Just took the GMAT yesterday, so I thought I'd contribute a debrief....
I'm probably a little luckier than most people taking the GMAT, since I decided to take the test during the summer between graduating college and starting my job, so I had plenty of time to study.
I started seriously looking at the exam around April with the goal of being ready by the end of the summer. I took out an old Arco book from my school's library. I started off with a 670 on the diagnostic test, and worked my way through the rest of the book pretty easily. Out of the 4 remaining tests, I got a 700, 770, 760, and 750. "Just maybe," I thought, "I'm ready to take this thing sooner than I thought."
Now, I had also heard good things about the MGMAT SC
and CR guides, so I also picked them up while I was working through the Arco book. Feeling a little cocky, I figured I'm pretty good at math, so I don't really need to study that too much. I went through the two MGMAT books
pretty quickly and decided to take one of their CATs.
I was stunned by how difficult and stressful it was. The math shocked me. I had a really hard time pacing myself and had to guess on a bunch of questions. When I mercifully reached the end, I saw my score, 640 (42Q, 35V). Not wanting to believe how unprepared I was, I decided to take another one, hoping the 640 was a fluke. 650 (44Q, 35V). So much for that theory. I still had plenty of work to do.
I picked up the rest of the MGMAT books
and slowly worked my way through all of them over the the summer. I also picked up OG12
, the OG quant
, and OG verbal
guides. Unfortunately, because I had to move into a new apartment and help my sisters move into an apartment, I lost about a week and a half of study time and didn't have time to go through OG12
or the verbal guide.
With about 10 days to go before the test, I decided to start taking practice CATs again. I took remaining 4 MGMATs that I had and got 690 (45Q, 39V), 730 (48Q, 41V), 750 (48Q, 45V), and 730 (50Q, 40V). That was more like it. I reset the MGMAT tests and decided to take the first one again, thinking that I wouldn't remember any of the old questions from back in May. Turns out that there is only one question bank for all six tests, not one for each individual test, so I saw a lot of repeats from the tests I just took. Got a 730 (50Q, 39V), but decided not to put too much stock in it. I also took the Princeton Review
test and got a 710 (didn't write down the split) even though I only got 7 wrong on the entire test, less than on any of the other tests. Oh well, time to move to the GMATPrep tests
. Two days before the exam, I got a 780 (51Q, 46V). Definitely a good confidence booster. The day before the test, I took the second one and got a 750 (49Q, 42V). Test day....
With all of my practice CAT scores, I went into test day expecting anything from a 700 to a 790, so I didn't really know where I stood. My test was scheduled for 11:30, but they say to be there a half hour before. Even though it was only about 10 minutes of walking and 10 minutes of subway to the testing center, I decided to leave at 9, just to make sure there were absolutely no problems. Got there in time to eat breakfast in the area, read the paper, and just relax.
When I got to the test center, I didn't really encounter any problems. Everyone there was really nice and helpful. They checked my ID (bring 2 forms of ID, I thought the website only said you needed one, but they asked for two), took my picture, scanned my palm, and told me to put my stuff in a locker. From there, it was into the testing room. Nothing crazy. It just looked like a regular computer lab in a school or library or something. The only difference was that there was a woman sitting at a desk outside of the room monitoring everything on a screen.
Luckily, I thought the AWA prompts were pretty easy, so that helped calm some nerves.
The math portion was a little more difficult than I expected. The hard-level questions came sooner than I remembered, so I didn't do a great job pacing myself in the beginning and forced myself to guess on a few in the middle so I could get myself back on track. I finished with about a minute left, took my break, made a quick run to the bathroom, splashed some water on my face, and went back inside.
The verbal section was ok. Probably a little harder than on GMATPrep, but not so much because of the content as much as because of the answers. I felt that there were a lot more questions where I was stuck between two similar choices. Other than that, I thought I did ok. Finished up with 10 minutes or so. Filled out all of the background info questions, and decided to check my score.
Ended up with a 750 (49Q, 42V), exactly what I got on my last GMATPrep, right down to the quant and verbal scores. To be honest, I wasn't so much thrilled with the score as I was relieved that I never have to take this test again. I think that was probably my main motivation to do well.
Anyway, if you can take away any advice from me during this debrief, it would be....
1. Give yourself enough time to study. Try and get a feel for where you are in the prep process, then schedule your exam accordingly. Be sure to factor in time you'll have to spend tending to other responsibilities.
2. No matter how smart or well prepared you think you are, go buy MGMAT Number Properties
, Word Translations, and Sentence Correction. Those books are filled with tricks you'd probably never think of on your own which will save you a ton of time during the test.
3. When trying to get a reasonable idea of how you'll do on the test, throw out your best and worst practice exam scores. I feel like that 780 set my expectations a little high, and there was a little (but not too much) disappointment that I didn't duplicate it.
4. Unless you're not a native English speaker or you're a terrible writer, don't spend too much time worrying about the AWA. Do one or two to make sure you can finish in time, but that's about it. There are plenty of formats on this site to follow. Get that down and you should be fine. (Of course, I'm saying this without having my AWA score yet, so you might want to hold off on listening to me for a few more weeks).
5. On test day, be at peace with how much you have prepared. For the love of God, as great of a resource as this place is, do not come here on test day to read other peoples' debriefs. The last thing you need 3 hours before the test is to think, "All of these people are saying that the verbal was harder than they expected and I didn't even do any OG Verbal
questions. I'm screwed!"
6. Set a pace for yourself and stick to it. If you get off track and have to guess, try to guess towards the middle of the exam (I'll arbitrarily put that as questions 15-25). You want to start strong to get to the high-level questions and finish strong to avoid guessing on questions at the end, which will bring your average level way down, since there's no way to fix it. If you guess in the middle, at least you'll have an opportunity to work your way back up to the harder questions.
7. Make a quick trip to the bathroom during your breaks. I didn't have any problems with this yesterday, but I have taken exams where it has been a problem. You never know when something like that might sneak up on you, and you definitely don't want to be rushing through the test just to get to the break. Also, they should have tissues for you to bring in if you want. Definitely take some. A runny nose can be a huge distraction, especially if you have no way to properly handle it.
So I think that's about it. This ended up being a lot longer than I expected (I originally wrote "quick debrief" at the beginning, but had to edit it out), but I hope it helps!