My attempt at giving back to a very helpful and useful forum community!
I took my GMAT on April 19th, 2010 for the first time and it went really well. I scored a 760 (Q 50, V 42), and a 6.0 on AWA. I wrote on the 19th and received my official scores today (23rd), so that was MUCH faster than I thought it was going to be. They say 20 days, it took under 4. Anyway, below are some of my suggestions for future test takers, as well as my study methods and personal experience. Don’t be shy to ask me any questions!
*** Sorry for the lengthy post! ***Background
I just finished my Bachelor of Commerce and am a law school applicant for the Fall 2010 term. I am looking at enrolling in a Law/MBA program, which is why I wrote my GMAT. I had spent a good amount of time studying for the LSAT and scored very well on it, which helped A LOT when it came to the Verbal section (namely RC and CR) on the GMAT.Study Material
I used the following books during my studying:
- The Official GMAT Review Guide (12th Edition)Very useful set of problems with good explanations.
- The Official GMAT Verbal Review GuideDidn’t really use this one due to lack of time and the fact that my Verbal section was already quite strong, but it is definitely a great resource for problems and explanations.
- The Official GMAT Quantitative Review GuideMany of the questions seemed a bit on the easy side, but was nonetheless very valuable as far as additional practice questions and explanations went.
- The 8 Manhattan books
(Sentence correction, reading comp, critical reasoning, geometry, word translations, equations inequalities & vics, fractions decimals & percents, number properties)The quantitative books were VERY helpful. I didn’t use the CR and RC books, but the SC one was quite thorough. The online tests were much harder than the real thing, but still useful. More on this below.
- The Kaplan
GMAT Premier Live Online
(2010 Edition)I only did one online CAT provided with this book and found it to be too easy, while as the overall scoring was quite “wacked”. More on this below.
- GMAT Prep TestsBest predictors and closest thing to the actual test that I encountered. Very useful stuff.
Overall, I would definitely recommend the MGMAT book
set as well as the OG books. You can do without the Kaplan
book I had.Study Schedule
I started studying in early February 2010 until my test date which was April 19th, 2010. At the start, I took it a little bit easy, but overall I would say it was a good 2 months of studying. I put in about 1-2 hours a day. As mentioned, my Verbal section was pretty strong to begin with, so I was mostly concentrating on improving my Quantitative stuff. My math was VERY rusty.
I tried writing the first of the GMAT Prep tests to get a diagnostic score, but after guessing on the first three Quant questions and not knowing how to answer the fourth, I closed it and decided to do some studying before wasting this whole test on guesses.
My studying consisted of reading through the MGMAT books
in order and answering all of the practice questions found therein with regards to the OG books, as well as the end-of-chapter stuff. I was somewhat frustrated at times, but things gradually came along.
A few weeks into my studying I decided to take a crack at that first GMAT Prep Test
again. I had read through the first 2-3 MGMAT books
by that time. I ended up scoring a 680 on the test. I finished with quite a bit of time left over (15+ mins) on both sections. Not sure what my individual section scores were anymore, but I made 15 mistakes on Quant and 7 on Verbal. I was relatively happy with the score, but had missed quite a few questions on Quant that related to topics I hadn’t covered in the MGMAT books
yet, so I knew I could improve quite a bit.
I finished the Quant MGMAT books
over the next few weeks and then wrote the second GMAT Prep Test
. This time, I scored a 750. Again, I’m not sure what the respective section scores were, but I had missed 12 Quant questions and 4 Verbal. I finished with a lot of time left over (15+ mins) on both sections. I was definitely happy with this score, but had read on these forums that the scoring on the second GMAT Prep Test may be a bit easier, so I wasn’t in any way going to let myself become overconfident.
Due to my test date getting closer very quickly, I decided to leave the RC and CR MGMAT books
aside (since these were my strongest areas) and opted to read through the SC book. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the time to do any of the practice, end-of-chapter, or OG questions, but I did read the book from cover to cover otherwise. I retained some simple rules, but could have drawn MUCH more from this book given the time.
