I've been a silent reader for a long time and am posting for the first time. I am very thankful to the members who have posted their experiences. Reading such posts helped me in my own journey and I'm posting my experience in the hope that it may benefit someone.
Preparation time was about 10 weeks - about 2 hours every weekday and about 3-4 per day on weekends for the first 6 weeks - and then increased to 4 hours on weekdays and about 8 hours per day on weekends.
* GMATPrep software
* OG 10th
and OG 11th
* OG Verbal
* OG Math (way too simple)
* All 7 MGMAT books
* Princeton Review's Cracking the GMAT
My preparation history in chronological order with my opinions is as follows:
Princeton Review's Cracking the GMAT
Good book to become acquainted with the exam. Problems in the book are way simpler than those in the actual exam. Decent explanations. After completing this book, I took the Diagnostic test in OG11
. I realized that I had a long way to go in terms of preparation.
I skimmed over the explanations and *tricks* and focussed on the questions. Good collection of questions and these helped me get into the groove. By now, I'd identified my weaknesses - for Math - number properties, combinatorics, probability, and simple calculations (8+3=12, 6 * 2 = 13,... you get the idea). For Verbal - some silly mistakes in RC. I was quite comfortable with SC and CR - but there was still scope for improvement.
I started with the Math books. Despite the fact these cover basic subject matter, I found them to be helpful in ironing out some of my weaknesses. I was disappointed by their explanation for Combinatorics & Probability - but overall I found them to be useful. I found another book called "Probability Demystified" that cleared up some basic concepts about probability and combinatorics. By this time, I was reasonably comfortable with these type of math problems.
I found the SC book to be the best value for money in these series.
The "CR and RC" book was of limited value to me - I was already using the diagramming (outlines) technique in RC. The CR section was sparse.
I decided to solve questions from each section every single day - and set a goal of completing this book in about 12 days. I divided the number of questions in each section by 12 and obtained an approximate number of questions I had to solve each day for each section. For example, the PS section has 441 questions - so that translates to about 37 questions per day. For each question that I got wrong, I made sure that I understood why I got the question wrong and why the correct answer was correct. This was a period of dramatic improvement for me - both in speed and accuracy.
I then looked at Arco and Barron's but found both to be of limited utility to me and I did not spend too much time on either.
OG 11th edition
By far one of the most useful books for the GMAT. While some questions are repeated from OG10
, the explanations seem to be revised and the SC section is way better than that of OG10
. I followed the same plan for this book that I did for OG10
- divide up the book into a number of questions per section per day. I really liked the fact that the questions are in increasing order of difficulty.
and OG Math.
The math book is way too easy. I did solve all the questions, but did not really find much value in this book. The OG Verbal
is a good book though.
MGMAT Online Question Banks
These are good practice material. The questions were a mix of easy and challenging with good explanations. I like the fact that they also give the "score-range" for each question. I.e. for each question they indicate that this question is likely to be in the 700-800 range and so on.
After all these, it was time to focus on the practice tests. Here are my practice tests with scores in chronological order:
Test 1 - 750 (wohoo!!!)
Test 2 - 640 (back to earth)
Test 3 - 630
* GMATPrep 1 - 740
* MGMAT non-CAT 1 - 730
* MGMAT CAT 1 - 400 (WTH... this can't be true
. I realized that the Math section on MGMAT CAT tests are way too difficult - so I started taking them untimed - focusing only on learning rather than on scoring on these. The Verbal sections are reasonable though.
* Princeton Review Online 1 - 730
* Princeton Review Online 2 - 710
* MGMAT non-CAT 2 - 730
* GMATPrep 2 - 770
* Princeton Review Online 3 - 730
* Princeton Review Online 4 - 740
* GMATPrep 3 - 780 (after reinstalling the software - some questions were repeats)
* Actual GMAT - 740.
The interface of the GMATPrep is the closest to that of the actual exam.
I was scheduled to take the exam at 2:00 PM. I'd managed a solid 8 hours of sleep - the night before the exam. After my usual breakfast, I solved the last 10 questions on each section of OG11th - just to get my mind working. After a really light lunch of soup I headed off to the examination center. I was nervous, but not tremendously so. There were two other candidates waiting to take the GMAT at the same time. They looked even more nervous than I did - I found that chatting a bit with them and smiling at them reduced my nervousness
Exam center staff was friendly and professional - and most importantly - they were very quiet.
After the usual formalities - photo, fingerprints, dire warnings, etc. etc. we were led to the exam hall. I selected a corner terminal and pretty much started right away. I used the tutorial time to take a couple of deep breaths to calm myself.
The AWA section went like a breeze. I'd not practiced written a single essay prior to this, but since I'd won a couple of debating and extempore speaking contests in school and college, I figured that I could certainly bloviate for the next one hour.
I took the 10 minute break - went to the restroom, washed my face, had some apple juice - and mentally got ready for the challenge ahead.
The math section started with a really easy geometry problem - that I managed to solve in 4 whole minutes :X. WTH - this is taking way too long. Thankfully, a couple of deep breaths prevented a panic attack - and I was focused and calm thenceforth. Got stuck on a nasty series problem - I knew I could solve it in about 5 minutes - but did not know how to do it in 2. I was keeping a good pace, so after spending sometime and eliminating 3 answers, I took a guess and moved on. I ended the section with about 2 minutes to spare. There were 1-2 combinatoric problems, but no probability problems. The level of difficulty was all over the place. I was able to focus on the question on hand and not worry about the ones I had already answered.
Break 2: same as break one. But more relaxed than before.
The verbal section was good. There was one SC where I had to guess to move on - the final 2 choices both seemed right to me. There were 2 really bad CR questions - I could barely eliminate 1 answer choice at first. But after spending some more time on these, I could answer and move on. The RCs were nothing out of the ordinary. Finished this section with about 5 minutes to spare.
After the usual survey, I came to the "Report your scores" screen. With my heart racing, I selected to "see my scores" and was pleasantly surprised. This was my first attempt at the GMAT - and I also wanted it to be my final attempt.
I am not too happy with my Math score. In fact on my way home, I realized that I'd botched up on the very first problem - yeah that simple geometry problem ate me. Anyway, I know that I can do better than 48 on Math. The verbal score was within my expectations.
Overall, I'm satisfied with my score - not terribly thrilled, but not disappointed either. I believe this is a reasonably good score and will focus on strengthening other aspects of my application.
Good luck to all who are preparing for the exam.