Before I begin my post, I want to thank everyone for their contributions on this forum. The philosophy of Ubuntu is greatly portrayed in this forum and there is a lot to learn by reading all of the high quality materials, guides that everyone has posted here.
I'll begin with a brief background...
I recently graduated from a top 5 undergraduate engineering program in the US and will begin working for McKinsey & Co. in a few months. I am strong quantitatively, but also enjoy writing, reading, and grammar. I had very high expectations going into my first GMAT practice cat, Knewton CAT1 (I was totally cold). I was beyond shocked to see a Q42,V28 - 580 total score. I mean I have always been poor at standardized tests, but from what I had seen my friends scoring I had no idea I could do this poorly.
The Quick Version:
1) knewton course
2) all official gmat guides
3) manhattan gmat SC
4) gmat club app
1) Knewton 1 - 580 (q42,v28)
2) Knewton 2 - 680 (q46,v37)
3) Knewton 3 - 680 (q46,v37)
4) GMAT Prep 1 - 760 (q50, v41)
5) MGMAT CAT 1 - 760 (q49,v45)
6) Knewton 4 - 730 (q48, v42)
Actual GMAT: 740 (q50,v40)
The biggest takeaway I can give you from this is to channel your energy. Though I was shocked, I wasn't "down on myself" so to speak. I simply channeled it as fuel for the fire that would be the upcoming 4 week trek to the GMAT. Though I was a computer science/math major, there were plenty of math concepts that just didn't stick, and I ran way low on time on the verbal section essentially blindly guessing on the last 5 questions, and even not doing the final question. As you should know by now, this KILLS your score.
So began my studying... I primarily used Knewton to prepare, but also bought Manhattan GMAT guides
(of which I only used their Sentence Correction guide right at the end of my prep). My studying involved doing the Knewton course in 2 weeks, then doing several practice questions from the purple official guide v12.
At first I did the first 6 knewton sessions. This was essentially the GMAT basics. I did all their practice homework and even a bit of their extra homework. I would watch the videos on demand and take notes of important things they said, consistently pausing the videos. I then took another GMAT CAT (Knewton CAT2) - 680(q46,v37). I was relieved! A 100 point increase in 7 days, much better!
My biggest weakness at this point was Critical Reasoning. So I essentially focused ONLY on this for a week. Therefore, I did their lessons out of order, and I did every critical reasoning bonus lesson I could find and all the practice homework. I essentially exhausted Knewton's critical reasoning set of questions besides what would be on their practice CATs. This was again very intense studying. I would log every single question that I got wrong in one section of a giant 5 subject notebook. I would specify the homewok number, and question number and literally detail to myself why I got it wrong. Writing this down (instead of typing it out) helps map it into your head much better than typing it out on a computerized error log
. Its not even so much about reviewing these later as it is writing essentially notes to yourself of what you did wrong. It is very essential to read the answer explanations and work through them and understand.
Knewton is incredibly useful here because they tag each of their questions with concepts. So if you notice you are getting a certain type wrong, you can learn about the concept in a dedicated concept page.
At the end of the second week I took another practice test. 680(q46,v37) again! and Same breakdown! I was shocked! Luckily, this score doesn't tell the whole story
. I realized that because I focused so heavily on the CR section, I was essentially out of practice with the other sections.. I ended up slowing down a lot on both the Math & Verbal sections, not finishing either on time. In fact, it was this third test where I learned my biggest lesson of all which engendered a complete mindset shift.It is not about getting a question right, it is about getting a question right in 2 mins (or whatever the estimated time for that particular question type is).
I read a few MGMAT articles on GMAT timing, and the way I began to approach timing was by the end of the first minute you should know whether you will get this question right or wrong. By the end of second minute you should ONLY continue if you are for sure going to get an answer (hopefully a right one - aka you've figured out the underlying algorithm to solve the problem and the only thing that can prevent you from a right answer is a silly mistake).
I enforced this religiously in a few practice sets, I did the rest of the Knewton course (well the majority of it...), and took GMAT Prep #1 - 760 (q50, v41). Boom! That's what I'm talking about.
Now it was week 4. I had about a week and a half left until the GMAT and all that was left was to do a lot of practice questions, learn about the essay, and start taking full tests. Every day I would either have problem workouts where I did sets of OG questions (only med/hard for Verbal, only Hard for Math). Probably about 20 of each type of question. Then on the next day I would take a practice test. I took Manhattan GMAT
CAT#1 - 760(q49,v45). This was my first test with essays, so technically an improvement because my stamina should have dropped.
Did some more review, Knewton Test #4 - 730(q48,v42).
At this point it was the thursday before the test, I was pretty exhausted. I had studied so intensely for 4 weeks and though I had planned to take more tests (GMAT Prep 2, Knewton 5/6)... I decided not to.
I took it very easy these last few days.
Onto the actual GMAT day. I'm pretty sure I killed the essays. The math section had me incredibly worried, I thought the questions were very easy - goes to show you can't predict anything - i got a q50!
I think my verbal performance was below my expected level. I had read the MGMAT SC
guide and done problems the last week (i forgot to mention this). I HIGHLY recommend this guide. It was significantly better than any material Knewton had on SC. The key difference is that Manhattan GMAT
really focuses on showing you how the GMAT will test it, while Knewton offers a review of things and is significantly less comprehensive. Anyway, I realistically expected my verbal score level which was probably around a 41/42 to shoot up to a 45 because I had learned so much.
Unfortunately I got very hammered on the verbal section. I think I was doing extremely well at first because the long reading passage I got was far and away the toughest reading passage I have ever seen. I should mention that on my last three practice tests and the majority of my workouts with ONLY hard GMAT Purple Book problems I was getting 100% on reading comprehension. I am pretty sure I got only 1 or 2 out of 6 questions correct on this passage. It was extremely difficult, long winded, passively written, and about a subject that was very archaic.
Additionally, the sentence correction questions started having a tremendous amount of dashes in them - I got about 6 questions where they were used very sparingly and distinguished choices. I thought this was unfair because dashes had never been a central part of the GMAT.
Score comes up - 740 (Q50, V40). I was relieved. Done. I think this was slightly on the lower side of my score range, but hey, what can you do! Life goes on
Best of luck to everyone - i hope my very candid and detailed debrief has helped you. If I can give you one piece of advice for that GMAT, and for life, in general for that matter, it would be to never let a score shatter your confidence nor let it boast it. What is important is to (here comes the engineer in me...) dig deep and truly understand what was the essential flaw in your performance. I did this consistently for a month, for each and every question I got wrong which is why I was able to achieve such a tremendous score gain so fast. On a macro picture, when I took tests I took lessons out of them. lessons of timing, of stamina, and of healthy mentality. This is why it is important to iterate your training with tests, but also with focus lessons on specific areas. Don't just take tests blindly. At the same time, don't just read material without doing problems. Iterate!