Sorry it took so long to post this, I got a little busy and have not had time to type lately. I feel I owe it to those on this list to give a detailed account of my GMAT experience. Sorry for the length of this post, I just want to give enough detail to be helpful.
I took the GMAT for the first time on April 15th. I scored a 720 (Q: 46 V: 42) and IтАЩm extremely pleased.
Several people asked me to describe what I did to get a high verbal score so I'll try to be helpful regarding verbal advice. As my quant score is not nearly as high as other peopleтАЩs on this forum, IтАЩll leave that advice to others. My math skills were very rusty (13 years out of college) so IтАЩm pretty pleased to have done as well as I did on the quant section.
First, IтАЩd like to describe how I prepared. I have some strong opinions about the prep material and the prep methods. Please be aware that these are only my opinions and others have done very well on the GMAT by doing something different than I did.
I started my prep on Jan 26th after buying the PR тАЬCracking the GMAT
.тАЭ In my opinion, unless youтАЩre one of those people who is going to ace the GMAT no matter what you do, you would be crazy to take the test without reading this book and understanding it thoroughly. The strategies and tips in this book are outstanding and give you the proper mindset to tackle the questions. My only complaint about this book is that it caused me to be overly concerned with getting the first questions on the test correct and did not facilitate me developing the proper timing on the test. More on that later.
Next I bought both the PR Verbal and Math Workout books. These were pretty good and gave me some more practice, especially on my weak math skills. (I was literally having trouble just doing long division and remembering my multiplication tables!!)
Feeling pretty good at this point, I downloaded the PP tests from the GMAC website. I took the first test and scored a 530. Timing! I was so worried about getting the first questions correct, that I did not finish either section and guessed on literally the last 10-12 questions.
At this point I had to leave on business for two weeks. This is not good for your studies. DonтАЩt take time off if you can avoid it. When I returned, I felt like I was almost starting from scratch.
OK, after my first PP test, I knew that I needed more help. I bought the Kaplan
book and CD and went through the entire CD. I found the book to be pretty useless after the PR book, but the 100 Math Concepts section was very good for review. I did the entire CD-ROM. It was good to get more practice on computerized questions.
I took the Kaplan
diagnostic test on the CD and scored 630, mainly (I realize in hindsight) because I worked quickly and answered all the questions.
I took the Kaplan
CAT 1 test and scored 510! Yikes! I was freaking out. I had heard that the Kaplan
scores were low, but only by 100 points. Giving myself the extra hundred points would have me making a 610 on the GMAT and that was not going to work for me. My chosen schoolтАЩs median GMAT score is 670. Again, it was a timing issue. I had to guess on the last 10-12 questions and this is not the way to do it. More study, more review, took the Kaplan
CAT 2 and got a 530. Same problem. TIMING!
OK. I felt I needed to study the OG in order to really make progress towards a high score. But, knowing that the PP tests use OG questions, I really wanted to take the next PP so that I could move on to studying the OG without tainting the results of the test.
Took PP2 and scored 570. Timing again!
At this point I wanted to dive into the OG book and get a feel for how the real questions were written. I cracked open the OG and worked the first 50-75 PS questions with the vision of doing every question in the entire book. This didnтАЩt last long.
A few days later I was speaking to a friend of mine and she mentioned that she had an MBA and had used the PR online prep material to prepare. She endorsed it highly. I went to the PR site and checked out their pitch. Basically they wanted $500 for a comprehensive online course. $500!? ThatтАЩs a lot of dough! But I asked myself, тАЬWould I pay $500 for a higher GMAT score if I took the test and didnтАЩt get the score I wanted?тАЭ The answer was clearly тАЬYes.тАЭ I paid for the online course and got 4 tests and some pretty good online instruction. I spent the next 2-3 weeks going over this material in depth.
Analysis of the PR Online Course- Pretty good actually. Lots of good practice answering questions on a computer and more fun than reading a book. A lot of it was redundant after the books and other practice I had done. The explanations about CR and some of the PS/DS groups, probability and standard deviation questions were good. Overall, I would recommend this course to anyone who needs to improve his or her score. The practice tests alone are worth it in my book. However, donтАЩt waste your time on the practice problems in the companion guide they send you. Your time is much better spent working on real OG questions.
My timing problem- Up to this point all my practice tests kind of sucked because I was really concerned with getting all of the first questions correct. To exacerbate my timing problem was an ego problem. I am not the kind of person to give up easily. During the course of my life, IтАЩve learned that if I put in more effort than other people I will succeed. I donтАЩt give up when faced with a challenge. Have you ever played that game Free Cell on your Windows operating system? I will start one of those games and stare at the screen for 30 minutes before giving up and quitting a game I canтАЩt win. ThatтАЩs the way I operate. On these practice tests I was operating the same way. тАЬIf I only think about this problem a little more, I know I can get it rightтАж. I have to get the first questions right in order to get a good score.тАЭ Ego. ThatтАЩs all it is.
