Hi everyone, I'm new to GMAT Club as I am in the application process and joined for the application discussions. I started looking through some of the debriefs here and thought I would share my experiences in case it helps anyone.
Before I get to my debrief, I want to share something that I haven't seen yet (not that I've read every debrief, but if I missed it others may as well). I bought the Manhattan GMAT
simulation booklet and marker set (http://amzn.com/0979017580
) and am very happy that I did.
It is nearly identical to the one used at testing centers, and if you have practiced using regular paper and a pencil or pen, the dry erase marker can really throw you off. This was especially true for me because I am left-handed, and it was very uncomfortable at first. In my experience, simulating the test during practice makes you more comfortable during the actual test, which results in optimal performance.Background
I took the GMAT in May 2011, so I don't remember many specifics and it was before IR was included. I am a native English speaker with a very balanced skill set / background, so there were not any particular areas that needed improvement. Of course, learning and getting used to the question types, especially data sufficiency and sentence correction, is a big part of it. Diagnostic / Preparation
I downloaded the official practice CATs (which are more or less the exact same as the real test). I went through the included math review and took the first test to see where I was at. I scored a 760 (don't remember the breakdown), so I knew that I was in good shape. I still wanted to be thorough, so I got the OG math and verbal practice books along with the Total GMAT math
guide by Jeff Sackmann of gmathacks.com (recommended by a friend).
Let me say that the Total GMAT guide was a total waste of time and may even be detrimental. I found the tips nonintuitive and mostly unhelpful. Some of the practice problems were actually wrong, which can be very confusing. If someone has a more positive experience with this guide please comment below.
The OG questions were great practice since they are actual questions from previous exams. I went through all of them and practiced for at least an hour per day every day for a month. I also stopped drinking alcohol and caffeine for the month leading up to the exam. I don't know how much this really affected my score, but I just thought I would mention that.
A few days before the exam I took the second official practice CAT. This time I scored a 750. I was concerned that my score was lower, but when I discussed this with my brother, who had done very well on both the GRE and the MCAT, he said that it's normal for your practice scores to drop and then for the actual score to be high. I found that reassuring and my experience matched that.Judgment Day
I was of course nervous going into the exam but once I sat down at the computer and saw how familiar everything on screen looked, I felt much better and was able to just get into a groove and get through the test. I was elated to see that I scored a 770 (Q 50 V 44). My official report revealed a 5.5 on AWA, which was disappointing but not so bad and is likely inconsequential versus a 6.0.Thoughts and Advice
I cannot offer advice for raising your score, as my score fluctuation between practice tests and the real exam were quite minimal. However I can say that several friends of mine have done better on the practice CATs (including official ones) than on the real exam and I think there are two reasons for that. The first is anxiety associated with the real test. That's why I cannot stress enough the importance of simulating the environment as much as possible. Use the simulation marker/pad. Don't take longer breaks than you will be allowed at the testing center.
The other thing is that these friends used many different preparation materials, including all the big ones: mGMAT, Veritas
, etc. The problem with non-OG materials is that the questions can deviate from the type you see on the real exam. They are oftentimes much more difficult, which may seem like a good thing at first but what really matters is practicing the GMAT exam itself as opposed to learning advanced problem-solving techniques (sometimes for problem types not found on the test). I'm sure that they have helped some people, but remember that the OG practice questions and CATs are the best.
Finally, if there's one thing you need to remember for the actual test, it's this: don't psych yourself out!
Many people get overly concerned with doing well at the beginning of a given section because of the test's adaptability, but the test is adaptive throughout an entire section. During my practice CATs, I missed two in a row out of the first five in the quant section but still ended up with a high score. Accept that you will make mistakes and/or encounter questions that stump you, and you will have the rest of the section to redeem yourself. If you focus too much on the early questions, you will waste time and unnecessarily second-guess yourself.
I am prone to anxiety and had trouble falling asleep the night before my test. I had to resist taking medication because I didn't want to be groggy. Even on 4 or 5 hours of sleep I was fine in the test. If you know you will be very nervous, it might help to do something else that also makes you nervous (go skydiving, perform at an open mic, approach a girl/guy at a bar, go on a first date) a week or two before the test to get out of your comfort zone a bit.That's All I Got
I hope this is helpful to at least one person. If anything above seems incorrect or unhelpful, or if you have any questions, please comment or message me. Good luck!