So I realized about 3 months ago that my path had meandered in such a way that I would probably need to take the GMAT at some point. My first deadline is December 1st, so I scheduled my exam for Nov 15 and started preparing about a month beforehand. First I took the GMATPREP1 to get a sense of the structure and content of the test.
I scored a 590 (Q37 V34 or something like that). I reviewed my results and checked to see if my errors were due to silly mistakes, or due to lack of the necessary knowledge needed to do the problem. For the problems that I didn't know how to do, I figured out how to do them. If it was too difficult (after 10 minutes I wasn't making progress) or seemed counter-intuitive (and therefore difficult to learn) I didn't bother learning how to do it.
About a week later I took GMATPREP2 and scored a 630 (Q39 V37) with no additional studying. I did the same thing as before with questions that I'd gotten wrong.
Then about a week later I retook GMATPREP1, I had also done about 2 hours of quant practice in between out of the quant OG
. I scored a 670 (Q43 V39).
A week later I retook GMATPREP2, having done another 2 hours of OG quant
questions, and I got a 730 (Q47 V44).
Then the night before the exam finished up the 300 questions in the quant OG
and took and retook GMATPREP1 again, and scored 700 (Q44, V42). Then I went to bed.
I woke up (at 5:30, gross), went to subway, devoured a toasty yumrocket, grabbed a coffee, hit the road, and got to the test center around 7:30. I sat in my car and listened to the radio for 15 mins, then went inside and got injected, inspected, detected, infected, neglected and selected.
The proctor led me to my seat, and I made myself at home. I pulled the keyboard and mouse cords out so they had maximum reach, set the keyboard on my lap, and slouched back in my chair. (exactly what I'm doing right now, and exactly what I was doing when I took the practice tests)
First came the essays, I jotted the instructions down on to the pad before I hit next, then typed away as though I was writing, say, a lengthy post on a forum. I wasn't trying to be perfect, I was letting my voice come through in my writing.
I finished, raised my hand, and took a nice break. I highly suggest peeing, its pretty relaxing. Then I went back in to start the quant (p.s. allow about a minute for your proctor to log you back in, sometimes they forget their own names and passwords). Robbed of 19 seconds, I immediately freaked out and answered 20 questions in 11 minutes. That, or I settled back into my usual reclined position and started in normally, I can't remember which. I skipped question 3 because it looked pretty mean, and would've taken me at least 4 minutes to do. The section seemed pretty normal, I was getting difficult, but answerable questions, so I figured I was either doing well or was bombing completely, definitely one of the two.
I finished up quant, indulged in another excellent bathroom break, and settled back in for the verbal. The RC passages were all about stuff that sort of confused me (used unfamiliar jargon, etc.) but I answered them as best as I could. Finished it up, got to the report/cancel score screen, wondered why anyone would ever cancel and throw away a perfectly good measurement of themselves, and hit next.
I was happy with what I saw. 710 (Q47, V41), about the average of my last few practices. Also, I had tied my best quant, which is the more important section, as well as my weakness if I have one, so I was very happy with the distribution.
I think people spend too much time worrying about studying how to do problems. It would be like sitting there studying how to steer, then studying how to shift, and then how to properly wield the gas and break petals, then how to use the mirrors, then traffic laws, then k-turns, then parallel parking, master all of these in isolation, and expect to do well on their drivers test. Practice the test, not the content. You'll pick the content up as you go. I spent a total of about 25 hours preparing for the GMAT. How much do most people spend slaving over practice questions and concepts that are out of context and don't prepare them for test conditions?
My second bit of advice is people need to relax. Not just during the test, although certainly that's a big part of it, but in their outlook on the GMAT in general. The GMAT is meant to measure if you have what it takes to be successful in grad school or not. You either do or you don't. Familiarize yourself with the test, make sure you've got a good percentage of the basic concepts down, and go let the test do it's job: recognize your ability.
These two points beacon the argument that some people can just walk in and do their best, while others will need hard work to bring out their true potential. That isn't true. No one walks in cold and does their best. There is simply a ceiling effect. Someone who walks in cold and scores an 800 got a "perfect" score, but if they'd prepared they'd have done better, gone faster, and been 99.9999999 percentile instead of merely 99.99 percentile. EVERYONE improves from practicing, and at a more similar rate than you may think. It isn't the rate of improvement that varies greatly between individuals, its their starting points. You just need to find practice that works for you.