Hi! Have been lurking in the forums all the while, but thought I'll share my GMAT journey over here. Just gotta say a huge thanks to the amount of resources on GMAT and b-school applications that can be found on the forum.
I started my GMAT journey last year when I decided I would like to apply to business school. Did my first GMAT in July 2010 and scored a 670 (Q45, V36). The main question I had was whether I should retake or not. It was to me a decent enough score to get me into some of the programmes that I was looking at, but my goal was to hit 700. However, things happened, life took over and I decided to push my study plans back by a year.
Fast forward a year later to July 2011 and I realised that b-school applications were opening soon. Decided to give GMAT another go - for the chance to prove myself and hopefully put myself into scholarship contention for some of the MBA programmes that I was looking at. I signed up for the test for 1 Oct initially as all the later dates were taken. In the end, I actually rescheduled my appointment twice and finally took my test on 2 Oct 11 in the afternoon. When I saw the score on my screen earlier, I couldn't stop grinning like a Cheshire cat! I actually hit 730 (Q49, V41)! (still in a bit of disbelief and I keep checking my printout from the test centre.)
I actually had less time to prepare for the second test as compared to the first. For the first one, I actually took a few days off work before the test to focus and prepare. But this year, I was really very busy at work the past few months and I couldn't really take time off work to prepare. As a result, I tried to squeeze out whatever time I could, but sto;; I found my revision unproductive at times. I just felt like i was chugging along slowly. For me, the issue is that the GMAT tests one's understanding of concepts. It is not a content-based exam where one can just study for it. As such, there are times where I felt I was getting nowhere. But I thought I'll share my prep and what I thoughts helped me this time round -
=====================Preparation -Materials use
1. Official Guide 12
- Absolutely important. I didn't finish all the problems in the book, but did majority of them. As mentioned by many others, this is the closest the what you get on the exam.
2. Critical Reasoning (CR) Bible - I think this is a good resource for someone who doesn't know what CR is all about. It gives concise explanations on the various question types for CR and how to identify them. It also teaches you how to identify the argument and what the premises of each CR is. Again, I didn't go through the whole book given the lack of time as I thought that it would be better to practice rather than read about how to do it.
3. Flashcards - I downloaded the flashcards for my iPod touch from Beat the GMAT and Manhatten. Quick way to refer/practice on the go.
4. Practice tests - I think it is important to do more than 2 CAT (given by the GMAT prep software) to prepare for the GMAT. While there are other free GMAT tests available (GMAT Club, Veritas
), I had exhausted most of them when I studied for my GMAT last year. As such, I purchased the set of 6 CAT tests from GMAT Manhatten - GMAT Prep
- Only two sample tests - did the first one three weeks before my test and didn't score very well (about 650 I think). The thing is I found some of the questions very familiar - might have encountered them when I was either doing the OG, or when I prepared for my 2010 exam. Decided to keep the second one for the day before the test as a last revision.
In the mean time, I did three of the Manhatten tests
in between and scored 600 plus -
1st - 620 (Q40, V35)
2nd - 660 (Q43, V37)
3rd - 650 (Q40, V39)
I was not very happy with my scores above cause they were lower than my first GMAT score. And the bad thing is I only attempted these tests the week before my GMAT and I seriously panicked at the thought of doing worse on my second test. Just to note that I had an issue with the Quant section of the Manhatten test as I could never finish the section within 75 minutes.
What I liked about Manhatten - you have a rather comprehensive analysis of your scores. The review page would tell you what score range the questions were in. With that, I could tell that I was not getting a lot of the 700-800 questions correct.
I think it is important to review the explanation and answers for the practice tests taken. I tried to go through all the questions (even if I got them right) to see if my reasoning was the same as the official explanation. When doing the Verbal, instead of just picking the right answer, I also reasoned why the other answers were wrong. I felt that this allowed me to identify what the common mistakes were. I know I have a tendency to be careless so I made it a point to slow down and tried not to rush.
When I finally did the GMAT prep last evening, I scored 730 on it. It was a good morale booster, but I also had to psych myself to downplay the importance as I didn't do very well on my previous tests. I didn't want to be overconfident and underestimate the test.
I called it quits after attempting te second GMAT Prep test and ensured I had enough rest that night. Had breakfast/brunch and did 15-20 of the harder Data Sufficiency and Problem Solving questions from the OG. I wanted to do some problems to 'warm my brains up'. Had some hits and misses, made quite a few careless mistakes, but shrugged them off and headed for the test venue.
Reached the test venue early (1215 hrs), did my registration and was told to return 5 minutes before the scheduled start time of 1300 hrs. Took the half an hour to flip through the Beat the GMAT flashcards. It was not so much about memorising the points made, but took them more as reminders.
Went back at ten minutes to one, sat at the waiting area and just tried to clear my mind. Went into the test room and the journey started -
Analysis of Argument & Analysis of writing - Haven't gotten the scores yet, but thought they went okay. I prepared for the Analysis of Argument by looking through some of the sample essays and noting what were the common points we could use to criticise the argument as flawed.
Took a break after the essay section. Proceeded for the Quantitative - I honestly had no idea how I was doing at that time - and I think it's best not to try and 'guess' the level of questions that were given, but just to do whatever that comes. However, was running short of time towards the end and had to guess on a couple of the last few questions which were data sufficiency.
Went out again after the quantitative part and tried to clear my head. Went back in for the verbal. It was doable, but again, had no idea how I was doing. I think I received 5 RC passages and I remember when I saw the 5th one, I almost panicked as RC was one of my weaker areas. While I usually have more than enough time for the Verbal section, I actually ran out of time towards the end today.
Well, and before I knew it, the exam came to an end. went through the personal data forms, felt super nervous and almost shouted for joy when I saw my score. On hindsight, I definitely think I could have worked harder. Would my scores have been better? I wouldn't know.
============ What I thought was better this time around
Scheduling the test - Find a time where you are comfortable taking it. I'm not a morning person so when I saw that there was a 1300 hrs slot available, I rescheduled the appointment without much hesitation.
Make use of the breaks - I made it a point to leave the room during the 8 minute breaks. Try deep breathing/meditation/stretching or whatever you can do to clear your mind. Take a walk even if you don't need the washroom.
Try to minimise careless mistakes - It is easier said then done, but I just tried to focus on the problem and ensuring I have not made any stupid mistakes. I personally don't think there is a point memorising what the different type of issues or question type are, but instead build on reasoning what the flaws are and why were options wrong. And I think lots of practice help.
Have adequate rest - I made sure I had enough sleep (another perk of doing an afternoon paper)
Believe - You have to believe that you can do it. Of course, preparation is important, but you also need to be confident.
Experience - I think I was more calm this time compared to the last time and the experience of having taken it once helped. But that said, this should not demoralise first time test takers. Afterall, we've taken many different exams in our lives. Being mentally prepared helped. The interface for the GMAT Prep software is similar to what we get on the actual test.
Ok, that's all folks! Thanks for hearing me out! Next step for me - applications...