A happy new year to you!
Took my first GMAT exam on the 28th Dec and am glad its finally over. The AWA score came in last evening. Managed to get a 5. So, here's a pretty long debrief for all you test takers. Below you'll find 5 MITs (Most Important Tips/Takeaways) scattered in the post (just made this up, to amuse myself
Background: I am engineering graduate working in an investment bank. That sort of ensured me a good quant background. Despite having studied english in school all along, verbal was a still pain in the neck, as it is for so many of you.
Resources used: Princeton Review
, Manhattan SC, GMATPrep, MGMAT Online TestsGeneral Strategies:
1. I can't emphasize the importance of this enough. If you are starting preparation, I'd recommend doing so after you have scheduled an exam date. Three most important things to know before you start working on any goal: Know where you are, know where you want to go, and how much time you need for that. As such, I gave a GMATPrep test as a diagnostic with no preparation (680: Q49, V34) and then registered for a date 2 months later. Procrastinated, went for a week long holiday and ended up totally wasting the first month. I still wonder if that month's extra preparation would have done me any good. I guess it might have.
2. Don't be carried away by the amount of study material available out there. After all, you can crack every question in GMAT, given enough time. As time is limited, its all about maximum accuracy in those 75 mins. GMAT is all about QUALITY and not QUANTITY. So, consult best people/forums and decide on a few resources primarily. You may add to or subtract from it as you go along. But if right in the beginning, you plan to finish 5-6 huge volumes, you are likely to get disarrayed. MIT1: Stick to limited resources and focus on quality rather than quantity.
I personally raced through Princeton Review
to get me started, then OG11
+ Manhattan SC, and finally Kaplan800
3. A friend mentioned this to me, and I found this to be true as well, that you've got to be around the peak of your preparation when you take the final exam. That means don't overdo and finish everything 2 weeks before the exam, but leave yourself some new questions to do everyday up until a week before the exam, so that you are in the groove. Topic wise Debrief
PS: I was pretty confident about this given my background and diagnostic test. OG11
questions are very basic so didnt bother to do them at all. As I was using old books from my friend, so just looked through the tough ones that he had marked, but only closer to the exam. My only consistent practice for this section was through the practice tests (more on that later)
DS: DS questions seemed easy initially, until I started on questions on numbers and inequality. They were a real bummer for me. A perennial habit of making silly mistakes further added to my sorrows. Did quite a few of OG11
questions, with extra attention to these weaker topics. Trained myself to be extra wary when I saw any such questions on practice tests. Kaplan800
has good questions, but they are too few to do any major help. Nevertheless, worth a look.
SC: This was my achilles heel, and I guess might still have been right up to exam day. However, as everyone says, rely on the SC bible, the Manhattan SC guide. Though that helped me dodge the questions with obvious errors, I was still getting a lot of them wrong. Kept an error log
on all OG11
questions. Got barely about 50% right in the brutal SC questions posted here. That further shook my confidence. However, I kept giving each test taking my time to get the SC questions right, reviewing the mistakes and then trying not to commit the same ones in the next test.
What really helped me with SC were the 70+ odd questions in Kaplan800
. The explanations are very insightful, and help to understand the exact answer choice for each question. Though many people find the book worthless, I found it useful.
CR: This wasn't a strong point either, but at least wasn't as bad as SC. Kaplan800
again helped me out here. Once I had gone through the different types of questions in that, my thinking process and consequently my accuracy rate improved. Kept an error log
questions, which helped me too.
RC: This probably was my strongest section. Contrary to all suggestions, I wasn't used to making any notes while reading the passage. I figure all those years of reading different kind of english books had some benefit and I usually got a grip of the passage after a quick read and then re-read for any details later. As a general strategy I'd still advise people, who find this section tough, to take notes.
AWA: Last three practice tests were all full length; that's where I practiced them. Used templates posted in the forums here. That's it.
Tests: Started off with GMATPrep, followed by couple of PowerPrep tests. Bought the 6 Manhattan tests online, gave 3 full tests but never managed to cross the 700 mark in that. The Quant in MGAMT is definitely tougher than the actual exam, and I figure a 45+ score there ensures you are well prepared to handle the quant section on exam day. The mistakes on verbal in MGMAT taught me the most along with Kaplan800
. However, saddened by the prospect that I wouldn't even manage a 700+ score, switched to GMATPrep in the last week as I was told by many that's the best estimator of your actual score. Gave 3 tests, had good scores in 2 out of 3, so that boosted my confidence. Practice Test Tips:
1. Its very easy to overlook the fact that AWA might tire you out before you start on quant, which in turn affects your performance in verbal. An hour on essays does take a toll, so I did the last 3 tests full length. Instead of the 8 min breaks, took 5 min ones. Mock exam should mock as things to the real test, as closely as possible. MIT2: Give enough full length tests to get used to sitting for 4 hours.
