This entry will be entitled: How I tied the GMAT (720 95%: 38V/50M, up from 680 86%: 37V/47M from a year ago)…read on to see why…
This is my first time posting on beatthegmat.com and although I did not use it too much as a source while studying, I’ve browsed a bit and can definitely see how it will help people and think that if I took advantage of the resources this site offers I would have done better as well. So I decided that I’d help other people out too with how I prepared. I’m not sure if people can follow my path because all I did for one solid month was study for this thing since I didn’t have to work…My background: I was laid off from a large bulge bracket bank so I had plenty of time to study for this test (although I started studying 2 months after I was laid off).
I came out of the test site content. I say content because I scored better on many of the practice tests I took, although I’m not sure how to gauge them as this is the second time I took the test, so it’s the second time I took most of the practice tests as well. Also there was something that happened that threw me off a little bit for the verbal section so I feel like I could have done better, but more on that later. That’s why I say I tied the GMAT.
I took Manhattan GMAT classes my senior year only because they offered it at a discount if my classmates found enough students to take the class together. An instructor even came to our classroom so we didn’t have to go anywhere off campus! Anyway, although I think Manhattan GMAT helped me, I wouldn’t say it was a huge part of why I got the score I ultimately did, but one of the labs definitely helped me. More on that later
I also can’t stress how important it is to take a TIMED diagnostic test. I think this is really important because depending on how you do, it’ll give you an idea of how to study. Some people want to study everything and then take the tests, but I say take a diagnostic test first to see where you stand. After all, that’s why they’re called diagnostic tests. Timing is HUGE so you have to get to know when to skip problems and when to spend a little more time on some. Do NOT take a diagnostic test untimed to see how you’d do if you had unlimited time like I did, see results below!
Here is a run through of my results on my CAT tests:
First time studying for GMATs:
Manhattan GMAT – CAT 1 – 690 (not timed, so this score doesn’t count)
CAT 2 (Timed, so technically my real first diagnostic) – 580 – Wow I have a lot of work to do!
CAT 3 – 630
CAT 4 – 680
CAT 5 – 690
CAT 6 – 680
GMAT Prep test 1 – 680 or 690 (Don’t recall)
GMAT Prep test 2 – 700 (I remember this because it was the first time I hit 700 on a CAT)
Actual GMAT – 680
Second time studying
Manhattan GMAT – CAT 1 – 660
CAT 2 – 750
CAT 3 – 750
CAT 4 – 690
CAT 5 – 710
CAT 6 – 770 (pumped my fist in the air after this one, no joke)
Kaplan – 710
Assortment of 800score (42-45 Quant, 32-35 Verbal)
GMAT Prep Test 1 – 730
GMAT Prep Test 2 - 740
Actual test – 720
How I studied (the second time since I don’t really remember the first)
Manhattan GMAT prep books
Kaplan Advanced (useless)
Kaplan Verbal Workbook
My original goal was to go through all of the Manhattan GMAT books in a week and then after each book, do all of the problems in OG11, Official Verbal Guide (OV), and Official Quant Guide (OQ), and then take a test a day for the next 3 weeks. Very ambitious, I know. Too ambitious actually, because it took me about 2 weeks instead. I then took random tests in different orders. I found the guide on beatthegmat.com for OG12, bought OG12 and did all of the Verbal parts, but none of the Quant because I was short on time. Also bought the Kaplan Advanced book and did the CR and SC but didn’t have enough time to do RC. Kaplan Advanced was a waste of money btw. It didn’t give me any new strategies. The Kaplan Verbal Workbook was ok. I can’t say anything really stood out with how I studied. I returned both the OG12 and Kaplan Advanced book. =] sorry barnes and noble!
A lot of people say to stay away from 800score. I will say this: the verbal section is very off so avoid the 800score verbals. If you are strong at quant I would say do the 800score quant problems because they are much more difficult than you’ll see on the test, meaning if you do decently on the 800score Quant (I got like 42-45 them), then you will probably do much better on the actual GMAT quant section (in my case 50).
One strategy I took was that even though I knew I was really good at quant, that I really wanted to focus on mastering it. On ManhattanGMAT, I think I spent like 3 hours one day just doing the Challenge Problems that you can find online. Don’t feel bad if you don’t get any of them (I probably got like 5/40 haha), but make sure you at least try them before looking at the answer to see what. If you’re not good at verbal, like me and most people, I say make sure you master quant.
I’d say the one part of the test Manhattan GMAT really did help me with was the essay lab. They pretty much give you a formula of how to write an essay and get a good score. (I consider myself a terrible writer and I scored 5.5 the first time and 5.0 the second, not good percentiles but pretty decent I’d say, and as long as you get above a 3.0 shouldn’t matter supposedly)
In the week leading up to the GMAT, I took one or two tests a day, culminating in taking the GMAT Prep test 2 days before the test, then the second GMAT Prep test the day before.
Nothing to prep, except store 2 red bulls away the night before, one in the freezer and one in the fridge. I was nervous that the fridge one would be warm before I got to it pre-verbal section so I tossed one in the freezer too. I woke up relatively early for someone who doesn’t have a job anymore (10ish) and didn’t do anything special. Didn’t have an appetite when I grabbed lunch with a friend, which kind of affected what happened later.
The analyze an argument essay was a breeze. As for the issue essay, let’s say it was an issue for me…har har. Hey I said Quant was my strength, not comedy. I could not for the life of me think about something to write about, which made me think I should have prepared more by doing some outlines using the OG essays. Anyhow, I started typing something out, but changed my idea completely 15 minutes in, and still got a 5! It was only a 3 paragraph essay which I don’t think was coherently put together! Haha. Thank you ManhattanGMAT!
Quant section went by ok. I can usually tell when I’m doing well on a quant section based on the problems they shoot out at me towards the end of the section, but this time it seemed like it was all over the place, so I was a little surprised to see that I got a 50.
Now for the last break. I asked if I could get a drink from my locker and they said yes as long as I didn’t look at notes or go on my phone…so I went to my locker and started chugging a red bull, which I could only finish half of since my stomach was pretty much empty and red bull doesn’t sit well on an empty stomach, at least not for me. I put it back but I had so much stuff in my locker that I had to move stuff around so that it wouldn’t spill (this sounds like an SC on the GMAT). This involved moving my phone, which I instinctively just grabbed out of my locker. I went back to the testing area and told them I was ready and then realized I still had my phone and was like “oh I forgot to put my phone back!” and the proctor just raised her eyebrows and was like “phone? I think I have to contact so and so about this” and I kept trying to explain what just happened, and that my phone was off. She asked the guy in the front since that’s where the lockers were, and I showed him that my phone was off, and he said it was ok. HUGE sigh of relief, but totally frazzled before taking on the verbal section which is my weak point! AH!
Anyway, I finished the verbal and saw my score, and was content since 1. I scored better on practice tests, 2. the whole episode that happened right before the verbal section happened and threw me off a bit, and 3. there is no way I would retake the test since I broke 700.
Congrats for getting to the bottom of this entry! In summary this is what I would recommend as a game plan:
1. Diagnostic Test
2. OG/OV/OQ Problems…all of them
3. Make sure when you review questions after you take a test, you review ALL of them and not just the ones you got wrong because then you may have guessed correctly on some you had no idea about and done better (which is what happened on my 770/750 score tests)
4. If you have more time (which I didn’t), review the problems you got wrong in the OG/OV/OQ books
5. Do a full test or two (including essays) as one of your last tests you take before the real one to see if you can mentally take the 4 hour or so test (I didn’t do this, I just outlined the essays)
There you have it. That’s how I Tied the GMAT! Best of luck to everyone!