I'm a Software Engineer from Canada. I graduated in 2001 from one of the best Computer Science programs in Canada. I've developed software for various industries including entertainment(sports, theatre, not for profits), finance and military. I'm interested in switching to finance (Equity Research/IM) and taking on a more managerial role. I started to research MBA programs in July of this year after completing CFA Level I in June.
My plan was to study for the GMAT for 3 months and then switch gears back to studying CFA Level II and researching schools until June 2010. I finally took the GMAT on November 21. I learned a lot on GMAT Club and so this is my feeble attempt to give something back.Preparation
The great thing about GMAT Club is that it tells you right away what to do. So, I didn't have to spend much time designing a study plan or wasting time on less than ideal resources. GMAT Club's FAQ thread answered all of my questions. The first step was to take a mock exam using GMATPrep and determine my strengths and weaknesses. I got around 650... oddly enough, I don't remember the total score but I do remember the breakdown (Q42, V36). Based on my score and my weaknesses (Sentence Correction and Number Properties), I ordered the books.Resources
By mid-August, I had my books and my plan was to study Quant for a month, Verbal for a month and then review for a month, taking me to mid-November.Quant
I have a pretty decent Quant background, so the key here was speed and tricks. The Manhattan Number Properties
and Word Translations books were the most useful to me. They teach you a lot of tricks to solve questions fast. Speed is critical on the GMAT. The Inequalities book was okay but not as useful. It had some good practise questions and the advanced section had a few challenges. I didn't get the Fractions book or the Geometry book as Fractions/Decimals/Percents were pretty easy for me and Geometry is a very small part of the GMAT. I learned all of Geometry through taking mock tests and doing official guide questions and reading their solutions. I studied Quant until the end of September.Verbal
For me, verbal meant Sentence Correction(SC). I didn't study CR or RC because I am like an idiot savant when it comes to those questions. So, I spent over a month studying SC. As many others have said, the Manhattan SC book is the bible. I absolutely agree and I read it twice. For SC, the first step is to drill the rules until they're second nature. Subject-verb agreement, tenses, modifiers, pronouns and common idioms should all be easy errors to look out for. I am a native english speaker so I didn't have to memorize that many idioms. I found that the more advanced SC questions, however, had few obvious eliminations and more subtle diversions in meaning. That's when I changed from stictly checking for grammar errors to reading the sentence for meaning as well. Other than the Manhattan book, the best resource for me was a document
(sorry I can't post the link since I'm a new member) posted by sterny on GMAT Club that basically was composed of all 600-700 level SC questions from the GMATPrep software. Thanks sterny! The MGMAT forums were really helpful since all of the questions in that document were posted on that forum with thorough explanations of the answers.AWA
I didn't study for this at all. I memorized the template by chineseburned the morning of the exam and did my first set of essays on the real GMAT exam itself.Review
I ended up having only one week to review since I took too long studying Quant and SC. My review was basically just doing CATs. Here are my results:
- GMAT Prep 1 - Nov 15 - 750 (Q50 V42)
- MGMAT CAT 1 - Nov 16 - 680 (Q47 V36)
- MGMAT CAT 2 - Nov 17 - 690 (Q48 V36)
- MGMAT CAT 3 - Nov 18 - 710 (Q47 V40)
- MGMAT CAT 4 - Nov 19 - 730 (Q50 V40)
- GMAT Prep 2 - Nov 20 - 720 (Q47 V42)
My biggest problem was time, I kept running out of it. So, I focused on my pacing and it got much better towards the end. I also found the RC and CR questions on the Manhattan CATs harder than GMATPrep. I got more used to the wording as I took more tests. I would have taken the last MGMAT test but I ran out of time.Game Day
The day before game day, I got really sick. I think I was just worn down from taking tests at 5:00am every morning before work. My test was scheduled for 8:00am Saturday, so I wanted to practise taking tests in the early morning. By the Friday before game day, I was pretty feverish and fell asleep at 7pm the night before and slept all the way until 7am the next morning! I still wasn't 100% but I figured I should still give the test a shot. I really just wanted GMAT done by this point. Worst case scenario being I cancel my scores.
The good thing about being sick was not feeling nervous at all. I was too tired and more worried about puking than being nervous about the test. By 8:00am, the adrenaline must have been pumping because I felt good and I wanted to do the test quickly before I got tired. So, I raced through the sign in screens until the last screen where I started to dump the AWA template that I memorized that morning onto my scratchpad.AWA
Well, I really regretted not doing at least one of these before the real test. I barely finished them in the alotted time and I didn't have any time to proofread them. Oh well, it's just AWA. Onto the real deal.Quant
I didn't take any break between AWA and Quant. I wanted to get it over with.
I felt pretty good going through these questions. All the geometry questions were easy. There was an easy probability question and no perm/com questions. I don't remember any tricky stats questions either. It was mostly word problems and number properties. I skipped 2 or 3 really hard ones which allowed me to have a lot of time for the rest of the questions. I panicked a little when I saw a braindead easy question (think mathematical skill-testing question to win a contest) but I just told myself it was an experimental question. The GMATPrep tests
are pretty representative of the difficulty of the test. I found the MGMAT's quant section harder than the real test. There weren't too many computationally complex questions (nasty long division). I was worried about that going in. I finished with a few minutes to spare and felt pretty good about my performance.
I took a short break to go to the bathroom and then when right back into it. I was starting to feel a little winded, so I really wanted to rush through this. I kept pushing myself to keep going, I could sleep for 20 hours after this but I would kill myself for the next 75 minutes.Verbal
The verbal was pretty standard. The RCs were only half a page long except for one long astronomical RC near the end of the test. I thought the CRs were pretty straightforward too. There were a few SCs that gave me trouble. I could only get them down to 2 answers and then took a 50/50 guess. By the last SC, I think I hit a wall because it took me 6 minutes to finish (right to the end!) I kept staring at it but my head was pounding at this point, so I think I just guessed the answer and finished the test.
I skipped through all the survey screens and decided to report the scores. I felt I did okay, no better or worse than when I was taking my practise CATs, so I expected a 700-710. I think I sat there for like a full 2 minutes staring at the 760. I was shocked. I went home and went to sleep... probably with the same shocked face.Epilogue
Well, I wanted to give a big thank you to GMAT Club. I would never have achieved my score without all the great information on this site. Although, I didn't participate much in the forums, I read them extensively particularly, the study plans, the FAQ threads and the GMAT experience threads.
Here's what I would have done differently if I could do it again:
- Use an error log.
- Do fewer easy questions and focus more on the advanced questions. I spent a lot of time going over material that I was already pretty good at.
- Do the GMATClub tests.
- Finish the SC document that I referred to earlier. When I started that document, I was getting half of them wrong, by the middle, I was getting only 1 out of 20 wrong. I ran out of time before I could finish all the questions though and didn't get a chance to review my mistakes.
- Do full length tests with AWA. I ended up with a 5.5, so this isn't a huge regret but I'm pretty sure I could have squeezed out a 6.0 with practise.
My best tip for those still studying. Don't worry about every question. I was getting 10 wrong during my practise CATs in quant and still ended up with Q50. So, missing a few questions here and there is no big deal. Wasting 10 minutes on a question, on the other hand, is a big deal.