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I benefitted from GMAT club and read numerous accounts of the GMAT from many people. Although the test is the same, I gathered that there are many subtleties to doing well in the GMAT. I would like to share my experience in the hope that it benefits a few people if not all.
Working for a hi-tech product company does not give much spare time for GMAT preparation and other activities, especially when a product is close to commercialization. I decided to take the GMAT around August 2009 and picked Nov 30, 2009 as my test date. The thinking there was that I could make use of the thanksgiving weekend to relax, forget about work and get my focus right before the exam. I also took the last of my tests that weekend. I had started with Manhattan tests and scored 630, 670, 710, 720, 700, 710. I managed a 710 and 750 in the GMAT Powerprep tests. As far as prep went, I used the GMAT OG 11 extensively and completed the sentence correction and critical reasoning exercises. I also used some material (1000 SCs, 1000 CRs, 1000 RCs) I got from a friend. The material was average in that it didn't contain any explanations and was erroneous. I used to look up the explanations online. Nevertheless, it was decent practice and held me in good stead. I was too tired to study after returning from work which was invariably between 10 PM and 1 AM. I used to spend an hour every morning with the reading material / exercises and saved the bulk of the exercises and all tests for the weekends. I also realized that the Manhattan sentence correction guide and PowerScore Critical Reasoning Bible provided for excellent reading material and exercises.
The actual test results didn't quite match up with my preparations or my practice test scores. I scored 660 (V33, Q48, AWA 5.5/6). I knew I could do much better and was keen to prove to myself that this first experience was merely an aberration. Further, having already obtained a masters degree in engineering, attending a second tier school for an MBA wasn't an option. These were my two reasons for taking the test again. After a two week break from studying and ensuing madness and extremely exciting times at work related to product demos, I decided to take the GMAT again on Feb 1, 2010.
I had a planned 3 week vacation where in besides relaxing and meeting friends and family, I focused for an hour or two on most days mainly on the theory and fundamentals. The most important lessons I learned from the failed attempt was to focus on the basics and PAY ATTENTION. If the fundamentals aren't right, the fancy stuff ain't gonna work!
Closer to the exam date, I took some of the Manhattan tests again, a couple of KAPLAN tests and the GMAT powerprep tests. My practice scores were similar; I scored 760 and 750 in the powerprep tests which I took in the week leading up to the exam. On the second attempt, I was happy to get a 740 (V40, Q50). I tried my best to stay calm and pay attention through the course of the test. As I was relaxed this time, I could do better on the AWA as well; I scored 6/6.
The way I approached the writing sections was by spending the first 5 mins organizing thoughts and scribbling notes. Once I had 2 or 3 solid points, I spent the rest of the time fleshing them out and paying attention to detail. Invariably, once I start writing, a couple more points come along.