I have not been a regular poster here though I regularly read the forums. I found out about this forum pretty late (2 weeks before my test) though I was much more active in TM. I wanted to share my test experience here too.
: Little dissapointed on missing 51
: Pretty happy with 42
Long post warning. Wanted to give an overview of the test before the details start to fade away. I will hold off on the "How I prepared" part of it till I get a bit more free time.
One note before delving in
: The debriefings are all individual-specific. What works for me may not work for you and vice versa. So take it in with a pinch of salt and as a guideline, not as a bible. You will have to customize the debriefings for yourself. I think this is true for almost all the debriefings I have read.
Scheduling the test:
I scheduled the test 2 weeks in advance and wanted a Monday so that I could have the previous day off. It is good to schedule the test when you think you are about 80% done. This gives you motivation to wrap up your preparations and most importantly peak at the right time. If you start thinking about scheduling a test a week after you think you are ready, you will probably burn yourself out before the test worrying about the test.
Night before the test
I had the worst night ever, tossing and turning and barely sleeping. I estimate that I probably slept for about 2 hours in total and even considered rescheduling my appointment! What saved me was that I had been sleeping for a good 8 hours every day in the previous week. I would recommend not studying too much in the last week and taking plenty of rest. Chances are you will gain very little by studying at the end. If you can, try not to follow my example and try to sleep well the night before. Even if you do not sleep well, do not despair. I was able to retain razor focus during most of the test even though I had not slept well.
Not many people have given input on this and I wanted to share my 2 cents on the centre I wrote the test in. It was the Prometric Centre in San Jose. It is an *excellent* idea to visit the test centre a week before the test. You will feel a lot more comfortable about the test experience. I asked a few inane questions such as "How much earlier should I come for the test", "What ID" etc when I went there last week. You can note the general topology of the place and kind of visualize how you will write the test. It reduces one unknown from the test.
This test centre was pretty good, busy but peaceful,and the best thing was the "noise cancelling" headsets they gave. It was excellent and totally blocked out ambient noise. This is especially important since not all test takes are giving the GMAT. There are many who give other tests that need constant keyboard use. If you are like me, it gets on your nerves after some time. If your test centre does not have these headphones, I recommend practicing with an earplug and using it on test day. Try to learn how to use earplugs. I remember the time when I gave the GRE and I didnt know what to do with those earplugs.
A few things that surprised me about the test centre that you may want to know
1. You cannot choose your seat (in this centre). You get assigned to one. Not a big deal, just FYI
2. You have to sign in and out everytime you leave for breaks etc. Again, not a big deal, just FYI.
3. The breaks are *NOT* timed by the computer in this centre. Someone will unlock the keyboard between sections. That means you do not have to restrict the break to 5mins. That does not mean you can take a half hour break, but I did take a 9 min break between Q and V. Even then, I barely had time to splash cold water on my face, eat and drink some stuff. Btw, cold water splashing was very refreshing. Try it in the breaks.
4. Wristwatch was not allowed inside. You have to follow the wall clock in the lobby for timing your breaks.
Now for the test
When you choose the 5 schools to send your score to, do not press next after entering the first one like I did. I believe there should be another choice for next school or something. Look carefully. I thought "Next" will let me add the Next school. No such luck. It took me to the next section. Then I had to manually fill in the codes after the test and give it to them.
: First was an "Analysis of Argument" Usually I am more comfortable with arguments than I am with issues. But this particular one was not my cup of tea. But still I managed to find 3 invalid assumptions and flaws. I wrote 5 paragraphs, proof read it and finished with 2 mins to spare. Nothing spectacular. I found that it is best not to drain yourself to write the best essay of your life. Your energy is better spent on Q and V.
"Analysis of Issue" was closer to my heart and as soon I as I saw the topic gazillion points leapt to my mind. I made merry and wrote 6 paragraphs and finished with 5 mins to spare. I was becoming visibly tired towards the end of Analysis of issue which brings back my original point of not burning yourself out for the essays.
: In my opinion it is better to take the breaks and rejuvanate yourself, even if you feel you are on a roll. Cold water helped me start thinking about DS and PS even before the section. I found it useful to get into this mode before the section. I kept a few cookies and had them for instant energy. I felt hungry even though I had eaten a good breakfast. So, do carry something to eat even if you feel you may not need it. I took a mountain dew with "caffeine" incase I zoned out (as I had not slept well) but did not need to use it. I also took a Gatorade but did not use it. Just sipped water.
