I recently wrote the GMAT and had always planned to write a debrief after my exam. I have found the resources on this forum to be very helpful and it has contributed a big part to my success. I've never posted but I have lurked on these forums a lot for the past 2~3 months and would like to contribute back with my experience and thoughts of the exam. Summary
Time spent studying total: 2.5 months
Time spent studying verbal: 1.5 month
Time spent studying quant: 1 month (after verbal)Background
To give you some background I am a recent engineering undergrad (of less than 4 years). I kicked off my GMAT studying term by doing the GMAT OG
diagnosis and while both quant and verbal needed work, it was clear that verbal would be my achille's heel. Study MaterialOG12
Quant: GMAT Club Math Tests (critical
CR: PowerScore CR
SC: MGMAT SC
RC: MGMAT RC
Using this forum I researched which books I should use and tried to formulate an attack plan by reading through other people's experiences with their study journey. What I ultimately settled on was a combination of OG material and MGMAT/PowerScore for the verbals as I had read a lot of great feedback about those particular guides.
I believe that the OG would give you a good sense of the nature of the questions (and also a lot of them) whereas the CR/SC/RC are really there to provide the fundamentals. From the SC/RC guides I was able to learn a lot of new concepts which gave me some very helpful new perspectives on SC/RC questions.Quant
Even before I started Quant I was very confident with this section due to my background and didn't think much about it (although the first few mock tests I wrote gave me a strong reason to work on this section) . I found that being comfortable in mapping equations quickly really does help you in this section and it is something worth practicing. When I initially wrote the mock tests I got destroyed in both sections and quickly realized I had to put some effort in Quant. What I found really helpful was using the GMATCLUB tests
. I have to say this is one of the main factors in helping me achieve my Quant score. It's not that the theories or the fundamentals are particularly difficult to grasp, but it is really seeing the tricks and getting into the groove of how to methodically answer questions. Doing the GMATCLUB tests
will expose you to a variety of tricks and give you a realistic expectation of what to see on the actual exam.
When you do these tests you will perhaps learn new tricks and consider things that you hadn't before. For example, I learnt to be very careful in my assumptions that I make in Quant questions. If a question does not state something is an integer, I do not assume it is an integer and vice-versa. If it does not say it is non-zero, non-negative, etc. I do not assume so. While this sounds intuitive, if you are not actively keeping this in your mind you will no doubt make a mistake on the actual test at some point. The biggest challenge in Quant was DS and through these GC tests I became much more comfortable in doing DS questions.
I would recommend against
wasting too much time on OG Verbal
. I did not feel the questions were nearly as challenging as those on GC tests and they were definitely easier than the actual Exam.
Finally, the MGMAT mock tests are a great help to you which I will cover more below.Verbal
Verbal was a challenge as I had to learn new completely concepts and apply them. Quant was different in the sense that I had already learnt the fundamentals and was looking to learn the tricks of the trade. I found that the SC and RC books were most helpful. The SC books will give you a fairly comprehensive understanding of SC rules tested on GMAT and the RC books will help you breakdown RC questions through methodical steps. While I did not apply RC as much as I should have I did pick up some neat tricks which definitely help. For example, did you know that when you are asked to find the assumption, you can find the answer by reversing the wording of each 'answer' and looking for the 'answer' that weakens the argument? Doing a lot of RC questions will also help give you a good feel of what a correct answer 'feels like'. It will be much easier to detect answers that are irrelevant once you have done a lot of RC questions.
I strongly recommend at least using the MGMAT SC
and PowerScore CR
if you need to brush up on the fundamentals and then use the OGVerbal for a big supply of verbal questions.
One thing I did notice was that even though I had read the books and done a few questions I was nowhere near where I wanted to be. The books are not magical and you really have to actively apply the concepts to achieve the results you want. I found that by doing mock tests I was able to look at the concept being used and actively study the different categories of SC being tested. (What is the modifier modifying, look at tenses, look at plurality, etc.) This helped me practice for the real thing. On the exam I was able to critically assess the concept of SC being tested and SC went from being my worst Verbal section to probably my best.
