I am thirty years old and an active duty Naval Officer. I attended The University of Notre Dame and graduated in 2005, with a degree in Biology. Before I began studying for the GMAT, I believe the last time I looked at basic algebra and geometry was probably thirteen years prior, when I was preparing for the SAT. My diminished skills were evident when I took my first practice test last year and scored a 600. Over the next three months, my skills improved until the point that I was scoring in the 700 range on the various practice tests, however when I sat for the real test, I only scored a 650. I was discouraged because I knew I could do better, yet also unsure as to whether I should bother retaking since my score was still solid. In the end, I decided to take the test again, and after a few job-related delays of the exam, I finally went to the Pearson Center last Saturday and scored a 740-Q48/V44. Here is how I did it:Study Materials
MGMAT [1-8]Advanced MGMAT Quant
Comments: You will notice that the most stark difference is that I opted for the MGMAT books
the second time around. This was based on the myriad positive reviews found on this site [thanks!]. I would not say that I used them to their fullest potential; for example, I do not believe I used any of the associated online content outside of the practice exams. That is more an indictment of me than it is of the books--or perhaps it simply indicates that the material found in the books is sufficient to do well enough on the exam.Study Method
I suppose I started studying in earnest about four months out from the test. The first month or so of that was dedicated to re-familiarizing myself with the basic math concepts covered on the GMAT. Outside of fractions, decimals, and percents, I proceeded as if I had never been exposed tto the topics. I went through each book and did every other practice problem at the end of each section. After I was done with that, I went back through and re-read Number Properties from cover-to-cover [more on this later] and did the problems in that book that I skipped the first time. Then I proceeded on to the Advanced Chapters in each of the books. So, over the course of that first month, I basically reviewed all math concepts and got some good practice in. I suppose I spent about two hours a day on that.
Once I felt ready, I started working my way through the OG12
, while also beginning to concentrate on the Verbal Section. I alternated quant and verbal for the next few months. On Quant days, I would review concepts from MGMAT, then tackle around thirty questions from OG12
. I usually did PS followed by DS. I would then review the questions I did wrong, but would also look at the solutions to the questions I got right to see if there were was a quicker method than the one I employed.
On Verbal Days, I would usually do five to ten critical reasoning problems from the OG and then do at least ten SC questions. I found it hard to get motivated for Verbal--even though my initial performance left a bit to be desired--because I do not think the questions in the OG12
are difficult enough.Quant Study Strategy
I am good at math. I am not great at math. Coming to terms with the reality that I was not going to get every question right was probably the most important step in the right direction. Rather than worry about complicated problems that I was unlikely to see on the actual test, I made a concerted effort to make sure that I had the basics down cold and that I was able to answer advanced questions on Number Properties. On the two GMATs I took, I think I saw one combination problem, one set problem, and one probability problem. I saw at least a dozen difficult questions related to divisibility, primes, consecutive integers, absolute value, exponents, and roots. If you know everything there is to know about Number Properties and nothing else, you will probably still get a decent quant score. That is how important I think it is.Verbal Study Strategy
I have always been stronger in Verbal than in Math, most likely because I am a voracious reader. Despite not scoring all that well on the first iteration of the GMAT, I decided that I would not do anything crazy. I did enough practice problems to stay sharp and to see the trends on question types and continued my habit of reading every day.Practice Tests
I took five practice tests leading up to this exam--roughly one per week:
MGMAT CAT: 650 [41/39]
MGMAT CAT: 680 [44/39]
MGMAT CAT: 700 [44/40]
GMAT Prep: 740
GMAT Prep: 720
At that point, I was feeling pretty confident.Error Log
Tried using it but did not get much out of it. I am sure it works well for some folks; I am just not one of them.General Advice
1. Do not get sucked down the rabbit hole on difficult questions. Unless you are towards the very end of the test, you absolutely cannot take five minutes to finish a question.
2.Do not be afraid to guess and to guess early. You know what your strengths are and what your weaknesses are. If you are asked an entirely random question that you have no idea how to approach, do not stare at the screen for two minutes before guessing. Guess at it within the first thirty seconds, cut your losses, and move on.
3. While you usually should not waste time working out the solutions to data sufficiency problems, you need to check your answer when absolute value is involved.
4. Always look to factor or distribute.
5. Consider rewriting roots as exponents. They are usually easier to conceptualize.
6. Do not let the difficulty of the next question distract you. If you get an easy question halfway through the test it does not necessarily mean you got the previous question wrong; you may simply find it easy because you know that concept well from studying it.
7. If I have one complaint about this board, it is that people spend WAY too much time worrying about overly complicated subjects that are unlikely to appear on the GMAT with any relevant frequency. Concentrating on these types of questions is worthless if you do not know the basics inside and out.
8. You may want to think about factoring and distributing those complicated terms.
9. In my experience, there is a very thin margin of error on the Verbal section. The difference between a 44 and a 46 may literally be one question. Do not rush the last questions because you are eager to finish.
10. Factor. Distribute. Say it with me.