Took the GMAT this afternoon and scored 770 (Q50, V47). I'm ecstatic about the score. I promised yesterday
that I would post a full debrief after it was over, so here it goes.
First of all, I have to thank GMATClub for simply being the perfect resource for anyone preparing for the test. I was lucky enough to stumble on the site on a recommendation from WallStreetOasis and all of the advice, stories and practice materials I found on here were invaluable in my preparation. I will definitely recommend the site to anyone I know who is preparing for the GMAT!
A little background on me: I just graduated college with an engineering degree (so Quant wasn't a big issue). I took the LSAT a couple years ago so I had a decent foundation in CR and RC as well.
GMATPrep 1 - 770 (50Q, 46V)Kaplan
CD - 670
MGMAT 1 - 780 (51Q, 45V)Kaplan
Real Test Day Experience - 760
MGMAT 2 - 770 (50Q, 45V)
MGMAT 3 - 770 (50Q, 45V)
MGMAT 4 - 770 (51Q, 44V)
GMATPrep 2 - 780
MGMAT 5 - 750 (51Q, 41V)
GMAT - 770 (50Q, 47V)
Practice Materials Used
I had copies of the Kaplan
GMAT Premier 2011 and Princeton Review
GMAT 2011 books before I discovered this forum, but on some good advice I bought the full set of Manhattan GMAT guides
, the OG 12th
edition and both of the other OG guides as well. I ended up only using the Kaplan
and PR books for their introductions and test-taking strategies. I thought PR in particular did a good job laying out how the scoring of the test works and how you should budget your time (focus on early questions and make sure under no circumstances you let yourself needlessly run out of time). I read the entire Manhattan GMAT SC
guide, but that was the only guide I used extensively. I worked through all of the hardest CR questions and all of the SC questions in the OG 12th
edition (didn't end up touching the other two books) and did the Manhattan Online Question Banks for those two sections as well.
I think that the biggest takeaway I got from amassing my huge collection of books was that there are a TON of GMAT practice materials out there and if you don't have the time to go through it all, you should only use the highest quality stuff. For me, that was the Manhattan guides for concepts I didn't know and the OG for real practice problems. I also found the GMATClub tests
very useful for practicing Quant--take them timed and start from the end if you are already scoring well on that section.
I'll say something quickly about Kaplan
. I don't think that their CD tests are reliable in terms of their scoring (at least for Verbal), so if you use those tests I would take whatever score you get with a grain of salt. The Real Test Day Experience is an online test though, taken at the actual Pearson test center at an actual test station and it is EXCELLENT. I signed up for the cheapest Kaplan course
just to get this opportunity (I saw somewhere that you can take the test for just $80 though--I'm going see if I can get a refund). You follow basically the same test procedures and the test looks the same on the screen as it does on test day. If it is at all possible for you to sign up for this, I would highly recommend it. Having a good feel for the test center made test day a lot less stressful. It doesn't have to be your last CAT, you can take it any time during your preparation.
How I Studied
I had originally planned to take the GMAT in early August, but after getting a 770 diagnostic
, I decided to study intensively for 3 weeks instead. Even though I didn't improve from my diagnostic at all, I have never regretted the time I put into preparing. If anyone has just taken a diagnostic and has already reached their target score, I would caution against going into the exam without preparation. I basically knew nothing about SC (I would read the answer choices and pick the one that sounded good) and I was not managing my time well in Quant at all. Given a different set of circumstances I could easily see my diagnostic being much lower than it was.
I first focused on the area that I was weakest in, SC. I read through the Manhattan guide and did some of the book exercises in my head. I also started keeping a list of idioms I ran into and looked over it every once in a while. One of the best pieces of advice that I have seen repeated over and over on this forum is that simply doing CATs is a waste of time while preparing for the GMAT. I think this is true at any level. Between CATs you should be engaging in TARGETED practice that addresses issues that you are deficient in. For me that included doing Quant sections in less than the allowed time and doing hundreds of SC questions in batches of 10 (reading the explanations for correct and incorrect questions).
