I originally purchased the study materials for the GMAT nearly a year ago. Since they were changing the test, I decided that I needed to take it before the changes to make use of my materials. I started studying about 7 weeks before my test. I spent 6 of the 7 weekends studying for the exam (some more productive than others), 16 days after work studying for several hours, 12 days during lunch studying for an hour, and took 5 days off from work prior to the test just to review.
I went through each of the Manhattan guides and The PowerScore Critical Reasoning Bible once and at the end of each guide answered the questions in the OG that were recommended. I did not do the questions in the OG Verbal/Quant guides that were recommended because I wanted to identify my weaknesses and then come back to them later.
After completing the guides, it was clear that my weaknesses were Sentence Correction and Data Sufficiency in general. Sentence Correction was by far my biggest weakness so I went back through the entire Manhattan guide again. This is when I worked on questions in the OG Verbal guide, but I only did Sentence Correction questions. I used the GMAT Club iPad app throughout and it really helped to keep track of my progress.
Official GMAT Guide - Understand the Material
Going through the guides only takes up a paragraph in my debrief, but it took the most time by far! Make sure you understand the materials. I cannot stress that enough. That paragraph was 6 weeks of prep, including time during the week and every weekend dedicated to studying. You must be dedicated! Also, make sure to track your progress so you know how you are doing and how far you have come. If you are still doing poorly or do not understand the materials, then you may want to keep reviewing or take a class before going on.
Comprehension More Important than Strategy
The guides do discuss strategy a few times throughout. If you are not doing well, you may spend a little time on this because having a method to follow may improve your scores, but do not focus on strategy over comprehension. If you are doing well and understand the topics, this is something you want to spend a little more time on. I did find it easier to cement my strategy once I jumped in to the CATs. For some of the subjects, I did not use the strategy suggested in the MGMAT guides because I had a way that for me worked better and faster than what was suggested. Getting a strategy down for each question type will help with speed, accuracy, and even nerves when it comes to test time.
6 Days Before the GMAT
Six days before my test is when I first started reviewing for the AWA and took my first CAT. I used the Guide to Perfect 6.0 AWA on GMAT Club and wrote sample essays based on the prompts found at mba.com. After a bit of review, I decided to take a Manhattan CAT, since they give you 5 when you purchase their guides. I did well (730) and felt pretty confident. My biggest weaknesses again were Sentence Correction and Data Sufficiency.
5 Days Before the GMAT
The next day (5 days before my exam), I spent about 90 minutes reviewing and then took the Kaplan CAT. It was A LOT harder. I ended up getting a 650. I also feel it did not represent the type of questions I ended up getting on the actual exam, but more on that in a minute. Nearly 70% of my questions on the math section of Kaplan CAT were Rates, Ratios, Combinatorics, Statistics, and Probability. I thought I had these topics down, but clearly, I did not. (I started to get down on myself a bit, but this was not warranted). I spent about 4 hours reviewing the questions on the test, including what level they were considered, what the correct answer was, and why the other answers were wrong. I even reviewed the questions I got right. This is a must if you want to understand the test.
Note: I spent a little bit more time on cementing a strategy here. I felt like I was tackling similar questions in different ways on the Kaplan CAT and it was destroying my time (which was causing me to rush at the end) and causing unnecessary stress.
4 Days Before the GMAT
Four days before my exam, I decided I needed to review math especially the topics I did not do well on in the Kaplan CAT. I spent 12 hours reviewing various content and answering questions, including reviewing most of the Word Translations Guide and bits and pieces of all of the other math guides. This is why I saved the OG Quant guide questions, so I could come back once I had identified my weaknesses. Again, I used the GMAT Club iPad app to keep track of my answers and progress. Again, I spent more time reviewing the test than I did taking it. This is the key.
3 Days Before the GMAT
Three days before the exam, I reviewed for an hour in the morning and then took another CAT. I decided to use the GMAT Prep Software. I did well (730), but I feel the questions never really got hard. They seemed easier than both the Manhattan and Kaplan CATs, and were definitely easier than the questions I got on the actual exam. After reviewing the test thoroughly, I spent the rest of the day focusing on Sentence Correction problems.
2 Days Before the GMAT
Two days before the exam, I reviewed for an hour or two and then took another CAT. I went back to a Manhattan CAT because I feel they were harder than the GMAT Prep software and I had 4 more I could take. Again I got a 730. Still Data Sufficiency and Sentence Correction seemed to be weak spots. After reviewing the test, I made a quick study guide with geometry, combinatorics, statistics, and probability formulas. Also included in my guide was my strategy for tackling rate and average questions.
Note: By this point I had a concrete strategy that I had finished developing and was using during the last 2 CATs. I just organized my strategy onto a single study guide.
One Day Before the Exam
The day before the exam I pretty much took it easy besides the CAT. Again, I went with a Manhattan CAT and again I got a 730. I reviewed the CAT, the AWA guide, and my study guide.
Morning of the Exam
The morning of the exam I did a few of the hardest problems from the Quant guide just to get my mind thinking in the right direction and then reviewed the AWA guide and my study guide. Going in to the exam it was looking like I was going to get a 730.
How I Felt About The Materials
Manhattan GMAT Complete Strategy Guide - This is a great set of books. The Number Properties and Sentence Correction seem to be second to none. The Word Translations book was good as well, but like I will cover later I did not see many of these questions. The Geometry book is ok. Not very much content, but the content is helpful if you have not covered geometry in a while. By just buying a single book, you receive access to their 5 CATs. I feel this was the best part about the Manhattan guides. Also, the books come with online question banks, but I never once used these. You get a lot for your money with this set. The strategy I picked up from the Reading Comprehension guide really helped.
The PowerScore GMAT Critical Reasoning Bible - better than the Manhattan guide and a really great guide. I was already pretty strong in Critical Reasoning but this book helped me come up with a consistent strategy to tackle these questions.
The Official Guides for GMAT Review (all of them) - these are a must. The review in them is pretty weak and you are not going to want to rely on it (or even use it), but you cannot beat the quantity and quality of the questions. The questions come from past exams, so this gives you a clear idea of the types of questions you will get.
GMAT Club Guide to Perfect 6.0 AWA GMAT Score - I got a 6.0 following this guideline so it must be pretty solid. You can find prompts on mba.com to practice this guideline with.
About the GMAT Expert
Louis Dudley Scored 750 on his GMAT. He completed his undergrad major in Computer Engineering from San Diego University with 3.8 GPA and is currently working as a Software Engineer.
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