I am kind of long time lurker especially in Business School Application Forum but I just had enough time and willingness to share my GMAT story with this community that helped me a lot during my applications. I am sorry in advance because of not making my post a very-well structured one.
After loooong hours of thinking and discussion with people close to me in March 2010, I decided to make an MBA in USA. (I can share my thought process and how I chose my target schools in another post) Then I decided to take TOEFL before GMAT by thinking that my TOEFL preparation would positively affect my GMAT efforts. I took timed TOEFL and GMAT exams to asses myself and initially I was discouraged a lot with my GMAT score (I took the GMATPrep1 (diagnostic exam) and I scored a 460 in that with a very very low verbal score. I scored 43 in total for Reading & Listening sections of TOEFL IBT) Analyzing my gaps in both exams, I decided to take TOEFL in May 2010 and GMAT in September 2010 so that I could apply R1s of my target schools.
Until mid of May, I studied only for TOEFL. Then I switched to preparing for GMAT. Despite a decent TOEFL score (I got 113 in IBT), I focused on verbal part during my GMAT preparation because English is not my native language and because quantitative part of GMAT was not that hard for me thanks to my engineering background. I also focused on improving my pace in both parts of GMAT.
During my preparation, I used whatever resource I could find. However, the most that contributed to me were Official Guide for GMAT Reviews, Manhattan’s Practice Exams, Kaplan
’s GMAT Verbal Foundations and GMAC’s old tests. I also solved 800score’s practice tests. As I live in a relatively isolated part of world in terms of GMAT preparation (I live in Central Asia), I was not able to participate in a study group so my self-study had to utilize all possible resources. Here are my few general tips for everybody:
- I believe that studying everyday regularly is essential for GMAT success. This looked like the only way to create a sense for correct answer (i.e. educated guess ability) to me. Even if your job requires a lot of working on weekdays (like that of mine), do your best to allocate sometime in the evening for GMAT preparation.
- Reading fiction books really helped to improve my verbal score. I learned lots of phrases naturally and memorized them without much difficulty during exam. (I applied following rule during reading fiction)
- For non-native speakers, it is important to have a dictionary with you when studying especially for the verbal part. Do not ignore any unknown word; check meaning from dictionary for any such word. Do that even when you don’t remember the meaning of the word second time you see it. This helped a lot especially for CR questions when knowing the meaning of a single word can make a significant difference.
- During preparation, focus on your weaknesses without getting bored. Initially, I liked dealing with quantitative part of GMAT because I was able to improve my performance easily on that. I was afraid of even reading long and boring reading passages but that was a necessary evil. I convinced myself that studying verbal part was essential for my goals.
- Take the exam when you feel that your performance is nearing its peak and that it will be too hard to improve further. I believe this is a good way to reduce increasing nervousness during preparation for exam. Even though I intended to take the exam in September, I felt that increase in my verbal performance was diminishing fast at the end of June and I re-registered for the exam for mid-July. When I got a good score, I cancelled my September appointment.
- Despite all criticism, MGMAT seemed a very reliable indicator of GMAT performance to me. In order to use it effective, be sure that you checked and understood solutions of any question that you didn’t answer correctly.
- I can’t mention enough the importance of keeping your pace during the exam. Practice this during all preparation exams and even when solving question sets. Stretch yourself during preparation for keeping your pace (i.e. Aim solving each question in 75-80 seconds except RC) and you will be OK in the exam.
- A week before the exam, I took GMAT Focus Online Quantitative Diagnostic Tool and GMAT Write. They were pretty reliable indicators of my GMAT performance. (I got a 5.5 AWA, same score in GMAT Write)
- I had a 51Q 42V split in the exam.
I will be happy if my tips help somebody. If you want to ask more details, I would be more than happy to answer your questions. I wish all of you good luck in the exam and in your applications.
My GMAT debrief