I took my GMAT this week so I am still waiting for my AWA and IR scores but my unofficial score was 710 (Q50, V36). I will update when I receive the official score report.
First let me thank all the contributors to the forums. It is nice to see that everyone goes through the same struggles but it is highly motivating to see guys who persevered to get what they want.Background info
I am a native speaker and have lived in London most of my life. I work in a moderately busy job in the city and like everyone else my study time was limited to evenings and weekends. I started to consider an MBA around October last year. After some research, I found out that I had to take the GMAT. Luckily, I stumbled upon this forum and found excellent recommendations on how to structure my studying. Around November I started studying for the GMAT not knowing what to really expect.Preparation
First, I took a Kaplan
CAT as a diagnostic. I scored a 600, which I was quite disappointed with especially as it was the Quant section that was dragging my score down. I worked through the Kaplan Premier
to try and understand what the test entailed. Generally I did not study very hard, spending around 1-2 hours 2 nights a week and occasionally on the weekends. I did not finished the book until January.
At this point, I took the paper diagnostic test in the OG13 and was much improved. I focused entirely on Quant for a month and worked through the first 80-90 questions on PS and DS. I kept an error log
and reviewed all my mistakes to try and find any weaknesses. Then did the same for RC, CR and SC (for SC I also used MGMAT SC
) while occasionally doing some Quant questions just to keep it up. By this time, it was February and I was starting to answer the questions accurately and consistently. I timed every revision session. All in all, I felt confident enough to book my test for the end of March.
With the exam booked, I decided that it was time to step up my studying. I studied every night after work for 1-2 hours depending on tiredness and 2-3 hours a day on the weekends. I always mixed the question types up e.g. 10 PS + 10 DS or 10 RC, 10 CR and 10 SC. I also started incorporating the CATS into my routine and the scores were as follows:
MGMAT 1: 640 (Q41, V36)
MGMAT 2: 650 (Q41, V37)
GMATPrep 1: 700 (Q47, V40)
MGMAT 3: 690 (Q45, V38)
GMATPrep 2: 730 (Q49, V40)
I think the reason I made a leap from the first 2 to the last 3 was the fact that I really concentrated on my basics. I spent time reviewing geometry formulas, probability questions and eliminating silly errors. I also used the MGMAT SC
book to improve my SC.Test Day
I took the day before the exam as holiday and I probably did 5 questions of each type just to keep my brain moving. Otherwise I watched movies and TV. I tried to get as relaxed and refreshed as possible. The one thing that was a problem was that my exam was booked for 8:15am. I wished it was an afternoon exam but I was restricted in what days I could take off work and this was the only slot free. Knowing that I had an 8:15am exam, I actually changed my sleeping pattern the week prior to the exam. I got up early (5:30-6am) every day, so that when test day came, it would not be a shock and I would be awake.
The test day itself was relatively simple because I felt prepared and relaxed. The test centre was close to work so I knew how to get there. I got there in good time, sat in a cafe before to have a coffee and eat something (making sure I followed my routine). The sign-in process for the exam was fine. I went to the bathroom before the exam just to work out where it was for my breaks.AWA
- This was not too bad. Everything was basically the same as GMATPrep. Use the Chineseburned template!IR
- I had quite a few multi-source questions and multi-part questions but I still managed to complete it. The key though is don't use up too much stamina before Quant. I just kept calm and did the best I could without worrying whether I did well or not.Break
- Took my break, went to the bathroom just to stretch my legs more than anything.Quant
- This felt on par with GMATPrep. When I took my CATs, I found that MGMAT was really heavy on time consuming calculations. I felt rushed in those CATs whereas for GMATPrep, I almost always had time left because a lot of the questions (especially DS) were theory based. If you can spot the answer or the way to get to the answer, you don't need to actually go through the calculations. E.g. If you know the number of unknown variables, then you know how much new information is required to find those variables. In the test itself, I was ahead of schedule, so I solved the last 7-8 really leisurely (over 2mins each), making sure I was 100% correct.Break
- See above, not much to addVerbal
- I have to say, this is the section I could have done better on. Questions wise, it was ok and were of a similar standard to GMATPrep. However between questions 25-35 I felt really hungry and this really distracted me! I could feel myself losing concentration and questions wrong. I managed to recover a bit for the last few questions but unfortunately the damage was done.