Error logs. These were something I didn't know about until reading this forum. I didn't do anything fancy. After each CAT I kept a list of questions that I had gotten incorrect and also any questions that I couldn't solve in under 3 minutes. Every 3 tests or so I would work through these problems again and take them off if I got them correct. Early on I also kept a stack of paper with one Quant problem on each sheet along with a solution and a quick summary of the error I had made/what to keep in mind. That was useful to review before the test. I think that everyone should create their own method of logging errors, but this seemed to work for me.
Some other notable things I did were I took two CATs back to back one day to train endurance and I took a break for the two days leading up to the exam (did some practice problems and reviewed error logs, but no tests). The last CAT I did I saw a bit of a drop (down to a 41 from a 44-46 in Verbal), probably due to fatigue. Definitely take a break before your exam and don't cram. If you're working--take the day off before your test as well as the day of if you can and do something relaxing. I watched the NBA draft.
I scheduled the test for the afternoon so I wouldn't have to wake up early (my Kaplan
Test Day Experience was around the same time). I woke up early anyway though because I was too jumpy. I got there an hour early, but they let me get started right away (I guess not many people take the GMAT at 2PM on a Friday). I was given a locker and they explained the instructions. If you don't have a chance to do a Test Day Experience, at least watch the Youtube video
that tells you exactly what happens. The two essays weren't a problem (definitely see this thread
for good tips).
I promised myself before the test that I would take every break to clear my head and splash cold water on my face. This was a good idea. You don't want to suddenly get sleepy or need to use the bathroom in the middle of Quant just because you felt like you were "on a roll." After a bit of a shaky point early in the section (I was unsure whether the square root of the square of a variable was plus/minus or always positive), I think I did fine for the rest. I've never gotten anything besides a 50 or 51 so I wasn't too worried. The biggest piece of advice I can give people on this section is focus on your timing because unlike in Verbal, you can't quickly eliminate bad choices when you need to solve an actual problem. Read this post
and try to be ahead of schedule coming into the last 3 questions. The added time pressure of the section ending can throw you off your game. I didn't develop a "1-minute sense," but I did try my best to check the clock every couple questions and make sure I had 2 * (number of questions left) minutes remaining.
I took another break before Verbal and began work on the section. I had generally finished Verbal 20+ minutes ahead of time in practice (compared to having to rush the end of Quant a couple times), so I consciously worked slower to avoid stupid mistakes. Midway through the section I felt like I was rocking it, but I was working a bit too slowly so I sped up. If you are early in the section you can try to wait for SC questions to make up time, but if you are in the last 15 questions or so, DO NOT WAIT to fix a timing problem. Near the end I was feeling good about my performance, but I thought to myself, "wow, imagine what your score would be if you got the last 10 questions of Verbal wrong." That helped me to regain focus.
When I got my score I was relieved. Having read stories of people having subpar test experiences I can say this: for all the hype about the CAT and how it's an accurate predictor, there is still a lot of luck involved in taking the GMAT. I was fortunate on test day to not run into any problems and for that I'm grateful. I tried to worry about only what was under my control though: how I prepared, how I approached each question and the mindset
I carried into the test center.
10 Pieces of General Advice
1. Get the MGMAT guides
and the OG
2. Sign up for a Kaplan
Real Test Day Experience
3. Study smart, don't just take CATs
4. Review the questions you do slowly, not just the ones you get wrong
5. Take a day or two off before the exam
6. Ask for an extra pen at the exam center if they don't give you one
7. Take all of the breaks even if you don't think you need them
8. Think positive thoughts going in and promise yourself a reward at the end
9. Do not slack off at the end of Verbal
10. Try to enjoy the experience, but always respect the test and don't cut corners
I'm indebted to this forum for all of its help, so I'd be more than happy to answer any questions. I'll definitely be around for the next couple years as I get ready to apply for business school (class of '15 probably).
Thanks and Cheers!
My GMAT Experience: http://gmatclub.com/forum/gmat-debrief-770-q50-v47-115912.html