During the time when I was working through the SC book, I also took the following tests:- Kaplan GMAT Premier Live Online 2010 Test 2:
I found that the Quant questions were very easy on this test and thus were not representative of the actual GMAT. The Verbal stuff I found somewhat more difficult, so maybe better practice there. Overall though, I found it to be a waste of time. Maybe good to practice for not making stupid mistakes, but other than that, didn’t find much value here. I scored a 670 overall, missing 5 on Quant and 7 on Verbal. I also finished the Quant section with 19 minutes to spare, and the Verbal section with 26 minutes left over. The scoring was not very comprehensive. I’ve read on these boards that this test may or mat not be a CAT. I’m not sure myself, but I didn’t find it very helpful, so I decided to drop the Kaplan
tests from future use.- MGMAT CAT 1:
On April 15th, I only wrote the Quant section of this test and barely managed to finish it. I finished all the questions, but I guessed on the last 4-5, missing 3. I ended up missing a total of 21 questions, scoring a 39 on the section. The questions were definitely MUCH more difficult than on the GMAT Prep Tests and much more difficult than on the actual GMAT test I took on the 19th. I was somewhat discouraged and panicked at my score, but decided to just work even hard to make up for it.- MGMAT CAT 2:
I wrote the Quant section of this test the day after the last one, after having reviewed my mistakes from the day before. This time, I decided to just answer the questions I had the time to do, being that I didn’t see a point of just guessing. I wasn’t going to learn much from that. I ended up scoring a 39 again, this time only being able to answer 32 questions and missing a total of 16 out of those. Again, I was feeling pretty frustrated, especially since my test day was looming ever closer.- MGMAT CAT 3:
I wrote the full CAT 3 test the day after my last Quant section, after having reviewed the mistakes on both prior tests. Once again, I only managed to answer 32 questions in time for Quant, but I did end up scoring a 41, missing 15 questions out of the 32 I answered. I scored a 36 on Verbal, answering all the questions with 20 minutes to spare. I missed 18 questions on Verbal, which was quite a shock to me. Overall, I scored a 640. With the test but two days away, I was pretty worried being that I couldn’t finish the Quant sections and that my scores were nowhere near where I wanted them to be. After coming on these boards and reading around though, I felt more comfortable knowing that these tests were somewhat harder than the real thing and not necessarily representative.- MGMAT CAT 4:
I opted to write another full test the day before my actual test date. Not sure if this was the best choice, given that many people say to rest your brain the day before the test, but I was pretty anxious with my scores so decided that I could use the practice. I scored an overall 640 again, with 40 for Quant and 37 for Verbal. I once again didn’t manage to finish Quant on time (only answered 30 questions), and missed 14. I missed 16 on Verbal, finishing the section with 12 minutes to spare. Definitely wasn’t happy, but I reviewed my mistakes and told myself that everything would be fine.
During these tests I had finished reading the SC MGMAT book
, as well as skimmed through the 5 Quant MGMAT books
again, taking down notes for things to remember/memorize. Ended up with 1 two-sided page of notes for review.
For AWA, I read through this post 4-5 times, and that was pretty much it: how-to-get-6-0-awa-my-guide-64327.html?highlight=AWA+TemplateDay Prior to Test Day
As mentioned, I opted to write a full practice test the day before my actual test day. Once again, if you’re feeling comfortable with how you’ve been scoring and what you’ve learned, I would suggest taking this day off to relax and let your brain “regenerate”. To each their own however, so do what works for you. In retrospect, I don’t think it hurt me to have studied the day before the test. I did make sure to do it early in the morning and not to do too much. I wrote the test, reviewed my mistakes and that was it. Took the rest of the day to relax; rented a movie, chilled with friends and got my mind off the GMAT. I told myself I was ready and that I’d do well. After all, even if I didn’t, it wasn’t the end of the world.
I did make sure to drive to my test location that night just to make sure I knew where it was and how to get there. The added stress of getting lost on test day is definitely not going to help, so if you can, drive out a day or two before your test just so that you don’t have to worry about anything unnecessary the day of.Test Day
On test day I made sure to get a good amount of sleep (8 hours) and get up well before my test. The test was scheduled for noon, so I got up around 8 or 8:30 AM. Had breakfast, watched some sports highlights, surfed the Internet a bit. I did re-read my 1 page of notes once, as well as the AWA post I linked to above. Just to refresh my memory.
I then had something light to eat (sandwich and a banana) and drove out to my test. I made sure to leave early in order not to come late (traffic and all that). Again, avoid any unnecessary stress if you can. I picked up a bottle of Gatorade on my way there and ended up showing up 45 minutes early. The lady at the desk told me they had no seats yet, so to come back in 15-20 mins. I decided to take a walk, being that it was pretty nice out. The whole time I tried not to think about the test very much, as well as tell myself that I was ready and that I would kill it.
Got back to the center around 11:30 and they had me read the rules and then checked me in. It was very straight-forward and didn’t take more than 5 minutes. I made sure to hit the bathroom before the test, as well as drink some Gatorade.
