Hi all, just wanted to detail my experience for studying for the GMAT and hopefully some of you will find this helpful. It is a thick read, so I'd recommend just reading my Tips/Strategies section if you're short on time.Cheers and Goodluck!
770 (51 Math, 42 Verbal, 8 IR, Essay 5.5)
Took August 3rd, 2013
GRE (Math 170/170, Verbal 162/170)
B.S. Mechanical Engineering
I came from an engineering background and thus had a very strong quant background; I had also studied for the GRE previously and had some momentum from that test as well. I also took two months off before my GMAT to start studying vigorously so my plan may not be as viable for working professionals.
I did not study for the essay (same essay as GRE) and I ran through a couple online IR questions from the official guide.
Practice Materials: Key Points:
-CAT are a necessity!
-For ease of mind, I purchased the latest materials
-Google or use other forums for in depth question explanations
-I used Manhattan + Official Guide books
1) All Manhattan GMAT Books
and 6 CAT Tests
Test 1: 680 (Quant: 44, Verbal: 38)
Test 2: 690 (Quant: 48, Verbal: 36)
Test 3: 750 (Quant: 48, Verbal: 45)
Test 4: 760 (Quant: 49, Verbal: 45)
Test 5: 780 (Quant: 51, Verbal: 45)
Test 6: 730 (Quant: 51, Verbal: 39)
Note: that Manhattan scores increase/decrease drastically depending on how you do on the last few questions
2) GMAT Power Prep
Test 1: 750 (Quant: 50, Verbal: 42)
Test 2: 770 (Quant: 51, Verbal: 44)
Note: These are most accurate to the actual test. I would take one when you've done some initial prep to understand what it's like and then one when you think you're ready. Save these tests!
3) Critical Reasoning Bible
4) Official Guide for GMAT 13th Edition
5) Official Guide for Quant
6) Official Guide for Verbal
7) Manhattan Practice Test Booklet + Pen
5 Months of Prep, First 3 months working 12 hours a day, Last 2 months freeKey Points:
-Develop a schedule
-Studied Mon-Thursday 9:00pm -10:00PM (~I would do 1 practice set a night, which would be about an hour)
-Studied Sunday 2:00pm with friend (I would do all the problems I "missed" - I count a problem where I don't know how to solve instantly as a "missed" problem)
5 hours a week (1 hour/day)
Each day I would do about 20 problems in one section alternating per day from official Guides
On weekends I would read some of the prep material casually
Same as Month 1
Same as Month 1 -> Increased to 1.5 hours day, about 10 hours a week
Began reading prep books I had in detail,
Increased Practice problems to simulate one test duration.
Example: I would do 37 Quaunt problems in one sitting or 41 Verbal Problems per day
Took 8 CATs (1st powerprep, then 6 Manhattan, last 1 Powerprep)
Week 2: M W
Week 3: T Th
Week 4: M W F
Week 5: T, Sat (Official GMAT)
To develop endurance for each question type, I would recommend simulating one entire test section duration on just one question type.
Example: doing 37 Problem Solving questions in 75 minutes or 41 Reading Comprehension questions in 75 minutes. NOT a mix of the question types.
This allows you to develop patterns and frameworks more easily as your brain is used to thinking in a certain way.
Practicing a mix of the questions is reserved and done through the CATs.Quant
-Take the time to work through each problem
-Develop general frameworks for different types of problems, these frameworks should ALWAYS work regardless of what the question is asking as long as you have the correct methodologyRemember that your practice right now is NOT about getting the MOST questions right, it is about being able to SOLVE the questions quickly and efficiently. Guessing a correct answer IS NOT ACCEPTABLE (during practice)
For Problem Solving:
-For some of the trickier questions there is usually a "brute force" and a "shortcut" method. Make sure you are able to do both AND that you can recognize the shortcut method instantly/very quickly
-When practicing, CIRCLE all the questions that you had difficulty with. That means even if you got the question right, if you had to think or did not have a strategy to solve the problem instantly, CIRCLE IT. This is to improve your time efficiency later.
-After going through an entire problem set, redo all the problems that you circled. Make sure you remember the shortcuts or solving strategies for these questions. You should be able to instantly recognize them the moment you read the question.Plugging in the Answers into the question should NOT be used as main method of solving. It should only be used as a LAST RESORT on the ACTUAL test. Using this strategy does not allow you to develop the problem solving strategies for the type of question and makes you rely on the answers, which may not be as nice or easy to backsolve on the actual testFor Data Insufficiency:
-Remember to test "1 FINEZ" (1, Fractions, Irrational, Negative, Extremes, Zero)
-Remember Odd/Even Properties
-Remember Divisibility Properties
-Pray... I hate Data Insufficiency
-Of course remember to use POE in order: If A is correct then check if answer can possibly be D, If A is incorrect then check if the answer is B, then C, then EVerbal
-When reading the question/prompt/passage, make sure you are absorbing it! I usually read aloud to myself with a finger on the screen following. If you do not understand a sentence, STOP and reread it, you are not going to magically understand it after reading the next sentence!
-Take NOTES (usually only needed for RC or for hard CR do not take notes for SC)
-Of course, remember to use POE, I usually draw a line and then use 5 boxes under that line to represent the different answer choices on the graph scratch paperReading Comprehension:
-Notes are essential and understanding the passage is crucial
-Do not start answering the questions unless you have a complete understanding of the passage. By doing so you can actually answer most questions without referring back to the passage saving you a lot of time (this may not work for everyone, I am a big proponent of investing more time upfront and really reading the passage and answering the problems from memory then to skim the passage upfront and then going back to the passage to find answers)Practice doing an entire Verbal section's worth of RC to develop endurance (40 Reading comprehension questions in a row in one sitting)
I personally feel that you should be able to get every RC question right and you should only miss some due to fatigueCritical Reasoning
-All CR problems to some extent will have the set up: Premise -> Assumption -> Conclusion, where the assumption is essentially an unstated premise (premise means fact or something that the author states). Remember you can only assume facts that are true based on what is actually stated-PAY ATTENTION to what the prompt actually says:
->All red cars are expensive
->John's car is expensive
NOTE: From these statements, you CANNOT assume that John's car is red! The statements do not say anything about other colors, John's car could be blue or green or whatever color he wants and still be expensive!
->All expensive cars are red
->John's car is expensive
NOTE: The above statements allow you to CONCLUDE without a shadow of a doubt, that John's car is RED!
-Always look for the Assumption and identify the conclusion. The Answer will almost always have something to do with the assumption/conclusion
-Remember to eliminate Out of Scope first
-To really develop strong CR problem solving, you need to go back to each problem you miss and really understand where your flaws in reasoning occurred. For me it was usually that I brought in out of scope information that was not relevant to the questionSentence Correction
-Always look for your "hard" rules first and eliminate answers
Example: eliminate any answers that do not have Subject verb agreement, violate parallelism, run on sentences.
-Then use POE on your "soft" rules
Example: concision, verbiage, meaning of the sentence
-Make sure to always look at the meaning.Thanks for reading, if there is more interest I would be happen to answer more questions. Otherwise Goodluck