When I finished and got my score, I was pretty happy but knew that I did well on Q but was below average on V.Study materials used and my thoughts on themKaplan Premier
- I would say this is a decent book if you have time before you take your GMAT. It's a good way of getting to know the different parts of the exam and also it means you won't use up the OG questions as quickly. It WON'T help you get a great score by itself but I found it useful. I used their 1 2 T E N method for DS.Kaplan CATs
- I only used 1, unsure about their reliability or usefulness frankly.OG13
- Obviously a great source of questions. Their explanations are generally quite poor though, you're better off searching GMATClub for solutions. Brunel and others have usually put together a more elegant and faster solution than the OG in the Quant.MGMAT Sentence Correction
- Quite useful and definitely a great way of learning the rules. However it does lack examples, so sometimes it can leave me slightly unsure. I did get 6 free CATS with it though.MGMAT CATS
- I used 3 of 6. They are really good providing you know that the Quant is harder than the real test. Don't get disheartened if you don't perform as expected on these.Powerscore CR Bible
- Too in depth. I only got through a few chapters of this book and honestly it went into far too much detail. I actually found it much easier just to do the questions and work through the logic rather than use this book.GMATClub
- This is a wealth of knowledge. There are some very succinct explanations for Quant questions that are better than the OG explanations. The posts on specific areas in SC by e-gmat
were also really helpful.Top 5 takeaways from the experience
1. Too many cooks spoil the broth
- Look there is a wealth of knowledge out there about the GMAT with lots of different ways of approaching the same questions. What is key though is finding something that works for you. Try them out and if it helps, then go for it. This goes for the various books (Kaplan
, MGMAT, etc) and the information in the forums. What works for somebody else may not work for you.
2. Get the basics right
- I did my undergrad in Maths, but I still took time to review geometry formulas, combinations, etc. You really need to have a complete understanding before you can efficiently tackle the questions. Similar for Verbal, I am a native speaker but I had to go back to make sure I fully grasped basics of grammar.
3. Practice makes perfect
- Once you are of a certain level, there is little point in doing 10 questions at a time and getting all 10 correct. You need stamina. Take full length CATS and o through the whole process of AWA, IR, Q, V like you would for the actual exam. Don't skip AWA or IR just because it may not be as important. You have to feel comfortable doing a Quant and Verbal section after you have spent an hour doing those 2 sections. By getting used to it, hopefully you won't get freaked out on test day.
4. Practice your test routine
- Sort of an extension to #3 but replicate everything about your test day. There are people who don't usually drink red bull and then on test day drink it before and during the breaks. That to me seems crazy because it's not something you are used to. Just because it works for someone else, it may not work for you. This also goes for the working around the time of your exam. I found it really helped me to sync my body clock so that I felt awake and "normal" for the exam.
5. Be weary of CATs and don't get disheartened
- Looking back, it is obvious that MGMAT Quant is harder than the real thing. Therefore use the CATs as a tool to find out where you are weak and need to review the basics. They may not be really indicative of your final score. The closest thing you get will be GMATPrep.Final Word
Thanks for reading through all of the above! I know it was extremely detailed but hopefully it will be of help to someone. I put the word "probably" in the title because while I exceeded my expectations on Quant, I know I could have done better on Verbal. However I did tell myself before the exam that anything above 700, I won't retake and I am going to stick to it. I don't really want to be one of those guys who fixate on the GMAT endlessly. The only scenario where I might retake would be if I bomb out with my applications this year and I get feedback that my GMAT score is holding me back.
*Updated 30th May*: Part 4 Recommendations – Elements of an MBA application series
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