I finally took my GMAT this morning and scored a 780. I was looking for 750 or higher, so suffice to say I've hit my goal. I'm at work right now but I'll write a full debrief either later today or sometime over the weekend.
Also wanted to thanks everyone here at GMATClub for answering questions on the forums and especially for the GMATClub tests
-- I'll provide details of why the tests were so helpful in my debrief.
[EDIT] Here's my debrief:
I was hoping to get a 750 or higher and ended up with a 780. Here's a summary of my study/practice strategy and my experience.Classes and Practice Tests
I took Manhattan GMAT
's online course over the fall, from September til December (9 courses). Overall, I think it was pretty good. MGMAT's strenghts are Number Properties, Word Translations, and Sentence Correction. I didn't like their RC and CR methods -- I'll explain my reasoning behind this later in the post.
The MGMAT tests are probably the closest to the real thing (compared to Princeton, Kaplan
, etc). I think the verbal on the practice tests is too difficult and the quant difficulty is about the same...except MGMAT emphasizes probability and combinatorics too much on their tests. The real GMAT puts emphasis on number properties, geometry, and good old algebra.
For the last 3 weeks I used GMATClub's tests (http://gmatclub.com/wiki/Tests
). The importance of these tests was that they taught me to PAY ATTENTION. For example, "if n is a positive integer..." --- DON'T TRY n=0 or n=-1/2 when trying to solve the problem! PAY ATTENTION TO DETAILS OF THE GIVEN INFORMATION!!! This is where the GMAT catches a lot of people, that's why I double and triple checked everything.
Practice test scores:
GMATPrep1: 700 (Q46, V40)
GMATPrep1 retake: 720 (Q49, V40)
GMATPrep2: 720 (Q49, V40)
GMATPrep1 re-retake: 770 (Q49, V47)
GMATPrep2 retake: 760 (Q50, V45)
GMATPrep2 re-retake: 780 (Q50, V47)
Real GMAT: 780 (Q50, V47)
As you can see, I took each GMATPrep 3 times. Some people only take each test once for practice. I think this is a mistake. The GMATPrep database is pretty big and it's a CAT -- e.g. I didn't see any questions in common between the first take and second. I saw some common questions between the 2nd and 3rd take, but it's still AWESOME practice. The real GMAT has the exact same interface, so there's an extra level of comfort when you've seen the GMATPrep more than a couple times.Quant
As an engineer by profession, I've always been strong in and had an affinity for math. That being said, I did need help with number properties and Manhattan GMAT
was a great help there. Geometry and algebra are my strengths.
One aspect of quant that I believe is overblown is combinatorics. These are pretty rare, and I only saw one on my exam. It wasn't even that hard, I worked it out on paper and didn't use any of the factorial formulas. There was also some probability but it was a medium level question earlier in the test.Verbal
I always knew that verbal would give me the hardest time. The biggest help for me in this area was Manhattan GMAT
's Sentence Correction guide. There is a reason this book is called the "Bible of SC." This is where I learned the real intricacies of the English language such as comparisons, modifiers, pronoun placement, and the like. I read through this book twice during my prep time and I think it was a huge help.
As for the RC and CR, MGMAT encourages taking notes for both. I ended up taking notes only for LONG RC passages and none for the CR. MGMAT's CR passes in their books and practice tests are wayyyy too long compared to real GMAT passages. The short passages on the real test are easy to follow, so I didn't need notes there.
The CR book was helpful in that it tackles different CR questions that can show up on the GMAT -- i.e. "find the assumption", "strengthen the argument", etc. While the idea is right here, again, their passages are way too complex compared to real GMAT passages.Exam Day
I woke up at 6:30 am for my 8am test. Took a quick shower, ate breakfast, and headed out to Pearson Vue. I put everything in my locker, had my picture taken, was fingerprinted, and sat down at my computer by 8am. This place had more security measures than a maximum security prison!
The AWA went fairly smoothly. The second essay gave me some trouble as I couldn't think of 3 solid examples to back up my opinion of the author's statement. I finished the 2nd essay with about 2 minutes to go. I took advantage of my 10 minute break for 5 minutes. I hit the water fountain and ate my Kudos bar for energy.
I was very confident in the quant section. I think I got the first 7 or 8 right and then ran into some tough geometry, number property, and algebra questions (including mixtures). From there it just got tougher and tougher. The problem here is that I didn't know which questions counted and which ones were experimental (I've heard ~10 are experimental). I may have spent too much time on some of the experimental, as I finished quant with about 20 second left. The last question was of medium difficulty so I think I got #35/36 wrong. I also remember some hard DS questions that I couldn't figure out -- these turn out to be A,B, or D more often than C or E. So I think I made some good educated guesses.
Took another break, drank my overpriced Starbucks Frappucino in a bottle for caffeine. Verbal was easier than I thought it would be. Thanks to my expertise (haha) in SC, I averaged under a minute for SC questions. Good thing, because I took forever on the RC passages. I took a few notes on RC, nothing on CR. I do remember drawing a graph for one CR to help me explain what was happening -- The GMAT loves to take simple info and turn it in to rocket science.
I finished the verbal with about 3 minutes left. I verified my information and clicked that I wanted to see my score. I was expecting a score in the 730-750 range and was pleasantly surprised when a 780 popped up. I raised my hand, the procter came over and said it was only the 2nd 780 she had ever seen. Makes me wonder how rare this really is.Final Tips
-Study quant basics to death. Don't practice difficult combinatorics and probability questions unless you are 100% confident in your basic quant abilities. Things like number properties (even/odd, prime factors) and geometry (inscribed triangles, areas, perimeter) are way more common than combs/perms.
-Don't take too much time. Don't be afraid to guess when the quant question is beyond your abilities. This is probably one area where I hurt myself, as I forgot some experimental questions are thrown in and spent way to much time on some questions. This probably hurt me later on in the test as I was rushing towards the end.
-Bring food. This is important. The GMAT is a 4-hour test and you will need the energy. Take your breaks and get some water.
-For verbal, learn SC. It's the only thing that has somewhat of a formulaic approach. Use the MGMAT SC
guide or something else to help you learn the intricacies of the language. CR includes some logic, RC requires good concentration and the ability to read fairly quickly. So practice, practice, practice all three.
-Finally, take each GMATPrep test at least twice, preferably 3 times. This will help you get comfortable with the format of the exam, and more importantly, will get you some practice with actual GMAT level questions. Just uninstall and reinstall the software after you've taken both tests. Make sure to go back and study the problems you get wrong so you can learn from your mistakes.