I am probably not the first one in this forum to be DONE with the GMAT, but I am probably among the first people to actually don't know how they did it. I always felt intimidated by the scores posted in this section, when people over here discussed how they were hoping to get these Q51 and how they were sad not to be better than 740. Well, I guess I am a proof of how a good performance on G-Day may dramatically increase your score. As you can tell from my prior MGMAT CATs and GMAT Preps I were never anywhere near close my verbal score. I always knew throughout the GMAT preps and trial CATs that I was not as concentrated as I would be during the GMAT. However, I expected a V40 at maximum, as I have always been more of a quant guy (even though I'm majoring in management
I started my journey last November doing the diagnostic test, which attested me to be "excellent" in data sufficiency and far "below average" in sentence correction, everything else “average”. During November I therefore went through the sentence correction part of the OG solving some 20-30 questions per day of sentence correction only. To certify my progress I did a MGMAT CAT after solving the sentence correction section. Not to mention, I was pretty much shocked by the result (580) as I always believed myself to be a good test taker. Looking back this was the most important point in time during my preparations. It showed me clearly that a good and solid preparation is important. I did not finish about 10 questions of the quant section, because I got stuck somewhere in between. I have to mention that the school I want to apply to requires 700. That pushed me a lot farther.
As exam time during December approached I stopped my preparations until New Year’s. After New Year’s I got caught by the GMAT fever and started to do the OG at maximum pace solving each section of the OG within one day (untimed, however). All this took me between 4 and 6 hours per day. In my opinion that persistence paid off, because it did two things to me:
(1) It showed me how sitting down for four straight hours actually feels like.
(2) It proved to me how I could actually solve 90% of all reading comprehension and critical reasoning questions, if I really concentrated on them.
Being confident that this preparation actually helped me I tried another Manhattan GMAT
CAT and scored a 650. This was nowhere close the 700 I needed and I only had another two and a half weeks to go. But it was at least some evidence that I had been progressing.
After that I got on fire spending some 6 to 10 hours per day on going through all 8 of the Manhattan books
. These books are an amazing (!) test preparation source. Although I knew most stuff in the quant section, all books provided me with many valuable strategies that certainly did not hurt. Especially the advanced section of each Manhattan quant book has GMAT diamonds to offer. For instance, I did not know before my preps that you can break down each number to prime numbers. Now that I know it, it makes perfect sense (and I had to use that concept during test time several times). Sentence correction was the first book I went through since I had always been weak on sentence correction. During this time I tried another MGMAT CAT (680) and finally went for the first real GMAT prep test (690). The GMAT prep test was much easier; However, I scored nearly the same on both MGMAT CAT and GMAT prep. The real GMAT is somewhere in between those two. One week before G-Day I tried my fourth MGMAT CAT and included AWA for the first time. Important: INCLUDE AWA EVERYTIME. You need to get used to AWA in testing conditions as soon as possible, because you need to adjust to it physically. AWA is no real challenge, it probably only exists in order to exhaust people taking the test before they reach the important parts. I almost fell asleep during verbal on this day (due to my unpreparedness to the AWA), scoring the 680 mentioned above.
After that it came down to the last week and I still had book 4, 5, 6 and 7 of the Manhattan series to go. I rushed a bit through these. In the middle of that week I went home (having been at the town where my university is). What really helps at home: You can concentrate on your stuff - somebody else is taking care of your food and your clothes. Every evening I discussed tough geometry problems with my dad, who happens to be an engineer and is therefore strong in geometry and since I had always been weak in geometry problems. I managed to get through word translations and geometry fast, having only critical reasoning and reading comprehension to go. I also ordered the Official Verbal Review during that time to have some more practice stuff, but did not even really use it. The Manhattan guide on critical reasoning is really useful. During my study time I had one of these rare moments that you get when you recognize something for the first time. That had been the case for critical reasoning. Suddenly I could recognize what makes critical reasoning problems so much harder and what the key to answering them was. Furthermore, it was of high importance that I got to know what potential wrong answers consist of. For instance, answers that just restate something in the text are NO argument supporting or weakening a conclusion. They just repeat stuff, so eliminate these answers. Before, I always solved my critical reasoning questions like this: “Hey, that stuff repeats the conclusion in different words. That CAN NOT be wrong!!”
Two days before G-Day I did my second GMAT prep test and scored a 700 with a Q48 V37 (my first prep test had been a 690 with a Q48 V38, sometimes you just do not have to understand the Q and V scores) as the last best indicator where my score will be. I was prepared to expect a tough test whose test score would be somewhere between 670 or 720. Thinking about it, I was even prepared for scores like 650 or below. Always be prepared for the worst. I started and finished the reading comprehension guide on the last day before G-Day, basically I just went through it as fast as I could and did some questions. Important to recognize might be that the most important line of each reading comprehension passage is the first line. Whenever the question is like “The passage refers to…” or something similar, always check your first line first. And, I started to take notes as I read, just to keep me reading actively. Otherwise I would get bored easily and quickly. I reviewed my notes that I took during studying the sentence correction guide for half an hour and did some problems from the Manhattan GMAT guides
on advanced work rates and inequalities (my weaknesses) just to be prepared.
