Starting last November, I procrastinated a couple of months, reading the Princeton Review
'Cracking the GMAT
' book, trying to understand what the whole thing was all about. Then beginning at New Year, I sat down with the OG and got to work for real. I took the GMAT Prep 1 on 20th Jan and scored a 660 (Q43, V38). I took the whole thing including AWA to simulate the entire test experience. I was encouraged, as my aim was 700 and I figured I was on my way.
During this entire time I focussed pretty much exclusively on Quant; it was my weaker subject area. I kept focussing on quant, but bought the Manhattan SC book to have, figuring I would get to it eventually. I recommend getting this book.
I continued to focus on the math. I got a math tutor a couple saturdays running, and he helped me work through some problems I was having. Only 4 hours total, but he helped me overcome a couple of issues that I was finding crucially difficult to overcome. I recommend that if you find yourself struggling with a particular kind of problem, you consider getting a tutor to iron that issue out.
Around Feb 8th, I took the Manhattan GMAT
practice test, and scored a 650 (Q43, V36). I was disappointed but not distressed, having read the comments on GMAT forum regarding the reliability of the commercial practice tests. I got back to work, focussing again on the math, but cracked the Sentence Correction book for the first time. I had always figured that I would nail as much Quant as possible and fill in a couple of gaps on Verbal as it was my stronger subject area.
I had scheduled the test for 26th Feb, and having read on the Forum from some people that it wasn't a good idea to over-test in the week leading up to the exam, took a GMAT PowerPrep test on the 20th, again complete with AWA to simulate the complete test experience (I figure that factoring in fatigue is not a bad way to build stamina, plus, the two GMAT practice tests I took were the only practice I got at AWA as I did not prep for this at all aside for read a bit in the OG in the cab on the way to the actual test. NOTE: I have yet to hear back on my AWA score so this could, in hindsight, prove to have been a blunder on my part). I scored a 660 (Q47 87%ile, V34 70th %ile) AGAIN on the 20th of Feb, exactly a month of laborious exertion and no social life after I had first scored 660. Math was consistently improving (though a couple of math questions I had seen before, I put one wrong answer on purpose), but V had become even worse.
. The next day I got to work on the Manhattan SC book and spent the next 5 days completing the thing. I took the approach that quality was better than quantity, went through the problem sets in the SC book but only for the probs they set out in the OG (leaving the problems in the Verbal Guide). I completed the book and felt a lot more comfortable around SC problems.
The day after I scored the 660 in what proved to be my final practice test, I ordered a couple more Manhattan Prep books
(I'm very impressed by their approach, by the way). I ordered their CR book and their Word Translation (math) books. I had these sent to my work address and crossed my fingers that they would arrive by the friday, so that I could get on with them over the weekend (test was on the Tuesday following). While I waited for them to arrive, I had my work cut out for me in the Manhattan SC book. So what happens?
The CR and Word Translation books did not arrive before the weekend (and I was booked in for the test the coming Tuesday)
. Whatever, can't cry over spilt milk, so I kept on it with the SC. Just crossed my fingers and hoped the books would arrive on Monday at least. At this point, I figured I wouldn't get the 700 so I guessed I'd have time to look over the missing books in the coming weeks..... Over the weekend, I worked through the entire SC section of the Verbal Guide, which I had left alone when I was working on Manhattan Prep SC in combination with the OG.
What I did, though, was to answer every single question and write down exactly what kind of mistake / SC grammar was being tested (modifier, agreement, parallelism, idiom, etc). After finishing all of those questions and writing down what I thought was being tested and checking the answers and understanding why I had gotten which ones wrong, I was an SC beast. Flaring nostrils etc.
Come monday, the books had arrived at work. I left at lunch and got back to GMAT, after going for a swim. CR, though I originally though I was good at it, had proven to be more challenging to me on the GMAT preps than I thought it would be. I did not have much time to correct this (less than 24 hours, in fact). Nonetheless, the Manhattan CR
instructions were a godsend. In that short timeframe I was able to (with some focussed and well directed effort) practice the key recommendations in the book. These are expressed in two chapters in the CR book (that's all I had time to read). I employed them in the exam, leaving behind my old strategy of reading the question, not writing anything down, and trying to answer the question (in the practice tests, I had not felt comfortable with this kind of approach, often getting confused). I never managed to have a look into the Word Translations (math) book by Manhattan.
Come test day (test at 12.45), I had the morning to get my math brain back on - I had not touched math, my weak subject, for a week leading up to the exam. I looked at problems and struggled with some of the types of probs I had grown comfortable and familiar with (...er, like word translations...) over my two month battle with the OG.
What can you do though, as things had stood a week before the test, my verbal was going to lead me to tank on the test; I had to keep up my end of the bargain(verbal) if I was going to dedicate so much time to re-learning math.
Took the test, didn't feel good on Quant, I must say (nor, for that matter, on the Issue writing section. I digress), but the Verbal felt good. I applied to a T the Manhattan CR
strategy and ended up going to the wire (had to guess on the last Verbal question b/c I ran out of time) because the Manhattan CR
strategy is actually quite time consuming (Manhattan says that with practice you get quicker at it, but I didn't get much time to practice).
Filled in that ridiculous survey, and the score came back 710, which is 93rd %ile (Q46 - 79%ile, V41 - 93%ile).
I sat back with a stupid smile on my face. In ONE WEEK I had seen my %ile in Q drop by 8 points, but managed to raise my V from 70th %ile on the GMAT Powerprep to 93rd %ile on the actual GMAT.
I worked my butt off and was disciplined and yada yada, but I do recommend you get the Manhattan SC and CR books, even if you're good at Verbal. They are sound books.
It's one of those things: before walking in to the test centre, I was aiming for 700 and in the back of my mind knew that I would be tempted to bank a 690 and move on from the GMAT. But looking at the %iles and knowing my turnaround in the final week, a part of me is sitting here thinking: do it again, now that you've nailed V, and raise your Q. But I won't be greedy. With this score, I know that no schools can disregard my app out of hand. Thanks to all you in the Forum for the old war stories, questions, answers and general cameraderie.
Oh, and regarding excercise: make sure you get off your fat @ss leading up to the exam, especially if you're doing a lot of problems and working your brain. You need to have 30 - 60 mins a day when you're not thinking about the GMAT (and sitting in front of the TV won't help you relax). I mixed it up in the final month, going jogging, or swimming laps, and the weekend before the test, thought I'd try my hand at yoga for the first time in a few years. What the hell, excercise gets the blood flowing and helps keep you sane.