I was never very active on this forum but I always enjoyed reading success stories emailed out weekly. I just finished my GMAT journey and wanted to post my story. I read so many stories about how people studied for a couple weeks and got a great score. Those stories were frustrating for me because I couldn't do that. I spent a lot of time preparing and felt that my hard work paid off. While 670 isn't a phenomenal score, it won't keep me out of the schools I want to apply to.
I first took the GMAT in November of 2008. I had a one month self study plan that included taking one practice exam (I look back now and think how ridiculous that was). I got a 560. I don't remember the individual scores but I remember being shell shocked that I didn't do well in quant. Math was the only subject I really liked throughout school and it was one of the main reasons I chose to be an engineer. So life took a couple turns for me and business school wasn't an option right away. Fast forward to January 2011.
I decided to make a real go for a full time program. At the time I was set on Harvard. I set a test date of August 6th 2011 with a target score over 700. That left me with almost seven months to prepare. I decided to work on quant for a two months, then switch to verbal for two months, and finally bring them together for the final three months. I took a practice test once a month for the first five months and then stepped it up for the final two months months. In the final eight weeks I took a test once a week.
My quant strategy was to memorize all the necessary formulas and other basic math values, such as 11^2=121. I started with one of the Princeton Review books and complimented it with OG problems. I did a ton of OG problems. My Princeton review results were:
Jan 9th Q31, V39 580
Feb 21st Q37, V31 570
March 13th Q37, V30 560
I kept my same strategy, keep memorizing and doing lots of problems. I finished all the PR material so I took the GMATprep tests
the next couple of months:
April 10th Q45, V34
May 8th Q45, V37
I was happy with these scores but I it wasn't my goal score. Also, I wanted to see some repeatability in high scores. I retook a PR test on June 5th and got a 590. I totally lost it. My test wasn't for another two months and I was back where I started. So I decided to sign up for a class. I enrolled in the on demand Knewton course and was so happy that I did. I work a full time job that includes an hour commute each way. The on demand course allowed me to manage my time around my busy schedule. I completed most of the work on the weekends. What I got from the course was: yes the math concepts testing on the GMAT are relatively easy, however it's the way the questions are worded that is tricky. Furthermore, the best GMAT test takers are really good at translating what the question is really asking. The course greatly improved my ability to translate the questions. I feel that trying to figure out how to translate on your own is like to trying to remodel a kitchen for the first time. It takes the DIYr 2-3 times as long as if you hired a pro to teach you. Also, I felt that the grammar lessons were solid.
Unfortunately, I only left myself two months to go through the Knewton course. I felt like I was rushing it even though I learned a lot. To be honest, I should have pushed my test date back to reach my goal score. I could have reached the score with more work. However, the prep was draining. I got totally out of shape and it was keeping me from doing just about everything else I wanted to do. So I kept my test date and got a 670. I am happy with it and I feel that it will get me in, along with the rest of a solid application, to the schools I want to attend.
Review and lessons learned:
1.) Princeton Review was good but didn't go deep enough for me. I felt like it was just touching the surface.
2.) OG guides, obviously the best source of practice material
3.) Knewton On Demand course. Awesome. Even though my score didn't greatly improve, it really filled in a lot of gaps for me. I had a lot of confidence going into the exam.
4.) Watch a Rocky montage the day of your exam!
5.) Hard work pays off, just make sure you are spending it the right way. The only thing I would have changed was when I started the Knewton course. I would have started about 1-2 months sooner.
6.) I have an Apple computer and GMATprep only works on Windows computers. I found a Windows emulator called "Play on Mac" that allowed me to run it.