Lesson- Give up your ego! No matter how smart you are youтАЩre going to get a question on the GMAT that will stump you. 99.9% of the people who take the GMAT miss at least one question. There is no shame in this. If you get a hard question, guess. Move on and answer the next one. ThatтАЩs the game. It took me a long time to learn this.
Before you start the PR Online course youтАЩre supposed to take a diagnostic test. This is actually a free test that anyone can take by visiting their website. I remember the feeling I had that day. I felt like I didnтАЩt really care. I just wanted to blow through the test so I could get on with my studying. With that mindset, I answered every question on that test within the time allotted. This was a first for me. I guessed on a lot of questions and just made a point to work as quickly as I could. I scored a 660 on that first test!
This was a breakthrough for me. The secret of getting my timing up to speed. I missed a lot of questions and even missed the first question in the verbal section, but my score was the highest I had seen. It was then that I realized that the test was about answering all the questions, not only about answering the first few correctly. (Sorry, but this took a long time to hit me.) TimingтАжit all started to make sense to me.
It was about then that I found this website. As I worked through the PR Online course I also was reading information on this site. Somewhere I saw someone suggest the idea of timing yourself on every practice question in order to improve your timing skills. I started doing this and it REALLY works. If you donтАЩt do it already, time yourself every time you work a problem. You need to develop an innate sense of how long it is taking you to work a problem so that youтАЩll know when to give up and move on if youтАЩre spending too much time.
Working through the PR Online course, they intersperse practice tests. My scores on those were markedly better than any previous attempts because I now had the proper mental attitude for success. My scores were as follows:
Test 1: 690
Test 2: 710
Test 3: 690
Test 4: 710
At this point I was getting really burned out on studying. I was spending 4-6 hours a night on this and it was starting to wear on me. I was getting antsy to take the real GMAT. I had another long business trip coming up (about 2.5 weeks in length) and I knew that I absolutely had to take the GMAT before I left on that trip. But, I had not even scratched the surface of studying the OG yet! The PR Online course assigns various practice questions from the OG, but the order seemed random. I had kept track of the questions IтАЩd missed, but had failed to keep track of the questions I had completed.
On this site, I found a link to the MBA Game Plan site http://www.mbagameplan.com/
where I downloaded the very useful Access database that categorizes all the questions in the OG. This is an outstanding resource!! I will attribute as much success to finding this tool as to any other thing that I did. I had 2 weeks to study before my trip so I used the database as my exclusive tool for practice with the OG. If you havenтАЩt downloaded this yet, you should. In the database, the authors have gone through and categorized every question in the OG by its difficultly level. I knew that with a limited time to study I would need to concentrate on hard problems exclusively. I sorted each question type in the database by difficulty level and started studying only the questions that were ranked as тАЬhardтАЭ questions. This was great! I also added a column into the data table to log my errors: whether it was timing, not reading the question properly, or mostly for me, arithmetic errors.
Now, realizing that timing was the key to my success, I studied under strict time constraints. I also realized that I needed practice solving different question types back-to-back under simulated test conditions. I developed what I call the тАЬMini-Blaster.тАЭ The Mini-Blaster (just a fun name I gave it so it would be more interesting to me) is a short test of only hard questions from each category of question contained in the OG done back-to-back in a set amount of time.
Using the database, I would pick 3-5 hard PS questions, 3-5 hard DS questions, one RC passage, 3-5 hard SC and 3-5 hard CR. I would allocate 2 min. for each math question and 1:47 for each verbal question. Add in a few random seconds for flipping through the pages, find the total time allowed, set a timer and go to work. Each Mini-Blaster would take 30-45 minutes and I would then thoroughly review the answers to each question (especially the ones I missed) while they were fresh on my mind. The whole process would take about an hour. I would then record my errors in the database so I could review the questions I missed later. I would also record any question on which I spent too much time.
Working in this manner I completed all the тАЬhardтАЭ questions in each category (except the RC section.) This comprised about 30-40% of all the questions in the OG. It was now getting really close to time to take my test but I had yet to sign up. I logged in to the GMAC website on a Sunday and signed up for a test time for the coming Thursday, April 15. I continued to do Mini-Blasters all week and made a point to review all the quant problems I had marked for review in the database. I used Wednesday (the day before my test) to read the PR тАЬCracking the GMAT
тАЭ for advice on the AWA section.
I knew I needed to sleep well that night so I went to the gym and worked out hard for about an hour and a half. Went to my local steakhouse, had a huge steak and baked potato, drank two 24oz. beers, went home and went to sleep.
Next morning I woke up, fired up my PP program and practiced writing my essay on that crappy word processor they make you use. I knew from my practice (and using the database to log my errors) that my most common errors were due to not reading the question carefully. Careless errors! Next most common problem I had was getting fooled by the trap answer choices. Before I left to drive to the test center I wrote on a piece of paper the following.тАЭ 1. READ the QUESTION CAREFULLY! 2. The most common WRONG answer choices are there just waiting to TRICK YOU!тАЭ I took this paper with me to the test center. I donтАЩt know if it helped me, but it seemed like the thing to do.
