People often ask me about my GMAT preperation and experiences. I have already shared my experiences in the testmagic forum, which I am giving here again for people who are yet to give their GMAT.
About my preperation ....
It was before three months, when I decided to go for MBA. I had no idea about GMAT, even no idea what it stands for. I bought Barron's guide and was browsing through it. Now I feel that the book gave me a completely different perspective of GMAT than what it really is. My comments about the book : It can supplement along with OG and Kaplan but would not suffice as a single resource to rely on. Maths section is good but verbal sucks. For SC, basic concepts can be obtained from that book but don't even go through the CR and RC part - a complete waste of time.
Well with Barrons in hand, hoping that GMAT is very simple (since Barrons was very simple), one day I came across this site. I was taken back by the discussions, particularly SC. I understood GMAT is something different. I was even afraid to register to this site. For one month, I was silently going through the discussions. Erin's explanations drew me into a new world. At this time, I didn't had any idea of what score I would get, but I was interested in this exam.
I found out there is something called OG which is a must for GMAT. Then I found out it is a book called Official Guide. I ordered it. the day when I got the book, I was very proud and with such a pride, I regsitered in this site.
Then I understood buying OG is just a first step. How to read it in an effecient way ? I know just reading the book will bore me and will spoil the interest I had for GMAT. I split the book into a series of tests - test taking was always an interesting task for me - I feel test taking like reading a mystery novel with an unexpected ending more twisting than any other Agatha cristy's climax. At this time, I already had a good knowledge about SC (I had read more than 50% of SCs in this forum). Before starting OG, I took powerprep I. I got 710. That gave me a confidence and started OG happily.
Now my life went hand in hand with OG. All these days, I was going through the discussions in this forum and I am not exaggerating when I say this site helped me more than OG. For SC, I started writing rules in a notebook whenever I come across one, whether from OG or from this site (the final count was 170 - yes...170 rules). CR was not a problem for me from the beginning.
Now I found I am lagging in DS. I was good but not very good in PS. I got Agarwal book and revived my basics. I got some probability and combinations material from net. I went through more than 70% of maths discussions in this forum. This gave me a very good understanding of probability. I also got a good understanding of Number properties from this forum. I took a princeton test (borrowed from my friend) every week. The score started from 710 and when I finished all the four, I was in 720. DS also improved well after sufficient practice. Basically I am an Engineer and hence Maths was not a problem at all. More than a month went very fast. OG was over.
I still had three weeks for exam. I borrowed kaplan and kaplan 800 from my friend. They didn't take more than a week. I took off from work while reading kaplan 800 and it took only two days to complete. Tip : Kaplan and Kaplan 800 are good books which require less time to complete. OG is tightly packed with a lot of questions and it requires a lot of time.
While doing OG, I noted down the question numbers that went wrong. After finishing kaplan, I solved the questions that went wrong. I solved SC section fully again.
In the final week, I borrowed ARCO's essay book from my friend ( am lucky to have such a friend who lended me all the books she had). I didn't go through it fully. I prepared templates for my essays. For AWA, I took some argument points from this book.
So, thats all about my practice ... I also did SC from GMAT+ and downdowndwn.net though I didn't do any other section from these.
In a nutshell :
AWA - Argument:
Prepare a template. Go through all the essay topis and make sure you are able to identify atleast one flaw. I did this the day before exam, when I was not able to find flaw, I depended on ARCO.
AWA - Issue:
Prepare a template. Go through all the essay topis and make sure you understand the topics.
In the exam, you can devote 5 to 10 minutes for thinking and outlining your essay. Typing essay takes less than 10 minutes once you have an outline. The last 10 minutes can be used for spell check and style. It took only two minutes for me to check and I went to next section in 22 minutes.
Read as much as material you can. IMS material and Agarwal (both are Indian books) have a good range of formulae. Read to as much depth you can. For example, the formulae for radius of incircle/circumcircle inside an equilateral triangle, area of triangle formed by a sector in a circle etc seemed too deep for me but heard that they are also tested in GMAT.
Practise. Practise. Practise.
You should practise to a level where you know some things by heart like X^2 need not be greater than X, if X^2 is 1, X can be -1 etc. Read my post about the test ... 90% of my questions were from algebra and DS were more than PS. If I had concenterated on all other topics and have left DS algebra, I would have had a very bad time.
