I'm a recent grad from a top 10 Liberal Arts College in the US. My school offered the Manhattan GMAT classes
on campus my final year. I had heard from friends/colleagues that it was best to take the GMAT right after college so you don't lose your "study ethic," and since the scores are good for 5 years, I thought that was a good plan. I took the classes around March/April 2012, but my post-graduation job and fun distracted me from really studying until February 2013.Studying TimelineFebruary -
I started going through all of the MGMAT Strategy Guides to refresh my memory after a long break from the MGMAT classes
. I was casually studying maybe 1-2 hours a day during the week and 3-5 hours during the weekends. The hardest part for me here was definitely find the time and space to study. (What do you mean the public library only opens until 9pm? That's when I get out of work!) There were weeks where I went more than 2 days without touching any GMAT material. I had done really well on the Math sections on the SAT/SAT IIs, so most of my focus went into CR, RC, and SC. Boy was that a mistake!!March -
I started working on problems in the MGMAT OG12
and Verbal/Math Guides. I was getting a lot of problems wrong, realizing that I had forgotten most of my Geometry and Number Properties basics, simple Verb Tense rules, etc. I knew I was going to be in trouble if I didn't pick up my studying. Thank god I discovered you guys!! I immediately went through the Study Plan and downloaded a Study Calendar. I found it useful to write down specifically what problems/sections I would be working on everyday in a calendar. It helped to keep me in check when I missed a day. While going through the problems, along with filling out my Error Log
, I also created a "GMAT Problem Areas" document where I jotted down specific reasons for making a mistake. E.g. if I missed a Geometry problem, I might write down in my "GMAT Problem Areas" document: "30-60-90 triangle properties"
I took my first practice test March 23rd. (MGMAT Cat Exam #2, I had taken #1 earlier when I took the class) 640 - Q42 V35. Uh oh. Definitely not where I wanted to be less than 2 months away from my exam. I immediately picked up my studying. I found it best to wake up early and head to the office to study before my real work came in. There were no distractions, and I was alert and ready to study in the morning. My schedule for the next ~2 months was: Wake up at 5AM, get into the office by 6, study until 9AM. This gave me a nice 3 hours on the weekdays. On the weekends when I wasn't taking a practice test and in order to keep some of my sanity, I would go to a coffee shop and work on individual problem areas (studying verb tense, for example). I studied approximately 5 hours a day on Sat/Sun.April -
This month was key for me. I was flying through advanced problems in the OG 12
, studying my "GMAT Problem Areas", and taking practice tests. I printed out the GMAT Math Book and Spidey's SC Notes and brought them everywhere with me when I was taking public transportation. My practice tests scores were as follows:
April 12 - Free Kaplan
Test 1 - 710 Q49 V37
April 22 - MGMAT CAT Exam #3 - 710 Q43 V44
April 24 - MGMAT Cat Exam #4 - 640 Q38 V38
April 26 - Free Princeton Test - 710 Q46 V43
April 28 - GMAT Prep 1 - 740 Q49 V41
So great. I broke the 700 mark on my practice tests. I went into May with much more confidence, still aiming for around a 720 (Getting 740 on the official GMAT Prep exam really helped). The most important thing I learned this month was realizing what areas were my weakest. After taking a few practice tests, there was a clear pattern in my incorrect questions. May -
My 4 weakest areas going into May were Sentence Correction, Probability/Combinatorics, and Geometry. I bought two additional review books aside from my Manhattan ones: Combinatorics & Probability (Veritas Prep
GMAT Series) and 1,037 Practice Questions for the New GMAT, 2nd Edition: Revised and Updated for the New GMAT (Graduate School Test Preparation). I more or less shut out the outside world at this point and focused only on studying. Ok, maybe I watched the NBA Playoffs as a study break too. My practice tests scores were as follows:
May 1 - MGMAT Cat Exam #5 - 670 Q40 V41
May 3 - MGMAT Cat Exam #6 - 730 Q45 V45
May 4 - GMAT Prep 2 - 720 Q47 V41
May 8 - GMAT Prep 1 Retake - 730 Q50 V39
May 11 - MGMAT Cat Exam #1 (reset my tests) - 680 Q46 V36
I scheduled my test for Monday May 13th. That Saturday, I went through the entire routine of taking the test for the MGMAT Cat Exam #1 - Had a substantial breakfast, pretended to 'sign in' to the exam, put my water/snacks in a 'locker', etc. After finishing the test, I went out with friends for a good time until very late in the night/morning. On Sunday, I took the entire day off. No GMAT studying, no alcohol. I found this pre-GMAT weekend to be very helpful in calming my nerves right before the test. My test scores would reflect the months of work I'd put in and not the last few days of cramming. I should also mention that although I created an Error Log
