Hey all, finally writing my debrief. Took the GMAT last month and got a 770 (Q49, V47) and 6.0 AWA on my first try.
Hopefully this debrief can help everyone because I learned some great tactics along the way. I took every single practice test I could get my hands on, definitely a tactic I would recommend to everyone. I never actually scored as high as I did on test day, which should be encouraging to all of you!
Knewton 1: 560
Knewton 2: 640
Knewton 3: 680
Knewton 4: 690
GMAT Official: 770Resources Used
1) Knewton: I started off buying Knewton online courses. This was a great resource for the basics, helped me learn the basic strategies and I utilized the Knewton practice tests to get down timing.
2) GMAT Club Tests
: Since I purchased the Knewton online course through GMAT Club, I was able to access the GMAT Club tests
. These were an amazing resource, I cannot stress how important these were to my future score.
3) MGMAT 8 book set: I bought these, but did not end up using them that much. Although the specific book on Sentence Correction was quite useful as an add-on to my strategy.Studying Strategy
I started studying early in February, and I eventually planned my GMAT for April 14th. I am getting surgery on May 21st, so this would allow me to take another test on May 14th if I was unsatisfied with my score. This would allow me two attempts before the GMAT changed, and also let me play Diablo 3 immediately after my second test!
I started with Knewton, which did a good job of getting down the basics. It really helped me pinpoint areas I was having problems with, which were mostly Probability, Rate Time Q's, Sentence Correction, and Modifiers. I realized I was having a larger problem with the quantitative problems, and I devoted 90% of my total studying to quantitative. I always finished the verbal section with tons of time to spare, but really needed to get faster at Math. I did not use an excel spreadsheet to keep track of the problem types I was getting wrong. It was pretty simple for me to recognize my struggles, so I just took note of what sections to work on in my head; however there are some great tracking advices and spreadsheets pre-made on GMAT Club.
After, these I started on the GMAT Club math tests. These were very very useful. I did not do test-mode, instead I just did a constant stream of math questions in review mode. I cannot emphasize how useful this was, doing as many GMAT style questions as possible. With the well-written explanations of the GMAT Club tests
and more and more practice, I was able to recognize the type of quant question immediately. Doing so many questions helps you recognize the correct process, and practice let's you do this faster and faster. I started doing three GMAT Club quant problem sets a night. By the time I finished all of the GMAT Club tests
, I was getting most of the questions correct consistently. At this point, I needed to concentrate on timing during the practice tests to come.
I bought the MGMAT books
before I started any studying. I ended up only using two of the books for the verbal parts. I did not even open the quant books, but I still was able to use all six practice tests online. I was having problems with modifiers and sentence correction, but these books did a fantastic job of setting it up for me. I ended up using the books during the GMAT Club verbal tests and in reviews of all practice CAT tests, and it helped pinpoint where I was making errors. With enough practice, the formula started clicking in my mind. I knew exactly which problems to look for in sentence correction and created a comfortable process of eliminating choices for myself which I would go through for each problem. Starting with S-V Agreement, then Modifiers, then Idioms, etc. As you practice this process, you get even better at recognizing how the GMAT is trying to test you. Once you can instantly recognize the area to which each question pertains, you can begin eliminating choices very quickly and efficiently. Nothing is more satisfying then doing a 2-3 split immediately and eliminating three choices.Two Weeks Before The Test
So two weeks before my test, I kicked it into hyper drive. Two weekends before, I did two practice tests on Saturday and two practice tests on Sunday. I would also rest in the evening and then review more GMAT Club questions until I fell asleep, reviewing quizzes I had already taken. This did a great job of increasing my stamina. I would take a couple more practice tests during the week and then take another two practice tests each on the next Saturday and Sunday. All intermixed with more GMAT Club tests
and in-depth reviewing of those two MGMAT books
to drive everything into my brain.
My official test was on a Saturday. The Thursday before, I took the last GMATPrep in the morning. Then I reviewed everything again in the afternoon, all of the sections that I ever had problems with. I also started studying AWA for the first time, I ended up using chineseburned's guide on this site, and I ended up getting a 6.0. That Friday, I reviewed for at most an hour in the morning, and I relaxed for the rest of the day. I walked to check out my test center, and I also bought snacks. I went to the gym, went to the park with friends, had dinner with friends, and played video games. That night, I slept like a baby; at the time thinking that I had prepared the best I could for the test to come.Test Day
Day of the test, I showed up 45 minutes early. After a panic-attack when the test center admin asked for my passport (She mistakenly thought I was an international student from China also taking for the GMAT), she was able to let me in early. Essays were not bad at all, I ended each with minute left which let me clear my mind before starting the next section. Math was actually the toughest questions I had seen up until this point. Time-wise I was right on schedule, but there was definitely some guessing. I was concerned during my break, however I gathered myself and jumped back in for the verbal section.
Finished early, and ended up getting a 770 (Q49, V47), which ended up being 99th Percentile. Verbal was my highest score yet, which helped my score and percentile increase a ton. Math ended up being a high score too, my earlier panic was misguided. My advice in retrospect, don't be too concerned with seeing very very tough questions. It's a great sign that you're doing well.Key Advice
1. Practice Practice Practice: Keep doing problems until you've exhausted every quiz and every practice test you can find. You'll be amazed at how much you've absorbed and how integrated into the GMAT formula you will be. There is nothing more satisfying then recognizing a question, seeing exactly how the GMAT is trying to trick you, and eliminating choices one by one with full confidence.
2. Absolutely use the GMAT Club Tests
. Also, don't worry about mimicking the test environment early on. Feel free to simply go problem by problem, trying to solve then look at the explanation. That short attention span to each problem will help you pinpoint your struggles and let you keep hammering at one single problem until you see the necessary steps to solving. Once you get the concepts, test yourself with practice tests.
3. Focus on the area you can increase. Increasing verbal is tactically a great decision, small increases in the verbal score will have a higher impact on your overall score and percentage than quant score. On the other hand, you may be like me. I struggled early at math, but I knew I could train myself to the concepts. My advice, simply focus your time so you can maximize your own personal potential at both. Don't worry what other people are doing or over-arching strategies; do what you need to do to maximize the score you think you can get, and this may be devoting more time to math.
4. Don't rush at the end of verbal on your practice tests. I realize you are anxious to see your score, but those questions have great value to your score. Looking at the CAT formula, you can see the impact the +/- may have on your score. While not any more important than any other questions in the section, they are still valuable points so keep concentrating until the finish.
5. Train like you would for a sport. With two weeks left, I went full-effort. It was exhausting taking four practice tests in two days, then continuing to practice during a work-week and taking four more practice tests on the next weekend. It was brutal, but when the real test came, I had absolutely zero problems mentally. When that test finished, I could have rested an hour and taken another. Don't underestimate how well you can train your stamina for one single test.
6. Lastly, relax and enjoy yourself the day before your test! You have been preparing for a long time. Have confidence in your abilities and enjoy yourself. A full night's sleep is invaluable towards your score the next day.
Hope all of this advice will help, good luck to all!
See my debrief below: