First of all, I want to start by saying that this was a horribly long road for me. Unlike most of you, this score means a ton more to me than just the number. This forum is great, but I must admit, it was very very depressing as I went through this process. I swear, of the GMAT experiences I recall reading (before I stopped cuz it was downright outrageous) 9/10 people write "Done 790...blah blah!" I mean, really, do people get these scores??
I want to thank everyone on this forum for being so dedicated to helping people like me who have struggled. I especially want to thank the members who posted: SC, RC, CR 1000â€™s, practice problem log (Excel), and the general knowledge of the GMAT.
Before I start, I want to let you guys know this is going to be LONG. In order for me to capture my trials and tribulations properly, I need to provide you with excruciating detail. I took this test 3 times in the time span of 10 months and probably spent in total something on the order of 400-500 hours prepping. So without further ado...here's the story.
I started in September 2005. I was thinking of applying for Fall '06, so I scheduled a test for early December or so. I thought no problem, 2 months of studying, I should be done. I bought all the books everyone talked about on this forum - Manhattan GMAT
, Princeton Review
, OG, and the OG supplemental books. I even went ahead and bought the Verbal workout books by both PR and Kaplan
. Needless to say, I had more than enough to work on. The funny thing is I didn't think this was enough. I needed more structure, so I was seriously considering signing up for the Kaplan course
. After I read all the horrible things on this forum about Kaplan
, I had to see for myself. I signed up for a "free diag" at Kaplan
. This was a complete disaster. At this point I had studied for 2 weeks and was fairly familiar with the process. All I can say is that I was given a paper and pencil test and the idiotic test administrator told us "verbal or math can come first when you take the real thing." I mean, are you kidding me?? So I ended up with like a 560 and was devastated. A month and a half left and I'm sitting here with a 560. I drank the Kaplan
Kool-Aid for about an hour, agreeing to sign up for the course. I spoke to my bro and he mentioned that most prep courses give you hard diags so they convince you to sign up for course. Also, when you get your real score, you think "wow, all cuz of Kaplan
!" So I ended up not signing up. Even after this disaster, I wasn't satisfied. I went to Craigslist and looked for someone to sell me his Kaplan
(real-course) materials. I found this dude and he sold me the book (unmarked) and half his untaken diags for $100. I thought that was a significant savings from the $1300 or so Kaplan
wanted. I ended up going through the course and most of the OG material before the real deal. I was diaging 650's consistently up to the day of my test. The week leading up the test, I took the entire week off. I reviewed the materials, did practice problems, etc. I made the BIG MISTAKE of studying (ie taking 2 exams) the night before. I took the test and did terribly. I was a nervous wreck and was lost on every RC. I ended up with a 580 (Q47, V23, AWA 4.5)
Fast forward a month. The holidays were done and I was ready to get back to action. Since Fall '06 was way out of the question, I decided to concentrate on Fall '07. I realized I put way too much pressure on myself and decided to take it easier with the new found time. I ended up signing up for Veritas Prep
. From what I read and what I researched, this was the best prep course available. The course was fine (I'll explain more below). It lasted from Jan - March. I wanted to take the exam in the early summer, so I planned accordingly. After the course was done I found myself not studying very much. I realized I had to set the date. So, one day, I randomly decided the middle of July. Starting about May, I was studying day and night. Literally, I would work (9-6 typically), eat a half dinner (very important to not overeat otherwise you don't want to study), study for 2 hours, work out (gym in my building), study another 2 hours, sleep. This was Monday - Wednesday. Thursday's went out on dates and Friday's I just can't study. Saturday and Sunday, I would put in a good 6 hours each day. I was only doing practice problems (SC 1000, CR 1000, and RC 1000 - my verbal is WEAK). I took two weeks off before the test to take practice exams. At this point, I had only done problems and no exams. Also, I DID NOT study math. My math was strong enough to pull 47+'s without studying. So for the next two weeks, I was taking an exam daily (day) and reviewing more problems at night. I would say I put in a good 10 hours, easily, a day. The test day came and, once again, I was a nervous wreck. AWA was a joke (and trust me when I say this, I'm not the greatest writer), Math was INSANELY hard. I swear i was at question 20 with like less than 30 mins to go. Verbal went well and I thought I had a legitimate shot at getting a high 600's if not 700. I clicked "Next" and boom, a 640 (Q47, V31, AWA 5.0). Needless to say, I was distraught. At this point a good 300 - 350 hours of blood, sweat, and tears all for a freaking 640!
