Update: I got my official score report today. 6.0 AWA and 8 IR.
Don't worry about AWA. Look through chineseburned's guide and use that format. Do the essay in one or two of your practice exams and you'll be fine.
Like I said below, IR was much easier for me than the MGMAT version of IR. There really aren't any concepts outside of what you already know for quant that you need to familiarize yourself with.
This turned into a bit of a novel. As I was writing it, I realized that I was doing it as much for my own therapeutic reasons as for the benefit of GMAT Club members. So if you don't want to read the entire thing, no worries, you can just skip down to some of the tips at the end. Here it is:
I've been checking out GMAT Club for awhile now and wanted to share my GMAT experience because I enjoyed reading similar posts by others. I scored a 760 (Q48 V48), which I am very very happy with. Below I'll talk about some of my preparations, describe my test day experience, and give you any tips that I think may be useful.
First, a little information about myself:
25 years old
Attended the University of Michigan and got a degree in engineering (GPA: 3.1)
I've been working for a little over 3 years at a manufacturing company in the midwest
I started looking into getting an MBA early this summer. Once I realized that I would need to take the GMAT to make this happen, I started learning more about the test. Luckily, I stumbled upon Gmat Club and the great forums that it provides. I read a few study guides/plans and realized that I should take a diagnostic to figure out where I was in terms of GMAT scoring. So I downloaded GMATPrep and took the first test. I scored a 640 (Q37 V40). Honestly, I was kind of embarrassed, as an engineer, at the quant score. However, I also realized as I was taking the test that all of the little rules and tricks of math that you need for the GMAT were there in my brain, I just couldn't bring them to the surface - so I knew I could improve that Q37 with some studying to refresh my memory. I was definitely happy seeing 89th percentile for V40; I figured that even if I could increase this score a little bit through studying I'd be doing fine in the verbal section. Being a native English speaker just gives you built-in advantages that non-native speakers will not have for GMAT Verbal.
To give you a better idea of my timeline for all this, here are my practice test scores and dates:
GMATPrep 1 - June 13 - 640 (Q37 V40)
MGMAT 1 - July 21 - 700 (Q44 V41)
MGMAT 2 - August 22 - 700 (Q44 V40)
MGMAT 3 - October 27 - 720 (Q44 V43)
MGMAT 4 - November 4 - 700 (Q44 V41)
GMATPrep 2 - November 11 - 760 (Q49 V45)
Real GMAT - November 18 - 760 (Q48 V48)
After GMATPrep 1 my task was to decide on and order the prep materials that I would be using. After reading many topics on the subject here on the forums I decided on OG 13
and the 8 MGMAT books
. Looking back, I am very happy with this decision. OG 13
(or 12 I suppose) is a must for anyone that is serious about the GMAT; obtaining it should be a no-brainer. The MGMAT books
were very good overall. The only MGMAT books
that I did not think were very useful were Critical Reasoning and Reading Comprehension. I’m glad that I read through them, but I did not use the main strategies that they laid out. All of the quant books, however, were great. They broke the topics down, gave good examples, provided quizzes at the end of each chapter, and listed the OG 13
problems that pertained to each topic. Listing the OG 13
problems by topic at the end of each book was great; it made it very easy to practice the relevant problems. As for the Sentence Correction book, it is very thorough. I’ll talk more about my thoughts on SC in general below. Of course, another huge advantage to getting the MGMAT books
is that you get the six online practice tests with them. Another nice online feature with MGMAT is the OG Archer, which allows you to enter your answers to all of the OG questions. It will then give you stats on what kinds of problems you are strong and weak on.
At the beginning, my study plan was pretty basic: go through all of the MGMAT books
, which in turn, leads you through all of the OG problems. As was recommended a few times on this forum, I started with quant. I also knew that I needed the most work on quant, so starting with it made sense. As I was (and still am) working full time, I wasn’t able to put in anything like 5+ hours a day for studying. I would usually do a couple hours at night after work, however I wasn’t on a rigid schedule – some nights it was more like one hour, some nights it was nothing, and some nights it was four hours. I generally put in a good chunk of time on the weekends – maybe an average of 6-7 hours total between Saturday and Sunday. I would also study at work on my lunch break a few times a week. It took me about 1-1.5 months to go through all the quant books and do all the quant OG
problems. At this point I took a practice test (MGMAT 1) and got 700 (Q44 V41). I was happy that my quant score had increased from my diagnostic test, but I really thought it would be higher than Q44 (which according to MGMAT is 63rd percentile). So I was a little disappointed that I had just done the bulk of my studying for quant and I wasn’t where I wanted to be (or thought I might be) scoring-wise.
