Its been more than a month since I beat the GMAT. I wrote half a debrief two days after the test. Never finished it and totally forgot about it. Here I am trying to finish it and hoping that all fellow aspirants could find something useful.
I'd been thinking about taking gmat from the start of this year, but it remained as a thought for some time. Got my act together by the end of april, digging information about test format and popular books for preparation. First up, I got a copy of the Official Guide 13E and took the diagnostic test. Then I took the first test in the GMATPrep software. Got a decent 680(Q49,V34). This just confirmed what I already knew - I would do well in quant but I had to improve my verbal score big time. CR and SC were my weakest sections.
The plan was to devote at least sometime for gmat preparation everyday and not spend more than 2 to 3 days continuously on one section. eg., i would study SC for about 3 days, then practice quant for the next couple of days (which was easier for me), then move on to CR for the next few days.
For quant, I was already doing a good job with gmat level questions. I tried to solve questions from OG and from online communities. It's always good to time yourselves when practicing quant. Even if you know all the answers, the challenge is in solving them in a timed environment. My approach was to solve around 30 questions or so in an hour long session, see what mistakes did I make and note down the right concepts.
For verbal, I purchased the following books to help with the preparation :
Both are really good books and very useful to tackle the respective sections. Even if you're doing a decent job in solving these questions, I'd recommend you go through the material. There are several approaches discussed to identify the question type, wrong answer patterns etc. I was doing relatively better in the RC section. I occasionally read some rss feeds from NY times and The Hindu to improve my comprehension. Also, the CR preparation helped with cracking RC questions.
I kept a small notebook as well and took notes for whatever new things I learned. This was my way of learning and it also helped with reviewing the newly learnt stuff later on. The importance of an error log is understated. For whatever concept mistakes I made while practicing questions, I noted them in my error log. Everyday I'd take a look at what notes and log updates did I make in the last 2-3 days so that I don't make the same mistake again.
After the book preparations, I moved to the practice phase. I tried to solve as many questions as possible - all in a timed setting. Completed the OG13. Purchased the Kaplan Verbal Workbook as well to solve more verbal questions. But overall the questions in the book felt substandard or not the gmat type. I started taking an mgmat test every weekend to build the exam stamina.
50 days of preparation and 4 mgmats later, I felt confident and decided to book the date for gmat. I already had a tentative date in mind for about a month and finally fixed my appointment for that day - July 4th. I had about 10 more days for the exam and devoted these final few days for further practice. I increased the length and difficulty of practice sessions. I got hold of whatever questions I could find online - RC99, Math really tough problems from BTG, Brutal SCs, old questions in OG12(you get a soft copy of this when you purchase OG13). etc. I took mock gmats for 3 days consecutively (mgmat5,6,gmatprep2), scored a 780 and two 760s, and gave myself a day to unwind before the actual test.
Finally the test day came. I ran out of time to solve the last two IR questions and ended up guessing. Proceeded to AWA and felt relieved to come up with some flaws in the argument straight away. Finished AWA, took some snacks at the break and told myself that the real test begins now. I tried to put the bad start in IR behind me. Quant was comfortable for me as usual, though I was extra careful not to be complacent. Verbal proved to be a bit difficult middle way, especially in SC questions. I knew this was a sign of good things and didn't lose heart. Finished the verbal with around 10 seconds remaining and eagerly awaited for the score. And I almost jumped out of my seat when it finally came - The Unofficial GMAT Score report : 770 (Q50,V44). Got the official score after 20 days with IR7 and AWA5.0
Key takeaways :
1. Know your strong and weak areas early on in the preparation. So that you know where you should spend more time and schedule accordingly.
2. Have a personalized study plan. You know what has worked for you in the past and what hasn't. Use that knowledge, take input from gmat success stories and create a plan that suits you best.
3. Know when to give up on a question you can't crack. I used to try and answer all quant questions when i started my preps. But this didn't work out well when the practice was timed and the questions were hard. Practice, practice and you'll know when you should make an educated guess and move on.
4. Try to enjoy the GMAT preparation. I used to love the SC preps and was eager to know what I would learn the next day. Within a few days after the test, I was missing the gmat prep days. There were plenty of new things I could learn during the preps. Consider GMAT your friend - a friend you're trying to impress.
5. Make notes and error logs - This would be invaluable for reviewing your weaknesses few days before the test. You could also easily identify the type of questions you have to be extra careful.
6. Always use a timer while practicing questions - This is critical to identify and improve your pace. Midway through my preps I was taking about 90 seconds per SC question with a very good hit rate. By the end, I was getting the same hit rate at less than 60 seconds per question. Without a timer, its difficult to measure your improvement.
7.Take as many mock tests as possible. Its one thing to solve 41 verbal questions in a single session and another to solve those after 2.5 hours of IR, AWA and quant. Analyze the results after each test to see where you are improving and where you are being careless.
8.Dont overlearn or underlearn. GMAT is not a memory test and by overpreparing you might forget some concept learnt early on or you could end up seeing the right answer in more than one answer choice.
9. Use technology to aid you, if possible - I had notes from my online research, my exam logs and lengthy tips and tricks(which I couldnt copy down to my notes) clipped into my evernote account. I could later review them on my mobile while travelling or idling away. I used a GMATTimer android app as timer during practice sessions. The app tells you which question you should be on, so that you know how much you are lagging. I had subscribed to question of the day feeds from BTG and gmatclub. So when I receive the daily mail with the question(probably on mobile) I try to solve it then and there.