I began thinking about taking the GMAT about 3 months ago, and really settled down to intensive revision about 3-4 weeks ago (I am between jobs at the moment so I had the time to study intensively) During this time I have found these boards to be a great source of materials, advice and encouragement. As such I thought I'd post a little debrief on my experience just in case it helps anyone.
I took the GMAT yesterday and scored a 780 (Q49, V51 - Is this the lowest Q score ever to make the top percentile?), a result with which I am absolutely delighted! I'm particularly thrilled given that last Friday, having just completed another Manhattan CAT and having failed once again to break 700, I sent a very disheartened email to my wife saying that I didn't think I was going to be able to score in the top 10%, and we should probably forget about the top business schools.
On the quantitative side, I found the GMATClub tests
to be a great help. I didn't expect when starting out that I would find the quantitative side as challenging as I did (I'd studied economics as an undergrad, although I graduated about 7 years ago). I would say that If you're scoring well on the test on this site, as well as the Quant sections for either the Kaplan
or Manhattan CAT's, you can expect to do well in the real exam. Getting used to working accurately under the time pressure was the hardest thing to do, and I only achieved this through many hours of strictly timed practice.
I guess the advice my score most qualifies me to give however is on the verbal section. My advice here is most relevant to other native speakers, as I can not imagine how one would begin to approach a test like this in a foreign language (huge respect goes out to all of those out there who somehow manage this however!). My advice is quite simple. Work as hard as you can on SC questions, but don't do much work on either CR or RC. SC requires you to know grammatical forms and idioms that you will only learn to recognize by working hard, and once again I found Manhattan useful here. It was my experience though that neither Manhattan nor Kaplan
were any good for CR or RC prep. The "difficult" examples they give are most often not difficult, but just poorly written, fuzzy, or unclear. Nothing on the actual GMAT was like that in my experience. In my opinion, you're better off backing your own intuition rather than cluttering your mind and introducing self doubt by learning the "techniques" these guides try to introduce. Your scores on the Kaplan
or Manhattan practice tests my suffer as a result but don't lose heart. You should see a pick up when you take the GMATPrep test, and on the actually day itself. See my CAT scores below as a case in point. My quantitative scores improved over time, and where generally a good indicator of my final score, but my verbal scores where all over the place, and generally much lower than I achieved on test day, or in either of the GMATPrep exams (the slight improvement over time in V score was entirely down to getting better at SC questions). I scored a 700 only once in 9 practice CATs!
If you want to know if ignoring the prep material on CR and RC is a good strategy for you, I'd recommend testing yourself like I did. Get hold of a copy of the Official Guide, turn to the end of the CR section (questions are harder towards the end), and answer the last 20 questions under timed conditions. Do the same for RC. If you get the vast majority of these right, then close the book on these sections. You're good enough already and you don't want start doubting you're generally correct intuition. Use the time to work on SC and the quant side.
Another thing I did that definitely helped on test day was that I was totally strict about the conditions under which I took the practice tests. As test day approached I did all of my CAT's under strict timed conditions. I would write the essay before I began each one, not allow myself to have coffee or water at the desk (for some reason you're not even allowed water in the exam room), leave the room to eat energy bars in the 8 minute breaks, and I used the test simulation booklet from Manhattan to get used to the scratch pad. Being strict with myself like this definitely helped me to build the stamina need to crush the verbal section on test day.
That's about all the advice I've got. A really big thank you once again to this forum and the all of it's contributors. Good luck to everyone, and remember - Back Yourself!
breaks down quant and verbal scores as a percentile rather than a score, no idea why)
Date Q Percentile V Percentile Overall Score
8/8/12 55th 87th 630
16/8/12 53rd 87th 620
24/9/12 61st 96th 660
28/9/12 68th 98th 680
19/10/12 70th 92nd 670
Date Q Score V Score Overall Score
5/10/12 Q45 V37 680
12/10/12 Q45 V38 690
17/10/12 Q48 V36 690
21/10/12 Q47 V38 700
Gmat Prep 1 (10/10/12) - 740 (Q49, V42)
Gmat Prep 2 (23/10/12) - 760 (Q49, V44)
Actual Gmat (25/10/12) - 780 (Q49, V51)