"Know your enemy and know yourself, and you shall win a thousand battles".
GMAT is nothing short of a battle (dangerous and painful), but if the words of great Sun Tzu are to be believed, with the right strategy, victory is assured.
So please overlook the dubious title and read on. :)
Step 1: Know your reasons
GMAT is an investment (with awesome returns). Before you plunge yourself in this "Sanzu River" you should know what you're looking for and how GMAT (and subsequent MBA) are going to help you achieve it. Read blogs, forums, books; discuss; and then read some more. Sameer's book - 'Beyond the MBA hype' is a very good early read.
Step 2: Know your enemy
Your enemy (and possibly your best friend) here is the GMAT exam.
The exam has 4 sections:
- Writing - Analysis of an argument, marked out of 6.
- Integrated Reasoning - marked out of 8.
- Quant - marked out of 51 (unofficial). And
- Verbal - The almighty English language, marked out of 51 (unofficial).
The types of questions you face are limited and have been well documented in many sources. Go through the GMAC Official Guide, read some posts (maybe at gmatClub.com), take a practice test and get a feel for the exam.
Step 3: Know Yourself
Based on your experience till now, judge yourself and see where you stand on the GMAT score scale.
Identify your weaknesses and strengths, document them for your reference, but work on both. Yes both.
We (Indians) tend to underestimate the Quant section and overestimate the Verbal. Verbal is do-able with proper preparation, and Quant can surprise you with time management and overall burden it places on you during the exam.
Step 4: Make a Plan
Make a study plan that suits you and follow it religiously.
Start with the Official guide and complement it with the Manhattan material (a series of 6-8 books). Ideally, that should be more than enough for the basics.
Two GMATPrep tests from GMAC, and a host of other free tests available from Manhattan, Kaplan, Knewton, Veritas prep and GmatClub are more than sufficient for getting the timing down.
This is what worked for me. Change it, add to it, and make it your own; find out what works for you.
Step 5: Solidify the Base
In any competitive examination (including GMAT), basic exam strategy is more important than anything else. Before you dive into the sets of tough 700 level questions, make sure your strategy for easier questions and over-all time management is spot on.
For some very important questions, that are either shrouded in mystery or are recent additions to the GMAT, you might have to dig up information on the internet. Do not be afraid, Google is your friend, use it.
Step 6: Track your Fatigue
Working in a comfortable environment and solving questions at a comfortable pace, fatigue is usually underestimated during preparation.
Do NOT make this mistake as it can single-handedly break your attempt.
Your battle with GMAT will most definitely leave you mentally tired, and this fatigue becomes obvious during the verbal section (our Achilles’ heel). Factor this in during preparation.
Step 7: Be Confident
Confidence impacts the test performance a lot. Prepare well in time, revise and relax.
Remember, GMAT is just another exam. Plan, prepare and execute, and you will crack it. Just be smart with your planning and honest with your preparation.
For what it's worth, I managed a 770 Q50 V44 AWA 5.5 IR 8.
Oh and by the way, do not forget to practice punctuations. They are very very important.