Having read a number of debriefs and gained insights from each that have helped me on my journey, I thought I would share what worked for me in the hope that it will help others on here.Me
- Native English speaker, Engineering, Financial Modelling & Consulting backgroundStudy Timetable
- First CAT before any study, 620
- 3 months of 12 hours per week simultaneously with work (worked through all MGMAT materials)
- Second CAT, 680
- 2 weeks, full-time prep (~40 hours a week), comprehensive review
- 3rd & 4th CATs, 710, 730
- 2 weeks, full-time prep (~40 hours per week), fine-tuning
- Final week was a CAT every morning, scores 760, 780, 780, 770
Key message: build from the bottom-up. You must walk before you can run. Don't be discouraged if the results don't improve dramatically. They will come, but it requires significant work and dedication. The really solid results only started coming for me in the last week.Materials
- MGMAT full suite of books (comprehensive, great to build the fundamentals. SC very long and confusing.)
- OG 13
- OG Verbal
& Quant 2nd edition (essential)
- OG 11
(by this time I had run out of question materials, so I sourced back-editions)
- OG Verbal
& Quant 1st edition (just fine-tuning at this point)
Key message: I did not use any 'challenge' or '800 level' material. GMAT is all fundamentals. Spending 30 minutes on a difficult question is a waste... you can spend that 30 minutes finetuning your approach with 15 DS/PS problems.Question Approach
DS/PS - This is all just practice. After a certain amount of study, most people are pretty comfortable with the content of quant. To improve, it is all about speed and accuracy - so practice, practice, practice. I suggest determining where your weaknesses are and finding a good way to address these problems. For example, I found any problem which required you to determine which was greater (e.g. x > y, y > z, therefore is x > z?) quite difficult. I found that by the end of the question, I had so many cases scribbled all over my page that I had no idea what the answer was. So I built up a table that I would use for every type of this question, which listed the constraints along the top, one test case per row, with solid lines delineating case 1, 2 and 3 (for DS). This helped settle my nerves and gave me structure in these types of problems.
RC - I followed the MGMAT approach of 'sms' style passage summary, writing down 'the point', and then answering the questions. My scribble was pointless for referring to, but simply allowed my brain time to process and store the contents of the passage in working memory.
SC - don't bother with the complex stuff. Just learn the basics - there are only 8 error types. Every incorrect answer choice has at least 2 errors - at least one of these will be basic. I started an error log
just to track whether I was getting questions wrong because I didn't understand the error, or I didn't spot the error. It was 90% because I didn't spot it. Just practice finding all the errors. I had codes for each error type that I would write next to the incorrect answer choices. When reviewing answers, I would check I had the error code right (SVA - subject verb agreement, ME - meaning, MO - modifier, PAA - pronoun antecedent ambiguity, ID - idiom, CRA - concision/redundant/wordy, VT - verb tense, FP - faulty parallelism). Don't underestimate meaning - a large number of choices can be ruled out by meaning. For example swapping adjectives/adverbs (spectacular stained v. spectacularly stained), and not using an appropriate contrasting conjunction (e.g. using 'and' when the sentence clearly has 2 contrasts and needs a 'but' or 'although' etc.)
CR - I created my own approach. Every question type has a set structure (refer below). Once I had identified the question type, I would draw out the structure, and write A B C D E. Then I would read the passage, fill in the blanks, brain-storm the answer. This all takes about 30 seconds. Then I would review the answer choices. I found it much quicker than MGMAT's suggestion of writing a note for each sentence and labelling.
Strengthen/Find Assumption => Premise 1 + [blank premise] --> Conclusion
Weaken/Find flaw => Premise 1 --> Conclusion - [however blank counterpoint]
Inference => Premise 1 + Premise 2 --> [blank conclusion]
Discrepancy => Premise 1 + [however blank contrasting premise 2] --> Conclusion
For example... the question states "if true, which of these would most strengthen...". So I know it is a strengthen question. I quickly jot down ____ + [ ] --> ______. Then I read the passage, and fill in premise 1 and conclusion (usually just with a scribble). Then I brainstorm the contents of [ ]. Then look at answer choices.Do's & Don't
These worked for me. They may not work for you.
- I did not memorise a list of idioms
- I did not understand anything from the MGMAT 'extra' SC material
- I did not do any 'challenge' or '800 level' material
- I did not spend a lot of time on the forums reviewing questions... however I did pay attention to people's debriefs
- I did a lot of practice exams - essential to build stamina (I did all with essay and IR)
- I did a lot of questions - OG 11
, 13, and both editions of the quant and verbal guide
- I studied in all types of locations with all types of distractionsOn the day
- I was quite unwell on the day the exam. Red-bull and my fool-proof methods of answering the questions got me through
- A friend had recently done the test at this test-centre - he walked me through what to expect, what to look out for etc. (e.g. this test-centre does many types of exams so people were walking in and out constantly... that would have distracted me if I hadn't known)
- IR was significantly easier than both MGMAT and the official practice materials. We will see what my score is... however the questions were simplistic, the passages small, calculations few, and timing not an issue
- Quant - the first question completely stumped me! I spent 5 minutes and eventually got it. I had enough confidence that I could do most of the questions in below 2 mins which would bring my timing back on. I checked my timing every 10 mins and eventually brought it back in.
- Verbal - no surprises.Conclusion
- Thanks to the whole GMATCLUB community - it is a fantastic resource
- I hope my notes above help some people out
- My one takeaway: study the fundamentals and practice!