I took the GMAT this afternoon, and I am relieved to report that I scored a 770 (Q51, V45)
First off, I want to thank GMAT club for having been an invaluable resource during my preparation for the GMAT. It was great to have a go-to website that had answers to literally all my questions regarding the GMAT. Also, I just want to say that it was so great to be part of such a supportive and encouraging online community.My background
I recently graduated from college with a degree in engineering. I am a non-native English speaker but have been living in Canada/US for about eleven years now, so I guess I can almost count as a native speaker. I won't be applying to b-schools for at least two years, but I took the exam now because I wanted to get it out of the way before my job starts.Practice scores
Aug 12, 2011 - GMATPrep 1 - 770 (Q51; V44) <- diagnostic
Aug 15, 2011 - MGMAT CAT 1 - 740 (Q47; V45)
Aug 21, 2011 - Kaplan
CAT 1 - 760
Aug 23, 2011 - MGMAT CAT 2 - 770 (Q50; V45)
Gap in studying; due to schedule, I could not study for two weeks
Sep 6, 2011 - MGMAT CAT3 - 730 (Q49; V41)
Sep 7, 2011 - MGMAT CAT4 - 780 (Q51; V45)
Sep 8, 2011 - MGMAT CAT5 - 780 (Q51; V45)
Sep 9, 2011 - GMATPrep 2 - 770 (Q51; V42)
Sep 10, 2011 - GMATPrep 1 retake - 780 (Q50; V48)
Sep 12, 2011 - actual GMAT - 770 (Q51; V45) AWA 5.5Preparatory materials used
OG, 12th edition (did all of the verbal questions and the harder half of the quant questions)OG Verbal
Review, 2nd edition (did all of the questions)Manhattan GMAT Sentence CorrectionMy approach to GMAT preparation
Because it had only been a few months since I graduated from college, my mind was still in exam mode and I did not require as much preparation. The results of my first GMATprep diagnostic, which I took without even knowing what kinds of questions are asked in the GMAT, gave me confidence that I would probably be able to do well on the exam without extensive amount of preparation. So, I gave myself a month to prepare for the GMAT.
I did not buy too many GMAT books partially because my GMATprep score was pretty good and I did not have that much time for preparation. More importantly, I did not do so because I believed that blindly doing a lot of practice problems would not help me get a good score. I felt that I just needed enough practice problems to see what type of questions I tended to get wrong, analyze why I was making such mistakes, and fix these problematic tendencies.
In fact, I think this general approach is key to success on any standardized tests, so I really want to emphasize it. It is absolutely crucial to go back and analyze the questions that you get wrong. You need to try to figure out the types of questions that you tend to get wrong and understand what thought processes are causing you to make the wrong judgment call. Quant preparation
Because I majored in a quantitative field in college, I did not need much preparation for the quantitative portion. So, I can't comment too much on what the most effective study strategies are for the quant portion. I would like to reiterate, however, that identifying your weakness is very important. For example, for the first few practice MGMAT CATs I took, I did not use Venn diagrams or the overlapping sets formula when trying to solve problems about overlapping sets. This made it impossible to solve all of the question in time and ultimately resulted in lower quant scores in my earlier MGMAT CATs. Once I identified overlapping sets as my primary weakness and I figured out a systematic way of approaching these problems, my quant went up and stayed pretty consistently in the 50s.
One more notable thing I did was to keep an informal log of the stupid mistakes that I made on the practice tests. I skimmed through log in the morning of the exam in order to make sure that I wouldn't make the same mistakes again. Verbal preparation
In contrast to the quant portion, the verbal portion concerned me. I had never been very good in English, so I viewed the V44 on my diagnostic GMATPrep largely as a fluke. CR was unfamiliar to me, and I had gotten one CR question wrong on GMATPrep, so I knew I definitely had room to improve there. I noticed that I got 3 SC corrections wrong on the GMATPrep, so I knew that SC was an area that I had to focus on. As for RC, I did not get any RC questions wrong on GMATPrep, so I focused the least on this portion. CR preparation
I was pretty good at CR to start with (about 85% hit rate), but as I worked on some practice questions and analyzed my performance, I noticed a certain trend. I did well on most types of questions, but I tended to make mistakes on problems that asked something along the line of "which of the following, if true, blah blah" or "which of the following is an assumption that the passage is based on", etc. For some of those kinds of questions, I would get stuck trying to decide between two answers, guess, and get it wrong half the time. I actually just sat there, analyzing all the questions I got wrong and trying to find a pattern among the answers that I was choosing. I asked myself questions such as "What was I thinking when I was trying to answer this question?", "Why did I think that this answer could not be correct when in fact it was right?"
