I am baack! Its a relief to get 7 hours of sleep every night after 3 months of much less. As promised, although a day late, here is my experience with GMAT preparation.
Started my preparation in early Jan, figured I'll finish off the studying while cooped up indoors during the cold Midwest winter. Had given a Powerprep back in June but then postponed my apps by one year. I started with a 740 so had a pretty good feeling about the test but knew I needed to cut way down on the silly mistakes. Speed in Quant was another concern.
Started off with Princeton, lots of silly mistakes (misreading the questions, missing details etc) that slowly phased out as I got more practice. I had a register in which I noted down the date and each practice attempt as well as comments about the wrong questions. Kinda like an error log
. Did not take me very long to figure out that DS and SC were my weak points.
Princeton was not too bad for initial preparation, but then I switched over to GMAT 800
. I found the review section in GMAT 800
to be more useful. Finished off all the questions in GMAT 800
. GMAT 800
is esp useful in SC since it breaks up the questions into specific types, and helps you narrow down to your weak points.
I had established a routine. Since I am in a full time job, I only had time in the evenings on weekdays, after I came back from work. Used to put in about 4-5 hours then and maybe 10-12 hours on each weekend day. I attempted a full practice test each weekend and then would go back into regular questions from the books. Tried to cover at least 20 questions of each kind every sitting with an extra 20 for SC and DS. Also set aside a chunk of time for review. I cannot over emphasize the value of a stuctured study plan and sticking to it. Had also scheduled my exam by then (for April 15), so knew exactly how many weeks I had for preparation.
After GMAT 800
, I went to OG and concentrated on just the DS and SC questions. Found most of the questions too easy, was hitting 90%+ with them. Also finished off all the questions in Kaplan Verbal
Handbook. I was using Barron's and Kaplan
Guide alongside for the other sections. However, most of my mistakes in the practice tests were still coming from SC and DS. At that point in time (early March), I started looking for something more challenging for DS and SC. I looked around on several forums for reviews and decided to try MGMAT SC
Guide for SC and the Club Challenges for Quant/DS. Bingo! The reviews are right on.
The Challenges tend to, well... challenge you! You might get low scores at times (I did) but the key is getting used to the various questions types, and speed. If you are on course for a 51-52 Quant, expect to be short on time. The Challenges are a nice simulation. Even though they were created a year ago much before Pearson, oddly enough the content seems to line up perfectly with the Pearson Quant... heavy on number theory, inequalities, sets theory etc. Reports indicate that Pearson is especially concentrated in these areas. I used to get up early morning and do a Challenge before leaving for work. I am not an early morning person, but my wife is. Thanks to her for prodding and pushing me out of bed at 5 am.
With the Challenge out of the way in the morning, I had enough time in the evening to attempt questions from the other guides.
Enough has been said about the MGMAT SC
guide in this forum that I do not need to repeat it. Just buy one. Apart from the excellent SC guidance, you also get the online full length tests that seem to be adaptive. The neat thing about the MGMAT tests is that in the review section they display the test questions as a 500-600, 600-700, 700-800 type question. Gives you a good idea of how the actual test 'adapts' to your answers.
I also purchased the 4gmat.com number theory and Per/Comb guides. Not very impressed with the Perm guide. The number theory guide has lots of neat shortcuts, and one actually came in handy during the test. But if you only have a couple of months for preparation, you might not be able to assimilate all the shortcuts. They need lots of practice to become second nature. Good if you have six months but I did not have enough time.
As I indicated in my previous post, I am dissapointed in my Quant score. I believe it was due to an early hiccup in Q#6, which if true, further proves the importance of getting the first 10-15 questions right.
The AWA section was easy. Have not received my score yet, so this might end up being famous last words! But do not get too caught up in the templates. Keep it simple, take some cues from the OG. I also tried to keep in mind that the people scoring this would be college students. So I tried to adopt a stance, or present reasons that someone of that background could empathize with. Lets see if it worked.
The online tests... there is a real paucity of good tests that are representative of the final test. Apart from the Powerprep and GMATPrep, the MGMAT tests are also pretty good. I did re-install the GMATPrep, and found most of the Quant questions were different and a fourth of the Verbals were repeated, esp the RC passages. Kaplan
is only for practice. Do not pay any attention to the scores, unless they are below 600. If you are aiming for 750, I might be a little concerned below 650 also. My scores (in chronological order):
PP1 (June '05): 740
(Feb. '06): 630
4tests.com: 45/52 (whatever that means!)
MGMAT Test 1: 660
PP1 (repeat): 760
MGMAT Test 2: 690
GP1 (re-install): 780
MGMAT Test 3: 740
GP2 (re-install): 750
Finished off 22 of the 25 Challenges. Got 90%+ in about 2/3rd of them and some really horrible percentiles in three tests.
Ended up postponing my test to April 17, since I realized it might work out better. April 14 was a day off at work, I took 17th off for the test. The three days before the test, I gave a full test at the same time (9 am) as the real test. Gave me a lot of confidence.
In reptrospect, if I were doing this again I would concentrate my energies in a few places rather than chasing my tail through all these guides, as I did. The MGMAT guide for SC (and from what I have read, some of the other ones are also good), definitely OG (do it twice), the OG Verbal
and Quant guides and the Challenges. That should do the trick. The Kaplan 800
and the Verbal Review guide are also neat if you want extra practice.
One more thing... I found flash cards to be pretty useful. As I messed up a question, I would write down the lesson learned on an index card. Also wrote down some difficult idioms, typical formulas, SC structures etc. Would glance over them on my way to work... NOT recommended unless you are a very skilled driver
But seriously, I would take those cards around with me, and its amazing how much you retain when you are not in a studying mode.
Whew! For those of you who made it this far, thanks for reading this post! Did not mean it to be this long, but hopefully it will help someone. Again, do not sweat it, stay cool. Try to have fun, take it as a game against the test preparers.
Best of luck, and I welcome any questions.