Just thought I'd share my experience in the hope that it might help some of you out there.
UK based, english as first language, maths degree (1st), working for the past 4 years in an IT Consultancy.
Started studying for the GMAT about two months ago. Advice: do not start studying without entering for the test - it's much easier to motivate yourself when you have a deadline.
In terms of time spent, I'd say I probably averaged an hour a night during the week and maybe 6 hours total over a weekend. The studying went in phases, especially depending on what the load was like at work. There was the odd week where I didn't get much done at all.
Study materials: I started with the Kaplan
(book and CD) and did every question. Moved on to the Kaplan 800
and did every question there too. Eventually persuaded myself to order the OG (expensive, it was't available in the UK and postage from the US cost as much as the book itself, but it is available in the UK now). I did about half the questions in each category from the OG. I would say the OG maths questions are definitely easier than the kaplan
ones. I wrote maybe 8 practice essays.
I did three practice tests (Kaplan
: 630, GMAT Prep1: 720, GMAT Prep2: 740).
I got to the test centre nice and early (around 7:45, test due to start at 8:30). Lot of people were waiting outside, so I assumed the centre hadn't opened. By around 8:00, we noticed that a member of staff was having trouble getting into the building - the door was jammed! In the end somebody managed to open it using a credit card and so we all applauded and went on in...
I would say timing is critical, and it was this, especially on the quant that I didn't master. In the actual GMAT I raced through the early questions, guessing if I couldn't see the answer reasonably quickly. In the end I potentially had 5 minutes to spare. With the verbal I was pretty quick, but I don't think I could've improved the timing. Again I had potential time to spare, but I doubt I could've used it any better. I say "potential time" in that when I saw there were 18 mins left and I had 3 questions to go, I just stretched the questions to fill the time. I used the 50/12, 25/24 targets and beat them both in both sections.
I took both the breaks. Just to walk around a bit, drink some water, use the bathroom etc.
I think my experience probably matches that of other people with strong maths backgrounds. Given unlimited time, I've no doubt I would get every single quant question correct - I couldn't say the same about the verbal. However, the problem was that I tended to overanalyse problems, being too willing to bring out the "big guns" to solve a problem. It was this that I was afraid of, which is why I wasn't very forgiving on the quant section.
The AWA essays were both on fairly straightforward topics, and I'd be surprised if I didn't get at least a 5.
If I were to start over the things I would do differently are:
1. Practice more - I would do every single question in the OG and go back and do the Kaplan 800
again (leave enough time that you don't just remember the solutions). The study materials I had were perfectly sufficient.
2. Try to improve my time management on the quant. Again, just down to practice.
One thing I would say is that I am hugely impressed by the non-native english speakers who do well at this test. A lot of the time I found it easy to eliminate wrong answers in the SC questions becuase they obviously "sounded" wrong - an intuition which any native speaker will develop, but must be very difficult to learn.
My modest target score was 720 and so I'm very happy with this result. I know I could definitely do better, especially on the quant, but I have better things to do with my time than go through all this again
Best of luck to you all. Do feel free to ask any questions.