2. Also try to give the tests at the same time of the day when you'll be giving the real exam. MIT3: By the time G-Day arrives, your body and mind should be used to slogging for 4 hours, during that particular period of the day.
GMATPrep (Diagnostic): 680 (q49, v34)
PowerPrep: 710 (q50, v35)
PowerPrep2: 710 (q49, v38)
MGMAT1: 650 (q45, v34)
MGMAT2: 630 (q47, v30)
MGMAT3: 680 (q47, v36)
Final week before the exam:
GMATPrep: 740 (q50, v40)
GMATPrep: 680 (q48, v36)
GMATPrep: 740 (q50, v40)
My scores don't show a consistent progress, as I kept making silly mistakes even when I knew it all. But the main thing, is to be confident about your abilities and not let any self-doubt get to you. Its all about your nerves on the exam day. Murphy's law may be true, but thinking about it won't get you anywhere. Pre G-Day and G-Day:
My last practice test was a couple of days before the exam. Kept the last day free, and strongly advise that all exam takers should do so too. MIT4: Don't stress yourself out, mentally or physically, a day before G-Day.
Just review a few tough questions, skim through the error log
and relax. Or if you are among the super confident ones, then don't touch any notes at all.
Night before the exam, eat light and sleep well; I had a 7 hour sleep. I only had an afternoon appointment, so in the morning went through about 5-10 questions on each section so get myself into the groove of solving questions. After my brunch, I headed for the exam with an isotonic drink and a Snickers.
After the check in process, started off with my exam, 5-10 mins ahead of my scheduled appointment. AWA went by pretty ok, stuck to the templates I had adopted from the forums here, though I didn't manage to have a final read of the entire analysis of an issue (still managed a 5, so guess didn't make a big difference) During the 8 min break, after a quick loo visit and a few sips of my drink, I was back in the room. Wanted to make sure that I didn't lose any time because of a longer break.
Started off quant with a pretty tedious question. 2 and a half mins into it, I still wasn't done and was tempted to guess, but resisted and finished it. Another tough one followed. The first 2 questions took me about 8 mins. It was easy to panic as it had never happened before, but the 15 seconds I took to calm myself down before moving on down helped me immensely. (MIT5: Nothing affects your exam performance worse than panic. Be ready for unexpected situations and calm yourself your down
Got relatively easier questions after that, got the pace back up, and zoomed through the rest. At times a few DS questions were very generic and I didn't have enough time to test the different scenarios, so made the best guess. By the time I finished, I was desperate to have a break. Kept telling myself, that I always manage decent scores in quant so verbal is the one which will make or break my total score. Took out my isotonic drink and a couple of sips later, I was back on the PC.
Started off with a flurry of SCs and CRs which looked reasonable. Next were RCs, which were about as hard as in GMATPrep. The key thing for me in verbal was timing. (If you look back at my first two scores of my tests in last week, I had made the same number of mistakes in verbal in each test. What mattered was WHERE I made the mistakes. Though I knew it beforehand but this made me really realize, that the first few questions (15-20 probably) are more important in determining your score than the rest. I know this has been said to be untrue, but I couldn't disregard the huge difference in my verbal scores with the same number of mistakes.) I used to finish verbal with 7-8 mins left but mostly ended up with a poor score. So I gave extra attention, and gave the first 20 verbal questions more than half the time. In the final exam, I still made quite a few mistakes (hence the 39 score) but I was better off this way.
By the time I finished, I had no clue how well I had done. Just prayed for a decent enough score so that I didn't have to retake the exam. The 740 which I saw after clicking on 'Report Scores' was familiar, though wished it was a better split like my GMATPrep ones. Nevertheless, left with a smile and realizing, that a month was all I had put into it, I celebrated. However, it had been a relaxed month as Dec is usually holiday season. I used to knock off early from office and wasn't bogged down with work during the day. So for all others, who are loaded with work, travel etc, give yourself sufficient time.
Happy to answer any questions you have! Good luck to all test takers