At this point I had to decide whether to study quant more or move on to verbal. I decided that I was a little burnt out on quant and it would probably be better to move on and come back to it at a later date. I started with the MGMAT verbal books, and as I said above, I used very few strategies in the CR and RC books. It was actually kind of a grind reading through those two, knowing that there was no way in hell I was going to be taking shorthand notes on every (or any) CR question on the exam. I did all the OG questions for CR, RC, and SC and was pretty pleased with my performance. The verbal books and problems took me about a month to complete. Next up was MGMAT 2. I went into it expecting a very high verbal score. So of course, what happened? I scored a point lower (V40) than when I had done no verbal studying at all. After having a very high success rate on all the OG verbal
questions, I just did not translate that success to the MGMAT verbal questions. So after 2-2.5 months of significant studying, my scoring improvements were nonexistent (verbal) and moderate yet not satisfactory (quant).
I was a mix of satisfied and extremely frustrated at this point. I knew that 700 was a good score overall (it tends to be viewed as the cutoff for the top schools), however I felt that I was capable of more and that my studying hadn’t improved my scores as much as I had hoped. This is when having a robust study plan really pays off. I did not have one, so I ended up halfheartedly reviewing some quant problems, though I had no real direction.
I ended up going about 1.5 months with no studying of any kind. Though unorthodox, I think this break worked pretty well for me – my frustration eased and my motivation returned. I definitely don’t recommend a long break like this for most people, but sometimes you just have to take a step back and think about other things for awhile.
After this break, around mid-October, a month before my exam date, I began reading through some of the MGMAT quant sections that I knew I was struggling with on the practice exams. This, along with doing GMAT Club questions of the day (both quant and verbal) and reading the accompanying answer threads, turned out to be a good plan for me. I improved on some areas in which I was lacking and I saw a lot of alternative paths to correct answers from posters on the forums. My first practice exam after the long break (MGMAT 3) went pretty well, 720 (Q44 V43). I was glad to see the verbal score go up a bit. My quant was stuck at 44 but I didn’t feel that bad about it; I felt that I was improving myself through studying to the point that it had to end up helping me soon. I continued re-reading MGMAT sections and doing GMAT Club questions of the day. One week after MGMAT 3, I took MGMAT 4: 700 (Q44 V41). Reviewing the questions and question difficulties for this test confirmed, in my mind anyway, that the first 10-12 questions of a section are far more important than any other group of questions (for MGMAT CATs at least, which I’m guessing are very similar scoring-wise to the real GMAT). I had a hot start to the quant section but then got 11 of the last 12 questions wrong and still ended up with Q44, which is what I had scored on the last three MGMAT CATs also. It was the opposite for verbal, I got 3 of the first 7 questions wrong, then got something like 17 of the last 18 correct and only ended with V41. Looking at the consistency of my MGMAT scores, I knew it was time to move on to GMATPrep 2, which would be my final practice exam before the real thing. I was very much looking forward to seeing official questions again – while MGMAT is very good, it is basically impossible to simulate the wording and difficulty of official problems. I took GMATPrep 2 exactly one week, down to the minute, before my real GMAT. I simulated true test conditions: no water during the exam, did IR and essay, eight minute breaks, etc. I was thrilled to get 760 (Q49 V45). I remember thinking that if I got that score in one week I’d be thrilled and a little shocked. There were some questions on GMATPrep 2 that I had already seen before, I assume on these forums, and while I didn’t remember the exact answers to them, the familiarity definitely gave me an advantage in solving them. Knowing this, I assumed that the 760 score was a bit inflated.
I didn’t change much in the week leading up to the exam. I continued going through some personal weak areas in the MGMAT books
and browsed the forums. I relaxed as much as I could and didn’t stress too much about the big day.