After that I closed everything, forget everything about the GMAT and watched 2 hours of soccer (my favorite team won
). After that I shaved (I read that the picture appears on your final score report, I had not shaved for weeks… the GMAT was more important…
) and went to bed early. As the GMAT mainly tests your concentration – trust me, that is what you want to do as well. I tried to get a rhythm into my sleeping habits the days before and went to bed at 9p.m. to get up early in the next morning for my drive to the test center. During that night I dreamed about data sufficiency problems (all of them being inequalities) that I could not solve, whatever I tried. Woke up a few times. I was nervous as hell.
The next morning I ate a bowl of cereal, did not pay a single look at my GMAT books and drove to the test center. I arrived one hour early at the test center. You do not want to be important for the day you studied for…
Test Day Experience
… I got a locker downstairs. I had to put everything in that locker. They even forced me to remove my festival bracelets. Sometimes you gotta take one for the team. I sipped a little bit of coffee to wake myself up and waited to get in. They offered me to get in early, but I decided to wait, because there were some guys starting 15 minutes later. I just wanted to minimize the time that other guys are typing while I am trying to solve quant problems (of course you get some noise-eliminating stuff for your ears, but still). They told me that I had 8 minute breaks (ATTENTION!) instead of 10 minute breaks and that I would receive one pen (I heard you get two in the U.S.?) and one erasable notepad.
Before I started I went to get some fresh air outside and drank some of the Powerade that I brought with me, because I was kinda thirsty. I read that Slingfox really worked out everything about Powerade. I just go ahead and believe him. This placebo definitely worked.
After that I went for my AWA. I found it a little harder than expected, but I got through. I did not study for the AWA. I just included it in two of my trial CATs and read the section in the OG on it. If you feel comfortable to argue in written English, do not study a lot for it. The real score is much more important.
Break 1: Finished my Powerade; Ate one of my favorite chocolate bars (Mars); Did some slow breathing outside; Splashed some cold water on my face. I read all this stuff on here. My dad told me two days before: “Veni, vedi, vici.” (“I came, I saw, I conquered.”). That just means: Do not worry on what you do during the exam. Study for your exam and not for what you will do during the exam. Focus on the important stuff and don’t over exaggerate.
After that I kicked off the quant part. It is really comparable to the GMAT prep tests, with the content being a bit more difficult. I did not encounter one of the mystic three-dimensional questions. I also only got one combinatory problem and no probability questions. It was all among the usual: Geometry, some rate problems and other. I got through in time until I got stuck with one data sufficiency problem that proved to be real tricky. I was well ahead in time so I decided to spend a lot of time on that question. In the end I just guessed on it some 6 minutes later. I guess, you can never be too sure on these questions. Questions tended to get easier towards the end and I never got a question that I could not solve at all. I thought this might be a bad sign. In the end, it really is not, as I performed the quant part on the real GMAT just as I expected. Remember to spend some thought on how you would have to time yourself on the GMAT. If you figure it out yourself you’ll be much more likely to remember it during test time. Timing was not much of an issue during the whole part. My notepad got full in between and I had to raise my hand and wait a minute before they got me a new notepad. That was definitely annoying but it did not really hurt.
Break 2: Ate another Mars chocolate bar; Eliminated a can of Red Bull (to charge up all the concentration I needed); Went to get some fresh air; Splashed some cold water on my face (dunno if it helps, it does not hurt).
I returned to my verbals. Verbal was a bit easier than in GMAT preps. I don’t have much of a clue on verbal, so I could not tell what the real degree of difficulty was. Neither could I tell if I was getting along well in sentence correction and critical reasoning. The reading comprehension is just as you would expect it, the first one was a short passage (my neighbor had exactly the same passage). So I just tried to solve my questions until I got another reading comprehension passage that was a large one. I never worried about timing on verbal as I always finished two minutes early on all practice CATs. They were not too bad, but also not too encouraging. I had some questions until I encountered my second long passage (my thoughts went “F!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!K”). Luckily it was something finance-related that I had heard about in my studies and that encouraged me to read. But that second passage was beyond normal. It had some 70 lines or more and messed my whole timing up completely. I got another short reading passage and had to rush through my last questions. Had an educated, quick guess on the second last question (CR) and had some time to put some thought into the last question (SC). My timing on SC questions has been one minute and you can really get to one minute per question, if you understand some key concepts in SC. After that I waited the longest seconds of my life and decided to report my scores.
I expected with all I knew to see a 690. However, that 750 popped up and I could not believe what I was seeing. I had my mouth open for 10 seconds. Quant was as expected, but verbal was out of normality. Especially, since I was not able to rate my progress as I went along. I guess I got lucky and I was able to concentrate and that is the most important part on verbal. A friend of mine took the test at the same time and scored a 590 (he needed a 600), so I could not be too happy about my score. Instead I had to cheer him up a bit. The guys at the test centers printed my unofficial score report, asking me if I was happy (they did not have much of a clue about the GMAT). You can be sure I am. After that I went to call my parents (Mum: “So is 750 now good or bad?”) and finally went home. Now I am finally done and want to give the community my share for all it has done for me during the time before the test.
