Scored 750(Q - 49, V - 41). I think I was lucky to get a 750 with my breakdown(All 750's that I came across had a higher V & Q score). I was probably on the 750 borderline
Anyways, here's my $0.02:
OG - Main + verbal and quant review
Manh (Manhattan Gmat
) - for SC, its the best resource out there. I am a non native English speaker from a technical background and I consider my command over english grammar decent. However, when I took the first diagnostic, I was in for a complete surprise! Manh SC is a very good resource because they have identified a majority of the common errors that can pop up in SC and have a structured way to go about identifying it. Powerscore's CR
bible - I liked it better than Manh's CR. I found that it had a better structure to tackle the different types of CR Q's. Although the Q's on the actual GMAT were a different kind of monster(multi level arguments with conclusions building upon one another), CR provided me a very good tool and framework to tackle all kinds of CR Q's. I fared very poorly on CR Q's to start with (especially on the Inference, Main point and Evaluate the argument Q's). Once I reviewed the CR bible, I got my accuracy close to 100% on all the practice tests I took (both Manh Gmat and GMATprep).
For RC, i did not follow one specific book - I referred to several resources on the internet and came up with my own strategy to improve my reading speed and content retention capacity:
1. Write a one line summary for each paragraph (less than 10 words). Keep in mind the structure and the gist of the passage and try to rephrase in your mind in layman terms. The writing really helped me stay focused and be an active reader although I hated it at first and thought that I was wasting precious time (In fact, most of the times, I did not even refer to them when answering Q's. But I believe the value was in making me an active reading and improving my retention capacity)
2. Eliminate the wrong choices that are totally irrelevant to the passage
3. When it comes down to two choices or more and I am still undecided, I locate the para where the information is and reread it to nail down the final answer.
Math - Although I am from a technical background, I found the Manh math strategy guides very useful. They had tips that helped me in improving my timing (Work/Measurement/Statistics/Probability/Numbers/Algebra/DS).
Manh Practice tests:
There are 6 tests in total that you can take without any repeats. If you exhaust this set, you can start over again with some repeats (thats what the site claims and I would believe them. Personally I did not have the time to take more than 6 tests and I would have if I had had the time).
Although the questions in the actual GMAT are a little different in terms of style from the Manhattan GMAT
Verbal Q's (atleast for the more difficult Q's), i would strongly recommend it. My reasoning for my suggestion goes like this -In the actual GMAT, if you would apply the same logic that you had used when picking a correct answer choice in Manh's practice tests and also understand and agree with their reasoning for the correct answer and the wrong answers, , you have a high chance of getting the Q right on your actual test (it atleast worked for me - On Q's at the 700+ level, more often, I was stuck with two choices and I had to use my gut feeling to pick one and most of the times, I got it right on my GMAT Prep Q's, thanks to my prep with Manh practice tests).
The math section is super tough and not does not accurately reflect the difficulty level of the actual GMAT (I might be wrong..Anyone with a 60 on Quant section can throw more light on it). But I like it because it prepares you well for the actual GMAT(when you reach the tough Q's level).
I also liked the math section on the Gmat club test and the Q's posted on the forum and thought they reflected the difficulty level (or were a bit more difficult) of the actual GMAT.
I am more amazed at the dedication of the members of this group in posting Q's and answers, like that of the Manh folks (at least they have a monetary reason to do so) and that prompted me to give back to this community as well by writing this long debrief.
Tests taken in the following order ( I did not take more than 1 test in a week)
All tests except for Manh were free.
1. Princeton - 680
3. 800 Score - 680
4. Gmat Club - 680
5. Manh #1 - 680 (At this point, I was frustrated as there was no improvement in my score. That's when I decided to adopt a strategy (Outlined below) instead of flogging around with my eyes blindfolded
6. Manh #2 - 680
7. G Prep # 1- 760 (that really boosted my morale a bit)
8. Manh # 3 - 700
9. Manh #4 - 720
10. Manh #5 - 700
11. G Prep # 2 - 760 (made me feel confident)
12. Manh # 6 - 700
Actual - 750
I wanted to take as many tests as possible and wanted to use the tests to improve on my time management and also my content knowledge.
0. Always take the full lengh tests under timed conditions that closely simulate the exam to get best feedback (take the AWA as well each time)
1. Time management was one of my biggest issues. I read in one of the forums about how one of the test takers trained like an athlete. I tried the same and it worked for me - I would set tougher time target for each Q type and worked on the OG Q's based on that. For instance, my target was to complete 10 SC Q's in 10 min, 10 CR Q's in 15 min and so on. After my timed session, before I check the answers, I would review the test again to see if I would want to change my answer after reading it untimed(to practice on my content accuracy). Although it took me more time, it helped me improve on my timing without compromising on my content mastery part.
2. I also kept track of the mistakes I made by Q type and that helped me identify my weak areas. Then I referred to additional resources to master the content (for instance, I knew that I was weak on bold face Q's in CR and SC comparison Q's involving structural comparison - that's how specific I was in identifying my weakness areas.
3. Some people in the forum talk about redoing the Gmat Prep tests. However, I found it more useful to go to the Manh Forum site where they have an entire section dedicated to answering and analysing Q's from the GMat Prep. I found it to be very very very useful (I cannot stress more on the importance of usefulness of it). The explanations were very detailed and seemed logical and accurate (They were from the Manh staff themselves) I love the folks at Manh GMAT(especially Stacey Koprince, Ron Purewal and other folks who post detailed insights on their forums and provide strategy advice on other forums as well)!! They are so kind enough to post replies to all these Q's with detailed responses and they are doing a great (free) service to the GMAT test taker community (of course, its good marketing for them as well...hey, but they are atleast doing a quality job with dedication). I also liked the posts on the gmat club site. but sometimes, I was a bit sceptical about the answer on Gmat club as some of the answers were incorrectly identified and sometimes the Q's were not even from Gmat prep(on the Manh site, the staff made sure that all posts in that section were from Gmat prep and had the right answer selected. Moreover, they were able to explain in detail why each answer was right and the other choices were wrong - especially in SC). The math Q's from Gmat Prep posted on gmat club and manh were very useful as they provided useful tips on solving time consuming problems. I came across this Manh forum only a week before my actual tests and couldnt review them as much as I would have wanted. I also noticed that they had a similar section to review Q's from their own practice tests. I am sure that would have been useful as well as I value the Manh prep material and the tests very highly (you only have to get one of their guides to get access to all the 6 online practice tests and its worth spending the money).
4. Redo the OG if you have time (atleast the Q's you made mistake on).
Advice on AWA:
If you are freaked out with the thought of writing essays and critiques on arguments, you are not alone. I was in the same boat when I started out with the AWA and did not believe one word of advice from my friend who was playing my role then...But believe me, it comes with practice. I found that I improved on my Argument anal after I started improving on my CR (i was able to brainstorm effectively on more ideas). On the issues, I was never confident until the last minute. But I kept practicing( I wrote an essay every time I took the test) and I luckily managed to score a 6 (I was surprised!) and I realized that my essays got better with time.
I do not have anything to add on test day tips as it has already been talked about in enough detail in other posts.