I recently gave the GMAT and scored 750 (V44, Q49). Although strong in quant, I found it extremely difficult to score above 49. I was hoping to score ~710/720 and take the GMAT again. However, I don't think that I would now. Here are some of the things I learned duing my 2 month of serious prep (~240 hrs).
Spend enough time on both quant and Verbal. I spent 80% of my time on Verbal. In the end I would have scored an additional 10 points had the split been 70/30. Although I am happy now
, 760 would have been better
1. First 10 questions
- get at least 7 correct to score 35+. In one of the mocks, I got 4 (or 5) wrong in the first 10 and scored 27 despite getting 25 questions correct. In my next mock, I scored 35 with the 26 correct. The difference - I answered 7/10 correct.
2. Manage timing
: In DS, you are likely to get a few questions where you where you will take more than 2 minutes. Its ok to spend time if you are quite confident on timing on quant. However, if you are not, its better to move on. I have seen my accuracy in DS go down when I was running short on time. You don't want to be in that situation.
3. Do at least 2 mocks with IR. IR is a drain on energy and you need to practice it, especially if you don't relish it.
4. Clear your head:
Once you do a question, forget it. Don't keep thinking about it. Otherwise, you are going to make mistakes. In fact, in some mocks I would pause for 5 seconds to clear my head. As you move from one question to the other, tell yourself - I am going to get this one.
5. Assess mocks
: Two things very important here. Firstly, Assess your mocks on the same day. Secondly - Plan what you will asses your mock on, even write down on a piece of paper so that after the mock all you need to do is execute. Once you complete the mock, you will be too drained out to make that determination. I looked at the following - Section wise accuracy, First 10 accuracy and time to answer, Total productive time, Improvement in areas that I recently worked on. I also spend time taking qualititive notes on questions I solved incorrectly. I would write down my analysis (2-3 lines) and the expert analysis. This helped tremendously. I did not do this in the first mock. Two days later I had no idea how to start. Sentence Correction
Towards the end I was hitting 80%+ accuracy in mocks and 90%+ accuracy on Grockit. Here is what I learned.
1. Meaning and structure
: You need understand the meaning of the sentence. If you do that the modifiers and lists become much more clear. You can't do that with the splits approach. Once you understand the structure of the sentence, finding the error choices become much easier. It really helps on trickier questions.
2. Proper analysis:
Do the relevant analysis when you make a mistake. I have seen both good and poor explanations to SC questions on GMATClub. Spend time to understand the reasoning behind the correct answer.9/10 times, if you understand the explanation, you are not likely to make the same mistakes again.
3. Splits approach:
Do not forgo the splits approach entirely. It helps in finding errors. Don't make it your primary approach. Look your splits if you are unable to make out the errors in the original choice.
4. Change meaning
: This is not very common on the GMAT. I would not spend much time on it. You may get one question that tests this.Critical Reasoning
Initially, Critical Reasoning was my strength. However, I found that it was the most challenging to improve beyond a point. I answered 9/14 questions correctly in my first mock but could never answer more than 12/14. However the average difficulty of questions increased as well.
: The single most important entity in the argument. Make sure that you understand the conclusion.
2. Write down points, use arrows
: If you don't understand the arguments, you are likely to get the question wrong. If you find that you mind be being overwhelmed by the argument. Take a pause, even write some things down on the paper. Using "=>" to depict "leads to", "up arrow" to depict increase, "down arrow" to depict decrease etc are not only a big time saver but also help interpret the arguments much better, especially for folks like me who have poor handwriting.
3. Learn to abbreviate
: This may seem trivial but trust me when you read a big word, you don't want to think about how to abbreviate. For me, it was always the first letter, middle letter and the last letter.
4. Prethink/Paraphrasing works
: This is something that I thought was a waste of time. Learning how to prethink can be painful but trust me it is a life saver. Full marks to egmat
live sessions for this. Really helped me jumpstart my prethinking ability. My first 20 questions took me over 3 minutes per question. Your accuracy shoots up tremendously. In the end I was taking about 1:45 on average so no bad on the timing part as well.Reading Comprehension
This is one area where I improved the most. The improvement was the fastest too. All thanks to e-GMAT
course. My approach here was to spend time to understand the passage. Here are a few things that worked for me.
1. Read Slowly
to understand the passage. Even though I took more time to read the passage, I did not have to re-read as often which eventually helped me with both accuracy and timing.
2. Accuracy improvement:
Try to get 85%+ accuracy in areas of your strength. Science and business passages were easy for me. Once I learned how I learned how to do well on these, I simply applied the strategies on more challenging passages.
3. Master Main Point first
: If you cannot answer the main point, chances are you have not understood the passage. Make sure that you nail this question type first for all sorts of passages.
4. Read the various subject matters
: RC indians are not us Indians and we have no idea regarding the issues they faced. This makes the RC passages much more challenging to grasp. So to make this easier, just read about the issues they faced. Basically these passages are written in English using the same constructs as the other passages and become much easier once you have an idea of the terms/vocabulary they use.
I did not do super well on quant. So not many tips. Here are my observations.
1. Don't worry too much about P&C. Too much of a drain on resources.
2. Number properties, word problems, Coordinate geometry etc - master the most common topics. GMAT Club, Grockit are excellent resources for the same.
3. Work on your weaknesses in a focused manner. Practice does make one perfect on quant.
4. Read basics only if you need to. Use the MGMAT books
5. Follow Bunnel's solutions. They are some of the best in the business.Resources Used
I used a number of resources. Thankfully, I was able to converge to a few very soon. Here is my assessment of the ones I used.Books used:
I used MGMAT SC
, CR, RC. While SC book is useful, the CR and RC book are no where near the same quality. Its clear that the same rigor has not gone into writing these books. I also used some MGMAT quant books. They are quite decent. I also read the first 3 chapters of PowerScore CR
. Good book. Much better than MGMAT CR
.Online Resourcese-GMAT courses
- As a working professional, I found that the online resources are much better. I never thought I would say this, even after sitting in front of a computer for the better part of the day however they are much more tolerable on weekdays and one can easily spend 90 minutes on them. The egmat
courses are really nice. Their SC meaning based approach does a much better job of tackling SC than MGMAT does. You retain much more as well. Prethinking and Bold Face in CR is very good too. For RC, this is the first real course that taught something. Overall, the live sessions compliment the learnings in the course very well.
In addition, I also looked at economist
GMAT and Grockit. The both have a number of practice questions. Although the explanations in Economist
GMAT were better, Grockit was free for me and complemented the e-GMAT
One of the downside of online resources is that they don't work well on Tablets. Hence, you cant take them outside. Official guides
Invest in getting OG 13
and Verbal Review 2. Get the GMATPrep question bank 1 as well. While the questions from prep companies are good for practice and come close, nothing beats the official questions. After all, GMAT spends hundreds of dollars to create 1 question. CR and RC explanations on the official guide are quite decent. Read them.
In the end, I would like to thank this community, especially Bunnel for his master explanations and other moderators for the time they put in.