So I finished up my GMAT yesterday. Overall I am glad to be done with it. Overall I got a 740 - Q48 and V42. I have not got back my essay yet but I would be truly shocked if I did not get a 6.0.
For AWA read the Chineseburned guide - very logical and very easy. Follow the template and you will be fine.
My journey began back in 2011. Per the GMAT Club I had won a free course at Knewton. On my first evaluation test I got a 580 - Q39 and V32. It was at this point that I knew I had a bit of work ahead of me. So I hunkered down and starting studying (I will give a break down of materials below). In December of 2011 I was scheduled to take my test. Test day came and a couple of things happened that didn't go in my favor. For starters I totally botched the math and had to guess on the last 8 or so. Then in the verbal section when the moderator tried to sign me back into the computer after the break the computer froze and took a couple minutes off my test (as this was no fault of my own Pearson VUE offered to let me retest for free). All in I ended up getting a 660 Q45 V36 with a 6.0 AWA. On seeing this I was crushed and frankly really mad at Pearson. I collected my self and doubled down my efforts. I studied furiously for a few months and then took the test and performed adequately (although to be honest I think I could still do better).
I should note that I work in finance in NYC and typically work 80+ hour weeks with some weeks being 100+ hours. There were a number of weeks where I was unable to study at all, this is why it took me a while to get everything done. If I worked a 9-5 I bet I could have gotten this done in 6 months tops. My typical study schedule was as follows:
Monday - Thursday - Study from 10pm to 2am
Friday - rest
Saturday and Sunday - Try to get in 4 -5 hours studying (work pending)
I did not find the Knewton program to be particularly useful - I think I am far more of a self-motivated learner and found the Manhattan GMAT books
to be far more useful. Particularly I think Knewton does not spend nearly enough time on SC - for someone like myself who was a grammatical moron I needed way more help then they were offering. For anyone who is seriously considering taking the test I really recommend using them (for what you get with printed and online resources its actually a great price). Personally my math skills were not up to snuff so it was great to go through the books and the SC Guide (as others will attest) is truly the best. I found Manhattan GMAT
's CR book to be lacking (the RC book was also a bit of a waste but luckily I never had real issues with that). So I augmented this with PowerScore's CR Bible. This is a decent book and does a much better job explaining negation, etc.
My real weaknesses with the test were sentence correction (the vast bulk of my verbal areas where in this) and timing on quant - I still always run out of time.
In order to remedy these deficiencies I spent a ton of time going through the MGMAT SC
book and then went through all the SC questions from OG 11
, 12, and 13 (I was lucky enough to get some materials from friends who had previously taken the test). I highly recommend creating an error log
. Basically what I did was I created a spread sheet with the list of every SC question I had ever gotten wrong - then I categorized it and listed out why all the other choices were incorrect. I then made a word doc that listed all the questions. I went through this until I could tell you why each choice was wrong and why certain things were correct. This was an immensely useful exercise - I would bet if you spent the time doing it you would instantly bump your SC score.
For quant the key for me was making sure I was staying in line with a schedule. I wrote out a schedule:
Question # 6 - 12 -18 - 24 - 30
Time Remaining: 63 -51 -39 - 27 - 15
Once I started sticking to this schedule I saw a meaningful bump in my quant score. In addition I also go the MGMAT Advanced Quant book. While what the book teaches is so-so, the question bank included online and in the back of the book are an immense help.
I also recommend doing a similar approach on quant. The key with quant is trying to see as many difficult type questions as possible and then knowing how to replicate their mechanics. After a point it really becomes about recognizing the pattern.
Here is a comprehensive list of all my tests:
Knewton GMAT Evaluation - 1-8-11 - 580 (Q39 V32)
Knewton GMAT #1 - 5-22-11 - 600 (Q40 V33)
Knewton GMAT #2 -8-7-11 - 640 (Q38 V42)
Knewton GMAT #3 -10-1-11 - 600 (Q37 V35)
Knewton GMAT #4 - 11-6-11 - 640 (Q45 V34)
MGMAT #1 - 11-20-11 - 700 (Q44 V40)
MGMAT #2 - 11-26-11 - 680 (Q48 V35)
GMAT Prep #1 - 12-3-11 - 690 (Q50 V34)
Actual GMAT #1 - 660 (Q45 V36) - keep in mind on this one had to guess on the last couple on quant and I was unfairly docked time on verbal
Then I spent time restudying MGMAT SC
and going through quant.
MGMAT #3 - 3-3-12 - 730 (Q49 V41)
MGMAT #4 - 3-11-12 - 730 (Q45 V44)
MGMAT #5 - 3-24-12 - 720 (Q48 V40)
MGMAT -#6 - 4-1-12 - 730 (Q48 V41)
I then reset the MGMAT tests in order to go through additional ones:
MGMAT #1A - 4-6-12 - 730 (Q49 V41)
MGMAT #1B - 4-15-12 - 770 (Q51 V44)
GMAT Prep #2 (new software) - 4-19-12 - 760 (Q49 V44)
On my most recent test day my biggest mistakes were as follows:
#1 - Drank way to much water prior to my test and had to go to the bathroom - nearly all I could think about during the quant test (almost literally as I started it) was how badly I had to pee. This is annoying and had I not guzzled a bunch of green tea and water prior I might not have had this issue - which to be honest was really distracting.
#2 - Didn't stick to my schedule on quant and ended up having to guess on the last three - I honestly feel this lowered me from Q49 to Q48.
If I were to advise someone on how to prep I would say the following:
#1 - This test is absolutely beatable - I am not (no will I ever be) 1/10,000 the mathematician that Bunuel is.
#2 - Spend your first period of time just learning the basics (don't even look over OG questions yet). Just get a copy of the MGMAT guides
and spend a lot of time going through them - be sure to utilize the online question banks as well. Focus first on knowledge - meaning its fine to take 5 minutes to get a problem, the key is understanding the why and how.
#3 - After you have the basics down I would then start to go through the OG problems. I personally found the best was to batch them in groups of 10 - download the timer app - then time yourself as you do the questions (2 min for math and CR and 1min for SC). After you finish a batch spend some time reviewing (be sure to go over the one's you got right as well as the one's you got wrong and be extra sure to mark any problem that took you longer then the above recommended times so you can review it and improve on it).
#4 - After you go through all the OG problems and MGMAT problems it is now worth taking a test. Take some tests being sure to stick with the quant timing schedule. The key is after you take your tests to review what you got wrong and why.
#5 - For the days in between your tests I would recommend going through your error log
and improving - the key is not memorizing answers it is to understand the how and why of each problem.
#6 - If you are shooting for a particularly high score I would now get the MGMAT advanced book and go through those problems (remember to time yourself).
If you do all that you should easily be able to destroy a 700 score.
A few things to remember:
#1 - Don't waste OG questions - there are only so many so be sure to review them only when you are good and ready
#2 - The GMAT Prep software and OG questions for quant are easier than what is found on the real test so I would recommend holding yourself to MGMAT standards which offer tougher quant.
#3- Do the daily questions from GMAT club. They are a good helpful that keeps your mind sharp.
#4 - Always look at posts by Bunuel (seriously kudos).
#5 - GMAT club is actually pretty weak on verbal - the explanations a lot of people offer are questionable and I think the quality is best when it is a moderator or an instructor responding.
#6 - There are some quant questions that go way beyond what is in the GMAT so make sure you are studying smart - i.e. no need to study some of the ridiculous combinametrics questions when odds are you wont need to know anything beyond the basics in this category. (personally I would advise spending the most time understanding number properties, exponents, and how to factor as you will see these more than others).
I would like to thank everyone in the GMAT community for helping me out on this. I just hope that my score is good enough to get me in at one of my dream schools (Columbia, Wharton, Harvard, Yale, and Chicago).
I look forward to tackling this next part (essays, adcoms, rec letters, school visits, etc.) and hope the GMAT club can be just as useful in this endeavor.
Thanks again - hopefully some of the newbs out there are inspired by my post and learn something from it.