I took my second GMAT last weekend and am happy to report I made a 720 (48Q 41V). Thank you to all those on the forum who have helped me through my journey. I'd like to share my experience with those in the forum in hopes that it will help some of you improve your scores (sorry for the length). Also, this may be one of my last posts, but I'm happy to answer any questions.
My first GMAT was a disappointment. I had studied nights and weekends (I work long hours), reading the OG and Kaplan
books and taking a myriad of CATs. By the time my exam came, I had consistently been scoring 700+ on the practice tests. You can read about my first experience in this forum, with the topic titled something like "Just scored 680--need to score 700+." Although I was pleased with my quant score of 48, I was very disappointed with the 36 Verbal given that I had consistently made 40+ on the CATs. So I made it a goal to improve my verbal.
Thanks to the advice from this forum, I purchased a Manhattan SC book, which really strengthened my weakness in this area. Initially, I had thought that SC was my strongest Verbal area, as I would consistently ace the Kaplan
SC problems. However, during my first GMAT, the SC problems seemed very difficult and undoubtedly contributed to my lower score.
After the disappointment of not getting 700, I rescheduled the test a month later and decided to relax the next two weeks and get my mind off of the exam. I wouldn't recommend this strategy for everyone unless you strongly feel that your first score was an anomaly. For me, I had made 710 and 740 on my previous GMATPrep exams; furthermore, I had only gotten 4 hrs of sleep the night of the exam, and I lost focus after the quant portion.
Two weeks before the exam I took an old Powerprep exam and scored a 750. Over the next week I read through the Manhattan SC book and did about 50 problems from each Verbal OG
section. The day before the exam I took the GMATPrep exam and scored a 760. Although I had seen many of the questions on these exams before, the scores boosted my confidence that I would achieve my goal of 700.
The night before the test my nerves took over and I had trouble sleeping again. Then my noisy neighbors woke me up at 3am. Deja vu. Rather than trying to fight through the noise like last time, I took a bunch of meds (benadryl, nyquil, etc) to put me to sleep. At that point, I knew that sleep was probably the most important factor in getting a good score. The meds helped a bit, and I got about 6.5hrs of total sleep (better than the first time around but not as much as I had hoped... I function best with 8-9 hrs of sleep).
Then came test day. I breezed through the AWA not caring about my score, and then got to the quant. The first question had a tricky graph, which really caught me off guard. Although it was simple, I was stumped for several minutes. By the time I solved it, 3.5 minutes had gone by. Not a good start to the quant at all. I felt like I had to rush through the rest of the section to finish. The next question was fine, but the third one was extremely confusing, and I had to guess... then another difficult one and another guess. By question 35 I had only two minutes left, which required me to guess on the last two questions. I felt like my hopes of getting a 700 had disappeared. I really expected a 36-40 on the quant this time around.
I took a short break, splashed some cold water on my face, and told myself to focus on the verbal. If I could make 45-50 on the Verbal, perhaps I would have a shot at 700. The Manhattan SC book helped, and I felt like I didn't miss a single SC question. The RC and CR were not difficult, and I finished the section with about 4 minutes remaining. After I finished, I knew I had made a 40+ on the Verbal... but would it be enough to put me over 700?
As I clicked the "Next" button, I strongly considered cancelling my score. The quant would be an embarrassment... but I really wanted to know how I fared on Verbal this time. After I submitted, I was surprised to see the 720 on the screen. Moreover, I was absolutely dumbfounded that I scored a 48 on Quant--the same score I had gotten the first time, when I thought I aced the quant section! I truly believed the Quant and Verbal scores had been switched. Nonetheless, I was relieved that I had finally broken the 700 barrier. I felt like I could have scored 750+ if I had gotten more sleep, but this score would definitely be high enough for the program to which I am applying.
I learned many lessons from retaking the test, but the most important one is to believe that you are capable of achieving your goal. And even if you think you did poorly on one part of the exam, do NOT cancel your score. If you don't achieve your goal the first time, take time to identify and then strengthen your weaknesses. Quantity of studying is not as important as quality (I studied minimally but *productively* the second time around). Also, make sure you get good sleep before the exam. That's about it from me--Thanks to everyone on this forum for your help!