It’s been a while since I took the GMAT (on 23rd Dec 2011), but being a procrastinator par excellence had kept me from posting my experience for so long.
I had been mulling over taking the GMAT for many months, which I now rationalize as time invested in doing useful research about GMAT, MBA, college rankings etc. After I felt there was nothing else to research on, I finally registered for GMAT and booked a date in late Oct 2011. I even celebrated the occasion by attending a Bob Dylan concert in Glasgow. However, hectic office work and God Almighty kept disposing off my study plans. I postponed the 1st time to 6th Dec, and then again to 23rd Dec. Now dear reader, this is something you should never emulate. Get it done in the 1st time should be your motto. GMAT charges 50 dollars each time you reschedule, you would feel much better if you used it for buying a new iPhone cover - it will be money much better spent.
Okay, enough of my lame jokes now; lets get down to business.
My serious preparation started mid November. My preparation lasted roughly 5 weeks including 5 weekends. I work full-time, so on a weekday, I was able to study only about 1-2 hours after office, and on weekends about 5-6 hours/day. I started with the diagnostic test in GMAT OG11
. I didn’t do very well. Just to give you an idea of where I stood at the start, I had 15 mistakes out of 37 questions in Quantitative, and 19 (2RC + 6CR + 11SC) mistakes out of 41 questions in Verbal.
My problem areas were permutations, combinations, probability and inequalities. I felt a need to get my basics right so I studied the Manhattan books
for these topics. Once I completed them, I started solving the OG11
questions, and found that my accuracy had increased to 90-95%. I was targeting 45-50 questions in one sitting, giving myself 75 minutes (which is what GMAT gives us for 37 questions). I found this tactic useful in pacing myself for the real test. Once I had exhausted OG11
questions, I followed the same approach with the Official Quant Review book.
RC - No prep, as I already had a decent accuracy level. The only RCs I did were in the practise tests.
CR - I used the Manhattan CR
book, which I found extremely useful. By the time I had finished the book my CR accuracy increased from 50% to 90-95%.
SC - My weakest area. I started preparing using the Manhattan SC book again. It’s a great book but it was too exhaustive for me, I had time in hand only for half of it. Chapters like Subject-Verb agreement and parallelism were quite useful. Towards the end, my accuracy in SC had increased from 20% to 50-60%.
No prep, apart from reading the sample essays and tips in OG11
, which are very useful.
1. Manhattan Guides - Word Translations, Inequalities, Numbers, CR and SC
The Math guides are good if you need to brush up basics. The Verbal guides are very good, and I think would be useful to any test taker.
(solved all of Quant, all of CR, half of SC)
3. Quant Review (solved only one-third of the book)
I had OG12
also, which I wanted to solve after OG11
, but it remained unused.
I did not take as many practice tests as most people do. I took a diagnostic test at the start, 2 full tests from GMAT Prep software and 2 more from Manhattan (which came free with my Manhattan books
). 4 of my Manhattan tests remained unused.
My scores were:
1. Diagnostic test from OG11
- Weekend 1 (as mentioned before)
2. Manhattan Practice Test 1 - Weekend 3 - 630 (led to postponing GMAT 2nd time)
3. GMAT Prep 1 - Weekend 4 - 690
4. Manhattan Practice Test 2 - Weekend 4 - 650
5. GMAT Prep 2 - Weekend 5 - 730
6. Actual GMAT - 750 (Q50, V41)
I felt that GMAT Prep tests are very near to the actual GMAT, in difficulty level etc. Manhattan tests are more difficult. I had problems pacing myself in them, especially in Quant - where I ended up guessing on my last 4-5 questions. But Manhattan is very good as a stress test. I guess it can show you how things will go if you have a bad day at GMAT. I think you should keep one GMAT Prep test saved for the end, and take few days before the actual exam.
On the day of exam:
I had good sleep on the night before, got up, played my favourite music, and had nice English breakfast in a pub. On the way to the centre, I kept playing a song again and again in my head, which helped me relax. The AWA section went fine, after which I steamrolled through the Quant section with 10-12 minutes to spare. After a 2-3 minute break, I resumed the Verbal section, which was also finished with 5-7 minutes to spare. I knew I hadn’t done badly, but I was expecting something in the region of 700 (based on my practise test history). I was extremely pleasantly surprised when I saw the number 750 on the screen. 2 weeks later I got my AWA score also, which was 5.
I hope my debriefing helps you in your GMAT preparation, and wish you all the best.