I've used this forum a bunch of times for random answers to questions and to read through other people's debriefs . . . so I wanted to add my own. Hopefully my experience can help you through studying.
A few background facts about me:
-I am not a good standardized test taker. I first got an 1190 and then a 1240 on my SATs (clearly nothing remarkable) - so I was nervous about facing this thing. However, my biggest weakness is vocab, so I was glad to learn that there was no vocab on the gmat.
-I also took the GRE (I ended up changing life plans) about 6 months before I started studying the gmat. I didn't put nearly as much prep work into that test, but I know I started out with something of math foundation that not everyone starts with (I got a 580 verbal and a 730 math on my GREs - but for those not familiar, the verbal on the GREs is harder and the math is easier).
- I work a lot of hours (55+) so I knew this was going to be difficult. I ended up getting up an hour early each morning. I know that this approach isn't for everyone - but if you work a demanding job, you know how difficult it can be to leave work at a decent time . . . and then you can be stressed, tired, etc. Starting in the morning allowed me to guarantee myself at least one hour of study time per day.
I took the test today (January 4, 2010). I began preparing for this around the beginning of October. I bought a book by the Princeton Review and another book by Barron's. Both COMPLETELY worthless if you plan to score above 600. I read through them and realized that I needed help . . . so I enrolled in Manhattan Gmat
's course. My course started on 10/17/2009. Right before I began my course, I took one of the official gmat tests and got a 650 - so I was fairly happy with that base (I think that base was primarily due to my previous GRE studying), but I wanted to score above a 720.
First month or so:
90% of my time was spent going through MG's prep books. Most of these are really good. As everyone states, their sentence correction book is unparalleled. However, I also think that their number properties book is amazing. I think that over 50% of the test questions can be answered from just really really learning this book.
Second moth or so:
Really upped my intensity. Started working on the gmat club tests
(those things are REALLY hard). Did terribly on most of them. I worked through 19/25 of them - I would HIGHLY recommend these tests with two caveats:
1. Do not, do NOT, become discouraged if you score badly. For a few of them, I got in the 32% or something . . .
2. Not every problem on there is realistic. There are soem problems that have ridiculous computations; some DS problems violate the basic rule of ds (the statements contradict each other sometimes).
The huge benefit of these problems is that they challenge you to focus on very difficult quantitative problems. My suggestion would be to give them a shot and then honestly assess your weaknesses. Maybe the problem is way off base, but maybe you can learn something from it anyway? Anyway, that's how I approached these.
These were taken over the three months - here are my MG test scores (about one every two weeks):
1. 660 (44Q, 36V)
2. 700 (46Q, 39V)
3. 650 (43Q, 36V) - I had to do a lot of soul-searching after this one
4. 700 (46Q, 39V)
5. 710 (46Q, 41V)
6. 710 (47Q, 40V)
Kept plugging away at MG test and gmat club tests
. I took the second official practice test two weeks before test day - got a 750 (49Q, 42V) - was REALLY happy with that score - so my mission was to not go downhill from there.
In the last week or two - mainly just reviewed. Did almost all the OG problems above like 600 or so level. Went through my 500+ notecards, etc.
Went to sbucks in the morning - went through a few OG problems; went through some of my critical notecards. Drank coffee. Tried to prepare myself for any potential score. Went to the test center, took the test. AWA was as-expected. Math had some screwy problems - I'm guessing some of these were test problems, but who knows. It also felt like I was getting a wide range of problems. Some of the problems felt really easy and some were very very difficult. And then I made a stupid (stupid!) mistake on the last one and got it wrong - I was so pissed. Anyway, took a break, came back and did verbal. SC was a little easier than I thought it was going to be - logic was a little harder. Although, overall, my verbal went up 2 (from my official practice test) and my math stayed the same - so it could have just been the harder questions. After taking the test, I felt worse than I had felt from my practice tests. If I had to guess, I was going to guess that I scored around a 700-720 - not awful (I wasn't going to cancel my score) - but I felt a little disappointed. When I clicked to see the actual score, my face just beamed. I was so happy (still am!).
A few notes about the actual test center:
- I went to the one in Herald Square (NYC). They are REALLY strict. You CANNOT study in the room. So if you want to review things, I suggest going to starbucks or something beforehand.
- If you are not a US citizen, BRING YOUR PASSPORT. The guy in front of me didn't know that rule and he wasn't able to take the test - I felt so bad for him.
Overall notes (I'm almost done I promise)
1. Notecards, notecards, notecards. I didn't keep an error log
(I'm not that organized of a person). I know this would drive some people crazy - but it didn't bother me. But I did make over 500 notecards. I read them in the subway, while waiting for people, before I went to bed, while cooking . . . etc.
2. I would recommend that you focus on SC earlier. I think my verbal score went up by 2 in the last two weeks b/c I realized how weak I was in SC. In the beginning, when I was scoring in the mid-30's on my verbal, the SC questions were not that hard - so I was not missing them disproportionately. However, when I improved my reading comp and CR (not that hard to improve), I should have spent more time on SC accordingly.
3. To take an official course or not. I really liked Manhattan Gmat
. I felt like the courses were targeted for people trying to get around 680-720. However, for me, this was really good in that it gave me a solid foundation and then I used gmat prep, etc. to make up the extra difference. Regardless of whether you take an official course, I would highly recommend almost all of their books (biggest exception is geometry - missing a lot of key pieces). They also give you weekly tutoring appointments with your class - I happened to get one guy over and over (Horacio) - who was amazing and really helped me with stuff.
Alright, I'm done - going to go take a nap!
Wanted to share with everyone - thanks to everyone who has posted and helped me through this thing. Let me know if you have questions now that I'm on the other side of the fence.