Happily, last week I scored 770 in the GMAT (Q49, V48) and thought I'd share my experiences to give comfort to the last-minuters amongst you.

**How I beat the GMAT**

The only resources I used to prepare for the test were the gmathacks blog, the Total GMAT Math ebook and an Excel spreadsheet that I cobbled together. I have to say that thanks to these resources I feel like I'm not only better at maths, but more focused and better at studying and preparation in general. Part of me wishes I could still justify the time doing GMAT practice problems to stay sharp!

Probably the most influential takeaway from gmathacks was to make sure I was excellent at the basics. That really struck a chord with me, since there are so many fields where excellence at the basics is the key to success. So I set up an Excel spreadsheet to drill speed and accuracy in the basic elements of mathematical manipulation (ie multiplication, division, factorising, tests for divisibility, recognising primes et al). For about two or three weeks I spent 5-10 minutes drilling that spreadsheet before and after work each day, and saw my average time shrink from 5 seconds per problem to less than 1 second while my accuracy climbed from 97-98% up to a consistent 100%. This was pretty much all I did during that time, as work was extremely busy.

It was at that point that I did my first practice tests, scoring 740 and 750. Thanks to the drills in mental math, I was able to finish both practice tests around 15-20 minutes early.

I'll admit that I eased off a bit after that confidence injection, but still got through the lion's share of the Total GMAT Math book before test day. For each section I would read the chapter, make notes in the margins, do the problems and the next day review the ones I had gotten wrong, done clumsily, or taken too long on. Importantly, I'd also review those problems again a couple of days later, and a few days after that as well. I wanted to make sure that I not only recognised what I had done wrong but that I had also

*practised doing it right*.

I can't emphasise how important that last point was. Because of it, I had to make peace with the fact that there was quite a lot of content that I wouldn't have time to get through. On the other hand, everything that I did practice I

*mastered*, and I think that in the end that stood me in good stead come test day. Note that my "silly mistakes" came in for the same treatment, on the grounds that it is easier to boost your score by eliminating mistakes than by learning more advanced concepts. For example, I must have spent twenty minutes practising writing my "zs" differently from my "2s", after getting a basic question wrong when I confused the two.

Effort? Duration? I probably spent 10-15 hours drilling the basics in those first 2-3 weeks and perhaps 20-25 hours on the rest of the book in the week that followed. It was actually a thoroughly enjoyable experience, and come test day I felt quite well prepared, although I never found the time to go through the word problems, sets and number properties sections of the Total GMAT Maths book. Of course I knew on the day that I could have done more, but I also had the feeling that I'd gotten a huge amount out of the time that I had spent preparing, and that there hadn't been any sort of a diminishing returns phase.

My focus on the basics was instantly rewarded as I blazed through many of the early questions in 30-60 seconds, and by the time I arrived at the last question I still had fifteen minutes left on the clock. That last question was a real humdinger of a geometry problem, though, and it wasn't until I gave up with 30 seconds left that I finally saw a way of solving it. Heartbreakingly, it was a six or seven step geometry/algebra solution, and there was no way I was going to get through it in time on scratch paper. Enter those mental math techniques again, stage left. Running through an approximate solution in my head, I realised there was a clearly right answer from the choices available and confirmed it as my selection with two seconds remaining.

The verbal section of the test followed, and after the rush of the quant section I really had to discipline myself to pay attention and carefully scrutinise which answers I was selecting. I finished 15 minutes early on this section of the test as well, and suspect that if I had spent some of my preparation time on the Total GMAT Verbal ebook, I'd perhaps have had the techniques to end up with a better mark here as well.

In any case, thanks to all of you who've posted on this forum, as well as to Jeff Sackmann over at gmathacks. I've recommended both his books and this forum to all of my GMAT-taking colleagues, and wish you all the very best of luck.