I went to a bachelor party that weekend and came back ready to take this stupid test one last time. Of course, you can only take the GMAT once every 30 or 31 days...so I had to wait. I set the exam for Sept. 5th, so I could have the long weekend to prepare. I gave myself a week off and started AGAIN. This time, I redid ALL of the OG Verbal
problems and reviewed why I got them right AND wrong. This process was very very painful. I would go through 20 questions in like an hour and half. It took SO LONG to do this. I didn't care, I needed a 35+ in verbal to get to the elusive 700. I thought in order for me to get to 700, I would need a Q50, V35. This was a long shot considering everything would have to go right on both parts of the test. As I chugged along studying this month and half or so, a light bulb finally went off for SC. I went from a 75% hit rate to about 90%. The week before the exam, I took another week off to study and take exams. I had used up all the meaningful practice tests and was left with 800 Score, Veritas
, and Kaplan
exams. As everyone knows, none of these are accurate at all. I scored a 780 on my first practice exam (Monday)â€¦then followed up with a 580 (Tuesday), a 560 (Wednesday), and a 610 (Thursday). As you would guess, I was defeated. I decided to stop taking these poisonous tests and go back to OG. The last leg of my studying (Friday â€“ Sunday), I went through the second half of the OG problems in the 11th edition and supplemental guides (both verbal and math) and the practice problems of the Kaplan
2006 book (only SC and CR). For the last day before the exam, I reviewed the Manhattan GMAT books
and the Arco AWA book. I was as prepared as I would ever be. The day came, was nervous, but had to let it fly. Math started terribly. The first few questions were extremely easy. I thought I was getting them wrong or something, but I was double checking every answer. I hit question 6 and spent 10 minutes trying to answer it. Looking back, cuz Iâ€™ll never forget that question, it was SO EASY. I wasted 10 minutes on a question that should take no more than 45 seconds to answer. I ended up getting the right answer, but my time was significantly cut short, not to mention thinking that I got it wrong. I ended the section with 3 guesses at the end. 10 minutes later, Verbal was a go. During the break, I thought I was done. No way I couldâ€™ve gotten better than a 47, but whatever, had to move on. Verbal started with a string of SCâ€™s and CRâ€™s. They were relatively easy and I was pretty sure I got the first 5 or 6 questions right. RC hit and it was a short one. I had 4 RCâ€™s and only 1 was long â€“ I was pretty lucky or was doing terribly since the questions werenâ€™t that bad. Anyway, test ended with another 3 guesses. I thought I probably ended with a 650 or so. I thought there was no way I got worse than a 640. Clicked Next after the 10 questions, closed my eyes for about 5 seconds, opened themâ€¦BOOM 700 (Q48, V38)! I pumped about 20 fists and was about to pass out due to happiness. The proctor came in and got me out of there.
Iâ€™ve been on a high sinceâ€¦cuz I feel like Iâ€™m part of something nowâ€¦the 700 club!!
These are all the books I used:
1) Kaplan Course
(book and CD)
2) Kaplan GMAT 800
(both 2005 and 2006 edition)
GMAT flashcards â€“ Borderâ€™s exclusive
GMAT (2006, 3 CATs)
GMAT Verbal Workout
6) PR 2006
7) PR Verbal Workout
for the GMAT
8) Arco GMAT (2006, 3 CATs)
9) GMAT Critical Reasoning Bible by PowerScore
10) Project GMAT
11) OG 10
12) OG 11
13) OG Verbal
14) OG Math supplemental
15) Manhattan GMAT
16) Smart Grammar by PR
17) Testmasters LSAT Course (15 books) â€“ only went through 3 or 4 books, WAY too hard
Course (15 books) â€“ almost all the questions are the same as OG
19) Arco - AWA book
Yes, this sounds insaneâ€¦but considering Bschool costs $40K a year, just on tuition, and the financial hit Iâ€™m going to take from not working, I have justified the cost and effort. All in all, I have no regrets about what it took to get this done. I wanted to share my story because like a lot of you who donâ€™t post and feel the way I feel, there are â€œaverageâ€