I took the gmat test for the first time on April 1st and have been pretty busy since then but I found the debriefs on this site useful so I promised myself that I would post one when I had time to reflect on the gmat experience.
I'm not sure how useful my experience will be for others though since I didn't study for very long (relatively speaking) and I have always done exceptionally well on standardized tests. Not trying to brag, just want to let you know so you can see if you think my tips are right for you.
I decided to go to business school sort of late in the application season so I only had 3.5 weeks to study. I wasn’t working at the time though so that allowed me to concentrate much more than if I had still been working full-time. Here is my recap.
Final Score: 750 (Q-49, V-44, AWA 5.5)
Prep Materials: Official GMAT Guide 12th Edition, Official GMAT Quant Guide, Kaplan PremierDay 1-5:
Bought and read some of the Official GMAT Guide just to understand what the test was all about. Also read some general gmat tips on the internet so that I could create my study plan.
Note: The "gmattutor" site gave me some good info. I modified it to fit my needs but it provided a good framework.
I decided to do a handful of practice questions in each category of the official guide and then take the first official GMATprep practice test to see where I was at.Day 6-13:
Took the official gmat practice test and scored a 700 (Q-43, V-44). I was surprised that my verbal was so high because I thought that would be my weakness and also surprised that my quant wasn’t higher because I thought that would be my strength. I carefully reviewed each question and found that many of the quant problems I got wrong were due to careless mistakes.
I decided to also purchase the Kaplan
GMAT Premier 2011 book mostly for the strategy tips and the practice tests.
For the next week I spent about 2-3 hours per week day (split into two different sessions so that I didn’t get fatigued) completing the practice questions from the official book and the Kaplan
book. Day 13-20:
I took the first Kaplan
Prep practice test and scored a 650 (Q-42, V-40) and was pretty happy because I read that their test scores are usually much lower than the official scores. The Kaplan
practice test was still a little helpful but I started to notice that their questions just “felt” different than the questions in the official guide. After working with the official guide you can sort of get a feel for what they are looking for and their overall tone. I decided that the Kaplan
questions were throwing me off a little so I stopped studying with them.
At the same time I noticed that the data sufficiency questions were my biggest weakness so I needed to work more with those questions. I went to the bookstore and read the DS tips in the Princeton Review book and then bought the Official Quant Review so that I had extra DS questions to practice with after I finished all of the ones in the big Official Guide book. Day 21-23:
I was doing better overall on the DS questions and was feeling much more confident overall. I continued to study and then completed my second, and last, official GMAT practice test four days before the actual test. This second test really helped a lot with my timing. I scored a 720 (Q-46, V44) but could have done better because I took too long on a couple of difficult quant problems and had to rush at the end.
It was a great final lesson because it showed me that estimating the difficulty of each quant question is just as important as completing it. That’s because, in my opinion, the test makers want to see how good of a test manager you are and not just how good you are at answering quant questions. So you have to think strategically about the test. Day 24-25:
I studied a little bit the morning before the test but then took the night off and went to see a movie, which was a very helpful tip that I read online. The morning of the test I went to the gym as usual to get my blood pumping and my mind sharp. I only worked out for 30 minutes though so I wouldn’t be tired during the test. I did some light reading while waiting at the test center to get my eyes used to the text and then it was time to get it on.During the test:
The one procedural mistake that almost cost me a lot was not taking the second break. I didn’t want to take the first break because after my essays I felt like my brain was rolling quickly and I didn’t want to lose my momentum. I felt the same way after the quant section so I skipped that break too but it was a mistake. About 5 minutes into the verbal section I was reading a long passage and my vision got blurry because I was staring so intently at the screen for so long. I almost panicked but I stopped, closed my eyes, and titled my head back for about 30 seconds. After that things were better but it was a close call.
After the test I felt I did well but wasn’t sure because it was all a blur so I was shocked when I saw that I got a 750! (Q-49, V-44). I think that the adrenaline of taking the real test actually helped my performance and the timing lesson I learned from the last practice test also increased my performance. So here are some overall tips that I learned from my experience:
GMAT questions and tests are ok but you are better off working with as many of the official questions as you possibly can.
-Make sure to review each question you got right AND got wrong on the practice tests. Focusing too much on the ones you got wrong can hurt your confidence and make you start to overthink even the easy questions down the road.
-If you usually exercise, continue to exercise throughout your studying and up to your test day. It will help you sleep and stay healthy.
-Do not study when you are really tired. It will only frustrate and confuse you. You’re better off studying one or two hours per day when you can concentrate rather than four hours when you are tired.
- No alcohol for at least THREE days before your test. Even though you might think a little hangover can only last one day, I’ve found that a little “foggyness” can last up to two or three days.
-Getting a high score on the quant section is all about timing. You need to be able to let go of difficult questions before they suck up too much time and hurt your chances of correctly answering the medium level questions. Remember, the test takers will probably throw some really long and difficult questions at you. If you take the bait and spend 4 minutes on them you have already lost (sometimes that is even if you get the answer right).
-The Data Sufficiency questions are purposely tricky. If it looks too easy, take a closer look. I also, preferred to read the second fact first so that my brain didn’t accidentally use the first fact when trying to independently judge the second one (that’s one of the test makers’ favorite tricks). I have a lot of thought about these questions so let me know if you are having trouble with them.
-Take the final official GMATprep practice test very seriously and take it at the same time of day that you will take your real test. It was tremendously helpful for me.
-Be confident and pretend it’s you versus the test and you are going to win. I think poor confidence hurts a lot of smart test takers.
If you have any questions at all feel free to ask. I’m happy to help because I know how stressful studying for the GMAT can be. I can also tell you that the payoff is worth it. My score definitely opened a lot of doors for me and even though your personality, work experience, etc, are very important to getting accepted, a high GMAT score does give you an edge.