Let me first introduce myself. I am a 29 year old French girl (ok, woman
). I graduated 8 years ago, I am not en engineer or some type of math genius and English is obviously not my native language. So if I could do it, YOU CAN TOO!!!
So now, a bit about my GMAT journey. Today, at 1PM Paris time, I pressed the "get your score" button, waited for what seemed like an eternity and finally got my score: 730 (M:46, 79%; V:44, 97%). I literally started crying. I could not believe it. Five months of hard studying finally paid off... and just 7 weeks ago, I had scored a 620 (M:40, 61% and V:40, 75%)
Now the reason I decided to write this tonight is because a few months ago, I thought this would be impossible. I spent so many nights stressing out and thinking "I will never make it". Very few people understood what I was going through, making the process even more difficult. So today, I want to reach out to those of you who think they can't make it. Trust me, if I could, so can YOU!!
I started studying at the end of January. My situation seemed desperate. I didn’t even remember how to set up a division and had forgotten my multiplication tables!
I took a course at the MBA Center in Paris three times a week. The courses were helpful in that they kept me motivated and allowed me to interact with other students. But I honestly don’t think you learn more in a course than you do on your own.
This is how I reached my goal:Amount of study time
For the last five months, I studied 2 hours a day after work and about 6 hours a day on weekends. After a month and a half of studying the basics, I did one full test every Sunday. I also kept a little notebook where I wrote down tricks and formulas (or formulae
). I read my little book every day on the metro and used it during my first exams. Eventually, you will know everything. There is no secret, if you are not a genius (and that’s just fine!!
), the only way to get a good score is to study, study, study, practice, practice, practice!!!!Material used
Due to my disastrous level in math, I started off with Cliffs Math Review for Standardized Test. This is great for beginners. It reviews all the concepts in depth and gives you loads of easy exercises to improve on the basics.
I then used the Official Guide and the Math official guide. One cannot stress enough the importance of these books. Do every single exercise. If you answer a question wrong or it took you more than 2 minutes to solve, circle the question and redo it later. Redo all the questions you got wrong or took too long to solve until you can do them all in less than a minute and a half.
I also used the Kaplan
and Kaplan 800
books as well as the MBA center book. All were great for extra practice, but none can replace the OG.
I also did a lot of online tests:GMATPrep:
use them!!! And not just once each!! I did each four times. And even though I did see a few questions twice on the verbal, I rarely saw the same question twice in math. These tests are as close as you can get to the actual GMAT. They’re free and they are the best tests out there. 800score:
the math is harder than on the GMAT but good practice. The verbal is too easy. But the main point of practicing exams is to learn to time yourself. You have to reach a point where you almost don’t need to check the time. You have this “internal clock” and after a while, you just know when you are spending too much time on a question.Mgmat:
again, great practice, but a lot of their exercises are just too time-consuming to be on the real test.Crack the GMAT
: very good math and verbal, although a bit more difficult than the real thing. I found their study package ($30) VERY helpful for the math. They go through each topic in detail with mini-tests on each section. This allows you to improve where you need it most.Kaplan:
good practice, although their scoring can get you down (trust me!)
Bottom line is you need to practice testing to improve your timing and increase your stamina. DO NOT pay too much attention to your scores on non-GMAC tests (I was scoring around 610 on most of these tests). Only the GMATPrep will give you a good idea of what you can score on the actual GMAT. Tips:
1.Know the basics!!!
I read a lot about how the GMAT was getting harder and how probabilities were now very popular. Well, this isn’t true! I only got two probability questions and they were very easy. Most questions were actually “simple”: basic arithmetic, exponents, geometry, averages, etc… this is why the OG is crucial!! You need to own it!! Most questions are actually very similar to the OG questions!!
2.Know your shortcuts:
you will need to memorize formulas, some basic Pythagorean numbers, squares, prime numbers, tricks, idioms, etc. I found my little “cheat-notebook” essential!
3.Know your weaknesses!
When you see a question you are unlikely to answer correctly and are going to waste 5 minutes trying to figure out, make an educated guess. Look at the question and think “logically, what makes sense?”. You will normally be able to eliminate 2 or 3 answer choices. Then cross your fingers and pick one!
I know this seems crazy, but I honestly think that knowing when to cut your losses is essential (at least to us “normal” people
4.Manage your time
. By practicing, you should come to a point where you just know that your two minutes are up… hurry up or if you are unable to answer, make an educated guess. I only looked at the clock about 5 times during each part. To make sure I was on time, I checked that after 55 minutes I was at question 10; 35 minutes, question 20; 15 minutes, question 30.
5.Master sentence correction
! Know your idioms and the basics (modifiers, parallelism, tense). Not only will this improve your sentence correction (obviously!) but this will also improve your RC!!!!! RC was my weakness and I have found the solution!!!!!
I now realize that I was wasting too much time on SC and was thus left with too little time to do RC. Today, I managed to answer every SC in less than 30 seconds (and that’s just from practicing in the last month!). As a result I was left with ample time to answer the RC. I did not have to skim, or read the first sentence of every paragraph or use any of the many other techniques I read about. I had time!! Time to read the passage “slowly” and reread the sentences which were unclear. This meant that for the first time, I could actually start answering the questions, having understood the whole passage! I just understood the text and even remembered details about it!! And this is the key to successfully answering the questions. So, to ace RC, master SC!!!! This is the best tip you’ll ever get (and I scored 97% on verbal!!
6. Read up!!!
Another great way to improve your RC is to read newspapers in English. I read the Economist
every week, and this truly helped. Their articles address issues very similar to those you might find in RC, which helps you with comprehension and vocabulary.7. Practice, practice, practice!!!8. Rest
! Make sure you get enough rest before the test (I slept 10 hours last night!! ) and get to the exam center early. No need to add extra stress!9. During the test, keep believing in yourself even if you feel you are not doing well.
I thought I was screwing up so bad, I felt like leaving 10 minutes within the math section (thank god I didn’t!). Realize that it is nearly impossible to gauge how well you are doing during the test. Focus and keep doing your best until the very last question!!
10. I might get criticized for this, but here it goes!! Realize that there is an element of luck to the GMAT. Nearly a fourth of the questions are not actually marked, so if you are lucky, the questions you answer wrong are not impacting your score! I’m sure that to a certain extent, I was lucky today. So don’t give up!!! You could be lucky too!!
OK, that was long… I’m going to bed…. hope I didn’t bore you and that you feel like you can make it too. Because, trust me, if I could, YOU CAN TOO!!!!
All the best!!
PS: my only regret is to not have participated more to the forums here. But I read what you guys posted. And it did help. so, last - but not least! - thank you