I just took the actual exam for the second time yesterday and scored a 740 (49Q, 41V), just wanted to share my story to y'all as evidence of hard work paying off. Just a heads up, it's long and probably self-indulgent, but that's what forums are for.
I first took a practice test about 6 months ago, and scored about 550, I forget what the breakdown was, but something like 40%ile for math. Bad news bears. I went to a great university but I work in film/tv on the creative side, so I haven't used any kind of math since 2003. So my struggle was primarily going to be with the math, which I'm sure some of you guys out there can relate to.
A month of practice later my next practice test was 650. An additional two months after that or so, I was fluctuating somewhere around 690-700. Still a respectable score by all accounts except that my quant was consistently low 70%ile.
I took the test for real about 2 months ago, scored a 690 with something like a 65%ile in math and 94% in Verbal. Obviously really happy with the verbal but still pretty unhappy with the math, because I knew I could do better. Work ramped up and I kinda had to put test prep on hold for 3 weeks or so.
After the break, my practice exam scores jumped to fluctuating around 730. Not sure exactly why, but my thinking is taking a break allowed some things to sink in better. Anyway, took the test again yesterday and got the result I originally set out to achieve. Reflecting on it, here are my thoughts for people just going down this road and aiming for a 700+ score:
(with the caveat that this was just my experience, I hope yours is better
1) Realize that you're going to have to sacrifice a lot of free time and put part of your social life on hold. Work permitting, I'd do a couple hours a night and maybe squeeze something into lunch break if I was feeling more ambitious.
2) Plan on doing way more problems than you think you'll need. In my case, I did the OG math twice, ManhattanPrep adv math twice, some veritas prep
, 9 practice exams I think. Moreover, spend some time analyzing the problems you missed and rework those multiple times if necessary.
3) Figure out why you're getting certain problems wrong asap. If it's conceptual, review that subject again maybe. I struggled with probability and stats a lot until I did several hundred problems that focused on just that. I also had a tendency to just do dumb things in arithmetic or overlook something. Slowing down is sometimes good and coffee doesn't help with math.
4) Work on understanding the problems then work on speed.
5) Take as many practice exams as it takes until you're comfortable with the timing. For the first 6 tests I continued to make the dumb mistake of getting lost in solving a problem only to get in wrong in the end anyway.
6) Personally, I think ManhattanPrep's stance of "giving yourself a fair shot at each problem" is bogus. Know your range. When I ran into problems that I knew I could solve but were clearly high 700 level questions, I just guessed and moved on. Save time for the ones you know you can get.
7) DONT GIVE UP. Seriously. I thought I had hit the wall, too. Instead of giving up entirely, consider taking a break for a couple weeks or something. Go reconnect with friends. Do anything but think about DS questions. I may be an outlier, but in my case it did a world of good.
8) Plan on taking the real test twice. The test centers use palm readers and all sorts of additional security and that kinda freaked me out for some reason. Nervousness probably can affect your score in a big way.
9) DON'T GIVE UP. I think the claim that "everyone hits a wall" is probably not entirely true.
Some thoughts on study materials:
1) Manhattan Prep
is in my opinion the best. In particular the Adv math book. Also a good bargain when purchasing a book also gives you 6 CAT tests, which later become the most important part of practice. The practice banks were not great but at $5 a pop, it's not a terrible deal.
2) OG is worthwhile if nothing more than a great one stop shop for review.
is kinda meh. The 800Gmat book was a waste.
4) I think focusing in on areas of specific weakness is super key. I bought some overpriced problem sets from GmatHacks, which were great for just doing tons of problems involving stats.
All in all, I think I worked stupid hard to get the score I got. It's probably not even necessary for everybody and I hope you can find a faster, easier way to get the score you're looking for. That said, I really can't emphasize enough NOT TO GIVE UP. Best of luck to you all.