I hope that this post gives encouragement to those preparing for the GMAT. Achieving a 700+ can be done, no matter how bad you might think you are.
This is my first post re: GMAT on these forums, but I have been a long time lurker of this thread. There is much knowledge to be gained from many of the bright posters in this community, and I know that reading and internalizing some of the concepts taught here has helped me get the 700.
So, how do I get a 700?
Well, the path to a 700 hasn't been entirely "methodical". I was lucky to acquire the following study materials from my friends who had taken the GMAT before I did, and I strongly recommend these:
1) GMAT Official Guide
, 11th edition
2) GMAT Official Guide
, Quantitave Review
3) GMAT Official Guide
, Verbal Review
4) Manhattan GMAT
Prep series (only need the books for your weak areas - more on this later)
5) GMATPrep CAT (free when you register at MBA.com
6) any other CAT series (Manhattan GMAT
, Cambridge, etc.)
First and foremost, you must take the diagnostic test in the GMAT Official Guide
. Go at your own pace when answering the questions. No need to rush yourself at this juncture. Once you have completed this diagnostic test, you can go over your answers and find out which areas are your weak ones. From this, you will then determine which Manhattan GMAT
Prep books you need to purchase.
Write down your weak areas and strengths. I cannot emphasize this enough. You need to write this down, because it is easier to internalize visual information. The thoughts going around in your head are useless unless you accompany them in the written form.
Now, you have a written record of where you stand from the beginning. And, now you can determine a plan of action on how to best allocate your limited time and resources for attaining your best score on the GMAT.
Before I go any further, I must say that your study plan is at the mercy of your current schedule AND your own discipline. In my opinion, it's not how long you study, but it's how "hard" you study. I gave myself 6 months total time to get ready for the GMAT. However, I only studied "hard" for a small fraction of that time. If I had to count the hours, I think I studied for no more than 60 hours in total. But, my studying consisted of bursts of 10-15 hours for a period of a couple days and then a very long break betwen the next "session". To be honest, I was very unorganized in the grand study plan, but when I studied, I focused all my energy into it. This worked for me, because I had the time available to study at great lengths of time for a few days straight. This might not work for everyone, so it's important to tailor a plan to your unique circumstances.
Remember, it's not the amount of time spent studying. It is the quality of studying that matters.
So, you took the diagnostic test, and you found out which areas are your weak ones. Focus your efforts on the weakest areas first in your study plan. You need to review the Manhattan GMAT
Prep books, because these will help give you the tools and "rules" you need to master the material. Go by the book! It's designed the way it is for a reason. Make sure you do all the sets for each chapter. Review every incorrect answer, and understand where you went wrong and how to get it right the next time. Keep a record of your errors. This is how you gain the fundamental concepts, which is what you need for the real GMAT. Without the fundamentals, you are screwed on the GMAT. Will you be happy guessing your way to a low score? On the other hand, with the fundamentals, you will have the confidence and tools to enable you to select the best answer choice.
After reviewing all your weak areas, you should then take the 1st test of the GMATPrep CAT. (I took this 2 months prior to my acutal test date). This is an actual GMAT, so it's your best guage of how you would do on the real thing. Make sure you do the AWA portion, and try to take the test at the same time you will your scheduled appointment. After completing your CAT, you will have an accurate assessment of where you stand. Review your scores and assess your weak areas once again. Unfortunately, when you review your incorrect answers, there are no explanations. This is the only flaw about this CAT, but most of the time you will be able to figure out where you went wrong. Refer to your Manhattan GMAT guides
After your first CAT, you've had a real eye-opening experience for how the real GMAT will be. It takes a lot out of you. If you found yourself running out of time on the quant or verbal sections, then you know that you need to improve on your speed. This is another key component to the GMAT. Fundamentals is one, and speed is the other. Instead of just allocating the standard 1 1/2 to 2 minutes per question, why not just give yourself 15-20 minutes for a block of 10 questions? This is what I did on the actual GMAT. However, in order to improve your rate of speed, you really need to time yourself per question. You can do this when you do the sets from the Manhattan GMAT guides
in addition to the Offical Guides' sample questions. You may not get the right answer or any answer in the alloted 2 minutes per question, but what you gain is the experience of performing under pressure. After all, the GMAT is designed to test you under pressure, so you need to develop the skills and hard-skin to perform under pressure.
