I have wandered through the forsaken test prep lands for far too long, visited with the GMAT gods themselves and, like Moses, Jesus, Mohammed and Buddha before me, come back with lessons to bestow upon the untested heathens:Slingfox’s GMAT Studying Commandments.1. Build a Solid Foundation GMAT-Centric Math.
At the very least, focus the first half of your study schedule on building a solid base of GMAT-centric math knowledge. Even if you have a strong background in math, it is worthwhile to pick up a GMAT-specific math guide because (i) the GMAT covers subjects that are not often covered in traditional U.S. math curricula, and (ii) the GMAT presents problems that one will not see in any context other than the standardized testing environment.2. Pay Homage to Manhattan GMAT Math Books.
The Manhattan GMAT
math books are solid. I recommend all of Manhattan GMAT
’s math guides, especially Manhattan GMAT
’s number properties book and its equations book. If you have no specific plans on how to acquaint yourself with GMAT math, take out your credit card and purchase the Manhattan GMAT
math guides immediately. Be sure to do all of the exercises in the various Manhattan GMAT books
.3. A Book For the Ages. Manhattan GMAT Sentence Correction
Book (a genuine printed copy---not the old 2003 version available on the internet you thieves!). As explained below, my entire verbal section strategy revolves around sentence correction. The Manhattan GMAT sentence correction
book is the single best GMAT subject guide out there. The book is monstrous in both size and complexity, but it will be worth your time to go through---preferably twice. I do not think it is strictly necessary to break out pen and paper to complete all the exercises in the Manhattan GMAT sentence correction
book, but you should at the very minimum do all the exercises in your head and check your answers.4. Build your Math Muscles with GMATClub Tests.
Like the gym, each of the 25 GMATClub.com math set promises hours of pain and gallons of tears. This will prove to be especially true if you are stupid enough to try and complete the 25 math sets in less than two weeks time, whiling completing the Official Guide (12th Edition) along with close to ten pratice exams (see my GMAT-murderer’s schedule below for details). Nonetheless, the GMATClub.com tests are the absolute best math practice outside of completing the math problems set forth in the Official Guide (12th Edition).5. Infants Should Not Be Taught How to Tell Time.
During your GMAT studying babyhood, you should not be concerned with timing. Especially early on, you should concentrate all of your energy on learning the core concepts tested on the GMAT rather than on racing against the clock. What did I do? As noted below, although I took over twenty GMAT practice tests and completed all of the GMATClub.com math sets, the only tests I did in a timed environment were the two GMATPrep tests
. In fact, for most of the practice tests I took, I had my math notes, my verbal notes and Google.com loaded up and ready in case I needed to look something up. Because I was primarily concerned with accumulating GMAT knowledge rather than timing, for almost the entirety of my study period, I would sometimes spend close to two hours rather than 75 minutes on the typical 37 question math section. Approaching the clock in this manner provides you with the opportunity to identify your weaknesses and reinforce your learning and will expose you to higher level questions on the various CAT exams because you will guess on fewer problems. 6. Veritas (i.e., it's not the truth!).
I enrolled in and “completed” the GMAT prep course offered by Veritas
. I stopped attending class shortly after the course began because (i) the instructor assigned to my class had a dubious understanding of quant and (ii) my work schedule went berserker and ultimately forced me to delay my GMAT test date by a month. If I had to do the process all over again, I would not enroll in Veritas
because I do not think their coverage of quant or sentence correction is sufficient. Veritas
’s critical reasoning and reading comprehension lessons are sericable but probably no better than what you can find in the much cheaper paperback guides offered by the other prep companies. The practice questions Veritas
provides are good, but I do not think they are worth the $1400 or whatever price I paid for the course. Last time I checked, the Official Guide (12th Edition) retails for a lot less.7. Do Sentence Correction Questions Every Day.