I am sure that I forgot some stuff. If you have questions, feel free to ask anytime. I did my test in Düsseldorf, Germany. The test center is alright, nothing out of the unusual (I hope).
Nothing out of the usual.
I used the following resources in my preparation:
1. All 8 Manhattan GMAT study guides and 5 MGMAT CATs
– As I said a must have overall. These guides provide with excellent strategies how to ace and pace every question of the test. Be sure to go through all problems it has and try to understand everything. Spending 2 hours on understanding a key topic is 100 times more valuable than solving some random OG or GMATClub question (assuming of course, that you do not try to understand the solution of the GMATClub question, maybe that is a questionable assumption? ). If you want to be safe, go through everything twice. Take notes on stuff you did not know before. That’s the “nice to have”-stuff that you might want to go through the day before the exam. The CATs of Manhattan are excellent, because they provide you with some tough 700+ stuff to think about.
2. The OG
– Did it twice. Once before everything and the second time, when the Manhattan guides asked me at the end of each chapter to do a selection of questions. It is useful, as it is the only thing that will get you used to how the GMAT “rolls”. You have to do it, definitely to get an idea about the test. However, it does not provide you with strategies that save time or improve your solving qualities.
3. The Official Verbal Review
– Only useful in case you need some more simple practice questions. Did rarely use it (maybe one hour in total).
Resources I had and did not use:
1. GMATClub Tests
. (Certainly useful if you aim for 50 or 51 in quant, personal preference – I don’t need it)
2. Manhattan GMAT
question banks – I was just lacking the time to use them after all.
• Never think about the prior question. It is gone. Live with it.
• Sleep well on the night before. 9 hours at least. GMAT is all about concentration. If you are not concentrated you can most likely subtract some 30 to 50 points off your final score.
• Do not be concerned with how much you study. Output is all that counts. No business school will ever see how much you invested for it. All in all, I invested some 200 hours for the GMAT (to give you some rough understanding).
• Listen to the tips around here, but do not be intimidated by others’ briefings.
• Take each optional break. Get some fresh air and drink and eat some of your favorite stuff.
• Keep an eye on the timing. I sat down the day before the test and tried to figure out how my timing should be. I recommend you to do the same, as you will more likely remember it. My timing was like: 60 minutes and at question 8, 45 minutes to go and at question 15, 30min and q23, 15min and q30 for quant. For verbal a bit different of course. I was not concerned with any special timing for reading comprehension. I did not want to let my understanding suffer because of some stupid timing reasons.
• It is “veni, vidi, vici”. Do not spend more than one hour thinking about what you will do on test day. Thinking about what you do during the breaks does not give you an edge in your question solving abilities. And drinking the right drink in your break does not give you a 770 score as well.
• Do as many CATs as possible under real test conditions (same time, same breaks, include AWA everytime).
• Try to understand while you study. 4 hours of solid understanding strategies and mistakes is worth more than 8 hours of plain question solving.
• If you have the choice between studying 16 hours a day for the GMAT and sleeping 4 hours or studying 8 hours and sleeping 10 hours, choose more sleep. It is hard to understand stuff, when you are tired. I noticed that a couple of times, when I slept 6 hours to force more stuff into my brain.
• It is your choice: But I said no to parties during the last two weeks. I knew that I will do some serious partying during the next week
after everything is over.
• It is only a test. Solely 800 does get no one into Harvard. So do not over exaggerate the importance of the GMAT.
• The difficulty of the questions you get is no indicator about how well you perform. So do not panic during the test!
• Do not stop your performance between the quant and verbal section. A good verbal section is likely to optimize your score while a bad one can completely destroy it. So do focus as much on verbal as you did on quant.
Do the Manhattan Study Guides. Do them twice if you need confidence. Take notes on everything you did not know before. Do every question in the OG twice. Time yourself during the last week (to apply the strategies in the Manhattan Study Guides). The advanced parts in the Manhattan study guides are always useful. Try to understand everything. Don’t just apply stuff, understand why you apply it. Be open minded to every suggestion. Some small tricks let you solve some geometry GMAT questions within 20 seconds.
Did not and still do not have any clue on this topic. The Manhattan guide is good. Go through it. Twice if necessary.
Again, the Manhattan guide. I mentioned something about critical reasoning in my briefing above. Spend some time on it, until you master it (at one point you will suddenly see what you need to do in CR questions). Try if you like diagramming – it is definitely useful to take some notes during these questions. Identify each and every time the conclusion. If you can do that, then you will be able to master CR.
Manhattan guide to get you some strategies. I am a non-native speaker, but I lived a year in the U.S. If you cannot read appropriately in English, get used to it and spend a lot of time on it (read English stuff, like the Economist
or random English scientific papers at least one hour daily for 3 months – http://www.nature.com
). Take notes while you read. You will never need these notes, but they keep you reading actively and avoid the case that you reread a sentence five times and still have no clue what it is about.