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Hi - I thought it would be helpful to post my GMAT experience, especially since I found many of the stories on this board very helpful getting through a very stressful time experience with the GMAT. I started out studying for the GMAT nearly a year ago with the plan of taking the test in December 12. Unfortunately I started a new job and didn't anticipate how much time it would take away from properly studying. I took my first MGMAT practice test in December and scored a 600 (43Q / 31V) and was shocked how poorly I performed given the time time I had put in studying. I spent the next three months really hunkering down and spent most of my free time studying. I slowly noticed my MGMAT practice scores creep up into the mid to high 650-690 range but still couldn't crack the 700 mark. I took a GMAT Prep test the weekend before my test and scored a 720 which certainly boosted my confidence. Unfortunately things didn't turn out as well on test day and I scored a respectible 680 (44Q / 39V) but well below my goal of breaking 700.
I realized that I wasn't studying smart, meaning I was doing tons of problems and going over the same materials all the while I was burning myself out and more importantly I wasn't challenging myself to recognize difficult problems or stems. I picked up the MGMAT Advanced Quant book and the Foundations of Verbal book from MGMAT which I highly recommend to everyone. I found that the advance quant book really helped me recognize patters and more importantly be a smarter test taker in saving time. While the book has several "advanced questions", the real benefit is picking up on pattern recognition and looking for the "back door on problems". I developed a strategy that if I didn't know how to do the problem or couldn't pick up on the trick (which almost all problems have or at least allow you to narrow down 700+ q's) within 30 seconds, I would guess and move on. This time saving strategy for problems allowed me to spend time on problems I knew how to do but were time intensive which really makes a huge difference to crack the 80%. Its also important while studying to do a few problems at a time and not get caught up on banging out 25-50 questions at a time. Learning to be dynamic in my thought process was the key to bringing up my quant score was the foundation skills were established.
I found the FOV book to be very helpful as well because it was just a simple study guide that reinforced the principles of all of the other books into one guide.
Most importantly, I can't stress enoughhow important it is to be relaxed and get a good nights sleep if possible ahead of your test. The first exam I was too nervous and definitely psyched myself out during the exam. This included spending too much time on problems I didn't know or was indecisive on which later hurt my ability to answer / reach tough questions. I ended up having 5+ minutes on each section remaining when I completed the test.
I want to thank all of the members on this site whose questions and posts allowed me to work on areas of weakness (those RTD/RTW problems!) and beat the GMAT!