I don't have much to add for RC. You will find many opinions on this board about what the right strategy is and it seems to be quite controversial. What I found worked for me was just reading it properly and understanding the information right the first time. You really have to balance reading with enough detail to get the gist while reading fast enough to stay on timeline. The MGMAT tip was to pretend you really love reading whatever you are reading. At the beginning of every article try to believe that you love this subject and you should have better absorption of the material..(supposedly)Making My Study Plan
- Did OG Diagnosis
- Gave myself a really smug look for doing decent in Quant
- Read SC/RC/CR books
- Did my first GMATPrep and did really poorly (low quant and verbal) (frowny face.. most of this was because I was not use to the timing but also did not do any quant studying)
- did a month of GC tests with MGMAT and GMATPrep tests
sprinkled in between to measure my progress
- quant was picking up and verbal picked up slightly too
- finally achieved mock scores I was happy with in the last 3 tests
As I have mentioned Verbal was my weakness and I had made my study plan to focus on Verbal first. I spent the first 1.5 months learning fundamentals and when I put them to test I got shot down. I repeat again you must learn to actively apply learnt concepts to do well in verbal, and especially in SC.
Mock Test Progress
GMATPrep1: 660? Forgot the spread
MGMAT 1: 690 (q43, v40)
MGMAT 2: 690 (q46, v38)
MGMAT 3: 710 (q48, v39)
GMATPrep2: 680? forgot the spread... I was really frustrated with GMATPrep and my studying as a whole as I was not reaching my target and the test date was nearing..But I realized that I needed a really quiet testing environment and I tried not to get too discouraged.
MGMAT 4: 720 (q48, v40)
MGMAT 5: 730 (q51, v39)
GMATPrep3: 760 (q51?, v42?) I blamed the inflated score to repeated verbals..but there were barely any repeated quants
MGMAT 6: 780 (q51, v45)
GMATPrep4: 780 (q51, v47) many repeats for verbal and took the score with a grain of salt..Although it me a false sense of confidence.
It is imperative you buy at least one of the MGMAT guides
as it gives you access to 6 MGMAT CAT tests. The first 2 MGMAT tests will make you cry in quant and overall they are trickier than actual GMAT quant. But if you're ready for MGMAT quant you should be ready for GMAT quant. I also found that the MGMAT verbal felt inflated..Many times I barely/didn't finished the test and still got a 39, 40 in verbal. I didn't take the MGMAT Verbal score too seriously. I recycled 2 GMATPrep uses near the end of my study cycle and found that while verbal questions showed a few repeats, the quants were still very fresh. Some people squeeze the life out of the GMATPreps for all questions, I used it to gauge my performance, it is really up to you on how you want to proceed.
When you are studying be sure to google the answers of the questions you get wrong and what fundamental steps people took to get the right answer. If you practice this enough you will develop a good habit and the tricks to solving tough questions. When you google the questions you should try to stick to answers either on GC or on the MGMAT forum, I found these 2 forums to be the most helpful in explaining why something is right or wrong.Test Day and Days Before
I read on here about some preparations people do a few days prior to writing the test. At this point I hope you have your timing down and you are just looking to stabilize and maintain you score. I wrote my last 2 mocks on the last 3 and 2 days, giving me a lot of confidence as I had undeservingly score 780's (repeated verbal Qs).
The last few days leading to the exam I also made sure to regulate my schedule, waking up at the same time, drinking coffee at the same time, and eating at the same time, to insure I knew exactly how my body would behave on test day. I even took a day off work to make sure this pattern was uninterrupted. Preparation is key, you don't want to be getting washroom urges in the middle of your test.
The last day before GMAT I took the advice of some forumers to relax and do nothing. I ended up looking at different schools and watching the Matrix..and like 10 episodes of Community.
Get enough sleep.Test Center
- ID, no phone, no other junk
- 2 granola bars, 1 water
- bring a sweater (it was pretty cold)
Hope for the best.
In all honestly I thought I had done much worse on the Verbal, but I was extremely relieved when I saw my score and made some calls after I left the test center.Final Words
It is important to remember a few things:
- actively apply concepts (only by doing a lot of questions, and reading GC/MGMAT forums for the questions you get wrong are you able to get better at this)
- get comfortable with timing, and stick to the timing on test day. (don't change things up last minute)
- give up questions if you have to, to stay on timing (there are other people that talk about this on the forum)
- try to be relaxed, as panic will severely cripple your verbal (I felt like my heart was beating 180 for 4 hours and I definitely didn't feel A game but try to the best of your ability to suppress the feeling of panic and truck through it.)
That pretty much sums up my experience. Overall I feel that the length of study I put in was just right (just a bit over 2 months) although the total hours I put in Verbal could have been more effective (was not efficient until I booked my test date). I hope my experience will help you in making your study plan and how you approach problems. I'm glad this process is over and I am having a beer as I type this.
Anway to those of you who are still studying I wish you the best of luck.