I took the GMAT November 9th, 2010 after deciding to pursue a Masters Degree in Finance. Here's my experience
I had been out of school (finance undergrad) for about 6 months when I started to study for the test and I was shocked at how rusty I had become. My undergrad experience focused on excel and financial calculators, so I really struggled at first. I even considered sticking with my investment sales job that I hated to avoid having to take the GMAT, but in the end I am very happy that I did.
So, to start off, here are the materials that I used:
Official GMAT Guide. This is a must have in my opinion. It has a ton of actual past GMAT problems to solve and a little strategy advice too. I wouldn't rely on the short subject topics as a study guide, but it is perfect for practicing Quant and Verbal problems.Manhattan GMAT
Study Series (8 Separate Books). I attribute my GMAT success almost completely to this study set. To be totally clear, I haven't used any of the other similar sets. But, I can say that this program sharpened my skills (math and verbal) more than any college course. The writers teach the subjects in the context of standardized, timed testing. So, not only do you learn (re-learn) the subjects, you develop great test taking skills. I cannot say enough about MGMAT.GMATPrep Tests
: These tests that come with the OG are really good for realistic test practice. You absolutely HAVE TO practice with real computer adaptive tests or you will be in trouble on test day. No pausing either!!
Thats it. I bought those materials on Amazon and sold them after the test on eBay for a $20 loss. Not bad right?
So, I started studying 6 weeks before the test. I procrastinated for about 3 weeks before that, so I was a bit pressed for time. I spent about 3-4 hours a day except on the weekends. The first thing I did was the OG diagnostic test. I did terribly. I missed about 30% of the questions all together. I did equally poor in both math and verbal, so I decided to simply go through the MGMAT guides
one book at a time. Each book has it's own set of practice problems (think quizzes) after each chapter and a comprehensive "test" of problems from the OG at the end. The chapters are short, so I would do one at a time and then take short breaks. DO NOT allow yourself to strain your brain too much. The info will not stick as well as. At least that was my experience. I also kept a journal of sub-topics that I needed more practice with and supplemented my study of these problem areas with other sources, including this forum.
After completing all the books I had 6 days before the test. So, I re-took the diagnostic test and felt much better. Yes, I did remember a few of the answers, but I could still tell that I was more comfortable with the material. At this point I spend 4 days doing two practice tests per day on the computer. The MGMAT set comes with 6 and the GMATPrep has 2 (I think). I was once again disappointed with my confidence. The time element cannot be underestimated. It is a major stress factor. Practice is the key here. Do as many practice tests as possible. My scores for the practice test were in the 690-750 range. Now, after taking the test, I believe than the MGMAT tests are designed to be harder than the real test to "over prepare" you. Thats my opinion. I spent the last two days doing as many practice problems as I could find. The GMATClub iphone/ipad app has a lot of good problems, so I took that with me and did problems whenever I had a chance.
I took Nyquil on the night of the test. My head was so full of GMAT material that I was dreaming of prob/comb problems. I woke up, ate a good breakfast and headed to the test center. I was so ready to finish the test that I skipped all but one of my breaks. The test was exactly what I expected, thanks to the GMATPrep software. I seemed like it took and hour for it to compute my score (even though it was probably only 20 seconds). When the score popped up, I threw my arms in the air and almost shouted. The hard work had payed off and it felt great.
Moral of the story: studying for this grueling exam can be disheartening. Don't let it affect your study plan. Stick to your plan and don't underestimate the amount of work that it takes to get ready. This can be especially difficult at times.