I took the GMAT a couple of weeks ago and recently got my official report. My score was 750 (49Q 42V 6-AWA 8-IR)
This was my second attempt at the GMAT. In the first attempt, I received a 720 (49q 38v 5awa). I was quite happy with my score but was somewhat dissatisfied for not scoring to my potential in the verbal section. Also, since I plan to use my GMAT for PhD admissions, I found my score to be slightly lower than the averages at some of the schools. So I decided to take it again, and as it turns out, I m quite happy with my score this time around.
I have been a passive observer of the threads on this forum till now. Now that my stint with the GMAT is over, I want to thank all the contributors here and share my own experience with all of you.
GMAT Prep1 - 710 (before starting prep)
MGMAT 1- 710
MGMAT 2 - 700
MGMAT 3 - 730
MGMAT4 - 710
GMAT Prep 2 - 770(just before the first attempt)
After the first attempt:
MGMAT 5 - 750
MGMAT 6 - 750
I devoted around one and a half months before the first test and an additional 15 days before the second. I devoted less time the second time around because I was not working then and had more time to study on a typical day. Also, I felt that I had kind of screwed up in my first attempt and would be able to do better in the retake with my current preparation if I perform reasonably well on test day.
I took the first GMAT Prep before I started preparing and received a 710. I do not remember the exact breakup but it was around 48Q 39V. I knew this what a good score and thought I would do well on the GMAT. But from the experience I realized that I needed to brush up my math concepts and do something about the SC questions in the verbal section. I was getting around 10 out of 15 correct in the SC section. I used the Manhattan SC book, which I had heard a lot about on this forum and it helped a lot. I am not the kind of person who has the patience to go through something like wren and martin for the GMAT. In fact, I didn't even actually try to remember all the grammatical rules in the manhattan SC book. I just read and took notes on the rules which I thought that I usually break while writing or speaking english. Once I had read through the book and taken notes, I revised them 3-4 times periodically during my prep time, and did some practice SC questions, and this resulted in an increase in accuracy. Another point that I wish to emphasize is that with SC questions, rely only on the GMAT prep questions and the OG. There is a subtle difference between the questions on the GMAT and those that most prep companies offer.
For quant, I suggest that you use books from a standard prep company (I used some of MGMAT's) to refresh concepts for a week and then practice a lot of questions. Even more important: concentrate on questions that you get wrong. Practicing and reviewing in quant helps with both speed and accuracy, which will invariably results in a higher score. Of course, you should devote a lot more time understanding the concepts if you have not been exposed to them before.
As for the books, I used a mix of them. I think the Manhattan SC book is especially helpful. The same goes for a couple of their math books. I looked at the RC and CR books but didn't complete reading them. One piece of advice that I have is that do not buy too much study material. Of course, the OG and manhattan SC (unless you are superbly good at SC already) and a set of good math concept books are must haves. So is a good online practice test set (I used MGMAT and it predicted my performance quite well.) But going further than that might actually confuse you. So be careful with that.
AWA: I think its necessary to practice at least one or two essays before the actual test. Also, do at least one full practice test with the essay. A good idea is to decide on a standard template that you want to follow as this saves a lot of time on the actual thing. Do not try to be too fancy with words unless it comes naturally to you. I don't think that is what they are looking for. Try to be logical and think like you do on the CR questions - though you can afford to be slightly less critical of your counter-arguments to the main argument here than in the CR questions.
OK since I do not remember a lot of details (say the kind of music I listened to while I was driving to the test center and such), I'll just mention some important takeaways form each of my attempts as they come to mind.
First attempt: I was feeling quite disappointed with my Quant performance and thought that I had totally cracked the verbal section. I was expecting a score on the lines of 45Q 45V and ended up getting 49Q 38V. So, one piece of advice that I have is that you should think twice before cancelling your scores after the exam. I found that my perception of how I had done on the test was quite different from my actual performance. Unless you are dead sure that you have screwed up ( say you left 10 questions unattempted in a section or something), do not cancel scores.
Second attempt: I had the IR section to face this time. And let me tell you that it is easier than what most test companies tell you . I was struggling with 4's with the Manhattan tests and managed an 8 on the actual test. Also, I think guessing might be a good option with the IR section since I don't think I can ever answer all 12 questions in the allotted time.
So I guess that's it. I would be happy to answer to the best of my ability any questions that you might have. Let me know.
And thanks again to everybody who has contributed to this site, and made it an extremely useful resource for nervous GMAT test-takers like me.