My test was scheduled for noon on a Sunday. I think this was the perfect time for me. It gave me all of Saturday to do any last minute studying, though I actually relaxed and watched football more than I studied. It allowed me to get up at a reasonable time Sunday morning and not have to rush to eat breakfast and get all my things together. Once I was all ready, I watched a music video to get me pumped up (Gangnam Style, obviously) and hit the road. The test center is about 25 minutes from my apartment so I left around 11. When I arrived at the address, all I saw was an empty parking lot and a large office building. I double checked the address and it was correct so I just figured that I was the only one taking the GMAT here today. Before I had even got out of my car to walk to the door, another car pulled in, parked, and was trying to get into the building, which was clearly locked. I joined him at the door and found that he was also scheduled to take the GMAT that day. After about ten minutes of using the buzzer outside the door and having nobody answer at the various numbers we tried, we both got out our phones to check the address once again. At pretty much the exact same time we found the new address, which was listed on the mobile version of the site but not on the full version of the site, for the test center. Luckily it was only 1.5 miles away, so we got in our cars and drove to the actual test center. Of course once we got there we couldn’t figure out which of the four sides of the building we could get in on. After another five or so minutes (which at this point seemed like five hours) we found the correct buzzer and got into the building. Nothing like a little stress before a big exam!
I scanned the rules sheet, got checked in, put my things in the locker, and was seated for the exam. I went through the introduction screens, selected the schools that my scores would be sent to, and got started on the essay. It was a pretty easy argument to pole holes in, as most of the prompts are. I used chineseburned’s AWA guide on this forum as the basis for the format of my essay. Five paragraphs: intro/restatement of argument, one paragraph each for three flaws in the argument, and conclusion. I don’t consider myself to be a fast essay writer at all, but I think I got 500+ words down in the 30 minutes. Bottom line: don’t stress too much about the essay. Next up was IR. The questions I got were similar in difficulty to the GMATPrep questions, meaning much easier than the MGMAT IR questions. Again, don’t stress too much about this section, it’s not bad at all.
On the first break I went out and used the bathroom, then came back and ate some mixed nuts and chocolate (it was a Planters all in one energy mix), and drank some water and Gatorade. I took my time, not wanting to rush and stress myself. After awhile, I headed back in, got my palm scanned and my ID back. As the proctor was signing me back into my computer I looked at the screen and my heart sank – I had spent eleven minutes on my eight minute break. Time was ticking off the quant section timer. And to top it off, the proctor mistyped the password on the first try and had to try it again, there went another 30 seconds. By the time I got started on the first quant question, nearly four minutes was gone – two full questions worth of time! I told myself I wasn’t going to panic and rush through the first few questions in an attempt to immediately make up those four minutes. I took my time, knowing that the first questions of a section are important. I decided that on the problem solving questions, instead of going back and double checking my answers on every one, I would just immediately submit my answer on the questions that I was able to solve pretty easily. I think I made up a decent amount of time with this strategy without hurting myself much, if at all. Another strategy, which I had been using all along, that allowed me to make up some time was to choose an answer and be done with the question in under 30 seconds if it was a hard problem covering an area that I was weak in anyway. For example, complex geometry problems tend to give me a lot of trouble, even if I take 10 minutes to try to solve them; so when I saw a complex geometry problem come on the screen, I read the question, realized I had little or no chance of finding the correct answer in a reasonable amount of time, picked an answer and moved on. I recommend this strategy even if you are not behind in time. It will give you more time to solve problems that you have a much higher chance of getting correct. I ended up finishing the section in decent time (i.e. without having to blindly guess on any of the last few questions). I could tell as I was taking the exam that the quant questions were significantly easier for me on the GMAT than on the MGMAT CATs. I’ve seen people deny that MGMAT quant is harder than the real GMAT quant, for me, however, this was the case.
