I originally started studying for my GMAT just out of college to capitalize on the momentum coming straight out of school. I took an initial CAT exam and score a 710, then purchased the Manhattan Prep books to study. I read all of the books and took extensive notes, but never took another practice exam. A few months later I moved abroad, forgot about studying and never took the GMAT.
4 years later, when business school became more of a reality, I sat down to study for the GMAT a second time. My initial CAT score was 690 this time, not terrible but still a decrease from my straight out of school score. I had my old Manhattan Prep books and notes and started my studying by reviewing all of these materials. After a couple weeks of review, I realized that I wasn't retaining any of the material. Simply reading passages and doing a few random non-GMAT style practice problems at the end of the section was just not cutting it for me. As a native English speaker, Verbal was fairly straightforward for me, so I decided to focus all of my efforts on studying for the quantitative section.
I purchased a subscription to the Target Test Prep software and diligently went through all of the material, every practice problem (2500 of them!), every example, every practice test, every review. It took about 3 months to complete the course, but by the end of it I felt extremely confident that I had the tricks and formulas memorized to give me the edge I need in quant. I would highly, highly recommend the Target Test Prep package for anyone who is struggling with quant. I read the Manhattan GMAT book on sentence correction again (I think it confused me more than it helped) and decided that was sufficient for Verbal studying. I then settled in to take the practice exams. My results were as follows:
MGMAT CAT 1 (pre-study): 690
GMAC Official Practice Test 1: 760
GMAC Official Practice Test 2: 770
MGMAT CAT 2: 710
MGMAT CAT 3: 700
MGMAT CAT 4: 750
Official GMAT: 780
Conclusion- the Manhattan Prep CAT exams are MUCH harder than the actual GMAT. Every after 3 months of dedicated study, my MGMAT score barely improved, while my official GMAT practice exam scores were much higher. I found that the Manhattan Prep tests purposely tried to trick you or included unreasonable amounts of calculations you were supposed to do by hand. On the other side, Target Test Prep was very similar to the structure and type of problems I saw in the official GMAT practice exams.
My biggest take-away from the process is that nothing beats practice. If you do 2500 practice problems, the odds that a similar problem will appear on the GMAT is very high. Going back to understand what you did wrong and re-doing the sections you are weaker in is an extremely useful technique. Memorize the key number properties formulas (especially about prime numbers and difference of squares!!!) and don't worry about memorizing anything that can be easily derived (such as even/odd or pos/neg properties). Be methodical about your prep. Go back and review material you've already covered periodically. Make notecards and keep them in your bag to review when you're standing in line or waiting for the train or have nothing better to do. Also, don't get discouraged if you are taking the Manhattan Prep CAT tests. I think they are designed to over-prepare you, if you can score decently well on these tests, you are poised to do great on the actual exam! Best of luck to all you test takers out there!
GMAT Success: 780!
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