My gmat study story is extremely long and I will not hit on every single detail. I began studying for the GMAT on Thanksgiving 2014. I decided back then that I was underutilized at my job and wanted to make the most of my spare time (both at work and outside of work). I set a big goal for myself of 700+ with a reach school being Berkeley.
My first approach was self study- I used the Kaplan premier guide and studied that from beginning to end. All of my CATs were roughly 490-530. I'm really not a good test taker. I am where I am today because I simply try harder than everyone else (and it worked in my GMAT studies too). I decided I needed some more in-depth books so I went with MGMAT, the full 10 book comprehensive set. I found MGMAT to be very exhaustive and clunky. I set May as my month to take the official GMAT using these two self help programs.
My highest CAT going into the exam was 600. So by simply using the self-help books and understanding the exam, I raised my score by roughly 100 points. On test day, I scored a 600. I knew I was not ready but I just wanted the experience of an actual test day (too bad it cost $250 dollars thanks to a non profit called the GMAC).
So later that day I decided to crank it into another gear. I called and singed up for the Kaplan 1-on-1 in-person private tutoring (25 hours). The program is outrageously expensive but I am looking for merit-based scholarships at lower ranked schools so I was willing to pay a lot for the program. I was matched with a great tutor. We developed a good working relationship and formed a great study plan. I learned SO much from the program. I came in with a big head like ohhhhh I've been studying for this for 7 months, what can you possibly tell me etc etc. But once I swallowed my pride, I learned how amazing and SIMPLE Kaplan makes the GMAT. Their online practice CATs and CAT reviews are so streamlined and effective. The single most valuable part of the program is its instructors, followed by their online videos.
In july I retook the test and scored a... 580. WHAT you say. Yeah, i discovered that I have awful test anxiety when I believe I can do something LOL. I was so focused on seeing a 700 on my final report that I was not focused on what was going on in front of me. In fact, I took the entire exam not fully reading the questions... yeah wut.
I felt devastated. I'll just leave it at that. I thought I would study for the GRE. Then, I said no way. I signed up for Kaplan's live online class (they let you retake a live online course if you dont get the score you want) and went from there. I discovered that yes retaking the course in an online class setting was helpful. But really it was just a review. I was scoring the same on practice CATs that I was getting on CATs with my private instructor (670-700) but I was benefitting from the insight of another professor. So I scheduled my third test for 6 weeks out and tried again.
In October, I finally got my 700+ goal- I got a 710 with a near perfect verbal, 65% ish math, perfect essay, and LOL a 3 on IR (my first test had an 80% so I don't care).
Summary of things that helped me:
1. Kaplan, obviously. One could question if 1-on-1 was effective based on my lower score after signing up. Not true. I found out I get bad test anxiety and went to the doctor to get meds, so it was a personal thing.
2. Study 6 days a week. Go out and party on the 7th.
3. Take a CAT a week. I took 23 practice CATS during my 3 rounds of studying (truly embarrassing I am that motivated)
4. Stick with one program
5. Watch all of the Kaplan online videos many many times. Many times- like 3-5 times for each video.
6. Use the sound proofing ear muffs in the test room- really. I did this during my third time and I was SO concentrated. Tune out all the other noodle heads in the room
7. Don't give up. I am a 3.4 GPA from a competitive US public school but I do not consider myself to be smart (in the conventional test taking way). The fact that you are even on this site, reading my review, shows that you are passionate about your career and you will succeed.
P.S. I gave the quant portion of the program only 4 stars just because it's not Kaplan's strongest point. Their math techniques will take you FAR but not far enough to get in 80%+ for quant. This is just my opinion. In the end, I do not care because I got a total combined of 91%.
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