Just got back from Pearson VUE and am happy to report a successful test taking experience. Thank you, everyone on GMAT Club for making this possible! Here's a quick postmortem.
(in vague order of usefulness)
1. GMATPrep (indispensable)
2. GMAT Club forum posts (indispensable) -- 90% of my practice questions were from the forum
3. All MGMAT prep books (good for Quant review and SC; didn't open CR and RC)
, OG Verbal
, OG Quant
(good for practice, but questions are easier than on the real thing)
5. Powerscore CR
Bible (read through the whole thing, but a little too wordy for my taste)
6. GMAT Club tests
(good for learning tricks; bad for pacing -- i finished many tests w/ a lot of time to spare)
7. MGMAT CATs (Quant is tougher; Verbal is completely useless, maybe even detrimental to performance)
8. Kaplan GMAT 800
(barely opened this)
9. Princeton Review Cracking the GMAT
(never even opened this)
If I had to do this over again, I would use GMATPrep, GMAT Club forum, MGMAT Quant and SC books, Powerscore CR
Bible, OG problems, and GMAT Club tests
). As you can see from my practice test performances, I did not really improve my scores at all, which I'm a little disappointed by (more because I stressed for a month and spent a bunch of money on books). However, I definitely went into the test feeling prepared and confident. If I had taken the exam a month ago, I would've felt like I was shortchanging myself.
Tips for everyone:
Do not rely on anything but GMATPrep for live CAT practice. I really believe MGMAT verbal sections are crap and can really throw you off your game.
Tips for those looking to improve to 700+
- Focus on quant basics (equations/inequalities, number properties, geometry, fractions/decimals/percents). Forget about probability, combinations/permutations, work problems, mixtures, etc...These questions only really affect 49-51 Quant people. Otherwise you're trying to run before you can walk.
- Focus on RC and SC. I am of the opinion that everyone should get every RC right. There's no excuse not to -- it's like not doing well on an open book test. The answers are right in front of you. With SC, there are very clear rules that you can follow to do well -- use the MGMAT SC guide!
- CR is much harder to improve, in my opinion, as these questions test whether you can think logically. That's something that is difficult to drastically change in a 2-3 months. In any case, Powerscore Bible will be most helpful.
Tips for 700 scorers looking for 750+
- If you're regularly scoring 47/48 on Quant, then it's time to start practicing/learning the harder problems. MGMAT Word Translation guide will give you everything you need to be successful.
- Do every quant problem that is posted on GMAT Club. Some of them are tougher than the ones you will see on GMAT, so it will really help you improve your score. Note the high quant scorers' answers (walker, durgesh, x2suresh to name a few) and really understand how they approach problems. Most of the time, elite quant people think differently than the average person. You need to think like they do!
- SC - You need to sleep with/on/next to MGMAT SC Bible. But don't just read it. Write in Standard Written English! This will also be good practice for AWAs. I always found SC to be easy because I've always been a grammar nazi. You need to make proper grammar part of you, not just something you happen to learn for a test.
- RC - Read everything you can get your hands on. WSJ, Economist, etc. My method is that I do not move on to the next sentence if I don't understand what that sentence's message is. I don't move on to the next paragraph if I don't understand what that paragraph's message is. I don't move on to questions if I can't figure out the point/message of the passage. Do this with everything you read.
- CR - Powerscore Bible + forum question practice or take a logic class at your local community college/extension school. Again, toughest area to improve on.
----------------------------------------------Practice test scores:
GMATPrep 1 (late July, hadn't started studying yet): Q50/V44 -- 770
GMATPrep 1 (re-take 1): Q50/V45 -- 770
GMATPrep 1: (re-take 2): Q51/V47 -- 780
GMATPrep 2: Q50/V42 -- 760
MGMAT CAT 1: Q48
MGMAT CAT 2: Q48/V38 -- 710
MGMAT CAT 3: Q47/V44 -- 740
MGMAT CAT 4: Q49/V39 -- 720GMAT Club Tests
Test Correct Total % Correct Mean time msec Percentile
m01 32 37 86.5% 1m 55s 11505 96.3%
m02 34 37 91.9% 1m 35s 9535 97.8%
m03 32 37 86.5% 1m 55s 11588 92.5%
m04 33 37 89.2% 1m 48s 10845 98.7%
m05 31 37 83.8% 1m 59s 11988 94.7%
m06 31 36 86.1% 1m 59s 11990 93.1%
m07 31 37 83.8% 1m 45s 10524 90.5%
m08 28 37 75.7% 1m 49s 10933 86.4%
m09 29 37 78.4% 1m 20s 8033 92.6%
m10 31 37 83.8% 1m 43s 10353 94.6%
m11 30 37 81.1% 1m 25s 8551 83.3%
m12 32 37 86.5% 1m 46s 10688 93.3%
m13 31 37 83.8% 1m 38s 9872 92.0%
m14 33 37 89.2% 1m 38s 9811 100.0%
m23 36 37 97.3% 1m 40s 10081 100.0%
m24 31 37 83.8% 1m 22s 8249 93.3%
v01 33 41 80.5% 1m 24s 8403 95.5%
v02 32 41 78.0% 0m 00s 11 87.8%
v03 37 41 90.2% 1m 06s 6667 100.0%
v04 33 41 80.5% 1m 14s 7458 83.3%
v05 37 41 90.2% 1m 15s 7531 100.0%
I scheduled my exam for 12:15, since I am not a morning person. The night before, I prepared everything I needed (IDs, bag w/ food and caffeine for breaks) so all I would have to worry about today was rolling out of bed and finding the test center.
