I’ve been a big fan of the GMATClub Forums for months now, sometimes posting, mostly lurking and just seeking out insight and advice. I’ve been dreaming (and working hard) to accomplish 2 goals: conquer the beast that is the GMAT and post about it here My History:
I took the GMAT back in early September with too little prep and the results weren’t pretty (450 – the details are ghastly). It felt like I got killed. I couldn’t finish the Quant section and staying focused in the Verbal section was just impossible. Round 1 Admissions were out of the question. I wanted to go to a Top-10 School (or at least a Top-20) - that’s when I decided I needed some real help, so I started doing research. My Study Materials:
There are so many options that it was a little overwhelming trying to figure out which ones to use. I actually started off with this Forum and found it a great place to return to whenever I got stuck (since it seemed like almost any question that I had had already been answered here). Here’s what I opted for:GMATClub Forums
: Too many resources here to list. Bunuel is a machine!13th Official Guide
: It’s cliché, but this book is a must have.Veritas GMAT Video Course App
: The instruction was good and I learned a lot.Economist GMAT App
: I picked up this app on a lark and really ended up liking it a lot. I used it to drill and stay sharp (at lunch, waiting in line at the supermarket, etc.).ManhattanGMAT Guides and CATs
: I read through most of them, and found the SC Guide really helpful. I agree that the CATs feel a little harder than the real thing, but they helped me get mentally ready for tough stuff.CATs from MBA.com
: Everyone already knows about how useful they are.
I wanted to give myself enough time to prep and still have a safety net for Round 2 deadlines, so I scheduled my next GMAT for right before Thanksgiving. During September and October, I kept my studying as consistent as I could:
1-2 hours on weekdays (with Fridays off)
4-5 hours on weekends
For those 2 months, I kept a positive attitude and worked hard. Some tips that I found useful:
1) Studying early in the day (when it was light out) was helpful.
2) Except when I took CATs, I took a break every hour or so to have a snack and stretch my legs.
3) Having a quiet place to study helped. Cut out all the distractions if possible.
4) Be ready to learn some new strategies and ways to approach questions.
My score slowly improved and I started to figure out the little mistakes that I was making when I took a CAT. I found that type of review to be really useful. On my last couple of CATs in November I scored 610 and 630. Clearly better than before, but I was out of time and I had to take my GMAT. I was hoping for a bit of luck on test day, but I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised though:
620 (Q39, V36, IR4)
I still had pacing problems in the Quant section (had to guess on the last 6 questions) and caught a really nasty RC passage in the middle of the Verbal section that was really tough to figure out. I left the test center knowing that I was stuck. I’d been scoring in the low-600s for weeks, but that score wasn’t going to be enough for me to apply to any of my dream schools (NYU/Stern, MIT/Sloan, Chicago/Booth).
Round 2 is early January for most of the schools I’m interested in, so I scheduled my last GMAT for the end of December. The pressure was on and I only had about 5 weeks left to study AND work on applications. I wasn’t sure what else to do so I started looking for anything that would help me get over the final hurdles without making everything more complicated than it already was. I ended up picking up some additional resources:The 2 extra CATs from MBA.com
: $40 for 2 CATs seems excessive, but I decided that the goal was worth the extra expenseEmpowergmat Score Booster
: I read about it on a GMAT Review website, liked the free trial and set up an account.
For the next month, I followed that program and my score jumped. I hit 670 on my very next CAT and my scores went up from there. It seemed like a different way to look at the GMAT, it was exciting and I found it easy to repeat what I’d learned. My pacing problem actually disappeared.
On the day of my final GMAT, I felt nervous, but good. I did everything that I’d been practicing in December:
1) Eat breakfast
2) Do some warm-up questions just to get in the mindset
3) Bring snacks and drinks x 2
4) Sit up in the chair
5) Take LOTS of notes and stay organized. GMAT questions are sometimes layered, but most are NOT that tricky.
6) Follow an Essay Template (lots of GMAT companies and websites have them) and write about the obvious flaws
7) Don’t get bogged down by IR.
8) Do something physical on your breaks (I ran sprints in the hallway, I’m NOT kidding).
9) Learn which questions matter and which questions don’t and be prepared to dump a few on purpose.
10) Breath deeply.
At the final prompt, it felt like time just stopped. I clicked submit and….
740 (Q49, V41, IR5)
Now I’m finishing up my Applications with an admissions expert that I really like (and isn’t too pricey) and I’m looking forward to some “down time.” For anyone who feels stuck, I am living proof that it’s possible to get unstuck, relatively easily. Keep working hard, stay positive and seek out help when you need it.