After you learn the key sentence correction rules, the only way to become good at sentence correction is by doing as many practice questions as possible. If you’re serious about maximizing your GMAT score, you should do a chunk of sentence correction problems every day, especially early on. The reason why you want to do a large number of sentence problems is because, ultimately, on the GMAT sentence correction is a game of pattern recognition. On the GMAT, I finished the verbal section 10 full minutes early, and would have probably finished it 16 minutes early if I didn’t purposely slow down half way through. The only reason this is possible is because I average less than a minute on each sentence correction. I probably should have gone slower on test day but I was running behind pace at the 12 minute mark, started to panic a bit because I was starting to daydream about food during the middle of the test and didn’t pay close enough attention to the clock until I was running over 10 minutes ahead of time. On all my practice exams I would finish around 10 minutes early and score in the mid-40s in the verbal for almost each one so I was not overly concerned that finishing early would materially affect my score.
GMATClubers should note that being able to do the average sentence correction question quickly has one primary benefit: It allows you to spend a lot more time on the hard verbal questions. On test day, there were several verbal questions I stared at for over five minutes a piece simply because I had the luxury to do so.8. Critical Reasoning and Reading Comprehension.
I have no new substantive tips for these areas aside from do a lot of practice questions and review your mistakes. I will note that the Manhattan GMAT
book on these subjects are pretty terrible. I think I went through it in a few hours time and thought it was pretty much junk. I do have specific strategies on how to approach these questions and the common question types. One of these days, I will distribute my math and verbal notes which will condense my thinking down.9. AWA.
I looked at some AWA material for an hour or so towards the beginning of my studies and completely ignored the subject until a few days before test day. I never did any practice sessions, but did spend a few short minute brainstorming ideas during the course of my two GMATPrep tests
. If you want to simulate the “mental fatigue” of doing the AWA before a practice quant or verbal section, just do some problems out of the OG or stare at some of the hard problems posted on GMATClub.com.10. Putting Together a Plan to Administer a Foxy GMATClubbing: Test Day Tips.
A. First and foremost, if at all possible, take the GMAT when you’re ready and not a minute earlier. A week and a half before my original test date, I rescheduled by exam so that I would have two additional days to go through my study materials. If you need to delay your test date by a week, a month, a year, or even a decade, go ahead and do it. Business schools will still exist when you do decide to take the GMAT so don’t worry.
B. Your brains needs glucose to run efficiently. Several relatively straightforward studies have shown that persons that consume sugary drinks before a test tend to perform better than those who do not (i.e., the non-sugary drink control group). The deviation in test performance is greater when math tests are involved, so unless your Newton’s great grandchild, I suggest that you drink Gatoraide on the morning of test day and bring a bottle with you when you head out to the test center. There are many other reasons why drinks like Gatoraide (i.e., non-carbonated drinks with both glucose and salt) are nutritionally superior to water (which have sugar but no salt) and carbonated sodas (which contain carbon dioxide molecules) in both athletic competition and academic test-taking environments, but I won’t bore you with these details—just trust me on this one: Gatoraide is better than water and soda on GMAT test day.
C. Make sure you get a good night’s sleep before test day. If you are not a morning person be sure to schedule a test time for late in the day. If for some reason you have no choice but to take an early morning test and are concerned about being able to sleep and wake up at the proper time, you should consider taking a 3 milligram dosage of melatonin a day or two before test day (melatonin does not act like a sleeping pill, but can be used to shift your biological clock by up to 3 hours per night if correctly administered; melatonin is a lifesaver on those random emergency trips to Asia or Europe).
D. Take two extra strength Tylenol shortly before you take the GMAT. Discussion of why doing so is probably outside the scope of this post! If you don’t like medicine, drink more Gatoraide.
E. Eat a pre-test meal.
F. Eat a banana during you pre-test meal. If you don’t like potassium, drink more Gatoraide.
G. Wash your face with cold water during your breaks. Cold water on your face triggers a phenomenon called diver’s reflex which increases blood flow to your brain. I’m not sure if this helped my score, but it sure didn’t hurt it!