Then, I actually had an "aha!" moment, in which I realized the crucial mistakes I was making when evaluating answers to these types of questions. (this is going to sound pretty abstract, mainly because I will most likely fail at explaining exactly what I realized. But the key point is not what I realized but the process that led me to make that realization) In these types of questions, the scope of the correct answer did not need to be restricted to the scope of the premise, but I was trying to find answers that stayed in the scope of the premise. As a result, I was eliminating the correct answers and picking a suboptimal answer. Once I realized this, my CR hit rate when from about 85% to near 100%. If I had only revised the questions I got wrong individually and did not try to find a trend in my mistakes, I probably wouldn't have made this realization.SC preparation
I went through the Manhattan SC guide about six times in total, as I worked through the OG and Verbal Review problems. The first time I went through it, I marked parts that I was still unsure about. Then second time, I only read the marked parts, and put an additional mark beside topics that I had forgotten about. I continued this process so that by the sixth revision, I only had to read a few pages of the SC guides. Through this approach, I think I memorized almost all the concepts in the book.
I solved all of the SC questions in Verbal Review and in the OG. Then, I put a star beside each question that tested grammatical rules that I was unfamiliar with or unsure of. I wrote a short comment beside the star to remind myself what aspect of the question I was review. Then, I went through these comments three times in total prior to the exam. This process ensured that I would not make the same mistake on the actual exam.RC preparation
I did all of the RC questions from the Verbal Review and a few from the OG. In retrospect, I wish I had practiced RC a little bit more, but I could not find time to do so.AWA preparation
I did not spend too much time preparing specifically for the AWA, other than reading through chineseburned's AWA guide. I took all my practice exams with the AWA section; this helped me train my stamina for the actual test.
* Edit: I thought I had done pretty badly on AWA, but it turns out that I still received 5.5. I think this confirms what most other people are saying - as long as you write an essay with a reasonably strong structure and good grammar, you will most likely receive a decent score. *Test day experience
1. My test was at 12:30 pm. I woke up a little bit earlier than usual at around 8:30 am. After having breakfast, I read over the MGMAT SC
book and looked over SC questions I had gotten wrong in the OG and Verbal books. Then, I left for the testing center with a bottle of vitamin water and a banana.
2. I arrived at the testing center 50 minutes early, but they let me get started right away.
3. I didn't like the AWA prompts much. I do not think I did very well, especially on the analysis of issue essay, but I guess there is no point in worrying about this until I get the actual AWA score.
4. I took the optional break to go to the bathroom and splash water onto my face.
5. The quant portion was pretty straight-forward. No big surprises, though I would say that the quant portion was a little bit more time consuming and challenging than that of GMATprep. I was more careful than ever; I basically checked each answer three times. Usually, I would finish quant portions with 25+ min left, but today I only had 30 seconds left when I submitted my last answer.
6. Again, I took the optional break to go to the bathroom to splash water onto my face and to eat my banana.
7. I had a little bit more difficulty with the verbal portion than in GMATprep. But this might have been so because my nerve was affecting my performance. For instance, for some of the CR and RC questions, I had to read through the premises/passages multiple times because I couldn't focus properly. As a result, I almost had a timing problem for the first time ever in the verbal section. I always finished verbal sections with 10+ min to go on practice tests, but on the real test I submitted the answer to the last question with literally five seconds to go.Miscellaneous comments & suggestions
1. Some people recommend saving both GMATprep CATs until a few days before the actual exam because GMATprep CATs are the most accurate indicators of your performance on the actual test. I disagree. I think GMATprep gives you the most accurate picture on what areas you need to improve for the actual exam. So while it may be wise to save GMATprep 2 until close to the exam date for assessment purposes, I think you should definitely take GMATprep 1 in your earlier phase of preparation.
2. Make sure to train your stamina by taking most, if not all, practice tests with the AWA!
Thanks for reading, guys! Best of luck to those of you who have yet to take the GMAT! If I can do it, you can do it!
Link to my debrief: http://gmatclub.com/forum/gmat-debrief-770-q51-v45-120508.html