As you continue through your studies, you should aim to take at least 5 CATs in addition to the 2 CATs from the GMATPrep CD. The CATs are the only true way to mirror the actual testing environment. Always review your errors and keep a log of your weak areas and/or how you got them wrong in the first place. Answer the questions you got wrong again, as if you were taking them for the first time. Yes, it's hard to do, but try to go through the steps of obtaining the best answer. Remember, it's all about the fundamentals.
Once you've thoroughly gone through your weakest areas and taken several CATs, you will begin to feel more confident about yourself. If you're not feeling confident, then you're not ready for the GMAT, so you need to study some more. I cannot stress how important confidence is for the GMAT. You really need to go into that test feeling your best and "knowing" that you're going to get that 700+. The psychological aspect of the GMAT doesn't get a lot of attention, but I will elaborate on how important I think this is to helping you get the best score.
When you feel frustrated and think things can only get worse, most of the time it does get worse and you become more frustrated. When you believe in yourself and think about the positives, you are able to perform at your peak. This is not easy, but you need to visualize yourself scoring high. I told myself going into the GMAT that I would get a 760. OK, now was that a realistic goal for me!? No, but I had believed it anyway, and I really think that "knowing" I would score that well (because I had the fundamentals down), I gave myself the essential psychological stimuli of "positive thinking yields positive results."
Let me back up here a minute, because I might have just lost you there. On my GMAT Prep CATs I scored a 640 (Q39, V40) and 690 (Q39, V44). I took these tests spaced about 2 months apart. I took the 2nd test the week before my real GMAT. I could not believe my quant score had remained the same, as I had mainly studied quant, which was my weakest area. I probably dedicated no more than 6 hours of total study time on Verbal, because I just happenned to be strong in this area. I believe this had to do with my strong foundations in English grammar. I have a Bachelor's and Master's in History/International Relations, so I have written many a paper. With that said, my quant was still weak, and I had only a week to go before the GMAT to boost my abilities.
In order to achieve this, I basically did as many problems as I could in the Official Guides. I simply had extended hours of time to sit down and do questions, review answers, etc. for hours on end I don't recommend this path for those with a busy schedule. In the last week before the GMAT, I studied nearly 20 out of my total 60 hours. And, remember, those 60 hours were spread over 6 months. Effectively, I focused 1/3 of my study efforts in the final week remaining before the GMAT. For some reason, I have this ability for performing better under stress/pressure. Not everyone can do this, so you must assess your own strengths and weaknesses before trying to imitate my study habits!
With one week to go before the GMAT, I knew that I could score a 690 on the real deal as evidenced by the 2nd CAT of the GMATPrep CD. This made me happy, becuase I had always wanted a 680+. However, when I knew I could attain a 690 (even though my quant remained the same), I "knew" that I could also attain a 700. I needed to boost my quant! And why stop there? I "knew" I could attain a 760.
Now, again, you might be laughing at this, but I can't stress how important it is to go into the GMAT with a very positive state of mind. I knew it would be a stretch for me to score a 760 on the real GMAT, but I still "thunk it" anyways. I kept visualizing it and repeating it to myself. I effectively "deluded" myself into thinking I would score a 760, which made me going into the test feeling very good.
Now, going through real GMAT on test day is another deal! I felt I was doing OK on the AWA. I got a 4.5, which is not too hot, but I don't care. It's good enough and it's not going to kill me, when I have a 700 overall. But, when I was going through the quant section, I felt I wasn't doing so well. Perhaps, I got put on the difficult track, which would then of course make the test "feel" harder. Without knowing which range I was primarily tested, I do know that I was able to weather the quant section, because I knew the fundamentals. There were some questions I spent a little too much time on, but I made up for it on others. This is how my 10 questions per 20 minute rule worked to my advantage. Oh, and one other thing. I made absolutely sure to try and answer the first 10 questions as correctly as possible. I know there's a myth about the first 10 questions, but it is true that the first 10 set your range for the rest of the quant section. So, I spent close to 22-23 minutes on the first 10 questions, breaking my own rule, but I wanted to ensure that these 10 questions were answered as correctly as possible to ensure I was on a medium to difficult track, which would ultimately lead to a higher quant score.
I can't say much about verbal, because I really never had major problems with this section, and I was pleased with my performance from the start. The key is to review the Manhattan GMAT guides
because they give the best tools to get the best answers.
Jeez! My post is getting long. Well, I better wrap this up soon, because I'll lose your attention soon enough.
Bottom line: Fundamentals, speed, and positive thinking. Quality,not quantity.
Lastly, respect the Red Bull and Vitamin B pills!
All the best on your GMAT,