7-11PM night before: Re-read MGMAT math books and SC books to see if I had missed any tricks that I could use; Ate 2 high-carb dinners to make sure I would have plenty of energy today
11PM night before: Went to bed early to make sure I had a good amount of sleep.
7AM: Woke up feeling very nervous; tried to sleep for another hour
8AM: Started re-reading Powerscore CR
9AM: Read Chineseburned's AWA guide: 1-t64327?hilit=chineseburned
10AM: Relaxed, watched some stimulating/comedic TV (Real Time with Bill Maher) to get my mind working a little bit. I purposely did not do any practice problems, because I did not want to psych myself out if I got a few wrong.
11AM: Took the subway to the test center
11:30: Arrived at Pearson VUE
I should have visited the test center site before taking the test, as studies have shown that familiarity enhances test performance (I was briefly a psych major in college). I was completely thrown off by the layout and procedures of the test center, but more on that later. I was given a policy form to read, but I don't really remember what it said. After having my fingerprint scanned and my photo taken, I was handed ear plugs and allowed to start the test early. This was something I was half-expecting, but there were a lot of people from the morning appt still taking the exam. I'm not sure that they appreciated the afternoon group coming in one-by-one and disturbing everyone.AWA
AWA was tough, and I regret not preparing for it at all beyond reading Chineseburned's post this morning. I write very well in general, but I'm not sure my arguments made a ton of sense, because 30 minutes is not a lot of time to write a well-thought out essay. I bet that my AWA will be read 5-6 by the e-rater and 4-5 by the professional reader. Overall, I really liked that AWA was first, because it allowed me to warm up my brain w/o feeling a whole lot of pressure to get things completely right.
I took my 10 minute break, and this is where I was a bit thrown off. You have to raise your hand to be allowed out. Then they scan your fingerprint as you leave and as you re-enter. These procedures shave ~1 min off your break time (10% of your time!), which annoyed me a little bit. I went to the bathroom, drank some water, and ate a granola bar. Apparently 10 minutes goes by fast, because I barely made it back to my station before the 10 minutes expired.Quant
Quant was much, much easier than I expected. There were a lot of basic, straightforward problems, which totally freaked me out during the exam. I thought I must either have bombed earlier questions or was missing some of the tricks. There were definitely some very tough questions interspersed, but there were maybe 4 or 5 that took me longer than 2 min. Because I was worried I was missing something, I started doing every problem twice before moving on (starting at about question 10). This was a bit of a mistake, as I realized I was maybe 7 min behind pace when I got to question 25. Luckily, the next few questions were quick DSs that I could answer within 30 sec. I ended up finishing the test with about 4 min left. I really thought I bombed the Quant, so I was not too pleased with myself. This just goes to show that you cannot figure out how well you did, so there is no point in canceling your scores unless something major happens.
Took my break again and chugged a bottle of starbucks frappucino for caffeine. That was a big mistake, as I needed to pee about halfway into verbal.Verbal
This is my weak spot (or so I thought), and I was worried by the low verbal score thread, but I told myself I had to make up ground for my low quant score. Things here went more smoothly. My pacing was perfect, as I finished with about 2 min remaining. I actually thought I had a chance at 46+ verbal, but I guess a few of the tougher CRs and SCs got me.Aftermath
I was annoyed that the computer took you through all the personal questions you were required to submit when you registered to take the test. I wanted my score! Finally got there and was foiled by the cancel score prompt. I kept trying to hit next, but it kept telling me I needed to tell it whether I wanted to cancel my scores. I was so flustered and nervous at this point that I didn't notice until 3 or 4 attempts. Finally, I figured it out and hit next. Longest 15 sec of my life while it graded. It spit out my score, and I had to restrain myself from celebrating in the test room. I took my score printout and left the center so happy and distracted that I forgot that I really needed to pee