This is my first post after 4 months of studying and silently reading the wise words of the experts in this forum - Stacy, Ron, Karen - thanks to them for all their posts - don't think I could have studied without the help of all the forums that they frequent and answer the questions in such depth it is sooo helpful! Especially nice with all the wrong questions/answers floating around out there. Wanted to share quick debrief as I know these things helped motivate me when I was down or got a bad score on a practice test.
First words of advice: Assume nothing! I got a 1440 on my SAT back in 2001 without taking a prep class - 760 on verbal, 680 on verbal - so I figured I could get ~ 700 on GMAT without too much trouble. NOT TRUE FOR ME. GMAT is a totally different test. Its just a really difficult test to master. In January (when I started preparing) I figured I would breeze over verbal since I've always been really good at Verbal/I read fast, so for the last 4 months I studied mostly just quant, knowing it was my big weakness (as was obvious with my somewhat unbalanced SAT score). However, the verbal on the GMAT is TOTALLY different and I would have definitely benefited from spending more time focusing on verbal instead of assuming I could pick up the few sentence correction rules I needed the month before the test. Critical Reasoning is a whole different kind of beast - which definitely takes repeated practice. Reading Comp - which has always been my strong suit in other standardized tests - is actually pretty tough on the GMAT (although on practice MGMATs/Princeton Review - not very hard), and I didn't practice it hardly at all, so would have maybe helped to do that (although I don't think you can improve on it THAT much). Sentence correction is not as easy as you would think, a couple of the main rules will help you increase 3 points or so, but the smaller ones that you will see on the test in the 700 level are much more difficult to pick up quickly and definitely take repeated practice.
Second word of advice: Pick a test date! As soon as I got > 700 on a MGMAT test, I scheduled my test for a month from that date. This was truly critical in giving me a 'light at the end of the tunnel' for all the weekends I spent in my room studying. I would definitely advise doing this, as I studied much more proactively/efficiently after setting this date.
Just to set the record straight: You can do better than your GMAT Prep score by 40 points! I took a GMAT Prep (the closest to 'official' test you can take) 2 weeks before my test date and scored a 690. I took the other one one week later and got a 700. I was pretty upset and down, as my target score was 730. I read that the GMAT Prep has a range of +/- 30 and that most people actually go down in the real event, so I was freaking out. So I thought about rescheduling, but decided against it. Thanks to all the MGMAT instructors who helped calm me down during panicked office hours sessions
So drumroll, I got my target score of 730! So you can do it! Below are my scores to give my fellow GMAT partners hope!
ANOTHER THING: TIMING IS EVERYTHING: As you can see from my practice scores, once I figured out to stick to my benchmarks my score shot up 100 points! So this is a HUGE part of the test that you need to practice practice practice.
Side note: Even after practicing this 'diligent timing' on ~10 tests, I STILL screwed up my timing in the actual test (its super stressful and my nerves were all over the place) and I thought for some reason, that Math had 41 problems instead of 37, so I guessed on the last two problems trying to save time - but actually it was the end of the test! Woops! Talk about freaking out afterwards! Nerves do funny things some times - I had taken about a million practice tests so i can't imagine what I was thinking!!
Also i ran out of time on verbal after stupidly spending ~ 5 min on a critical reasoning question and another ~5 min on a specific detail question - forcing me to rush through the last 4 problems and guessing on 3/4 of them - so I probably could have bumped up both my math and verbal score about a point each if I had been stricter with timing - which means I could have had an even HIGHER score. SO, final WORDS OF WISDOM ON THIS: Practice the actual test taking scenario a lot (although I did this) and try to really be diligent about sticking to your benchmarks - it can really hurt you if you go off that too much. Luckily in my case, it didn't hurt me too bad, but I probably could have scored even higher had I been more strict about only spending 2.5 minutes EVER on a problem. And as much as you can give yourself the 'real situation' when taking the test do it, because nerves do funny things sometimes (like seeing #37 on math and thinking you have 4 questions left? What?)
SCORES TO GIVE MOTIVATION TO THOSE SCORING 690s: You can do it! Schedule your test as soon as you get >= 700!
Princeton Review 1: Only took quant part (my weakness): 45Q
MGMAT 1: 640 (43 Q, 35V) - 2/12/2011 (took this before I started the 9 session onsite course)
MGMAT 2: 630 (40 Q, 36V) - 3/26/2012 (Halfway through my MGMAT course - very much struggling with timing)
MGMAT 3: 730 (48 Q, 41V) - 4/9/2011 (75% through my course)
MGMAT 4: 730 (44Q, 45V) - 4/17/2011
Princeton Review CAT 2: 690 (44Q, 41V) - 4/22/2011
MGMAT 5: 730 (45Q, 45Q) - 4/23/2011
MGMAT 6: 740 (47Q, 44V) - 5/6/2011 (5 days before Test Day)
Princeton Review CAT 3: 690 (43Q, 42V) - 5/7/2011
Princeton Review CAT 4: 710 (44Q, 44V) - 5/8/2011Kaplan
Online Test: Only took Verbal: 47V
So in summary: Math on actual GMAT is WAY easier than MGMAT, but Verbal is WAY harder, so the overall score MGMAT gives you is actually pretty accurate. But plan to do better on math and worse on verbal. Kaplan Verbal
is pretty tough if you want to test yourself on harder problems.
Okay hope this helps some people! You can do it - and don't freak out if you get a low GMAT Prep score, is my moral of the story. Oh, as for how I studied: took the 9 session MGMAT course, did about 1-2 hours after work every day, stayed in 90% of every weekend and studied Friday/Saturday/Sunday from January - April, and copied down EVERY quant problem I missed into a notebook for review as well as SC sentences I missed.
Wish I could tell you I had a neat trick but it is a freaking awful test and I can't believe how much work I had to put in just to get a 730, its freaking ridiculous. I wish I had a better method for getting 700+ but I pretty much dedicated EVERY weekend to this test, and did not do but 3 social activities in that whole span
Luckily my friends were understanding but I definitely sacrificed my social life.