From 0 knowledge about the test to GMAT assassin in 2 weeks

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This is an extended version of my EMPOWERgmat review (confirmation pending). I just thought it would be helpful to share my experience in more detail.

As the title suggests, I took the GMAT just two weeks after learning what this test is all about. And on my first try, I beat the GMAT with a score of 720. So yes, this is possible, but I would advise against trying this at home. Those were two weeks of very intense studying for 10+ hours a day. Not many people can afford to spare this much time on prepping and have the resilience to study for this long. I know that many of the folks here have a significantly higher score, but my goal was to get a result of 700+ and I did just that.

On my first day of prepping I took a "cold call" practice test and scored 660 on it. Everything after that can be considered an improvement of this score. My initial verbal score was significantly higher than my quant score, so I focused first and foremost on improving my quant results.

I spent the next four days revising high school algebra and geometry, which I had completely forgotten at the time. For this, I used simple high school textbooks that I still had lying around. I don't think it really matters what you use at this stage, so khanacademy or any GMAT prep course will do just fine. Then came the time to choose a GMAT course. I took free trials of several different courses and evaluated them during my fifth day.

In the end, I chose EMPOWERgmat for several reasons. Not only was it one of the most affordable courses on the web, but it also focused on really beating the GMAT, not just studying for it. Moreover, something about how Rich explains things, his charisma, really clicked with me.

Unlike other courses, EMPOWERgmat doesn't just prepare you for the questions but tries to use every trick in the book to help you get the right answers effectively and efficiently. For the quant section this mainly revolves around three Empower tactics: Test It, Test The Answers, and Triage. These tactics are very simple, yet extremely helpful for saving time on the test.

I had already been fairly strong at verbal from the start, the only part of it that I still had some trouble with was sentence correction. To be perfectly honest, I think I lucked out with this section on my first practice test, as most of the choices where I wasn't certain about the right answer and had a 50/50 chance between the right answer and the runner-up turned out to be correct. I suspect that my score at the time should have been lower because of this. The way Max taught me to read answers to sentence correction questions vertically instead of horizontally really helped stabilize my score.

After 8 more days of preparation with EMPOWERgmat, I felt confident enough to take the real test. The Pearson testing center welcomed me with dimmed lights and closed doors. The instructions stated that I should come 30 minutes early, but the staff of the center only showed up at the time of the exam.

Another thing that came as a surprise for me was the rule that I cannot write anything on the pad during the break. So after entering the exam room but before starting the actual test, I asked if I could write things on the pad now. Upon confirmation that this is allowed, I wrote an entire page of "ABCDE"s for the verbal section, which I would later use to cross out the wrong answers. This saved me 5 minutes during the exam.

The biggest problem that I faced when taking practice tests was my inability to solve all the questions on time. This was partially due to some practice quant sections being harder than the real thing (looking at you, Manhattan and Caplan tests), partially due to insomnia from which I suffered for the good part of the two weeks of my prep, and partially due to me still not having mastered the Empower tactics. I studied those tactics well and had a good night's sleep before the real test. As a result, I was able to go from having to triage the last 10 questions of the quant section to having to triage just the last 2 or 3. This made a significant difference in my score. And with the answer template for the verbal ready, I was able to finish that section on time without having to triage anything.

I can't say much about the AWA and IR sections, because apart from practice tests I didn't prepare for them at all. Still got a perfect 8 on IR and a sufficient 4 on AWA though. All in all, it was a fun experience and a challenging two weeks of my life. EMPOWERgmat helped me a lot with it.

P.S.
Special thanks to Brian Michaels for telling me to read everything at 150 WPM, not just the reading comprehension sections, and to Stacy Wilson for the follow-up after the test.