Form rules. Rely on OG. Og has more then 125 rules. Find them. DownDownDown and GMAT+ are also good.
Practise. I don't know what else to say. You have to get a feel of the questions.
Don't follow princeton's idea of skimming text. Don't follow blindly kaplan strategy also. I will give my strategy - This worked for me.
Read the text and make sure you understand the text before going to questions. It is not necessary to note down the author's tone, purpose etc while reading the text as kaplan says. Just read the text and understand what is written. Once you do that, the author's tone and purpose would be revealed to you. Noting down tone and purpose will waste time. Remember you have only maximum 4 minutes to read the text. If you are running out of time, and are deciding to guess, guess RC questions especially if it has two questions only. You can find the number of questions for a given RC by seeing the top - It appears like "questions 31-32 are from this passage". Need not take notes also. It is better to spell out the content you read, in your own language.
Don't try to understand fully. Take notes in the form of a flow diagram. Most of the questions can be answered by seeing the notes. Some questions will require going back to passage. So, don't spend too much time in memorizing the content.
For RC, note key words like always, surely, etc which if appears in the answer most likely makes it incorrect.
Thats all from me ...
About the test
I already went through most of the AWA topics and prepared outline for them. For issue, I got one from what I had prepared. Argument was a new one but easy. Overall, a breeze.
I had prepared very well for QUANT especially probability, mean/mode, SD, geometry, speed problems, profit/loss, permutation and combination, interest problems, number series, ratio proportions and work problems. I didn't get any questions from these areas except an easy one from Geometry and one very easy combination problem (Infact the question clearly indicated it is a combination problem and not permutation). 90% of my question were from Algebra and the remaining were from number properties and percentages. One question was from set theory.
The questions were very easy that I thought I have screwed up in the first ten questions. In fact, easier than any sample test I had taken. I don't know whether I felt it so easy as I was well prepared for Algebra. Even then, I took a lot of time for first ten questions that I had to blindly guess for two or three questions. I also did educated guessing for two questions. If I had managed time properly, I could have scored well in Quant. Even the questions I guessed were simple word problems only but lengthy. I know how to solve them but didn't had time. I think I had more DS questions than problem solving.
I was so upset after the QUANT. I thought I had done very poorly because I got only very easy questions and because I had guessed for five questions although they were easy. In this tense mood, I made a mistake. I wanted to finish the test as soon as possible because of frustration, and I skipped the break.
The earlier SC questions were little tricky. The first RC passage was vague but not hard. After that, I received very simple questions. SCs checked simple concepts like dangling modifiers and parallelism. I got very few CR - five or six only I think. They were simple too and one boldface - it was also easy. I again thought I had screwed up verbal as the questions were easy. I had a reason - My RCs had a maximum of 55 lines only. There were only three RCs. All were so simple in style and narration and questions were very direct. I was expecting four RCs with 75- 125 lines each if I had to cross 700. Most of the verbal questions were SCs. I managed time well in verbal. I finished with 5 minutes left.
I was so upset before seeing the score as I received only easy questions. When I saw the score, I was very happy. I could have done better in QUANT but its okay. I am content with my score and am not going to retry. I am very good at Maths but not so in Verbal. But in real test, verbal has boosted my score. I attribute this success to testmagic - especially to erin for his SC explanations.
Even after all this, I still doubt how I got 730 inspite of easy questions and random guessing in QUANT. Can I beleive unofficial score or should I keep my fingers crossed till I see my official score ?
Before starting the test, I made two tables in my scratch paper. One for QUANT and another for verbal. For QUANT, I wrote from 1 to 37 on one coumn. Against it wrote from 73 to 0 decreasing in interval of 2 (73, 71, 69 ...). The idea is whenever I want to know the time I am lagging, I have to see the time from the table across the question number and compare it with the time remaining. Though I was prepared like this, I took too much of time for first ten questions. In the midst of test, I was lagging by 15 minutes and could not help but guess for five questions.
For verbal, my table was as below.
0 - 75
7 - 63
14 - 50
21 - 38
28 - 25
35 - 13
41 - 0
I cultivated the habit of checking time for every 7 questions and it really helped me in the test.