Just wanted to write a quick summary about my GMAT studying experience. I was a lurker on these forums and used a lot of the resources here. I went through a couple books but I'm convinced that gmatclub was responsible for about 80% of the boost in my test scores.
There are the books/resources that I bought in order of effectiveness:GmatClub tests
- Best resources of all and the best investment out of all of my gmat books. Went through all the quant tests twice, some three times. The forums were particularly helpful - I could always count on Bunuel when the explanations in the test were not sufficient.
- Good for doing practice questions. I didn't find the quant questions that hard, but a good portion of the verbal questions were challenging.
MGMAT 8 book set
- I went through all of these books in detail. It many cases, it was very dry reading and I didn't like that the problem sets were not in GMAT format. But I think it was important to grind through these books to get a baseline understanding of what the GMAT tests. I particularly liked the strategies for reading comprehension and sentence completion questions, but thought the strategies for critical reasoning were a tad weak. MGMAT Advanced Quant
- This is a tough book to get through and I don't think the quant questions on the actual GMAT will be this hard. But if you like to challenge or punish yourself, you can give this book a try. If time is a constraint, I would not get this book. Kaplan 800
- Used this book mainly for the quant problems. I think it was good practice, but this book was heavily focused on probability and combinatorics. On the actual GMAT, I didn't see a single problem related to probability or combinatorics.
My diagnostic history:
MGMAT 1: 670 (December 26)
MGMAT 2: 680 (February 27)
MGMAT 3: 700 (March 3)
MGMAT 4: 730 (March 17)
MGMAT 5: 680 (March 24 - This is was depressing day. Discovered I had a pacing problem.)
GMATprep 1: 750 (April 7)
MGMAT 6: 760 (April 14 - I considered this a fluke because upon review, a majority of the questions were in the 600-700 range)
GMATprep 2: 760 (April 21 - I also considered this a fluke because I saw two of the verbal questions elsewhere)
Real test: 740 (April 28)
1) Make firm plans prior to studying
I started studying in late December and took my test in late April. Initially, I wasn't particularly motivated and my studying wasn't very effective. I was pretty aimless and started losing confidence in myself. So in late February, I booked a test date and swore that I would score well and not retake the test. Plunking down the $250 for the test lit a fire under me and I started rearranging my life to study earnestly. Then I identified my target score and my cutoff score and structured my prep to achieve milestones towards those goals.
2) Do lots of questions
This is where the gmatclub tests
were clutch for me. I treated the GMAT as a sport - while Kobe Bryant shot thousands of jumpshots after each loss, I did thousands of questions. Especially since GMAT questions are formatted in ways that you don't normally come across in other tests, your brain isn't wired to answer these question efficiently. Doing lots of questions will help your brain adapt and adjust. I particularly liked Slingfox's tip to do sentence completions questions everyday. I should have probably done more, since my verbal ended up bringing my score down.
3) Review incorrect questions, three or four times
A lot of people talk about error logs on these forums, and it really is a great idea. Use it and use it often. Spend more time reviewing incorrect questions and gaining a deeper understanding of the concepts than doing problems.
4) Set aside a lot of time, and make it quality time
I was lucky that work was a bit slow for a week, so I was able to study a lot. There were days where I would do 4-5 gmatclub tests
. It was both mentally and physically exhausting - my head would burn really hot by the third gmatclub test, but I would press on and do another test, and another. I noticed that these strenuous training sessions helped my brain adapt. I went from spending 3-4 minutes on a quant question to 1.5-2.5 minutes. Questions that tested concepts I understood really well only took 30 seconds.
5) Simulate the test environment
My test was scheduled for 8AM on a Saturday morning, so a month before the test I started waking up at 6AM on Saturdays to do full diagnostic tests. I followed the strategies found on this forum for splashing your face with cold water, eating a banana and sipping Gatorade (although I preferred Powerade instead) during breaks. These practice sessions helped me feel comfortable with the timing of my breaks and also showed me that I shouldn't drink too much Powerade before the verbal session because I would get the urge to pee really badly with 15 minutes left in the test. Your mileage may vary, but that's why you should simulate test conditions several times before the test day.
6) Use templates
I was influenced by myohmy's templates (on beatthegmat) for the argument essay and chineseburned's templates for the issue essay. I took care not to follow the templates to the letter, but noted the structure of the templates and combined it with my own writing style. I think the key is to have topic sentences before each paragraph, paraphrase the topic sentences and thesis at the end of each paragraph, have lots of connecting words in the middle of the paragraphs, and make sure most of your sentences have a decently complex structure. I did about 26 practice essays total throughout my prep - 16 from the diagnostic tests and 10 on my own. I had promised myself that I would build a bank of examples before test day, but I ended up not doing it, and it turns out the examples I actually used would not have been in my example bank anyway. So I think the best way is to read a lot of periodicals and books in your daily life, since it will help you both with the AWA and B-school.
The test day:
I arrived at the test center at 7:25 and there were already five people waiting by the door. The doors opened at 7:30 and then we filed in to get a number on a placard. There was one receptionist who processed each person by the number on his or her placard. I was number five and had to wait about 20 minutes before it was my turn. I think I would have rather been number one or two - but I am not sure which is more unsettling, waiting by the door 20 minutes early or waiting for the receptionist for 20 minutes.
The test environment was pretty quiet. They provided earplugs and tissues, but I ended up needing neither. The only noise in the room came from other people typing their essays, which didn't bother me at all. Apparently the air is well-filtered because my allergies did not kick in at all.
I found both essay prompts pretty straightforward and finished both with about 2 minutes to spare. Took my break, jogged to the bathroom, splashed water on my face, jogged back to my locker for the banana and powerade, then slipped into my seat with about 30 seconds left on my break timer. Oops, that was a close one. Went through the quant and felt pretty good. Took another break, this time was more efficient at each point in the break. Returned to my seat with about 1:20 on the timer. Went through the verbal, but experienced a pretty banging headache and the peeing sensation. Toughed it out and got my score of 740. It wasn't my target score of 760, but I had told myself earlier that I wouldn't retake the test if I got 740. The receptionist printed out my report and said I did great, but I knew I could have done better. Oh well.
Hope this helps, good luck and thanks.