I'm fairly new here, so first off I'd like to say that I really wish I had found this place sooner! Lots of the stories and people here are nothing short of inspiring, and it's giving me lots of confidence that when I do go to business school, I'll be in good company.
I wanted to share my GMAT story because my results fly in the face of a lot of the advice you hear about the test (i.e. "you need to study 20 hrs/week and take a prep course to do your best"). I want to make clear that I think it's entirely possible that the way I prepared is not the best for everyone, or maybe even anyone. However, since I ended up with a score I'm very happy with on my first try, I thought others might take some comfort in knowing that success comes in a variety of ways.
My cold stats: 760 (49Q/44V/6.0AW)
My materials: Kaplan
GMAT800, The Official GMAT guide
My test prep: The first thing I did was to take the paper diagnostic in the official GMAT guide. That gave me a good overview of GMAT question types. I did this about three months before my test date, on a weekend.
I work 8-5 at a university, with an hour for lunch. Basically, I studied probably 4 days a week either during my lunch hour, or in a coffee shop somewhere right after I got off work, or on the weekend. I would do a few questions at a time, then eat a bit, then do a few more questions, etc. I alternated between the two books pretty much at random, although I did make sure I got pretty much all the way through the GMAT800 book by the test date. I tried to pay especially close attention to things I was rusty on (geometry, for one).
About a month before the test, I kept up this routine, but on weekends and not-so-busy evenings, I started doing multiple problems in a row (i.e. stringing 15 together without a break). I didn't time myself, but I did try and concentrate on doing problems as fast as possible without making any errors.
I should note that I took the GRE last year, so I was pretty familiar with the CAT format already. If I hadn't been, I probably would have made more of an effort to take at least part of a practice computer test (I have a Mac, so the official software doesn't work).
About a week before the test, I eased up on my studying. I took the test on a Saturday, so I took Friday off and just read a book and watched some TV. I got about 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. I ate eggs and toast for breakfast, and a big salad for lunch. Then I went to the test center, did the fingerprinting, etc., had a good stretch, and took the test.
This is totally not supported by any science, but I think a lot of my success stemmed from the fact that I was willing to spend 30 seconds on some questions and 5 minutes on others. By test day, I had done enough test questions to be able to recognize a tricky question from a straightforward one. On the straightforward ones, I trusted myself enough not to check every answer. On the tricky ones, I often went through the whole question twice, or tried to find an alternate way to check my answer. I know that a lot of guides say "no more than 2 minutes per question," but I think if I had practiced like that, it would have torpedoed my score.
I also attribute my success to being relaxed during the test. No worrying about work, no hunger pangs, nice stretched-out muscles, and a fresh brain. I think this alone is worth months of studying. It's hard not to worry about the GMAT, but in fact, worrying is probably detrimental to your score. So I trained myself to stay relaxed.
Anyway, I'd be happy to share more about my prep with anyone who is interested. Feel free to PM me, and good luck everyone!