In the spirit of new year, I decided to share my GMAT experience with this tremendously helpful forum. I can't recall how many times in the past 4 months that I turned to GMAT Club for expert explanations on tough quant and verbal questions (you all know who I am thankful to: Bunnel, egmat
, and many test prep staff members), and I owe my 760 on my first try to them. At the end I will include my AWA template (help you get a 6 with ease :D), which is refined from several sources (Chineseburned's template, and some other sources I can't remember, but I did use 800score.com's essay grading service to get some feedback, and included those). Though there is still room for improvement with a 760, I believe some of my perspectives can save you time and trouble when preparing for GMAT.
I'm currently a senior in a top 30 US school, and I started GMAT preparation since September last year (took GMAT a week ago, so 4 months of on-and-off preparation in total). First I started with Kaplan
's diagnostic test, which gave me 660 (with zero preparation). Since I had scored 800 twice on SAT math section I was quite disappointed with my quant score (around 40 I guess), but I realized that data sufficiency questions were holding me back, and problem-solving questions were much easier for me. After scanning the solutions, I realized DS questions were tricky rather than difficult (especially the yes/no type of question, which require very meticulous thinking and careful approach; the find-the-value questions are easier). In terms of verbal, well my mediocre score on SAT verbal (below 700) made me set a lower expectation so I wasn't surprised to bomb this section anyways (scored below 35 on verbal I guess). Of course since SAT throws tons of obscure words at you while GMAT doesn't, it definitely eased my mind as my first language is not English. But one thing that did bother me was SC questions. My 750+ on SAT writing section (which was basically SC + essay) made me realize that either my SC skills have declined, or GMAT SC is harder (in hindsight the latter is most likely the case).
As a major procrastinator I then spent around 1-2 hours reading Kaplan
GMAT Premier online. I prefer this over reading the chunky Kaplan
textbook. Took me several weeks to finish it off. Overall a good INTRODUCTORY course, and excellent math refresher course (ALL basic concepts that's related to GMAT were included). A bit weaker on verbal since it's very basic and won't help you much. But the practice tests were excellent and the price tag (I believe around $30 for the book with 4 CATS) wasn't a rip-off. Recommended for beginners.
Maybe I wanted to check out how much Kaplan
helped, so I then took GMAT Prep test 1, and scored a 690 (Q50 Ver 34). Well the Q50 was achieved even though I got 9 answers wrong, which led me to laugh at how ridiculously generous GMAT Prep was on quant section. Though I couldn't let out a laugh on my verbal. My CR correction rate was below 40%. Did bad on SC too. Realizing that raising my verbal score was the key, I began my search for a great verbal-only course. Then I came across GMAT Club. It listed egmat
as "the best verbal course for non-native speakers on the market". I had second thoughts about this statement but since there seem to be no other courses purely focusing on verbal (and no other courses are specifically designed for non-native speakers as well), I then bought the egmat
verbal course. Best decision ever.
Of course it took me a while to get used to the egmat
video course instructor's accent. But I was blown away by its SC course right away. There were so many SC concepts that I never knew about. The decisive tone and clear explanations of the instructor made SC seem much easier and less vague. Of course many people on this forum use MGMAT SC
book but IMO egmat
SC already provides a sufficient framework of problem-solving skills and approach to SC questions. The rest is up to practicing as much as you can (because some SC questions test VERY specific concepts that can only be learned by practicing, you still need to practice tons of questions after any SC course AND keeping an errorlog is essential).
CR course was also absolutely helpful - I once wondered why egmat
started teaching CR with the seemingly mundane course on finding premises and conclusions. Turns out those basic stuff that egmat
touches upon are necessary to approach any CR question. My CR correction rate jumped from 40% to at least 80% after the course, boosting my confidence on verbal tremendously. The RC course also gave many useful reading strategies and its section on "main point" of a passage was the most valuable. I felt that with a good foundation in quant, all you need is egmat
's verbal course. Of course for those of you weak on both sections, you should definitely check out Veritas
and MGMAT's complete courses, though those require more studying and time commitment.
I am a firm believer of "improving by doing". After finishing egmat
, I decided to start the "practice test feast". Since GMAT Prep tests are most valuable, I decided to start with the 7 Veritas Prep
CATS (you get those ($49 value) for free with GMAT Club premier membership. Then use this membership to buy GMATPrep Software Study Collection and thank me later). Here are the breakdown of my results:
Total Quant Verbal
730 49 41
790 49 50
770 51 45
770 51 45
800 50 51
760 51 43
740 51 40
In hindsight Veritas
's CATs are as close to the real GMAT test (other than GMAT Prep, of course) as you can get. Overall my verbal saw a huge improvement after egmat
courses. Consistently scoring high on quant was a boost to my morale as well. I don't know how I got that 800 on Veritas
but well, I appreciated it anyways. Since you get those 7 tests with gmat club premier membership I highly recommend those in need of great CATS to get those tests. I can confidently say that If you understand all Veritas Prep
's quant questions, you are set for the actual test's quant section.
