Thank you very much for your positive feedback on my previous post. This is the second half of what I wanted to share. The below are mostly focused on study routines and prep material that I found useful. I should mention that the below are solely my opinions gleaned from my own experience. So keep an open mind when you read but by no means would I recommend that you take them as truisms.
Study in 1 to 2 hours sessions. Except during the last month, or when training for stamina (explained later), I would recommend breaking down your study sessions into 1 or a maximum of 2 hour session blocks, intermingled with 15 minutes break for 1 hour sessions and/or 30-60 minutes breaks for 2 hour sessions. I originally adopted this routine from reading MGMT's book materials. So the credit is to those guys. For me, this way of study was the quite effective.
If you are just starting the GMAT prep and find yourself overwhelmed and/or have no idea where to start, consider taking a formal class. The GMAT was the first proper standardized exam I ever encountered in my life and I knew nothing of this exam prior to my prep. Struggling with where to start, I did my research and took a MGMT's 9 week live online course/webinar, it was quite expensive... but I found getting into a properly structured classroom environment put me in the student mode again, after 4 years of work. If you also have no experience with prepping for the GMAT, consider doing a course as well. Be warned though, these classes are quite expensive...
IMPORTANT: keep an error log and go through your mistakes once every 1 or 2 weeks. Keeping an error log is one of the GMAT prep truism and, even with minimal forum touring, you will find its prevalence among experts recommendations. I think this is well-justified. The purpose of keeping an error log is to discover your mistaken tendencies, habits or erroneous/inefficient thought processes and then bring them to light so that you are conscious of such and be able to improve from making alterations in your approach. Be comprehensive with your error log content, the language could be informal, type it out (some say write it out, I found it too time consuming... and resorted to using excel, which did a great job for me), and MAKE SURE YOU RECORD WHY YOU GOT the QUESTION WRONG. Record the thought process you undergone when you were doing the question (especially important for CR and quant questions). Later when you redo the question, see how your thought process has changed when you were redoing the question. If you are doing a good job on keeping an error log and recording erroneous thought process, it wouldn't be surprising if redo a question, get it wrong, and then find your current thought process similar to that of your previous attempts.
As for error log template, I suggest you keep 4 key columns. Expand or alter as you wish
- [how or why you got the question wrong] (thought process, mistaken thinking etc)
- [take away] (concepts learned, or summation of your own tendencies)
IMPORTANT: train for speed and stamina. The GMAT is not an extremely difficult exam once you have done enough questions and have encountered enough sample questions. Despite the fact that the exam is computer adaptive, it does not mean that you will encounter a bunch of questions (on either quant or verbal section) that you have no idea how to tackle. The challenge, once you have done sufficient prep, is likely that you will encounter questions you are prone to brain-fart on or don't have enough time to complete while under pressure and/or stress. Without a doubt, if there was one thing I would emphasize on how to GMAT prep, it is that you HAVE to be quick and be used to taking a 3.5 hour exam with constant thinking. To prepare for this, during my last 3 weeks of prep, I would verbal prep by doing 30-45 verbal questions in one sitting, and do my quant prep by doing 10 questions in the morning right when I wake up and/or do a full gmatclub quant CAT in one sitting as if it were a real quant exam. It is extremely important that you make sure to take the verbal or quant questions under timed conditions.
To make a final point on the importance of speed and stamina on GMAT performance, consider the verbal and quant sections each have of their time limits extended from 75 minutes to 90 minutes while the number of questions and difficulties stay the same... do you think you could score higher? Do you think that eople in general will be scoring with a higher accuracy? I certainly think so...
OPTIONAL: prep when you are tired. I woke up at 5:00am and started my math prep at 5:30am for 30 mins, get to work by 6:30am and come back around 5pm. After taking a break for 30-90 mins (reading plus eating), I would start my real GMAT prep for the day. Usually by this point, I am pretty tired... but I found that by forcing myself to concentrate and sit through a 45 questions verbal session and/or a full quant CAT, I honed my stamina. This often became evident as on the weekends, after getting sufficient sleep and nutrition, I would go through a prep session quite effortlessly, with much better accuracy and results. By prepping under tiring and suboptimal conditions, I prepared myself to achieve much better on the real testing day, when I would got proper nutrition and went into the exam with a full mind. I would recommend you doing the same to train for stamina and endurance.