My second break was pretty much the same routine, except this time I ate half of a banana also. Despite getting back late from the last break, I insisted that I not rush back from this one either. This time, I only went about 90 seconds over the eight minutes. I wasn’t too worried about it because I knew verbal was my bread and butter. As evidenced by my V48, I was correct. One thing that I would like to mention: beware of drinking Gatorade on your breaks. I had about three drinks of it on my second break and I was absolutely squirming in my chair with about eight questions to go in the section. I don’t know what it is about Gatorade or if it has this effect on other people, but be careful. Anyway, I got through the end screens, chose to see/keep my score, then saw:
Total 760 99
Quantitative 48 78
Verbal 48 99
To quote Borat, “Very excite!!” I got a big smile on my face and raised my hand for the proctor to come get me. The guy who printed out my unofficial score report said it was one of the highest scores he’s seen since working at the test center. What was the first thing I did to celebrate? Rush to the bathroom because that Gatorade was killing me.
Tips and Takeaways
OG + 8 MGMAT books
is a good, simple combo. There are a lot prep materials out there but this worked for me.
GMAT Club is valuable. From question threads to motivational debriefs and GMAT journey posts, there is a lot of worthwhile reading on this site. Thanks to all that contribute. On the other hand, beware of question and answer threads. There are a lot of people on this forum that are extremely confident in their answers and answer explanations that end up being completely wrong. Take posts from non-experts with a grain of salt. This goes for all forums, not just GMAT Club.
You need some way to motivate yourself. Everyone is different, so the motivation tactics will be different. For me it was pretty simple, I looked at the GMAT as a personal challenge. I wanted to prove to myself (and to some extent, prove to others) that I could get a great score. For some people it may be the thought of getting into their dream school. Others may think of the GMAT as a giant beast they have to slay. Whatever it is, use it. You will
get frustrated. You will
want to stop studying. Remember what motivates you and use it.
Some people swear by error logs. The only thing I used was the MGMAT Archer, and even then, I don’t think I used it to its full capability. I knew what areas I struggled with, I didn’t need the data to prove it. While they are a good idea in theory, they can be time consuming and potentially not very helpful in practice. If you find that you’re spending a lot of time on the error log
and you’re not finding it useful, just ditch it.
Time yourself on all questions. You don’t necessarily have to have a hard two minute limit on each individual question, but if you want to do ten problems then set your limit at 20 minutes. This simulates the real GMAT environment in that you can spend 2.5 minutes on one question if you can make that time up on other questions.
For appropriate Data Sufficiency questions, get used to testing the five groups of numbers: negative numbers less than or equal to -1, negative between -1 and 0, 0, positive between 0 and 1, and positive numbers greater than or equal to 1. It’s amazing how many times you have to do this.
For me, learning grammar “language” (modifiers, pronouns, adverbs, participles, etc.) and rules is very tedious and very boring. It was this way for me in school and it was this way for me studying for the GMAT. I read through the entire MGMAT SC
book, but I probably retained very little of the technical information. I’ve been doing one or a combination of reading, writing, speaking, or listening to English for 25 years, this was the biggest factor in my GMAT verbal success. For non-native English speakers, my best advice is to read and listen to as much English as you can. You can learn all the technical rules you want, but unless you get familiar with how the language is used by the people who use it most, it will be very difficult to score well on the GMAT.
Having just bashed all the rules, I will say that there are a few key principles that you must know because you are pretty much guaranteed to see them. Parallelism. You could argue that 90% of SC questions test parallelism in some form or fashion, even if it is not the primary thing being tested. It's not something that is hugely difficult, but it can be easy to forget if you're not careful. Next is ", which". This must refer to whatever immediately precedes the comma. There are exceptions to this I'm sure, but they are few and far between. Finally, idioms. The MGMAT SC
book has a nice list with examples. Again, native speakers don't need to stress too much about these, but there are some that you will see pop up again and again in practice questions – make sure you know them.
Don't get discouraged if the scores on your practice exams aren't coming in where you'd like, especially if the exams are not GMATPrep. Other practice tests are great, and necessary to get enough practice, but doing official questions on official exams is the only way to get a true feel for what you might score on the real GMAT.
Call your test center ahead of time to confirm the address and ask how to get in the building if you are taking the test outside normal business hours. This may save you some unneeded stress on the day of your exam.
Finally, enjoy the ride. Study hard. Don't stress too much. When you get in the exam room, don't freak yourself out, just relax and let your instincts take over. Oh, and rock that d*** test!