Anyhow, I suppose that is enough frivolity for now. Here is the study schedule I used.Slingfox’s Guide to Utter and Complete GMAT Studying Masochism.Weeks 1-2:
I went through all 13 volumes of Veritas
course materials in about two weeks time (the normal paced course runs for about 7 weeks or so). My work schedule is pretty busy during these weeks, so most of my studying occurred during lunch breaks, from midnight to 2am on weekdays and during the weekends (assuming I wasn’t working). If you’ve never seen the Veritas
course material, the 13 volumes cover in total over 1000 pages of material (maybe more, I’m not sure). Because Veritas
hates trees, they use a lot of white space in their books so going through this amount of material in weeks is not necessary impossible; provided that you are a little bit insane. Weeks 3-5 (fake weeks!):
I had to completely stop studying for the GMAT for three weeks because my work schedule went ballistic. As a consequence, I had a sort of mini crises, rescheduled my exam date and informed my superiors that I would be taking 1.5 weeks of “vacation” at the end of October. The only studying I was able to do during this period was about one hour of sentence correction questions per day, mostly during my morning commute to work.Weeks 3-4 (the semi-real ones):
I went through all the Manhattan GMAT
math books and Manhattan GMAT
’s sentence correction book. Only after going through the Manhattan GMAT
material did I realize how little I had learned in Veritas
. During this period of time, I was back to my serviceable, but less than ideal post-midnight/weekend study schedule.Week 5-6:
I took ten untimed GMAT paper tests---cramming them in during my period, after work and on weekend. I did not bother scoring the tests because I was just doing them for practice more than anything else. At the end of this period I took an GMAT paper test under semi-timed conditions (i.e., I ran 5 minutes over on each section) and scored a 770 (48Q, 48V). The paper test was from 1996 and was comically easy compared to the modern GMAT so I didn’t invest too much thought in the score. During this time, I also typed up approximately 40 pages of math and verbal cram notes. I will distribute them one of these days, but I need to clean them up so that they will be usable to the general GMAT public.Week 7-8:
My vacation from work/fulltime dedication to the GMAT starts. With a little under two weeks to cram a mountain of GMAT material into my head, I did nothing during this time other than study, sleep, eat and take breaks between studying, sleeping, eating and taking breaks (if you don’t need to take breaks from taking breaks, you need to take harder breaks!). Everything that occurred before this time period turned was aimed at setting me up for my descent into the bowels of GMAT hell. During the early part of this period, I rowed across the River Styx, and was taken aback to see that Cerberus had four heads not three. One head had a dark capital “G” across its crown, the three other heads read “M”, “A” and “T”, respectively.1. Official Guide (12th Edition).
I completed the diagnostic, which is untimed and quite tricky, as well as all the problem solving, data sufficiency (the hardest material by far), critical reasoning and sentence corrections. I simply did not have the time to do any reading comprehension questions (I had done plenty of RC via Veritas
and the various practice tests). To save time, I only reviewed the official explanations for questions I had some trouble on or got wrong.2. GMATClub.com Math Sets.
All 25 sets. Untimed. Doing 2-4 of these math sets every day for two weeks straight is brutal, but I had no choice since my vacation time was limited. You should not be discouraged by your percentile rankings for these sets. My average percentile ranking was in the mid-60’s and I scored in the 40th percentile twice. The GMATClub.com math sets are incredibly tricky---and the official explanations need a lot of work---but the practice these questions give is unparalleled.3. Miscellaneous Hard Quant Sets.
I gathered various collections of hard GMAT quant problems from the internet and friends. These accounted for 150 or so problems. 4. Manhattan GMAT CATs.
I did all of these untimed. The difficulty of these tests vary significantly, but the scoring is pretty accurate. Specifically, the math sections in the first two Manhattan GMAT
CATs are absolutely brutal. Manhattan GMAT
CAT 5 and 6 for both math and verbal are more indicative of the real GMAT level difficulty. The only problem with the Manhattan GMAT
CATs is that there seems to be a limited number of hard questions per test and they tend to appear in the first 2/3rds of the test. For both math and verbal, the last 10-15 questions tend to in the 600-700 (with the occasional 500-level mixed in) whereas the first half consists of a non-stop barrage of 700-800 level questions. This is not necessarily a bad phenomenon however. On my offical GMAT test day, I had a very similar experience (i.e., I was beat up early and often).5. Practice Tests.Manhattan CAT 1: 720 (Q47, V42) (Oct. 17).
