Sharing my GMAT experience. I took the exam yesterday and scored 770 (Q51, V42), AWA 5.5Material and comments:
: obviously, must-have. I decided not to use it until I finished all the Kaplan
questions to avoid wasting the official material and I would recommend you do too.
- Kaplan premier
live online: I found this book extremely helpful, especially the solution strategies for GMAT-specific problems (i.e. rate problems, sets, etc.), which can be very time consuming if not approached from the right angle. Also, it gives a good framework to attack the critical reasoning and reading comprehension sections. I did not rely on it for the grammar since I had the PS SC Bible.
- Princeton 1012: good practice for the math section, but in certain chapters many solutions are wrong, and by wrong I mean that they don’t even refer to the right problem! Not so impressed with the verbal part.
- Kaplan GMAT advanced
: waste of money. The exercises are easy and the theory was useless.
- Power Score Sentence Correction Bible: absolutely wonderful for those who already have a good grasp of the English language and want to discover more arcane rules. I think it is a good read regardless of the GMAT.
- Manhattan GMAT Number Properties
: I did not go through it in great detail. I did the review exercises and if I could not solve one I looked up the associated theory. I bought it mainly to get access to the tests.
Background: I am a non-native English speaker but I have been living in the US for 5 years. Although I am not bilingual, I am very comfortable with the language, given that my job requires a ton of verbal interaction. I have both a BS and an MS in engineering, and I have spent a great deal of time working on math-intensive projects.Math:
The first thing I did when I decided to start browsing through GMAT material was to get the P1012 book and give myself 40min to solve 20 randomly picked math problems. I was shocked by the apparent difficulty of these problems, deriving mostly from verbose GMAT phrasing and my lack of strategies to solve simple but time-consuming problems.
The next thing I did was to buy the Kaplan premier
guide, which turned out to be a gift from god. This guide gave me a framework to attack those problems on which I was wasting a ton of time. Most of these strategies were as simple as “draw a matrix and organize the information as follows…”. I cannot speak to the merits of Kaplan
for the more theoretical stuff; I had a very good mathematical foundation so I did not use the book to learn the basic concepts.
Another important thing that I learned over time was to use the answers associated with the problem-solving questions. During college and grad-school I took very few (if any) multiple-choice tests, so I have always had to figure out the solution of a problem without having the luxury of picking from a finite number of answers. I was not used to plug-in numbers in the question statement, but this turned out to be the fastest way to solve several problems.
I have also taken two GMAT club tests
: m25 while I was still studying for the math section (81th percentile), and m06 when I was done (94th percentile). I think that these tests where far harder than the actual GMAT, but not as challenging as some MGMAT CAT questions (some were outright impossible to solve in 2, hell, 5 minutes due to the presence of double and triple traps).
All in all, getting ready for the math part took me two months working at a fairly relaxed pace (30 problems per night). Most of the time was spent doing exercises, since I already had good math foundations.Verbal:
Even before I started thinking about the GMAT I found a copy of the Power Score Sentence Correction Bible and I read it to make sure that my grammar was up to par (again, my job requires a lot of personal interaction, both in person and in writing, and not being a native speaker I felt the need to sharpen my grammar skills). I think that, if you are already familiar with the language, reading through this book and doing the exercises is all you need to do well on the SC questions.
Critical reasoning was probably the most fun part of the GMAT experience, so I practiced quite a few of these questions (all the Kaplan
, all the OG, some questions from this forum, and about 100 questions from 1000CR).
Reading comprehension was, and still is, the most challenging part of the test for me. I did not have problems understanding the passage or avoiding getting bogged down by scientific lingo; instead I struggled with the answer options. Reading the explanations associated with the harder questions I often found the reasons to choose one option over another very subjective. I mean, you could typically discard three of the five options pretty comfortably, but I was often stuck with a couple of options between which I could not confidently choose. This is what dragged down my verbal score during the test.
All in all the verbal part took me two months, mostly spent on practicing questions (again, 30 questions per night).AWA:
I just read a couple of 6.0 essays and wrote the essays associated with the practice tests I took.Practice tests:
I didn’t take any test before having gone through all the material, then I took one test per week on Saturday morning. Here are the results:
GMATPrep 1: 780
MGMAT 1: 730
MGMAT 2: 750
MGMAT 3: 750
I found the GMATPrep tests
to be a fairly accurate representation of the actual GMAT difficulty. I finished them with about 15min left on the clock for the math part and 20min for the verbal part, just like during the actual test.
On the other hand, the math portion of MGMAT tests was MUCH harder than the actual GMAT. The type of exercises was similar, but the amount of calculations and especially the amount of traps in the MGMAT tests was way beyond the actual GMAT level.Test:
The two days prior to the test were very hectic at work, and I got far less sleep that I should have. My test was scheduled at 8:00am and I started right on time.
The analysis of an argument was about a market growth strategy for a small brewery, and the analysis of an issue was about whether an employer should have to obtain the employee’s authorization to access his records.
The math section went smoothly. I found it way simpler than I expected. If I recall well, there was only one question that I would have ranked as 700-800 level based on the ranking metrics of this forum.
The verbal section went ok besides two reading comprehension passages. The first one was pretty straightforward, but as I previously mentioned, I had a hard time picking between two options in some of the associated questions. The other passage was outright odd. It seemed to make a point in the first paragraph, contradict it in the second one, and talk about something else in the third one, but not with the typical scheme author’s opinion + critic’s opinion+conclusion. I think that these two passages hit my verbal score quite a bit.
All in all I think I stressed out a little too much on the math section (this is in part the forum’s fault
), while I spent the right amount of time studying for the verbal one.