Well, I was dreaming of writing my own inspirational email, after reading so many on this site. Finally the day has come.
Come to think of it, I am at a loss of words. I gave my GMAT yesterday and as you all must have guessed by now, came up with a good score.
The unofficial report is:
Quantitative: 51, 99%
Verbal: 43, 95%
Overall: 750, 98%
All in all, a great score. I used the following during my preparation, which lasted a total of 3 months.
Book (Online course)
GMAT Prep Course (NovaPrep) - mainly for Verbal
Prep - sentence correction
GMAT Club - for the math problems
I gave about 14 CATs during this period, with about 5 in the last week or so. I will comment on whether this was a useful strategy later in this missive.
The practice scores are as shown:
diagnostic - 680 (3 months ago)
CAT -2 - 620 (10 weeks ago)
CAT -3 - 700 (10 weeks ago)
MGMAT -1 - 690 (9 weeks ago)
MGMAT -2 - 700 (8 weeks ago)
CAT -4 - 700
Since I could not seem to break the 700 ceiling, I gave it a break for about 3 weeks and focussed entirely on Verbal. I discovered the Nova's GMAT Prep course book while casually browsing at the local B&N store. This jewel of a book, was worth every penny in addressing my struggle with the Verbal portion of the test. There are 2 sections dedicated to Critical Reasoning and Logic, and the techniques presented were quite unique and helpful. The book has a decent quantitative section, but I did not spend too much time on it.
I also borrowed the Barron's and Princeton book at the local library but decided to discard it as the material was too banal and ordinary. Arco's book is good but has numerous mistakes and wrong solutions. I wouldn't recommend it.
I had enrolled in the Kaplan
online course, which while being pricy was quite useful in instilling discipline and milestoning my preparation for the final battle. I spent approximately 2 hours daily reworking problems in Quant and learning techniques for Verbal. The gmatclub forum was my constant companion in the last 2 months, and serve as good preparation for the tougher questions that one encounters north of 700 points. I devoted around 5 hours every weekend, sometimes longer, if I had to give a CAT exam. The only "iffy" areas in Quants were probability and permutations. for which I found this forum quite useful. Thanks to Kevincan for coming up with horrendously complex problems.
I also had some problems in data sufficiency initially, but after spending enough time on the kaplan
problems, my scores began improving.
For the verbal section, I was focussing on RC and SC. I found that RC passages in the OG were representative of the actual passages seen in the GMAT, and often more complex. I found that it helps to identiy a Scope,Purpose for the passage and Central Idea for every paragraph. For sentence correction, I made a list of all the sentence types that the OG-11 lists, and spent about a day studying each type, and its specific variations. Next, I solved the 1000 SC questions package found elsewhere in this forum, clearly identifying each type and making short notes justifying my selection. These notes were invaluable on the day before the GMAT. For critical reasoning, I found that it helps to break apart the argument into "premise_evidence_conclusion" format or break logical arguments into "equations", which can then be easily solved. While it may look like I am plugging Kaplan
/Nova techniques, I must say that these are the most effective ways of dealing with CR questions.
I dont have much to say about Quant section as I did not use any special methods or books. A lot of practice helped and also avoiding silly mistakes helps. While I did very well in Quant, I was surprised that I did not see any probablity/P&C questions which which I was worried about.
Pay specific attention to co-ordinate geometry as the questions can get tricky very easily. The OG-10 was helpful in this area.
After about a month of following this rigorous schedule, my scores showed marked improvements. I took these tests spaced every 3 days over the last month
CAT - 5 - 770 (P.S: never saw this score again)
CrackGMAT Diagnostic - 730
GMAT Prep 1 - 740
CAT - 6 - 730
MGMAT -2 (Repeat) - 750
CAT - 7 - 740
GMAT Prep 2 - 720
Now I was in my comfort zone, and began to feel quite good. Over the last 2 weeks I took OG-11 apart and by solving the last 1/3 problems in each section ( which are the toughest), and was doing reasonably well. I also solved some of the problems from Kaplan 800
, which I had access to in the online course. These came in handy esp in statistics and CR.
2 days before exam:
a. Fast forwarded on Math concepts
b. Read my notes on SC, and mentally recompiled what I learnt
I found no useful technique in any book for the AWA. However this score is useful as the admissions comittee reads your essay esp if you apply to the top-tier schools. I found that it helped to ready editorials from reputed publications like WSJ or NYT and understand how they expand an issue or subject into multiple paragraphs. I did not specifically practice for this section save for making some notes on how to attack a given argument/issue.
It does help a lot to develop mental "milestones" on which question you want to be at different times during the exam. In my case, the first 10 questions in Quant, took me about 22 minutes, as I was extra slow in this important phase. The next 20 or so took about 35, and the last 7 took the longest as they were mostly P&C or probability problems. For RC, plan on spending 3 minutes/question, and less then a minute for SC questions where you can play catch-up. CR questions usually take less than 20 seconds or more the 2 minutes.
In the GMAT
I had the opportinity to take a mock exam in the same center, a week earlier so knew what to expect. It helps to arrive early and calm yourself down, identify where the restrooms, vending machines or coolers are located. The 10 minute break time between sections is not much, as one has to finger print -in and out everytime you leave the seat. The scratch paper provided is quite user-friendly. Pls. request 2 pens as some of them tend to dry out easily. You may also want to spend as much time as possible learning the software interface and checking whether the mouse/keyboard are fully functional before you start the exam.
The success in GMAT, is directly related to time, effort and experience. It helps to gauge where you stand, early in your preparation cycle esp if you are only planning on spending about 2/3 months before taking the exam. Once you have this, you can devise your own methods on how you can maximize your performance in that window. While most people may not have time to take 14 CAT's, I felt that it helped me deal better with timing stress and other issues. Kaplan
books are not great, and their test scores can be erratic, however it is a lot more rigorous than the real thing. The online course helped me a lot, but may not be the case for everyone. The official guide books are your bible to ace this exam.They give you a very good base to start preparing from. 2 weeks before the exam, focus more on your strengths rather than the weaker subjects. In my case I was entirely into Quant and SC (in Verbal) and it paid off.
In the end I want to thank some of the senior members of this forum who take time to contribute their experience and knowledge. I am inspired to keep giving my inputs even though I am done with the GMAT. I have some of the material discussed here, available for sale. Please email me if interested.