The test went well for me to say the least. I guessed on what seemed like a lot of questions in the quant section. I was surprised that not many of the questions allowed for the tricks of "backsolving" or "plugging in" like I'd practiced so much. Like many others, I only had one easy probability question early on and super easy standard deviation question.
The verbal was very straight forward. Back-to-back RCs early, but the questions were not that hard. I made a point to focus completely on the passage and never let myself think, тАЬOh, this is boring.тАЭ I read with the authors intention in mind. SC questions were not too bad. Almost all of them were grammar questions (as opposed to idiom questions.) CR (to me) was easy. I had always done well on that section.
In the end I was not sure how I did on the test. I had finished each section just in time, although I had to rush some in the middle of the quant section. I accepted my score thinking I would score somewhere around 600-620 on the test. When I hit the enter key and saw that IтАЩd scored 720 I was frankly stunned! This was better than any of my practice tests!
Lesson: (And everybody should know this by now) There are about 30% experimental questions on the test that donтАЩt even count towards your score. You can guess on a lot of questions, think youтАЩre doing really poorly, and still do well on the test!
I hate to say this, but I really donтАЩt have any tips for you folks wanting verbal assistance. It is something IтАЩve always been good at. I write every day and edit a magazine as part of my job, so (although IтАЩm not a grammarian) I deal with words a lot. This is the same as you engineers who think the math section is easy.
My one tip for the verbal is to make a grid for your answer choices on your scratch paper before you start the section. If you spend 2 seconds writing A,B,C,D,E each time, thatтАЩs 82 seconds that you could use to answer a question on the test. Make a grid on you scratch paper before you begin. Then, on a CR question, read the question first and determine what it is asking. If you are supposed to find an assumption, put an тАЬAтАЭ above the column you are working on. If you need to find the conclusion, put a тАЬCтАЭ over the column. This helped me stay focused on what I needed to know when I was picking answers and allowed me not to be confused into picking the opposite answer (a favorite trick of ETS for CR.)
Also, I hate to say this too, but ETS is really, really good at what they do. They write tests that determine a personтАЩs true ability level accurately. If you retake a test, ETS data shows that your score will be about the same as before. RC and CR questions are in this category. These questions test your ability to read something and understand it. How can you study this?? If you are not good at reading and understanding, you cannot just practice a zillion questions and get better, you have to be able to read and understand better. This is a lifelong skill, and one that admittedly comes much easier to native speakers. Once you learn the question types, the patterns that ETS uses on these verbal questions and how to answer each of these question types, thatтАЩs about all you can do in a short period. DonтАЩt mean to be negative, but ETS data backs this up. Get the concepts, donтАЩt stress over practicing until youтАЩre sick of it.
SC is a skill. You can develop this by learning the rules much like the quant section. If you need to improve your verbal score, SC questions are where you will be able to make your gains. Read all the PR material on SC. This is the best resource as far as IтАЩm concerned.
In hindsight, I feel that the Kaplan
material sucks. ItтАЩs boring and generally poor. Use the Kaplan
CD to practice the quant section. DonтАЩt event bother with their verbal. It is poor. Kaplan
seems to rely on tricks to make their questions hard such as changing the units they require for the answer (тАЬHow far did she walk in 2 hoursтАЭ when you were solving for 1 hour.) Also the Kaplan
RC is ridiculous. Anyone can make a really hard RC passage by using obscure vocabulary. The real GMAT is very straight forward and a standard high school vocabulary is sufficient for this test.
And hereтАЩs the one I really hate to say because there is so much good information to be gained from this site and it has helped me so muchтАжтАжDonтАЩt spend too much time answering the questions on this forum. Many, many of them are just plain BAD questions from some unknown source. People from around the world post extremely poor GMAT style questions to this site and there is hardly anything to be learned from those who answer these. тАЭIt is CтАЭ is not a discussion of a math or verbal concept. (Yes, I fell into doing this too.) This is not helpful. DonтАЩt get me wrong, there are some great questions and great discussions here. There is just way too much of the bad stuff. Beware. Use this site for a distraction. Log in and answer some questions for fun and to keep your mind sharp at work. Also, use this site to ask a genuine question if you have one. You will get a genuine answer. But if youтАЩre looking for practice, just be aware that there is really no substitute for the REAL GMAT questions found in the OG. This is what you need to focus on.
That said, I have gained tons of valuable information from this site. Thanks to all of you who contribute and work so hard to keep this thing going!! The most valuable information was from posts like this one (although IтАЩve yet to see one this longтАж..)
Best of luck to all of you out there. This is only a test, itтАЩs not life or death or anything too serious. Study hard and have fun!