To begin with, I'll say thanks to the many other users on these forums who have taken the time to post and thus made my GMAT experience both successful and bearable. Without the numerous resources on the GMAT Club, I'm sure my final score would have told a very different story. Now like many others it's my turn to give back a little and share my GMAT Prep story.
First a little about myself, I've been active duty Army since graduating from college in 2008. Needless to say doing any math is not part of my everyday job description, and the Army has it's own jargon filled version of the English language. So in August of 2012 when I decided I'd take the GMAT in March 2013 I knew I'd have to put some serious hours of studying in to get myself back into the academic mindset after such a long break.
I started studying around October 2012. At first I just read everything I could about the test, relying heavily on the forums here and the OG. From these forums in particular, I decided to set myself up with the following resource package:
1. All 8 of the specific MGMAT subject guides (These were invaluable resources for a refresher of all the concepts that I hadn't thought about in 9 years)
2. Official Guide (I didn't find the concept reviews as helpful, but this was my go-to source for working practice problems)
3. Official Guide Quant Review (Again, the concept reviews weren't as helpful but this was another great source for practice problems)
4. Official GMAC practice CATs
5. MGMAT online CATs
And then a friend who had recently taken the test lent me his Princeton Review
2013 edition and his Kaplan
Review book. I did not find these resources as helpful for the verbal or quant content, but I did use the Princeton Review
book quite a bit to study for the IR section towards the end of my study period.
I took an official GMAC practice CAT in October as a diagnostic in October 2012 just to assess my weaknesses. I scored a 650, q36 and v42. So I knew right off the bat that I did not have to devote much time to verbal study and had some serious work to do on my quant skills. However for the next few months I did not do much of anything! I reviewed some basic math concepts, but was not retaining much, work was really busy and I was probably studying less than 5 hours a week. I wasn't seeing any improvement in the practice problems I was doing and didn't even bother taking another practice test for a while.
January rolls around and I actually fork over the 250$ and schedule my test for 11 March. Putting a date on the calendar was the kick in the ass that I needed to actually commit some time to studying. I began going through the MGMAT subject guides in earnest. I started with #1 and set myself the goal of completing at least a chapter a week night, taking Friday night off, doing a chapter again on Saturday and then devoting Sunday to taking a practice test and reviewing it. This schedule was achievable with my work life and I came pretty close to sticking to it. My practice test results were as follows:
MGMAT CAT 4 Jan: 630 Q39 V37KAPLAN
CAT 14 Jan: 650 Q65% V95%
MGMAT CAT 3 Feb: 620 Q40 V35
MGAMT CAT 10 Feb: 610 Q36 V 37
MGMAT CAT 17 Feb: 650 Q? V? (For whatever reason I didn't save my Q and V breakdowns from these last few tests.)
MGMAT CAT 28 Feb: 710 Q? V?
GMAC Practice CAT #2 4 March: 690 Q? V?
After taking the 10 February test I knew that my study plan had to change, simply hammering the concepts was not leading to the score improvements I had hoped to make, and I was having huge problems finishing the Quant section on time. I came back to these forums and read the numerous posts by high GMAT scorers on the importance of analyzing each error, and some pacing strategies. To fix my time management problem, I began timing every practice problem I did, and recognizing at what point I'd have to capitulate and make an educated guess. The constant repetition of working under the clock, and identifying when I'd have to guess was enough. By the 17 February practice test I no longer had any timing issues. To fix my "careless error curse" I started religiously using an error log
. I had an error log
worksheet that I found on the militarytobusiness blog (attached here). But I hadn't been using it! That many people couldn't be wrong so I added an hour of practice problems and in depth review of my mistakes and started logging it. I quickly saw that I was making the same "careless errors" time and time again. Every time I mis-read a question or made a simple multiplication/division error I mentally kicked myself. A few simple strategies that I found mostly in these forums (Re-writing what the question was asking, and writing out every calculation rather than doing it in my head helped fix the two errors I mentioned above), and I was able to cut these errors way down, and my scores finally began to crawl upwards, until I hit 710 on the my last MGMAT CAT and felt confident enough that I'd do good enough on test day.
I didn't study anything other than quant until I was about three weeks out. For verbal I only looked at the MGMAT sentence correction
guide (my weakest verbal area), and browsed it for some general strategies. Comparing the answers vertically was the biggest bonus I learned there, I couldn't believe I hadn't been doing it earlier, and it saved quite a bit of time on the SC questions.
I wasn't particularly worried about the analysis of an argument essay, I didn't look at this until the week before the test. I researched a few formats and eventually settled on this one: P1-intro, ID argument, point out flaws; P2- Expound on flaw 1; P3- Expound on flaw 2; P4-Explain what the author could have done to fix the argument, what evidence would better support their argument, what a more realistic argument that their evidence supports might be. P5 - summarize everything in the previous paragraphs, re-iterate what the argument is and what the flaws are. I also read several posts about the importance of the length, so I decided I'd go into as much detail as possible and try to continue typing something sensible for the entire time allotted.
The IR section worried me, because it is Quant heavy. I devoted an entire week (2 weeks before the test), to completing practice IR sections. I was pretty fresh on the Quant concepts, having just finished all the MGMAT subject guides, but I wanted to make sure the different format didn't throw me. I spent roughly 10 hours over the entire week just doing practice IR questions. This seemed sufficient, since it's really similar to the quant concepts, just a different format.
When it was all said and done, I walked out of that test center slightly surprised, dazed but happy. I owe many thanks to the community that is the GMAT Club, I don't think I could have done it without the advice I've found in these forums. A few key lessons I learned along the way:
-The error log
is the key! in my opinion it was only after I switched to a serious analysis of the errors I was making over time that my score actually started to improve.
-Maintain your confidence: I felt that every test I took was my worst one yet (including the official one, my best score!) The adaptive nature of the test means that even if you're going to score pretty high you'll still get quite a few questions wrong and will struggle with a lot of them. This is a good thing. Keep the faith.
-The MGMAT guides
were invaluable for refreshing those key concepts. For self study they explain better than any other guide, hands down.
-Build your study schedule and stick to it: I wrote on my wall calendar which chapters I was going to do on which day, and when I would take which practice test. Having concrete goals for each week kept me motivated to crack the books after those long days at work.
-Time every question, record your times in your error log
, pay attention to what you can do quickly and what takes you longer. I had a lot of issues with pacing during my first few tests, but simply practicing answering all questions under timed conditions made an enormous difference for me.
I hope this this helps, and good luck!