMATPrep documents: I could only do 50 SC qs and like 20 CR q (and 0 RC qs) and I do regret this.Test day
3 Days before the test: took GMATPrep2 and then spent the next two days reviewing error logs while also reviewing some important concepts and questions.
Day before test: reviewed some quant and verbal concepts, and then watched The Wonder Years (it is still fun to watch those episodes that I grew up watching) straight for several hours.
Test day: got up, got ready and then did 5 quant questions from OG followed it up with some quick random multiplication and divisions. Reached center 45 mins before time, test examiner was real friendly lady. I started my exam:
a. AWA - went smooth. I finished argument in 25 mins and then took 5 mins to relax - do some neck & shoulder exercises and then some deep breathing. Followed by Issue - went smooth as well. Same stuff 25mins done & then exercises.
b. Break before Quant: Half banana + choc (Mars) + water; some walking up and down a few stairs, then restroom - splash water on face. I was back in time for Quant section.
c. Quant: section started real easy, first two problems were like really really easy. First one, I did in like 20s but then spent another 45s just triple checking that I got it correct, ok moved on. 3-10 questions seemed reasonably well - I was getting the trick in each question. Around 12-13qs it started getting tough, I had decided that I'll spend 3 min if I know how to solve it, if I dont know I'll pass in 30-35s. I stuck to this strategy, there were some tricky DS questions. In terms of topics - Lots of Number Properties in different forms. Primes, Even & Odd, Exponents; Ratios; Rates or Speed/Distance;
Median, Average; Inequalities and very little Geometry (I really wanted more geometry). To my real real surprise, I got a pure division question with 6 digit numbers (crazy!!). This is what my timing looked like: 11th Q: 60min left, 21st Q: 40min; 31st Q: 17min and completed with just a minute to go.
d. Break after Quant: half banana + choc (Mars) + water; some walking up and down a few stairs, then restroom - splash water on face. When I returned to the reception, there was like a queue of people who were checking out (this was a center that hosts courses or something besides having test-taking facilities) and examiner was busy with them. I thought I have around 2mins left. Then after a minute or so examiner was free and she took me to my seat and when she logged me in it said you have lot 45seconds from your allotted time for this section. Damn! I told myself c'mon I can finish this session in time and started.
Started with SC (simple one), after a few SCs got a CR that also looked simple, then my first RC - went alright. Then around 8-9qs SC started getting really tricky, I mean there was no easy way out of these SC (in some all five options started and ended with different words) - so it took me sometime to pick what I felt was the best answer. This was costing me around 20-30s more on SC than in my prep tests. Till 11th qs, I was on time 56min left, then by 20th qs I had 35mins left - so I had spent ~20 mins between 11th and 20th question. This started to look like a problem to me (as my target for 20th question was 37-38 min left) but I thought I'll catch up. More tricky SCs + long RC and by the 27th question, I had 19 mins left - wow! now that's getting behind my target as acc. to my pacing plan I should have been on 29-30th question with 19 mins.
By 31st question, I was left with 13mins. I did not panic, got a medium sized RC, skimmed it in like 45s, then answered 2 questions in 30s each (both were general questions), then spent around 1 min on 3rd detail question. Now, I had like 9mins for 7questions at this point, I thought of applying the strategy of guessing on my weakness - only CRs and SCs were left. CRs were tempting and I wanted to answer correctly but with less than 1min 10 secs per question it was getting difficult. And I thought, no worries lets just guess and complete the section, I was on 39th q and it showed 2.5 mins left, I thought that's fine 2 question 2.5 minute --> STUPID mistake, there are 3 questions when you are at 39th (39, 40, and 41). I answered 39th and then spent the remaining 1 min and 10s on 40th question thinking that it is the last question (I was scrambling to pick the correct answer, clicked on some choice and then as I read a more probable choice, I changed my pick). Last 5s and I clicked submit for 40th q and then 41st q came up - it was an SC and along with it popped up "Timed out for this section" - I was like Damn! could not help but I started laughing at myself - you stupid stupid guy!
Click, click, click on background questions, then came the score 700 Q49 V35 and I thought - only if I had atleast answered 41st question, I would have got 710 maybe 720. Anyways, this was fun and as I got my print out I was thinking, I'll do this again.
1. Quant in the real exam is tricky and slightly above GMAT Prep level.
2. Verbal: SC is quite tricky (60s is difficult to achieve and I did not feel confident while choosing answer choices). CR is pretty normal (assumption, strengthen, weaken questions). RC (my fav. ) is also pretty normal though I got like a strengthen/weaken question in RC-related questions, which was strange but easy.
I really enjoy RCs and had good accuracy in it during practice. This was not the case when I started out. My strategy for RC is to really get genuinely excited as I see and read it. Its like.. pops an RC and I am like "Wow!! lets do this", and then RC starts ...Scholars have identified several reasons for XYZ phenomenon during pre-historic period but new evidence suggests ABC.. I am like "Wow!, scholars said this but there is something going now.. whats happening here.. tell me more".. and then passage states some new findings.. I am like "Alright, so this is what is new, what does it mean.. what were the scholars thinking. hmmm lets read further". This really keeps me into the passage and once you paraphrase the key sentences in the passage you really get a very good hang of whats being stated. I think two things are important for this strategy: a) fast reading - you must be able to read a sentence quickly and comprehend it; b) paraphrase key sentences but you must remember that you dont need to read everything in the passage with this dedication. I would say read and paraphrase around 50-60% of passage (key sentences) that is more than enough to get General questions correct and to know where to look for Detail questions.Suggestions:
A lot of suggestions are already on this forum. If I had to give 4 suggestions, those would be:
1. Spread your prep over 3-4 months esp. if you have lot of catching up to do in Verbal (i.e. with regards to your baseline score and target score). This test is not about memorizing stuff, this is real logic testing exam and it requires that you internalize the concepts - this takes time. I remember Ron stating several times that you need to give your brain enough time to absorb the concepts (for lateral learning). You dont want to fight this out by studying 4-5 hrs a day every day. 2 hrs a day with regular breaks (i.e. studying only 5 days a week) so that you internalize the concepts will be better.
2. Do less practice problems, focus more on "take-aways". 200-250 problems for each type of sub-section is enough if you extract the take-away and learn from it. I would recommend for practice problems: for SC - OG, e-GMAT
, CR - OG, Veritas
, RC - OG, Veritas
3.  Do GMATPrep documents: These are the best representation of what you will see on real GMAT. Do these documents and IMHO forget about saving them for GMATPrep CATs. Use these documents for what they are "best representation" and extract "take-aways". I could only do 50 SC qs and like 20 CR q (and 0 RC qs) and I do regret this. CATs are mainly to test your pacing plan, to build stamina and give "some" insight in your weaknesses - don't use them as holy grail. You learn about your strengths and weakness while doing timed practice, any qs that you cannot do in 3.5mins (quant) or 2.5mins (verbal, 2mins for SC) is your weakness. Find these while practicing dont just rely on CATs.
4. Enjoy the prep - dont think of this only as an exam that you need to clear and move on. Quant sharpens your mind, it is a tool to keep your brain active and running. Similarly, studying Verbal, esp. for non-natives, is an opportunity to genuinely improve their English (particularly in speaking and writing correct English) and CR is absolutely basic skillset that all of us need in our work and personal lives. Treat these as critical skills for development and enjoy the process.
Let me know if there are any questions.