I took both my optional breaks (they were 8 minutes each) and made sure to go to the bathroom, drink some more Gatorade and splash some cold water on my face. I would put the whole section I had just wrote out of my mind and tell myself that I would kill the next one. Every section was a whole new ball game. Even if I thought I did poorly on the one before, I told myself “screw it, just kill the next one and you’re golden!”The Test
I sat down and during the instruction period I made sure that both of my markers were working properly. I was also given headphones (to block out sound) and earplugs, but I decided not to use them. The choosing a program and all that jazz was very straight-forward.
The AWA section went pretty well. I made sure to structure my essay based on the advice in the thread I linked to, and tried to use a lot of structural words. I had never written any AWA sections before and had never practiced with the added 60 minutes, but I felt comfortable with it regardless. It was somewhat hard to come up with 3 compelling reasons for each of the two essays, but I think I managed pretty well. I finished the Argument section with about 5 minutes remaining and so had time to re-read my essay and review. Finished with about 90 seconds to go. The Issue section I finished with about 8 minutes left and again reviewed and re-read the essay.
I took my break, went to the bathroom, splashed cold water on my face, took a few deep breaths, had some Gatorade, looked out the window to relax, and then went back in for the next section.
Quant was my worst section and I knew it. It started off pretty patchy, as I took about 4-5 minutes just to answer the first question, and I ended up half-guessing it. It discouraged me for a second and I started to panic, but I told myself to relax and just go with it. It’s not the end of the world after all. The rest of the section went okay. A few questions tripped me up a bit and I half-guessed a couple, but overall it went MUCH better when compared to my MGMAT tests, so I was content. I didn’t think I killed it though. I finished with about 4-5 minutes left on the clock.
I again took my optional break and did the same routine. Put the last section out of my mind and told myself I was going to kill the Verbal stuff. It was my stronger section and so I wasn’t too anxious about it. I was just a bit worried for the SC questions, but I went in there confident.
Verbal went by as usual. Nothing too crazy and pretty in line with what I had seen on the GMAT Prep Tests. A couple of the SC questions I wasn’t sure about, but I tried to remember what I had read in the SC MGMAT book
. It helped. I finished the section with about 8-9 minutes to spare.
I finished my test, not really knowing what score I would get. I was hoping for anything above 700, but I would have even settled for 680-690 given my most recent scores on the MGMAT CATs. I filled out the personal information again (the parts that weren’t already filled out) and asked to see my scores. I can’t even describe how relieved and happy I was when I saw the 760 and the pretty even split (Q 50, V 42). 99th percentile was MUCH more than I had hoped for. I exited the exam, got my paper and went on my way. Called my girlfriend, let her know that I wouldn’t be studying all summer to retake the GMAT and then drove down to my school to get my transcripts forwarded to the MBA programs I had selected.General Comments/Advice
I read on another post on these boards (gmatclubbing-administered-770-50q-45v-86239.html
) that eating a banana, drinking Gatorade and splashing cold water on your face had a certain positive effect as far as testing went. I’m not sure if it did or not, but it definitely didn’t do me any harm.
For those getting discouraged with the MGMAT CATs, please don’t. They are MUCH harder than the real test. They can be really good practice though, as if you can kill them you’ll probably not have much trouble with the real thing. I might suggest doing them untimed in order to really grasp the problems and understand them thoroughly. I kind of regret doing them timed and rushing through some problems. The Kaplan
test I took was somewhat useless in my eyes and I’m happy I decided not to take any more of them after the first. The GMAT Prep Tests were the best simulators for me and came by far the closest at mirroring the real test both score-wise and flow-wise.
I definitely recommend the MGMAT books
for Quant. I can’t vouch for the Verbal stuff, but I’ve heard very good things. The OG books are also indispensable. For any Law/MBA applicants, if you scored well on the LSAT, you probably won’t have to worry about RC and CR too much, being that RC and LR are much more difficult on the LSAT than on the GMAT.
My best advice overall is to just go in there confident. Forget about what the test counts for, forget about what you’ve been scoring (if it wasn’t strong), just write the test and ask yourself, what’s the worst that can happen? So you fail miserably and have to take it again… big deal? Try and relax on test day as much as possible. Find whatever works for you and go with it. I posted some anxiety advice and how I tend to deal with mine in this thread: experiences-strategies-overcoming-test-anxiety-93090.html
Finally, try and not take the test until you really feel prepared for it. It might sound funny given my score, but I didn’t feel as though I was 100% ready for it. This may be due to the fact that I had studied much more for the LSAT and felt much more prepared for that test, but regardless. Try and take as much time as you need in order to study and be as confident as possible on test day.
Good luck to everyone on their tests! You can do great if you believe it! Don’t be shy to ask me any questions you may have.