Then I turned to MGMAT CATs once I exhausted Veritas
. Here are the results:
CAT1 710 (Q45 V41) CAT2 710 (Q48 V39) CAT3 720 (Q48 V40) CAT4 740 (Q47 V45)
I knew MGMAT is like the bible of GMAT test prep, but I have to say, its ridiculously hard quant section is almost USELESS for preparation. During that stage of preparation, I was alternating between 50 and 51 on quant section on Veritas
tests or GMAT Prep. When I score 50 instead of 51, it would be only because of CARELESSNESS rather than failing to solve difficult questions. Thus, being able to solve super tough questions WON'T HELP. I have to say my low score on MGMAT quant brought my mood down for quite a while, and for those of you who experienced the same, just pay no attention to it. If you feel like solving those hardcore MGMAT quant questions and enter a process of self-torturing and time-wasting, be my guest. But don't cry me a river when you spend tons of time trying to reach 95+ percentile on MGMAT quant and then get a Q50 instead of Q51, because I already told you, carelessness, rather than difficulty, screwed you up (this is coming from someone who scored 800 on SAT Math twice, and have placed well in some math competition). A much better indication of your quant ability is Veritas Prep
, which contains a quant section only slightly harder than that of the actual test. Now, onto the verbal section, I was ok with my score on MGMAT since it's mostly within my expectations. Also I have to say both MGMAT and Veritas Prep
's CR sections are easier than GMAT Prep.
Onto the last stage of "practice feast", I purchased the GMATPrep Software Study Collection (2 more exams and a question pack with 400+ questions). It is absolutely helpful to the last stage of preparation, because I found that some GMAT Prep's CR or SC questions are unique and nothing like what I did in Kaplan
or MGMAT. So I took the 3 remaining tests in GMAT Prep and got this: Exam 2 750 (Q50 V40) Exam 3 750 (Q50 V41) Exam 4 730 (Q50 V38). Well the fluctuation in verbal got on my nerves, and I quickly found that some CR questions in GMAT Prep is unlike any of those I've encountered. Some SC concepts were also quite unique, nowhere else to be found. Hence I turned to the question pack 1 (included in the GMATPrep Software Study Collection). Out of those 400 questions, I only did those related to SC and CR. It was really helpful and reassuring to to when I finished and understood those questions.
For IR I usually score around 7-8 in GMAT Prep so I didn't spend much effort on it (I did finish the egmat
IR course, included in the verbal package). For essay, well I suppose I did spend quite some time on it, since I believed that if I can write my essay with ease and confidence at the beginning of a real test, it would boost my confidence for subsequent sections. I've compiled the ultimate essay template from all the resources I could find, and even got my practice essay graded by 800score.com's experts and incorporated their suggestions. I've attached the template below. Overall, aim for 500+ words for an essay (use 3-4 minutes for planning), and the examples you use should constitute the bulk of the essay (e.g. if you write about a flaw in the argument, use at least 2-3 concrete, detailed examples to fill in the template). The best part is that the template already contains around 300 words (without examples filled in) so yeah... Just type the template verbatim at the beginning, and then fill in the blank with examples
. Of course writing a 30-min essay gives you mental fatigue slightly, hence make sure to at least practice with the essay section during the last 3-4 practice tests, ideally using GMAT Prep. Again, aim for 500+ words, if you can't you have to improve your typing speed.
1. Use Kaplan Premier
as refresher. If your verbal is holding you back, then use egmat
's verbal course. I didn't have much trouble with quant so I won't comment on it.
2. When you get your fundamentals set, start practicing. The best source IMO is Veritas
's 7 tests. Only use MGMAT for verbal practice - its quant prep is wayyyyy too hard and almost an over-kill.
3. Buy GMATPrep Software Study Collection. Don't save money on this or you will want to kick yourself later.
4. For the last 3-4 practice exams (especially GMAT Prep exams), always take 30 minutes to write the essay either to improve typing speed without making typos, or to practice using the template (attached below).
Now I need to get busy applying to MFin programs. I hope my post would be helpful to some people on this forum, and feel free to shoot me any questions.