I’ve never posted here before but I occasionally consulted the forums for information. I found them helpful and am inspired by the support that everyone shows for each other here to do what I can to help others prepare for their date with the GMAT.
I am a former collegiate and semi-pro runner. I prepared like the GMAT similar to the way I used to prepare for championship races - consistent, devoted, and varied training. My preparation lasted exactly 77 days.
I started with math and used Manhattan's 5 GMAT Math books (4th edition). After completing all 5 books, I took the GMAT diagnostic test from the 12 Edition OG and scored 21 (PS) and 20 (DS).
Then I continually reviewed and practiced math as I worked through Manhattan's 3 GMAT Verbal books (5th Edition CR, 4th Edition SC and RC). After completing them I took the verbal portion of the GMAT Diagnostic test from the 12th Edition OG. I scored 16 (CR), 17 (RC), and 16 (SC). I then purchased GMAT Prep Pack 1.
I spent 1 week reviewing all subject areas. I also read through half of Manhattan's IR/Essay book (5th Edition). Then I took the first of the GMAT Prep practice tests and scored 720 (math 47, verbal 41).
Then I spent 1 more week continuing to review all subject areas and took the second GMAT Prep practice test and scored 720 (math 47, verbal 41).
During my two weeks of dedicated review time I worked through about 300 of the 400 questions available in the GMAT Prep pack (the RC passages were out of order and therefore not particularly useful and I did not do the IR questions). I thought those questions along with the official practice tests were the most valuable part of my practice because they helped me nail down my timing and they are accurate representations of the questions you will face on test day.
Five days after completing the second practice test (today) I took the real GMAT and scored 760 (math 49, verbal 44).
In my preparations I specifically DID NOT take any practice GMAT exams produced by the test prep companies (Kaplan
, Manhattan, etc.). From what I've read the questions are not representative of the real exam. Also, since the days when I studied for the SAT I've always thought that the test prep companies purposely make their exams harder than the real thing. I also think that in any series of practice tests they become gradually easier so that you feel like you are improving as you take them. Then on test day when you score higher than you ever scored on practice tests you are happy and think that the prep company tests were useful. I disagree and avoided them.
I also do not think that test day nerves are a factor when you take the exam. If anything, I felt more alert today than I did during the practice exams, and that heightened consciousness probably helped boost my score.
I hope this post is helpful. During my preparations I always wanted to know how I was doing, but I could not find much comprehensive information linking peoples' diagnostic and GMAT Prep Practice tests to their performance on the real thing. I hope others will find my experience useful.
Diagnostic - 21 (PS), 20 (DS), 16 (CR), 17 (RC), 16 (SC)
GMAT Prep 1 - 720
GMAT Prep 2 - 720
GMAT - 760
Best of luck.