I just came back from doing my GMAT and was absolutely thrilled when I got a 720, when I was expecting something in the mid-600s. I want to recount my experience and 'give back' to the community since I relied completely on tips and advice from the GMAT Club forums for my preparation. I must say these resources have been AWESOME and in my instance, more valuable than taking a course, where I would have probably 'zoned' out during a lecture style approach. Background:
- Started mildy studying in April with a ~50 h/week busy work schedule
- Studied maybe 1 hour, 3 out of 5 days, M-F, and spent maybe 4 hours on the weekends; but was very inconsistent due to high demands from work
- Huge weakness: Math, I sucked at this since high school. Plus, I have been out of college for 5.5 years and haven't taken a test since.
- Took 2 days off work this past week and crammed like mad over 4 days
- Took the GMAT todayMaterials used:
- Kaplan Premier
- OG 12
- OG Quant
- Powerscore GMAT Critical Reasoning Bible
- MGMAT Quant Strategy Guides
- MGMAT Sentence Correction
- Total GMAT Math
by Jeff Hackman
- MGMAT, GMATPrep, Kaplan
- Worked through Total GMAT Math
in the beginning for a while...I thought it would help build a foundation and 'brush' up my poor math, but I found it hard to use in the e-Book format, flipping back and forth between questions and answers took too long, and the book is quite lengthy too so I abandoned it maybe 30% in
- Completed the entire Kaplan Premier
2011 book - I really liked this book, the explanations were clear and concise and offered some good strategy tips and practice questions, easy to read and 'kept it simple'
- Completed the MGMAT Quant Strategy Guides -**I completed these only for topics I was weak in - although offered some great strategies that were not in Kaplan Premier
2011; the strategies/text weren't as easy to follow; frankly, it felt very dry and some of the strategies are great but in reality I almost never had to use those advanced strategies in the OG practice questions and didn't have to either on test day
- MGMAT Sentence Correction
Guide - this was very good, nice and clear. I just read through the content, didn't do the drills. I preferred this over some online version of notes I found on the Beat the GMAT forum.
- Completed the PowerScore CR
Bible - I was expecting this to be awesome after all the rave reviews, but honestly it was a waste of my time. I spent more time trying to learn new terminology of 'question types' than polishing my skills. I recommend skip and dive straight into OG 12
CR practice questions and learn through practice.
- Completed all Quant OG
Questions in the OG 12
and Quant Review 12. This was the most valuable in my opinion, and the biggest bang for your buck. These questions were most like the ones I saw on the GMAT hands down. If you're looking at the last 50-100 questions in each section - level of difficulty was similar as what I experienced on the real GMAT.CATS
- Completed one MGMAT CAT - made me completely depressed got in the 500's, and the actual tests were much harder than the real test
- Completed 1 Kaplan
Online CAT - got 640, felt a bit better, found the quant easy, but the verbal brutal (and doing verbal is my strength)
- Completed a GMAT Prep test - failed on the timing and didn't finish, and missed score by flipping through screens too fast
- Completed 2nd Kaplan
Online CAT - got 540 a few days ago, felt depressed again
- Completed another GMAT Prep test 2 days ago - got 650 - felt a bit better
- Was expecting mid-600s on actual GMAT based on history, and JAW DROPPED when I got a 720Actual Test Experience
- It's true that it is VERY similar to the OG - in fact, one of the questions was the EXACT same one from either the OG12
or Prep CAT I took 2 days earlier. I was SO GLAD I focused on the OG12
intensely in my last few study times.
- The Quant questions were surprisingly easier than I expected, I spent a second wondering if it was because I had got many of the earlier ones wrong, but quickly pushed it out of my mind
- I had to guess for sure on a couple, and I routinely chose D or E as people have recommended - this must have worked as evidence from the results I got!
- After the test, I participated in a 'research' section for 30 minutes on the new "INTEGRATED" type of questions that will be starting next year, June 2012. It was quite interesting and I can see a LOT of test prep companies being thrown off starting next year on how to teach students this. Quant questions allowed you to use a 'calculator' from the screen and each question had many different sub questions. There were also questions that were kind of like case studies where you read the 'opinions' of multiple people and answer a series of questions about them. It was definitely a way of testing that I never had experienced, and very different. It probably will be a nice indicator of true 'intellect' until people start understanding the patterns of how this is tested. The following are, in my experience, keys to success:
- Practicing under timed conditions - you can improve your score a lot by understanding how to pace yourself
- Knowing how to 'guess' well
and move on quickly if you are stumped
- Spend most of your time doing OG Questions and reviewing these!!!
One trick I thought of to doing the OG more efficiently, was to do the questions STRAIGHT from the answer key
so I could do the question (with answer covered) and review the answer right after I did the question. This sounds simple but saved sooo much time flipping back and forth from question section to the answer section. I hate having to turn pages and flipping back and forth, and I think this helps save lots of time.
- If you're running out of time, don't spend time on overly complicated materials
like the MGMAT CATs or advanced strategies because they will confuse you more than make you learn anything new. Furthermore, you're not getting the bang for your buck with your time because some of the question types discussed are quite rare, you may not even encounter them on the real test. I think it was good I didn't stress over the overly complicated stuff and focused on the 'regular stuff' from the OGs "KISS: Keep It Simple Stupid"
- BELIEVE IN YOURSELF and GO IN TO THE TEST, FIERCE. Today when I woke up this morning, I told myself YOU CAN DO IT, and had the "eye of the tiger" music in my mind. Sounds cheesy, but I think it helped make me 'believe' I could do it (although I wasn't expecting much!!!)
- Finally, FOCUS ON THE VERBAL - I didn't really touch verbal at all until this past week since I have grown up english-speaking since I was 5 and have a strength in this area. However, when I did some practice tests, found out that I got a lot of the SC questions wrong because of the 'bad colloquial' language that I had picked up over time. Refreshing myself on the SC rules SPECIFIC to the GMAT really helped me out here. If you are a strong/native english person - don't think you will do well on this section naturally. You will get a lot of points for spending some time understanding the GMAT 'rules'.
- Take the test when your skills are "WARMED UP"...I think the intensity with which I studied over the past few days definitely helped put me in "THE ZONE". When I was mildly/casually studying in April, I didn't have the intensity/focus to really 'ABSORB" the materials well...but in past few days I think I probably studied more than I had in a month, and this helped keep everything in my brain. There is a lot to keep in the brain, and if you studied it too long ago, you may no longer remember it and it would be time lost. NOTE: I have been known to be a procrastinator and feed off of the 'adrenaline' rush, may not work if you don't like the adrenaline rush.
Last of all - the GMAT is tough, and I was definitley insecure about what I could do, but you never know, so have some faith. I wish everyone the best - and remember to do what works for you (try some approaches and see what works best for your personal learning style), evaluate your own strengths/weaknesses, and don't overcomplicate your studying. I wish you all luck!