I recently sat for the GMAT and got a score of 780 - one I am very happy with. This forum was very useful to me in my GMAT studies, both in the introductory phase when I was trying to figure out what materials to get as well as during the deep study phase. I figured the least I could do is post my experience here so that others can benefit from it.
1. Time Required:
I studied for about 1.5 months. I was working during this time, but I should mention that I studied intensely, basically doing not much else except work and study. I actually kept a log of my hours (because I kept hearing that most who got over 700 studied over 100 hours), and it turns out I studied 170 hours! That's over 25 hours a week - most of it on weekends. So be prepared to basically not have a social life if you choose to study intensely for a shorter period like I did.
I first got the Official Guide book to familiarize myself with the content. I tried the Diagnostic Test; did not fare too well. I realized my math skills were rusty (I could not for the life of me remember the relationship between angles, etc, which I probably studied in high school) and I also had no foundation for some aspects of GMAT Quant Questions (some aspects of number properties I don't think I had ever studied in that fashion). I also had trouble with SC because I didn't know the grammar rules.
So, I looked up gmatclub to see what study materials were recommended. I ordered the Manhattan GMAT
8-book set, and that's all I used essentially. I think those books are more than enough. Diligently read through each of the chapters in Quant, do the practice questions, and you should see your Quant skills visibly improve. Similarly reading through the Sentence Construction book should help you learn the rules and see patterns in SC questions. The CR and RC books are less useful, but that because I think there's very little a book can do to improve your CR or RC skills. You probably just have to know the techniques (the MGMAT book
gives you a few of those) and practice.
Note: I also ordered the Official Guide Quant and Official Guide Verbal books because they go hand in hand with the MGMAT books
. The MGMAT books
refer to questions from the Quant and Verbal books.
3. CAT Practice:
Once I was done going through the MGMAT books
(it also meant I was done with all the questions in OG, OG Quant
and OG Verbal
), I started on the CATs. This was with about 3 weeks left. I did the GMATPrep first, scored a 770, then went on to start the MGMAT CATs. My scores were lower on the MGMATS, starting at around 720/730 and getting to 770/780 towards the end. I did two more GMAT Preps, and got a 790 on both. Lesson learnt: GMAT Prep score is pretty close to the real thing, the MGMAT is slightly (very slightly) tougher from both the Quant and Verbal perspective. I mixed in a Kaplan
test (which I do NOT recommend), and Knewton test (was okay) and a Princeton Review
test (again, I do NOT recommend). I also did a few GMAT Club tests
(those that were free) just to build my quant skills, but the question difficulty level was higher than what is needed for the GMAT.
While undergoing this practice test phase of my studies, I also went through the MGMAT Quant books one more time, just to solidify the concepts in my brain. I just read the chapters, somewhat quickly, and did not do any of the practice questions.
Note: I only did the AWA part on two of the practice tests. For the others, I would just do other 'brain exhausting' activities, such as doing MGMAT Question bank or reading the book for about 1-2 hours before I started on the test. I recommend, just as many others do, not wasting too much time on AWA when you could be improving your Quant or Verbal.
As the test day came nearer, I got more nervous about the AWA section as there weren't any materials to prepare for it. I looked at the guide to AWA posted on this forum as well as on beatthegmat (sorry, guys), and sort of combined it to build my own template. I leaned more towards the one posted on this forum. I wrote about 6 essays as practice (three of each type) just to make sure I was comfortable writing a 500 word essay within the 30 mins time span and was comfortable with the structure. That was sufficient; I got a 6.0 on the actual test. I've realized you don't need to be that good to score well on the AWA. You just need to have good grammar, a structure for your essay, and some basic verbal/essay writing skills. So no need to freak out too much about AWA (as I did).
5. Day before the test:
Some people say you should relax the day before, some people say you should study. I ended up studying even though I wanted to relax. I think it worked out. My advice would be to do one CAT test the day before - it only takes about 2 hours and might be helpful to get your brain going. Although, I would also stress what others have said that you should rest well, definitely not study late into the night (especially if you have a morning test). Basically being fresh, happy and healthy on the day of the exam is important, so do whatever it takes to get there - whether it is sufficient sleep, nutrition, exercise, etc.
6. Day of test:
The day of the test went surprisingly well considering all I was planning for. I was so worried about being too hungry in the middle of the test or not having enough time during the breaks. Trust me, when your brain is in the test mode, it will have very little time to think about hunger. I went in fully prepared with two types of snacks but ended up not eating much. Just be sure to eat enough prior to the test such that it will last you but also not make you sleepy. I had a bagel and coffee about an hour prior to the test. It lasted me through the test. Bring food just in case but no need to stress out too much about it. I say this because I was stressed about such things, so want to make sure others aren't. There's sufficient time during the break to go to the restroom, take a quick bite or drink and go back in. (The good thing about the GMAT is people's test and break timings are usually staggered - there was no line in the restroom whenever I went). I thought I would have trouble with stamina but the entire test experience completed surprisingly quickly - maybe the adrenaline gets you through. Ear plugs were provided and I had almost no distractions. The laminated paper provided was more than enough because I only used it for my AWA outline and the Quant section. Again, things I was unduly worried about.
But that's it, at the end of it I was DONE! Thanks again gmatclub and all its posters for helping me with my GMAT Prep. I'm happy that the studying part is finally over so I can get back to having a life, but I'm sure once I start on apps it will be tough again.
The above is what I thought was important to share. I should add the caveat that everyone has different studying styles so what worked for me may not work for everyone. I hope it is at least helpful to hear about an experience. If anyone has further questions, I would be happy to answer. Good luck to everyone!
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