Hey all, I wanted to share my experience with you in the hopes that it will help someone else achieve his goals with the GMAT.
First, the test day experience. I scoped out the test center a week before (I highly recommend doing this for traffic and comfort reasons). I got to the test center ~15 minutes before my appointment. Was really nervous for the quant. since I was doing poorly on the GMATClub challenges
(explained below). I finished with exactly no time left. Verbal was less nerve-wracking, and I actually finished with over 15 minutes on the clock. Heart was going out of control and I couldn't click through the screens fast enough to get my score. 770, Q51, V44. EDIT: AWA 6.0 as well!
To give some background, my highest SAT scores were Math 800 Verbal 800 Writing 800 and I was aiming for a 730+ on the GMAT. I spent approximately 2 months total studying, with an average of 2-3 hours a day (sometimes fewer, sometimes limited to just one GMATClub challenge, esp. if I had been partying). Worked out as much as I could (1 hr - 2 hrs a day), slept a lot, and pretty much had no life (unemployed).
Here are the resources I used in preparation, in order of use (books and software were used concurrently):
Princeton Review: Cracking the GMAT
2008 (only one available from my local library--recommend with some reservations, as they don't give you too many advanced strategies. Decent practice.)OG12
: The best book for getting a good feel for the questions you'll see on the real thing. Highly recommended.
I also bought Barron's and OG11
(why? no idea...) but did not use them one bit.
GMATPrep (Best comprehensive software available, and resettable! (gmatprep-gmat-prep-powerprep-power-prep-free-tests-77548.html
2008 (Uhm, don't remember how I got this but it's good practice. No comprehensive explanations really, just questions.)
Barron's 2008 (Two practice CATs, a non-CAT math, and a non-CAT verbal. Not that similar to the real exam but OK practice)Manhattan GMAT
free practice test
And of course...GMATClub Math Challenges
!!! The best math review out there. Period.
And here are some of my "stats" from my practice exams (in the order I took them):
9/9/09: GMATPrep 730 Q49 V40 (was PSYCHED to get >700 on my first practice)
9/15/09: Barron's 680 (I was definitely saying WTF to myself)
9/21/09: Manhattan GMAT
9/26/09: Barron's 710
10/09/09: GMATPrep 780 Q50 V49 (again, excited to do well)
10/19/09: GMATPrep 780 Q50 V49 (repeat test with some overlap with 1st GMATPrep)
10/22/09: GMATPrep 770 Q50 V44 (repeat test with some overlap with 2nd GMATPrep)
And here are my GMATClub Math Challenge
stats also in the order I took them (as you can see I didn't finish them all and I was highly inconsistent). I didn't start doing the math challenges
until TWO WEEKS before my test. So I averaged more than one every weekday (since I generally gave myself weekends off).
Test Correct Total % Correct Mean time Percentile
m25 27 37 73% 87.8788 sec 73%
m01 31 37 84% 105.4966 sec 83%
m02 34 37 92% 104.9431 sec 94%
m14 27 37 73% 118.0925 sec 68%
m15 23 31 74% 144.0578 sec 42% (ran out of time in a big way by spending 10 (!) minutes on one question)
m16 33 37 89% 107.5079 sec 95%
m17 34 37 92% 117.5966 sec 93%
m18 29 36 81% 110.6873 sec 68% (a hangover was my excuse, but the next few are low too...)
m19 32 37 86% 116.0503 sec 79%
m20 31 37 84% 113.4073 sec 60%
m21 29 37 78% 100.8949 sec 74%
Here's what I have to say about GMATClub's Challenges: they are [multiple expletives] genius. I even saw a question on the exam that required a tip that only GMATClub's explanations offered. They are the best. And do not be discouraged if you do poorly on them!!!
They are clearly made to be harder than the real GMAT and even though I was averaging in the 70's (YIKES) by the end of the Challenges I scored a 51 quant. Now, I recognized that a lot of my mistakes were "silly" or "I didn't RTFQ (read the question)" but it was still very discouraging to do so poorly. The same can be said about the non-official GMAT software programs--they weren't reliable indicators, didn't teach me as much as the GMATClub Challenges
, and can suck my balls as far as I can tell (or maybe I was just having bad days, I don't know).
It tout I was too relaxed when taking these tests. With a good dose of anxiety and nervous energy to focus me on gameday, I ripped through quant. Conversely, I think my verbal suffered on the real exam because I was a bit too relaxed coming into it, thinking I was a verbal pimp and had already gone over the tough part (quant). shadowsjc posted a good tip for verbal: S-L-O-W down. Take your time, especially if you are like him or me. Thinking "I'm either right or wrong, no need to dilly dally" and taking no time to reconsider is a waste. Finishing with 15 minutes to spare at the cost of maybe a higher score is totally unnecessary.
For verbal review I relied on the OG and GMATPrep software. I know Manhattan GMAT
's Sentence Correction book comes highly recommended, but I figured my grammar knowledge was fine. I spent a lot of time reviewing strategy for Critical Reasoning (which initially I was terrible at even though I was a philosophy major!!) and learning to be more careful in Reading Comp.
For AWA, I definitely took big tips from the GMATClub templates (how-to-get-6-0-awa-my-guide-64327.html
), though I had a lot of confidence in my writing ability and never really studied for AWA. We'll see if that comes back to bite me in the ass. (EDIT: It didn't! Saw the 6.0 today on the official report). I also found f1gmat's AWA website to be tremendously useful for common analysis of argument logic flaws (http://f1gmat.com/gmat-tips/analysis-of-argument
I can't comment too much on verbal since, well, I didn't really use that many verbal resources but here are the general lessons I learned:SUMMARY
* Start studying 2-3 months before your exam. Get a game plan for yourself.
* Volume = success. Yes, pointed studying works, but more studying is better.
* Review is more important than testing. Review, review, review your mistakes.
* ZEROES, ONES, and NEGATIVES for data sufficiency. Just remember the possibility that any number unless otherwise stated can be zero, one, negative one, or just a plain negative number and you will improve by 2-3 questions every test. Guaranteed.
* GMATClub Math. Just do 'em. Do 'em all if you can.
* Get yourself focused. When you're practicing, imagine yourself taking the test and get that pukie-in-your-mouth anxious feeling so you really feel the pressure. That will be a better demonstrator of your ability than taking tests in front of the TV.
* Finish the OG guide. No matter how easy you find it or how tedious. Finish them all, read as many explanations as you can bear, and read the primers on the AWA questions.
* Scope the location, and feel free to be nervous! You will calm down after the AWA's, I promise you.
That's it, I'll spare you from reading anymore. Hope this helps!