I took the GMAT couple of days back and got a pretty decent score of 770 (V-44,Q-51). I had used these forums a lot during my prep and this debrief is my way of saying thank you to all. I'd like to especially thank the members of this forum whose advice has been immensely helpful in getting this score.
I’m a Chinese in Santa Monica working with a technology company. I have done my undergrad from a top Chinese school and have a total of 4 years of post undergrad experience. While my math was always strong, it's verbal that was my bugbear, specially SC. when I started my prep around 3 months back, the first thing I did was take a mock test to get an idea of what the actual test was like. I took the first gmatprep test on which I scored a 610 with a 49 in maths and 26 in verbal. I especially struggled to answer SC questions because whatever option sounded correct to me would invariably turn out to be incorrect. RC was another problem area, especially when the passages were from the social science domain (science passages I was quite comfortable with).
Now I am an extremely analytical guy who analyses every nuance of a matter before deciding what approach to use. Accordingly I went through a lot of advice on these forums and also spoke to a few friends of mine who had taken the GMAT and done well on it. I was especially looking for advice from people who were from a similar educational background as I was.
Based on what I gathered from my research, here is a list of prep material that I referred to:
1) Math - My math was always very strong so I didn't want to spend too much time on it. I just went through the Math review part in the OG so as to become refreshed with all the quant concepts and formulas relevant to the GMAT. Beyond that it was just plain old fashioned practice. I did all the questions from the OG 13
and also from the OG Quant
Review books. Surprisingly I found DS questions easier than PS ones!
SC - I got my hands on the two most recommended books on the forum - the Manhattan SC guide and the SC grail and found them both very good. The SC Grail is the easier to understand of the two and I also found it better structured than Manhattan. The best part was that it comes with a huge set of practice questions unlike Manhattan, which mainly references OG questions. I strongly recommend that you get both the books; however if you must choose one, go for the SC Grail, especially if you are a non native speaker like me and are struggling to avoid using the ear to answer questions.
CR - I found CR quite simple for the most part so didn't refer to any book for it initially. I just did practice questions from the OG. Towards the end of my prep I was running out of CR questions to practice from so decided to get another book for CR. I got my hands on the CR Grail, primarily because it came with 100 practice questions, which was more than what any other book offered and was the best value for money.
RC - My RC skills were quite weak because I had never really been in the habit of reading. I used to read the passage several times to be able to make sense of it, as a result of which my timing also used to suffer. While reading newspapers and books is a good way of improving comprehension, given that I only had 3 months to prepare, I figured the only way to improve my RC accuracy was to practice as many passages as I could. I did all the passages in the OG and OG supplement books. I also did the 20 odd passages in Manhattan RC
book but figured I needed to do even more so I got the RC Grail and did the 60 passages in that book as well. All in all I must have done close to 150 passages. While initially I used to hate the prospect of practicing RC passages, after a couple of weeks or so it became more of a routine wherein I used to practice 3-4 passages every day. When I started my accuracy level in RC was around 40 % or so but by the time I finished my prep this had gone up to almost the 75-80% mark. So I guess practice does make a difference.
3) FLTs - Given the reviews I had read of the various full length tests available in the market, I decided to stick to Manhattan tests only. My scores in the 6 tests hovered between 720-750. One note of caution, given the time constraints I sometimes used to take practice tests at night after coming back from work. My scores on these tests were almost always lower by 30-40 points compared to the tests I took on weekends or on holidays, so the fatigue factor does kick in.
On the Gmatprep tests
I scored between 740-790(the 790 was when I was retaking the test so there were a few repeat questions whose answers I kind of remembered).
I guess my final score was within this range so the tests were pretty accurate. However, compared to the type of questions I saw on the actual test, I found the Manhattan questions a little weird, especially CR and Quant ones. The Gmatprep (but obviously) was much more similar to the real thing.
All in all, I'm pretty satisfied with my score and need to start working on my apps now. I'm applying to Harvard, INSEAD and LBS in R1 !!
Good luck to everyone who is taking the GMAT in the next couple of months. If you need any help please do get in touch.