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Test Date – Oct 25th 2013 GMAT Score – 770, Q-50, V-47, AWA-5, IR-8 Books: Gmat official review (14th edition); McGraw-Hill's GMAT (NOT recommended); GMATPrep (free version)
First of all, my story of tackling the GMAT might seem a little arrogant since I got a high score without working too much. I found this forum today and just now I realise how little I have done to get this high score. I feel like I don't deserve it as much as many of you do. Nevertheless, I wanted to share my experience just in case anyone finds it helpful.
Background: I'm a Bulgarian student and am currently doing my last year of a bachelor's degree in a UK business school. I was looking at possible master's programs and all of them required a GMAT exam. This was around the 5th of September. I had never heard of the exam so I got a little scared but after seeing a few sample questions online I thought it would be a routine exam and left it. I began studying for the exam around September 21st by which I mean I first looked online at what the exam is. I think it is important to mention that I took the SAT test when I first applied for a bachelors degree and had a perfect score in verbal and 740 in math. I also had two 800's in Math I and II. I found that the SAT math and verbal resembles the GMAT a lot. The verbal on the SAT is slightly tougher as it requires a large vocabulary.
Strategy: I have a strong background in math so I reasoned that the math section would not be a problem for me. I was wrong. The time limit on the GMAT is a severe hindrance since I'm prone to making stupid mistakes and have to recheck my work a few times to be 100% certain I'm right. I first took a couple of dodgy GMAT practice tests online but my serious preparation started when I got the GMAT official review (14th edition). I solved 30 questions in each section of the book (sentence correction, verbal reasoning, reading comprehension, data sufficiency and problem solving) and I took the GMATPrep test exam number 1. I scored 760 on that and I thought that the software must be wrong since it didn't seem possible I could get such a high score. I did have a lot of problems on the quant section and I ran out of time. My strategy was basically exercise - I was able to solve all questions before I started my prep, I just needed to get faster and more accurate. I solved all questions in the GMAT official review except for some 50-60 questions in the Verbal section since I was getting 1 error every 60 questions. I focused on Quant and solved all available practice questions. I also used MacGraw-Hill's GMAT which I borrowed from the library. I did 3-4 tests from that but they were not very close to the official tests in the GMATPrep software so I regarded my results with a little caution. I took the second GMATPrep exam two days before my real exam to see how I have improved. I got 780 on my second attempt. Even though the test says "This test exam is not a predictor of your real score" I got smack in the middle of my two test attempts.
Verbal: I don't really have advice on how to beat the verbal. It seemed straightforward to me. I did have some problems with sentence correction though but most of these were as a result of my not knowing the grammar rules that are tested at the GMAT. The MacGraw-Hill book helped me out with that as it has a good description of all question types that you can meet.
For reading comprehension, I read the entire text very carefully and then answered all questions without rereading it. I only sometimes looked back at the text to make sure I remembered correctly. In the actual exam the questions were a lot tougher than all the practice ones I had done so I spent a lot of time rereading the text. I didn't have time problems though since I went through the critical reasoning questions quite quickly.
Quant: Here I can only say this: Practice, practice, practice. If you notice some questions are taking more time on average - look at the suggested solutions carefully and identify heuristic solutions that work for you. For example (and I'm not sure this is mathematically rigorous) - whenever I was doing a data sufficiency problem with multiple unknowns, I counted the number of conditions I had. Since in linear algebra 1 condition = 1 equation, you only need as many conditions as there are unknowns. However, always make sure the equations are not parallel, like x+y=7; xy=5. Then you need a way to distinguish between x and y, i.e. a third condition. My point is, try to find what works for you. The only way to do that is a lot of practice.
Also, don't overdo with the self doubt. I mentioned above that I have problems with errors due to negligence. I often add 6+2 and end up with 7. This is why I always recheck my answers. In most tests, I have enough time to go back to questions where I have doubt and look over them again. The GMAT is ruthless in this respect - you only get one chance to get a question right. So don't be paranoid. I ran out of time on both my trial exams on the Quant section because I rechecked my solutions two or three times. I didn't do that at the exam and still got a good score.
IR and AVA: I read that most business schools don't even look at these so I didn't really practice them. I did the practice questions in the GMATPrep software and a few in the MacGraw-Hill book. In total, I probably did around 60 questions. As far as the essay goes, I only did two - on both of the sample exams in the GMATPrep.
On test day: Always take a test appointment in the afternoon. I was nervous and didn't sleep well during the night. I think I had around four hours of sleep when I woke up in the morning. I spent an hour getting to the test center and another hour trying to find it. This is why you should always go to the test center location at least once before your actual exam.
The essay topic was so simple that I could identify only one assumption in total. I wrote my response in around ten minutes and spent five more trying to find anything else to write. I finally gave up and continued with the test. I didn't feel very confident and was anxious most of the time during the IR and Quant sections. I was happy I didn't run out of time but I had only 15 seconds left on the Quant section when I finished. My advice is if you see that you have some spare time on the last 2-3 questions don't rush to answer and recheck your solution. I actually found an error in my second to last question because I spent 4 minutes reworking it. I felt a lot better doing the Verbal but I had to spend a lot more time on some of the questions that I was used to. The practice exam verbal questions are definitely easier than the ones at the real test. I still had around 20 minutes spare at the end of the section though.
Conclusion: It's a tough exam and definitely takes preparation. Do not go if you're not absolutely certain you can do well. I did my preparation in a month because I was positive I knew the material and knew I only needed to practice the question types and timing. If you don't know how to solve the questions investing in a course may work wonders for you.
I hope my little experience helps you in some way. If you have any questions feel free to ask. Good luck to all.
P.S. I still don't know too much about the exam and how important it is when b-schools make a decision. I'm applying to EU schools like RSM and SSE. I'm worried because don't have a very strong CV as far as work experience goes - I have a few crappy internships but no big names. Can someone tell me how strong a 770 score really is for an application?
770: Q:50 V:47 IR: 8 AVA: 5 - 1 month prep time
02 Nov 2013, 19:32