Though nearly not as many people are taking GMAT now as had been 4 weeks ago I still want to leave a thorough debrief so that others might in some way benefit from it as I have from other debriefs. Here is my journey. My story.
In January of this year I took the GMAT PREP #1 without any prior studying. I did not take in one sitting, and did not do the writing section. I did Math section one day, and the verbal another day. I scored a 45 Q and 40 V, for a 690. I set the goal for a 730, the score my brother got.
My background, though in math and science, always has shown me to have a stronger ability in verbal than in math. That said, in August of this year I decided that I would take the GMAT and needed to begin studying.
To begin studying I explored this website to find some advice on where to begin. For the beginner, the amount of advice is overwhelming. So many textbooks, so much information, so many links to concepts, etc. I hope I can shed some light on what I think is needed.
Before I do so, I want the reader to understand my perspective of the GMAT. It is the perspective for someone who desires to score 700+. This is not advice intended for someone in the mid 600 range. All that said, let me begin.
The most important thing in the GMAT are the concepts; knowing them inside and out, being extremely comfortable with them, and having alot of confidence in applying them in a time constrained environment. That said, ONLY seek materials which will help you learn these concepts AND apply them. With that in mind, here are the materials I recommend.
: This is NOT the bible, as many state. It is simply a source for a wide array of problems; none of which will prepare you for 700+ type questions. Still, a very important book.
: These are without exception, incredibly valuable books. I am absolutely in awe of their excellence and ability to outline every concept in every subject. Now that said, yes alot of it is knowledge you may know; but to have a single source which you can envision in your mind for how to do problems I believe is very important. I did not get all the books, and barely used a couple of the ones I got. But still, the Manhattan Books
were like a base to me. My comfort zone, the place I could go back to.
: Very important. Do as many as you can, simply put, this is the real deal, it will prepare you and take out your nerves on test day.
Challenges: Challenges are probably the most controversial subject in GMAT CLUB as to their usefulness. Here is what I think. Challenges made me become hardened. What I mean by that is, they taught me how to always be on the alert. Do not get hung up on the scores (I ranged from 91 to 54 percent; on 15 challenges).
Mixture Problems - There is a link which i do not have from on this website, of a printout of how to solve mixture problems in a shorted strategy. It is excellent.
SC1000 Set - I did about 400 of these, and while they clicked sometimes, I never became as SC guru, which I know was what always kept me from being a 45 Verbal guy.
Math and Verbal - My brother compared math and verbal to a double play combination of a SS and 2b. The SS in turning the double play is graceful, fluid, and smooth. This is how you should approach verbal questions. The 2b is more deliberate, functional, and rigid; this is how you should approach Math. That said, there is a LIMIT to how much you can improve verbal for ENGLISH speaking persons. I did not study CR or RC whatsoever, since this was just a very strong natural area for me. But I believe, reading quality literature can help someone overtime, even in a shortened period. People who score 580 on the GMAT, are english speaking, and say "well I didn't study, I could have score so much higher" are right to a degree. I believe there is alot of improvement that can be made up to the mid 600's. After that, as you get in the high 600's IT is very difficult to raise your score. This is not to deflate anyone's ego, but simply to say, KNOW your strengths and weaknesses. Self awareness, folks, is the most important thing in life.
So those are the materials which I believe are sufficient to get you to a 800 score. I think the time needed to study of course varies on the person, their aptitude, and how well they absorb material. How much one can improve their score depends on so many factors as I stated above. I can say that the time I spent studying could be done in 2-4 weeks time, I spread mine out which hurt me I think as I became a little exhausted and bored.
Now here are the GMAT PREP scores I got, one week before the test:
GMAT PREP#1 - 720
GMAT PREP #2 - 730
GMAT PREP #2 (repeat, no repeat answers) - 740
The last GMAT PREP, was three days before the real thing, and I did the writing as well. I reviewed everything the day after, and the day before the GMAT PREP, I did nothing, but watch a movie.
I woke up, ate a solid breakfast, and played some music. Next thing I knew I was dancing by myself and getting all fired up. I drove down to the test center and was eager to begin. The essay writing went well, and I think I will score 4.5-5.5.
At the break I ate a powerbar and drank apple juice. I did some jumping jacks and went into the bathroom and splased water in my face.
The math breezed by, until question 15 when I got a question that simply was unsolvable. Literally, there was no way to solve it because an odd number cannot be divided by two to get an integer which was required ('m kidding somewhat I am sure I misinterpreted the question somehow); this told me I was dominating the test. But then I hit a pitfall, lost balance, and while I finished strong, I knew I did not get the 50, or maybe 49 that I had gotten on 2 of my last 3 gmatpreps.
The break, I did same thing as break before. The verbal went even more quickly, too quickly in fact, and I had 10 minutes to spare. By the end of the test, I knew I had not perfored at my 'A' game, but at my B+ game. I played it safe, I did not get risky. I regret it some, I was a little conservative. I saw the score and it was what I had expected.
In conclusion, my verbal score actually decreased from when I began studying and my math saw improvement. I think I could have easily scored a 730, but on that day, a 710 is what I got; which is fine.
This board is an invaluable resource to post questions you are unsure to solve, or for support. There is a story here for everyone that is unique to their situation.
A final bit of wisdom I have is that of balance. Balance is key in everything in life, and studying for the GMAT is no different. The GMAT is not your IQ, it is a score. And it is one factor that admissions take into evaluation of your candidacy. It does happen to be the most important factor; but remember you are a culmination of all the decisions, big or small, you have made in your life. You are where you are, because its (admittedly or not) where you chose to be through this series of decisions. As you approach the GMAT, think one thing first. What do I really want? Answer that question truthfully, and it shall be yours.