This test is absolutely brutal. Although it took me 2.5-3.0 full hours to complete the math section I ended up missing 17 questions, which is more than half! I also missed 13 verbal questions. When I took GMATPrep a few days later, I would miss only 3. How is this differential in performance possible? I have no clue. Despite the solid score, this test completely demoralized me. When I went to sleep later that night, I dreamed about giving up and working as a bagel shop full of metaphorical triple zeros. I had expected this test to be hard because prep companies tend to make their initial diagnostic ball-busting to scare people into studying harder and to augment the differential between the first and last practice exams their students take. Nonetheless, even if you know a baseball bat will be crashing into your head soon, it’s still gonna hurt when the bat does hit.GMATPrep 1: 750 (Q48, V45) (Oct. 21).
I got 13 quant questions wrong on this GMATPrep test and had to guess on the last 6 math questions because I ran out of time. I ended up missing thirteen math questions, include five out of the last six questions I guessed on. I missed three questions in the verbal section, all sentence correction.Manhattan CAT 2: 700 (Q47, V39) (Oct. 23).
Once again, my quant performance was disastrous despite all the time I spent of the section (i.e., more than two hours!). At the end of the day, I missed 16 math questions (just barely under one out of every two questions!). Manhattan GMAT
pulled a double-whammy by putting together a verbal section that made me miss 16 questions even though I missed only 3 and scored a V45 on GMATPrep the day before!Manhattan CAT 3: 770 (Q50, V45) (Oct. 24).
Missed 7 quant, 9 verbal. The jump in score between Manhattan Cat 2 and 3 is pretty absurd given that they were taken within 24 hours of each other! How missing 9 verbal results in a V45 is a complete and utter mystery. Starting from Manhattan CAT 3, the Manhattan CAT exams start to fall from their stratospheric levels of difficulty.Manhattan CAT 4: 760 (Q49, V45) (Oct. 25).
Missed 11 quant, 8 verbal.Manhattan CAT 5: 760 (Q51, V42) (Oct. 26).
Missed 5 quant, 4 verbal (3 SC and one RC).Manhattan CAT 6: 780 (Q51, V45) (Oct. 29).
Missed 7 quant, 4 verbal (all CR for some reason; a very surprising result given that I did not miss any CRs in the two PrepTests I took and had a close to 99% accuracy rate in the various paper tests).GMATPrep2: 770 (Q51, V42) (Nov. 1).
Missed 4 quant, 4 verbal. On this test, I paid attention to timing. My timing for math was perfect, but finished verbal 10 minutes fast as I had done for the last four Manhattan CATs. This was a solid score, but I did not rest easy because I recognized almost all of the difficult and verbal questions given that I had done all questions in the OG and spent many many hours going through the GMATClub.com message boards.Real GMAT Test Day: 770 (Q50, V45) (Nov. 2).
Except as noted below, the quant section turned out to be largely in line with my expectations. Very early on, I had a string of 8 questions of which 7 were data sufficiency! Halfway through the quant section I was running about 5 minutes ahead of pace. Nonetheless, as the section went on I started falling behind and had to guess on the last question, which was not conceptually difficult, but was mathematically time consuming so I ran out of time. Verbal, on the other hand, was harder than I expected. In particular, the first reading comprehension passage I got consisted of only two short paragraphs but was more dense and harder than any other GMAT reading comprehension passage I’d come across (i.e., the language of the passage as well as the question stem and answer choices were very convoluted). I must have spent 7-8 minutes staring at the first two reading comprehension question I got. The hard reading comprehension passage put me behind pace at the 30% mark so I started to speed up, trying to earn back time by doing the SC and CR questions as efficiently as possible. By the 66% mark I was a full ten minutes ahead of pace, so I started to slow down and stared at difficult questions for an inordinate amount of time. When I got to the last question, I had 9 minutes remaining so I just started day dreaming then read the question and answer choices ten times through, made my final selection and ended the test with about 4 minutes to left on the clock.
When the computer screen flashed my scored, I breathed a sign of relief. After the test, I called my mom to let her know that I was still alive!
GMAT Strategies: http://gmatclub.com/forum/slingfox-s-gmat-strategies-condensed-96483.html