, I never actually went through it. My plan was to go through my Error Log
after the MGMAT Cat Exam #1 on Saturday, but I felt too overwhelmed with studying and instead decided to relax with friends and be social.Test Day -
I think I got very lucky in terms of my test center. I was the only GMAT test taker at the time, so they actually put me in a private room with a door. I breezed through the Essay and IR, remembering what my MGMAT instructor had said re the essay (they have that section to test your stamina!). I opted to take the 8 minute break and went out to the waiting room to grab some water and take a bathroom break. I was a bit paranoid of going over the allotted time (especially after hearing some horror stories of bad proctors), so I went back into my testing room with 4 minutes left in the break. During the Quant section, I surprisingly breezed through the questions. In my past practice exams, I would sometimes leave 2 or 3 questions unanswered (big mistake I know!), but I found the official Quant questions to be a lot easier. I recognized a lot of the questions as variations of questions I had done in the past. I should also note that I never ended up getting any Probability/Combinatorics questions.. oh well. I finished the Quant section with about 2 minutes to spare. I was a bit nervous thinking about the "level of difficulty" of my questions. Was I breezing through the questions because I was averaging at a low score?? I opted to take the second break as well, still returning around the 4 minute mark. Half way through the Verbal section, I found myself getting a bit restless and wanting the test to be over. A RC passage came up and my first thought was "come on.. i have to read ALL of this?" I looked up at the clock and saw that I was fine on time, so I took 30 seconds to gather myself and re-focus on the exam. I ended up breezing through the Verbal too and finished with about 8/9 minutes to spare (which is what I had been doing on my practice tests too). I finished the test and was (and am!) still extremely happy with my score.Top Takeaways from this experience1. Practice, practice, practice
. While study guides and memorizing formulas are great, taking practice tests and doing problems was the most helpful. Like I said above, on my actual test, I found that there were problems I had already done before! My score improvement wasn't a conscious "ok I finished studying this section on triangles, now I'm going to do 10 points better on my test" result. It was the result of doing so many problems that my brain recognized patterns and knew what the question was looking for sometimes even before I had finished reading the question.2. Make a study calendar.
I wasted my entire month of February aimlessly and sporadically looking through strategy guides and improving my problem areas. It wasn't until I made a calendar and wrote down a detailed syllabus that I started making improvements.3. Take full practice tests and don't skip the IR.
Building up stamina is so important for this exam. It's easy to take shortcuts during your practice test and skip the Essay and/or IR sections, but it will not help you in the long run.4. Flip the booklet landscape.
This is probably just a personal preference, but I found it so much easier to flip the scratch booklet landscape and place it right in front of the keyboard. For my first few practice tests, I had it "right side up" to the left of my keyboard. I found it very awkward and time consuming to rotate my chair left/right every time I finished a problem. 5. Recognize your problem areas and fix them before your test day.
Even though I didn't get any Probability/Combinatorics questions on my exam, simply knowing that I understood the concepts and could complete problems in these areas gave me much more confidence. The worst thing is feeling unprepared going into the exam. You should go into the exam thinking that you have the ability to tackle any type of question instead of thinking "please don't give me any questions on parallelograms!"
As a side note, I dressed well for the exam. I took a practice exam once with sweatpants and pajama-type wear but ended up feeling tired and unfocused instead of comfortable.
Phew that was long, thank you GMAT Club for all the help!! Good luck to everyone taking the exam and feel free to ask any questions if I missed something in my post. Ps I tried to post links to the Study Plan, Study Calendar, Error log
, etc. but it appears that I haven't posted more than 5 times before, whoops!