: Echo what everyone else wrote in the forum. Way harder than OG and some were even harder than Kaplan
. In both powerprep tests I finished Q with 0 mistakes out of 37. All my Kaplan
's had scaled score 50 for Q. Even in the famed last 100 DS questions in OG I got only 2 wrong. I think Statistics did me in. I got 2 questions on standard deviation and 2-3 on mean, median etc. I did not pay too much attention to statistics and probably got the statistics DS questions wrong. I half-guessed Q36, a DS on statistics. There were some tricky number theory questions that I enjoyed solving. I used to get a lot of these wrong in the earlier stages of my preparation and then arrested the trend by substituting these numbers for all such problems [-2,-1,-0.5,0,0.5,1,2]. This method works well. P&C and probabilty were very easy questions in the early stages (before Q10). There were couple of arithemtics using decimals. Geometry questions were also challenging, but since I enjoy geometry I found them interesting but not impossible to solve. Overall I should say that I really enjoyed the Quant section and was pretty disappointed not to have scored a 51. I would recommend not solving too many quant problems in the last few days just to keep your mind hungry for solving them during the test.
Timing wise I was: 10Q 25 mins (a bit behind)
15Q 37 min
20Q 50min ( a lot behind)
Then I raced through and consistently maintained 1.5 mins/q till then end which was why I guessed on the statistics DS.
: I felt pretty good during the break, but I knew the killer section was coming. Verbal was always a make or break for me since my Quant was pretty consistent. More cold water, more cookies and an apple too!
: The first SC was long but of medium difficulty. I knew I nailed it. The second was another SC testing concept of "each" being singlur/ plural. I wavered and finally selected. Immediately I knew I had got it wrong as I got an RC. I read somewhere that high scorers typically got 3-4 SC's in the begining. This was my lowest point in the whole test. I felt a bit down and desperately tried to recover. I had told myself a thousand times before the test to focus on the question in hand and it finally helped. The RC (35 lines about high tech industry) was very easy and I am pretty sure I nailed it. When I started prep I was weak in RC, but I improved it tremendously towards the end. After the RC I got a medium CR and then another RC (45 lines). This one was a lot harder and I felt better. Maybe I had recovered.I believe I cracked this RC too. 10-20 some SC and CR's, nothing too different from OG. I may have got a ac ouple wrong here. From 20 onwards it was a race against time. I had 27 mins for 21 questions. My time management was and has been very poor. I got an involved RC (65 lines Womens reform kind) with some hard questions. I tried to do my best to answer this. After this it was 16q in 21 mins. From now on I raced through the SC's and for the CR's I read the stem, stimuli and formed a mental picture of what could be a possible answer. Then I searched for the answer among the choices. Sometimes I did not even read the other choices. Things were happening in a blur though I maintained my compusre throughout and made educated guesses. Q33 and the 4th RC popped up. A hard biology one but comparitively easier questions. I may have missed one here. SC's and CR's continued. I just got one boldface around 26 or so, was not very hard. Finally I felt very diffident about the verbal section. I estimated that I got about 10-12 questions wrong. However, I had felt the same after PP1 (before OG) and I got the same scaled score (42) then too. I had made 7 mistakes then. However, I cannot conceive the possibility of making just 7 mistakes in the real test. I am pretty sure I got a lot more wrong, or maybe not... Who can say!
Most important learning from the verbal is not to try and double guess the CAT. I think it is in your best interest not to estimate how you are doing, however irresistable it may seem. One question at a time IS the key. Sometimes ETS throws easier ones at you, maybe to throw you off track or it could be that you may find the question easier and others may not. Also, back yourself to solve questions correctly if you have prepared well. I may not have got as many questions wrong as I am estimating.
One interesting thing was that 2-3 question I got were the exact same questions I saw in one of the forums. Though I did not remember the answers I was pretty surprised to see the exact questions. Just FYI, not that you can depend on the forums to give you all the questions.
I did not feel too excited about seeing my score as I was expecting something like a 720-730 or so based on my verbal performance. During the preparation phase here were my expectations.
Q: Bad day: 49
Average day: 50
Good/ very good day: 51
V: Bad day: 37-38
Average day: 39-41
Good day: 42
Very good day: 42+
Expected score: 720-770 [ PP1 (before OG)=770 (51,42) PP2 (after OG)=780 (51,45)]
But after the sleepless night before the test, I was willing to even take a 700 !!!
Finally I blazed through the survey questions and past the multiple "do you want cancel" screens and stared blankly at the 760. Pumped my fists a couple of times and waltzed out feeling great!!!