Thank you all for the wonderful posts. They helped me along, especially towards the end of my studying. I received 770 on GMAT, although I hadn't expected anything higer than 720. I just wanted to share my experience.
First, the test itself was really difficult. There were 2 quant questions I have never even seen. I ended up guessing both. My advice is:arrive early, and if you are not a US citizen in America, have your green card or passport with you. There was an asian girl who got sent home right in front of me because all she had was a driver's license. The people at the test center are increadibly rude! They wouldn't give me scratch paper until the exam started. So, with the clock ticking on the essay, I still had to go get the scratch paper! Second, the scratch paper they give you might not be enough, and they won't provide more. So, during each break I made them exchange my scratch paper for a new set. I still ran out in quant, but it didn't really hurt. I was on question 36 then.
I actually was sure that I'd get 600 or less on the exam. It really kicked my a. By the time I got to question 10 on verbal, I could barely concentrate and had to pause constantly. I cannot stress this enough: buy something like a Kaplan
CD with CATs and do those religiously! There is no better way to build endurance.
Now, here's how I prepped. I started slow about half a year ago with an old Arco book (2000 edition). These books rarely change. So, you can easily pick up a 94-96 book in the library and the questions will be the same as in a 2003 edition. It took me 3 months do finish the whole book.
I then began studying every day before and after work. I made a schedule and followed it. I tried to focus on one thing every day, and did not disregard anything, even the things I considered my strengths. This is what I ended up using:
CD - it's great for practice and test taking tips. The theory is weak. I had to go back to Arco a lot for additional information on math. The tests are really hard. I got 620 on average, with 580 as the low score.
Barrons - this is one useless book. I only did a few tests. Math is decent, but verbal sections are antiquated. Only use it if you don't have anything better and need additional practice.
Powerprep - the free software is available from mba.com. There are 2 full CATs and a bunch of small topical tests. I highly recommend this one. I took one CAT first (710). Then took all the quizzes, then the second CAT (770). This program is a must! First, it accurately represents GMAT, second, after Kaplan
's scores, it will build your confidence.
Online - there are a lot of decent sites with practice tests, reviews and sample CATs. I went through all of them at work.
ETS Official Guide to GMAT. Now this one is interesting. You can't buy it in a bookstore. You can locate a used copy or a 2003 edition online, but by the time I read all the raving reviews on this site, I had one and a half week to go. This book proved to be a solid practice, but in retrospect not nearly as useful as I thought it would be. About half of all the questions in the book are from Powerprep. What I did the last week was take-on one chapter per evening. Friday night was the problem solving night. 250 questions took me about 5 hours.
Essays - as soon as I realized the essays in Kaplan
and other materials are BS and there is a list of real essay topics at mba.com, I switched to writing as many of those real essays as I could. Also, make sure you read a couple of solid books dedicated to essay writing on GMAT. Every B&N has a couple. Read as many sample essays as you can. I would've completely failed AWA had I not read the sample essays. All in all, I probably wrote 20-30 essays of each type.
Finally, take notes of things you have trouble remembering. Review those notes every day, especially the last week before the exam. The most important advice: don't overstudy! Take breaks once in a while. I was forced to take 4 days off in the middle of training. That really helped. I also took 3 days off right before the test. I took the test at 1 pm on a Tuesday, and did not go to work that day. Sleep in, relax, and focus.
Good luck and thank you for reading!