For quant, I recommend GMATCLUB; Veritas; Target Test Prep. Gmatclub's quant question bank was great. I couldn't recommended it more highly. The questions were challenging and tricky in just the right way for me that I was able to improve my quant score quite substantially. Veritas's free questions bank was great as well, the question were tricky in the right ways. Target Test Prep questions are not as difficult but are great for honing weaknesses and doing drills on specific topics. I can pretty attribute my success on quant solely to the combination of the three resources.
Regardless of what resources you use, I highly recommend that you DO NOT stick with only using one or two sources only. This is because the official GMAT questions may have a different style from the non-official source you are using for prep. Every source/question maker have their own style of questions, to avoid the mistake of unconsciously adjusting your thinking/style to a non-official resource, you would be best off in your prep by alternating between doing questions from different sources so that you are at least constantly adjusting to a broader base of questions and/or styles that in aggregate may allow you to more properly respond to questions on the official exam.
For Verbal, STICK TO OFFICIAL QUESTIONS FIRST AND FOREMOST! In my opinion, the GMAT verbal section is a whole different animal. Unlike the quant portion, which are based on mathematical problem solving with clear cut answer based on numbers, the verbal section, though based on logic, does not contain numbers as much, and as a result are much more prone to different subjective interpretations and lines of thinking. To make sure that the answers are air-tight, GMAC is said to spend substantial efforts in constructing these questions in such meticulous ways so as to prevent having multiple equally valid answers based on different ways of seeing/looking at the question. While official GMAT's questions are often capable of this, not all verbal question maker, in my opinion does as good of a job. I think that GMAT's verbal questions has a style to it that makes it worthwhile for you to simply stick to it as exclusively as possible. Now, between OG12, OG13, OG15, OG16, OG17, OG18, GMAT questions packs, 6 GMAT CATS, GMAT paper exams available for purchase and others official GMAC materials that I may have missed, you should have at least 1,000+ questions for each of CR, SC and RC question types. By going through these questions carefully, you will be getting plenty of exercises while adjusted to the exact style of questions you will see on the exam.
The one exception to sticky solely to GMAC materials is when you are also using a non-official source to study concepts. For example, being a non-native, my grammatical foundation was quite weak heading into my GMAT preparation. I stumbled on E-gmat and found there SC curriculum, fully of concepts, very useful. And since I was using their platform to study anyways, doing their questions, which came with well-made answers based on the concepts video lessons, was quite helpful.
For Critical Reasoning, get Powerscore's CR bible. Just a great book, I read it, made notes and took my CR from a 75th percentile to a 94th percentile.
get a tutor if you need specific help and/or are dealing with sticky points. I only resorted to a tutor, always quite expensive, when I found that I had difficulties increasing my verbal above 40/51. With my tutor, I was able to get a different perspective and hone in on my sentence correction and CR weaknesses. These efforts then boosted my final score to a 41. I am quite proud of it.
My tutor was the Infinite Mind Prep (GMAT 800; V51; Q51). Marty is a verbal genius and I owe much to his help.
Some closing thoughts
The GMAT is just an exam and I believe that if you put in the time and committee to studying the best you can, you will achieve the score that you will be satisfied with. It is all about your efforts, focus, diligence and consistency.
I was certainly intimidated by the GMAT at first, it being the first standardized test I have ever taken in my life (hopefully the last!). I also secretly harbored the ill-advised belief that GMAT was a proxy of my IQ and my self-worth. And every time I get a bad score on a practice exam or did poorly on a question thatI thought I should have gotten, I would berate myself a bit while also taking a psychological blow to the ego...
The GMAT is not an indication of your abilities, it is just an exam. And that as you prep and improve you will score higher is as sure as that the sun will arise on another day.
If you want to score 760, you can. But don't do what I did - putting the goal on a pedestal and making a big deal out of it. When I prepped the best I could and released myself from the expectation and pressure that I NEED to score a 760, I finally scored a 760.
Good luck GMATers, have a fun journey and see you on the other side ï�Š
760 (Q51; V41) Tips shared Pt 2
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