I've been a lurker and sparse participant on this forum for the past six months. I just gave my GMAT the other week and achieved a 750 on my first attempt (I was too spaced out to remember to note down what I got in verbal and quantitative sections).
Firstly, I wanted to thank everyone on this forum for helping me out in tough times and in good ones. Giving the GMAT, an exam which at first sight doesn't seem to be that hard, is a special experience. You go through phases where you are overconfident, believing that you can hit 800 at a first shot, given your upbringing with mathematics and English. There are also phases where you come down, crashed and burnt, after having given a GMAT Prep examination and gotten a score which is scarcely repeatable. There are innumerable moments of frustration where you answer a question right and yet select the wrong option. There are others where a single mistake in calculation or a lack of concentration for a particular word throws you off. Through all these occasions, you lot helped me out, helping me understand certain questions and take a higher view that I wasn't the best but I wasn't worst either; and, oh yes definitely, I was getting better day by day. So thanks for all that.
Secondly, for those who frequent this particular forum for guidance and recommendations, I'll give the following. I'm no expert and my ways might not work for you. But do consider them and do consider other ones and create your own method to prepare for this exam.
1. Books to Read
I amassed a huge collection of GMAT books but only read a specific number of them; considering only those that could boost my performance. The ones I found most useful were:
1. Official Guide : Buy this and practice from it.
2. Official Guide : Verbal Review
3. Manhattan GMAT
Prep : Sentence Correction
4. Nova GMAT Prep : This is really good.
None of them reflected the level of questions that came up in the GMAT exam. It was harder and far more challenging than I had envisaged. However, I did take one precaution. I practised for about 40 exams through the GMAT Prep software and went through scores of about 680 to 790 - a full range if you will. I was decent but I wanted more than that; as we all do.
Grammer Note: Understand Grammer - really understand the rules. And get yourself thinking about how to break apart a sentence; identifying where the subject and the verb is etc.
Special Note : On AWA, I simply took the questions and started writing. I didn't figure out a format for them until I was comfortable writing that much (500 words to 1000). I did this for about 10 essays and then figured out a particular format to write each type of essay, which I was able to use beautifully in the exam. My advice, go and get yourself comfortable with writing. Then come back and compare what you wrote with what other write. Once you've reconciled both, create a format. There is no one standard format that'll work for everyone.
2. The exam
As I said before, I found it challenging. But as this was my first time, I decided I'd give it the best shot and then give it a try again in a month. I took every break they gave and every time they allowed for each section. Before starting the test, I listed out my AWA format on those noteboards - weird things those. I stayed calm and unpressured even when I couldn't figure out the questions.
If you don't get it, guess and move on. There is no point staying on one particular question; you don't get a chance to review them later on.
Quantitative : It was relatively alright. The questions got progressively harder. There were limited questions on probability or combinations, which was a tad surprising. Most questions revolved around integers, geometry and the likes of roots and absolute values.
Verbal : This was tricky. The very first question was nasty followed by hard ones after that. I'm good at grammer, always have been. But these were hard. I had sit down and break apart each sentence, argument or conclusion to figure out what was going on. In the end, the best way to figure out the answer for the SC questions was to simple think them out aloud in my head. If it sounded right, it was right. I think it worked out.
Score: I finished the exam dot on time. Once done, I lost a bit of my composure and got a tad excited at viewing the score; it happens I guess. I scored a 750, flashed through the rest of the screens and got out in a rush. It was a good experience overall.
If any of you need further advice on getting through this exam or particular materials that might help you with this exam, I'm happy to provide them. Give me a shout.
And thanks again.