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Practice CATs - How often and how many?

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Practice CATs - How often and how many? [#permalink] New post 26 Jun 2009, 17:59
After reading various online guides and many topics on this forum, I was under the impression that it is best to take as many practice tests as you can possibly handle before taking the real GMAT. The logic is pretty obvious: build up your stamina, simulate the test environment to reduce anxiety, figure out weaknesses, etc.

However, this morning I was reading Jeff Sackmann's GMAT Tips over on gmathacks.com, and he recommended something completely different. Sackmann recommended taking very few tests, just two to three, stating that your time would be better served working, analyzing, and reworking timed practice problems than taking actual CATs.

I have counted and found that I have about 50 days of 2-4 hours study time and about 15 days of 1-2 hours study time before my test. Thanks to the donation of materials from a friend, I also have the following CATs available:

2 - GMATPrep
6 - Manhattan GMAT
6 - Kaplan 2009 (online)
4 - Princeton Review 2009 (online)

Originally I was planning to dive into these CATs and take one every two to three days for preparation (in addition to working OG problems, reading the MGMAT guides, etc.), but after reading Sackmann's article I am not so sure anymore.

What are your thoughts, is it better to work CATs or practice problems? (or a combination thereof?)
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Re: Practice CATs - How often and how many? [#permalink] New post 26 Jun 2009, 20:29
Expert's post
You should not need a ton of tests - taking 4 hours at a time is quite taxing.

I got 750 with 4 Kaplan Tests, 4 PR and 2 PowerPrep tests.
I think it is important to study the concepts and REVIEW very carefully, keeping an error log, and then AFTER you are done with the math or verbal section - it is great to start taking CAT tests but only for that section.

Then, a few weeks before the test, it is good to start taking full tests with AWA and train yourself how to pace yoruself and handle 4 hour tests - this was my most hated part about GMAT (i liked the overall experience though).

I believe I took 3-4 CATS at the end - the rest were taken section by section.
I also took a PowerPrep (download PowerPrep) the day before the test (same time as i would have at the test center) and took the rest of the day off. This was my test simulation experience....
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Re: Practice CATs - How often and how many? [#permalink] New post 27 Jun 2009, 02:34
I tend to agree with Sackmann's philosophy, but I probably lean closer toward bb's advice. If you're using CATs to benchmark your performance, 5 is probably sufficient. If you're looking to build stamina, 10 is probably sufficient. Some people would recommend that you take as many possible, but it's really a matter of preference. What I don't like about taking lots of tests is that you can't spend that time strengthening specific weak areas.

Of the CATs you listed above, I would recommend doing each GMATPrep at least twice in addition to your MGMAT CATs. This will provide you with 10 CATs if you only do the MGMAT CATs once each. Although I believe this should be sufficient, it will really depend on your specific needs. I think it's a great idea to take a CAT at least once every two weeks, but probably not more often than once a week. Do it whenever you think you've made significant gains.
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Re: Practice CATs - How often and how many? [#permalink] New post 27 Jun 2009, 05:32
As I have said a few times, I took a lot of tests. But, it's not a strategy that I would recommend across the board. Stamina really was my weakness and I do feel like it helped me, but it did not help me get better at solving problems (at least not the way a real study plan would), it just helped me build endurance.

If you are worried about endurance, 4-6 weeks out spend your weekends doing CATs and then a week out from the test date only doing review, sort of like you might taper for a race.
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Re: Practice CATs - How often and how many? [#permalink] New post 27 Jun 2009, 10:28
I also took a ton of CATs and I have to say that I completely disagree with Sackmann on this. My endurance wasn't good enough and I solved that problem by working as many timed tests as I could. On the other hand, it is my learning style and maybe it is not applicable to you. Try and figure, you have to find your own way.
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Re: Practice CATs - How often and how many?   [#permalink] 27 Jun 2009, 10:28
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