I took the GMAT for the second time today, but I only found this board a few days ago. The questions here really helped me a lot these last few days leading up to my exam though.
First of all, a little history...I took the GMAT for the first time in October of 2001 and scored a dissappointing 660 (47q, 34v). I was really hoping for 700. In preperation for my first try, I took the Princeton Review 6-week class and found that it was only of marginal use. I scored a 640 on their diagnostic and only improved 20 points on the day of the exam. Luckily, my company footed the $1000+ bill.
Most recently, I decided to use Kaplan
's CD-ROM and the Kaplan 800
book along with PowerPrep. I found that the CD-ROM was especially challenging and helpful. The Kaplan 800
book wasn't any more helpful, but I didn't know of any better guides at the time. I scored a 700 on the Kaplan
diagnostic and a 570 and 610 on their 2 practice tests. I also took 2 Powerprep tests and scored 710 and 720.
What was surprising was my experience today. I flat out ran out of time on the quantitative section. I freaked out on some questions and spent more than 5-6 minutes solving them each. On some questions that I knew how to solve, I couldn't figure them out and had to resort to guessing. The pressure of the situation totally got to me and as a result, I had 10+ questions left with only 3 minutes remaining!
During the break, I was doubtful if I'd break my 660 score from 2 years ago. I knew that to salvage the exam I'd have to ace the verbal portion. I had hope though since on my practice exams, I was doing well, but was inconsistent.
Once the verbal section started, I was much more comfortable, answering SC questions and CR questions without any problems. I saw all the ETS tricks come out as I moved through the section. The only questions that I had a concern about was a RC question or two and maybe a couple of SCs. (Hint...don't follow Princeton Review's RC method...it sucks...use Kaplan
In the end I still thought my scores would be about the same as when I took it in 2001, approximately 660. I would have removed a school or two from the ETS distribution list if I had been given the choice after my exam. However, my score appeared and I was absolutely amazed:
Quantitative 47 82%
Verbal 45 99%
Total 740 98%
What shocked me was my verbal score compared to my quant. I'm an aerospace engineer with a Master's in engineering from a top school. I'm not supposed to score that well in verbal. Math is supposed to be my strength!!!
Anyhow, here are my lessons learned:
1) Get the first questions correct....especially for quant. I randomly guessed on the last 10 quant questions and still got a 47.
2) For critical reasoning, imagine yourself as part of the conversation or discussion. Most of the answer choices will sound rediculous if you imagine someone saying them as part of an argument.
3) Study Kaplan
math, since it seems to be the hardest.
4) Ignore Princeton Review's reading comprehension method of not reading the passage. Instead, thoroughly read each passage. This includes taking notes about each paragraph and why the author wrote it. The more difficult questions will require you to integrate information from different areas in the passage to come up with the right answer. This cannot be achieved unless you understand the passage well.
5) Study idoms for sentence correction. They seemed to be a VERY popular topic for testing.
6) Use correct grammar in everyday life and analyze every sentence that anyone says to you (in your head) or that you read for grammatical correctness and meaning.
7) Sign up for an afternoon exam so you'll get plenty of sleep the night before.
8) Visit the test site a couple of days before your exam so you won't be stressed out trying to find it on exam day. I also got to know the procters a little bit and they remembered me when I came back two days later. I was definitely put at ease when the woman smiled and remembered my name when I walked in on test day.
9) When you first sit down at the ETS computer on test day and after your breaks, do a "brain dump." Timing will not start until you start the exam, so take advantage of the time to relax and write down everything that you just crammed into your brain...(e.g., equations and diagrams for quant, idioms and other rules for verbal)
10) Take care of your body. Eat lots bananas (they have a chemical - other than potassium - that helps your synapses (sp?) fire.) Also, make sure you're well hydrated a few days in advance since that helps brain function too.
11) Finally...a CAT exam is supposed to make you feel lousy since it increases the difficulty until you can no longer handle the problem. Both times I took the GMAT, I felt that I totally bombed the quantitative section only to do fairly well.