I’ve read many of these and wished to one day write one myself. I will tell you my story and provide recommendations that may be useful for you to achieve your GMAT goals.
Before I begin, I want to make one thing very clear – if I can do it, YOU can do it. It takes a lot of dedication (especially on weekends), patience, and mental toughness. Your results and performance will have their ups and downs, stick with it…do NOT give up.
I graduated with my Bachelors in 2011, as a graduation gift my father gave me the “Official Guide to the GMAT” (along with a down payment for a brand new Mustang). After finally completing school, and enjoying my new job, the last thing I wanted to do was study for the GMAT, so I put it off for a while.
I began studying January of 2013. I started with the Kaplan
GMAT overview as my first book. This gave me a great refresher on concepts and is a perfect introduction to the GMAT. This book however, does not go into the detail necessary to succeed on the test.
I then bought the Manhattan set and took my first (Manhattan) practice test and it was a shocker…much more difficult than expected and the results showed with a score of 570.
I tried my best to go through the Manhattan books
but did not have the discipline to really focus and get through the set. For this reason, I signed up for the Veritas
class around June. It cost me ~$1600, quite easily my worst investment ever. The class covered very basic items, the instructor was not very helpful, and the books did not live up to the Manhattans.
I went back to the excellent Manhattan set and started going through the OG12
(yes almost 2 years after my father gifted it to me). I started to build confidence and completed two GMAC practice exams – scored a 690 on both. I signed up for an exam in August 2013 hoping to break the 700 barrier. That did not happen, I scored a surprising…690.
If that shows you something, it’s that the GMAC tests are fairly accurate. I took countless Veritas
and Manhattan tests, they were pretty terrible. At times quant section was very easy, and at times it was impossible, likewise with Verbal. My scores ranged from the 590s to the 720s. The GMAC tests are awesome, remember it is the official test!! It will be the most accurate. Use the other exams to practice timing, but when you are ready to get a good indication of your score…take the official practice test.
Anyways, I was not too pleased with the 690 and wanted to take the test again. I took a few months off and started back up January of 2014. My test was scheduled for mid-Feb so I had about 6 weeks to refresh my memory and improve my score.
I worked hard, no -- extremely hard. I spent many evenings after work at Starbucks doing practice problems and every weekend likewise. I bought the question pack as well as the 2 new practice tests. I retook my old practice exams as well as the news ones during the weeks before the exam. My practice scores were the following:730/730/700/710. Based on my past experience regarding the accuracy of these exams, I was very confident heading into my exam.
However, I made a HUGE mistake, I burnt out. The week before my exam, my work schedule was going crazy and any free time I had I spent doing practice problems. I became a machine. The worst mistake I made was the day before the exam. I worked from 7AM to 6PM, and was very stressed out. I took a 2 hour nap, woke up around 8PM and suddenly felt very uncomfortable about my exam. I felt that I did not give the necessary time to review concepts and felt very nervous. After eating dinner I frantically began doing a lot of practice problems like a mad-man till 1AM. Remember, this was the night before my exam.
My brain was not fresh. I was tired and grumpy. Regardless, after scoring 700+ on four practice exams I was confident. At the end of my exam my score popped up…660.
I was devastated. Although I felt much more prepared, I scored 30 pts lower in Feb 2014 than in Aug 2013. Miserable. I didn’t think I could do it. I thought the practice exams were a fluke and my confidence was at an all-time low.
I am lucky to have the support of my family and friends. They all told me that the 660 was a fluke, not my practice exams. They told me to take it again, ASAP.
I listened. I signed up to take the test as soon as I could, 3/28. I did not even open my GMATPREP software till about 2 weeks before my exam. I was taking it very easy because I had learned my lesson about over-working. I knew the concepts, I had done every problem possible, at this point my ability was my ability. During the two weeks leading up to my exam, I did 20-30 problems every few days to stay sharp.
Yesterday, going into my exam I was confident but still uneasy because of my last exam. I felt the real difference during the verbal section. Opposite of my exam in February, this time I felt fresh, my brain felt energized, I was able to concentrate. I completed the exam and almost broke into tears seeing the 740. It was one of the best feelings in the world.
practice test 1 (July 2013) – 690
practice test 2 (Aug 2013) – 690Official test (Aug 2013) – 690 (Q49/V34)
practice test 1 retake (Jan 2014) – 730
practice test 2 retake (Jan 2014) – 730
practice test 3 (Feb 2014) – 700
practice test 4 (Feb 2014) - 710Official test (Feb 2014) – 660 (Q48/V33)
Practice test 3 retake (Mar 2014) – 750 Official test (Mar 2014) – 740 (Q49/V42)
1) Manhattan Books
are awesome. They cover majority of the concepts in solid detail.
2) Manhattan website has some really good tutorial videos by Ron Purewal. Watch the videos that focus on your weaknesses, it will help you.
3) Do as many practice questions as possible, at the very least complete a majority of the official questions from all the different sources (OG, Question Pack, practice exams).
4) However more importantly, give each question its justice. Review every single problem, incorrect or correct. If you get a question incorrect, learn why. If you get a question correct, see if there is a faster method to solve the problem. Search the problem on Google and you will find the question listed on gmatprep or manhattan forums – only review the answers by user Bunuel on Gmatprep, or Ronpurewal on manhattan, these guys are godly experts.
5) GMATprep forum has great practice questions. Some are very hard, but after going through many questions, the hard-level Official questions seem easier. Utilize this. Trust me, it’s a great resource.
6) Re-do problems you haven’t done in a while. Keep all your answer sheets organized. It is great to go back and see if you got the same problem incorrect few months earlier. If you did, that’s a good indication you did not learn a certain concept.
7) On that note, make sure you know the basic concepts that are tested like the back of your hand. Do not just memorize formulas, but understand the true concepts behind each.
8) Lastly, understand that this is a process, stay patient and stay focused. Do NOT give up. I was about to give up after my 660, and if I had…then I wouldn’t be writing about my 740 today. That being said, I would say be realistic. If you have not put in your due diligence and you are scoring lower that your goal on the practice exams, then work harder. You will have to earn the score you want, and the higher your goal the harder you will have to work.
Good luck to all. I truly wish you all can achieve your GMAT goals. This is an awkward test in many ways but the feeling of success when you finish is amazing. Work hard, make the tough sacrifices to allow time the necessary time to study. Make use of your weekends to study. Focus. Kill it.