Hey Natalie, congrats on a good score. Hopefully you get into the school of your choice.
Hey everyone! I had to take a long flight yesterday so I had good time to write a debrief. Here it is finally!
I am 24 years old and I work at a very large internet company (whose site all of you have surely visited today). I will keep the name anonymous for the sake of my own anonymity. I have an engineering background and thus an MBA was the last thing I was thinking about as I graduated college. I worked at a smaller company for a year, and then moved to my current company. When I began working, at first I was focused on advancing down the technical path, but slowly I realized that high-impact positions are usually more management related (the higher you go) than technical. At my current company I worked hard and excelled quickly. I was promoted within 9 months of working and in 13 months I was made the engineering lead of a fairly large public product of ours. This is around when I started looking into an MBA. I was inspired to be an engineering manager, so in the future I hope to get to a point where I donít have to code on a daily basis, but I have a great impact on the products still.
I was exceedingly busy at work and so I was looking for a prep schedule that would be longer but consisted of smaller pieces per day. I researched on TM (and read some great debriefs btw), and also talked to some friends who had taken the GMAT already. I developed a 10 week study plan and ordered books.
Since I was initially very excited about getting started, while my books were still arriving, I started going to a local bookstore in the evening to study. I have used Princeton Review books in the past and had been satisfied before so I decided to start with them for GMAT.
I read/worked through this book in about a week (reading a couple hrs every evening). This gave me a good background to the GMAT. Then I took my first GmatPrep Practice Exam. I got a 710 (47/41). This actually gave me mixed feelings. I was expecting to do quite a bit worseÖso I started to question whether I actually need 10 weeks of prepÖbut I kept myself motivated and shot higher.
Here are a list of pointers that I hope you will find usefulÖand easier/faster to read.
Core skills are important: There was a time when I was just practicing problems (and not timing myself). I realized that although this is useful, it is not the greatest way to study when you know that there are things you have forgotten since college. One thing to make sure is that you strengthen your core skills as well as practice. To do this, I used the Manhattan books, which I found to be helpful in being much more detailed about the skills.
Donít be lazy: Truthfully, I have always been a bit on the lazy side . In school I pretty much always underperformed. In the middle weeks of my GMAT studying, as my initial studying craze wore off (combined with getting home from work at ~9pm everyday), I started getting lazy and didnít practice more than an hour a night. If I had been more diligent about timing myself, taking more exams, etc, I maybe could have scored higher. If you can be less lazy than me...you will do better. It is as simple as that. Because of the adaptive nature of this exam, there is a very good chance that the score you get will reflect your actual mastery/preparation for the exam!
Once in a while look back: As you are studying, you mustnít forget why you are studying in the first place. To keep your enthusiasm alive about getting an MBA from a good school, read debriefs, talk to friends, look up colleges, dream about them and keep yourself excited.
Donít take a prep course right away: If you are shooting for a 700+ like many of you are, I would highly recommend NOT taking the standard Princeton Review/Kaplan courses. Even if you are shooting for ~650Öit is only marginally worth it. I think you should opt for a course only AFTER you have tried studying on your own and giving the GMAT one shot. I almost feel like resources I collected from TestMagic and other sites are more valuable than what you would pay hundreds for from the Princeton Review or Kaplan courses.
Study with an attitude: I used to tell myself, I vow that I am going to keep taking this test till I get a 700. This donít-quit attitude made me unafraid of the test. I went there ready to attack it whatever it gave me. This will keep you from freaking out and going on a negative cycle of laziness and hopelessness. If you are in the boat where you have given the GMAT once but would like to do better still, adopt this attitude and you will not fail.
Study how you study: The GMAT is just one more exam in your life. You have spent a lot of time studying in college. From the hundreds of exams/quizzes you have taken in your life, you surely know your study habitsówhat works and what doesnít work. Donít change your studying style just because you read one personís debrief about what worked for them. For example, I cannot stay at peace unless I am studying till the last moment before I leave for an exam. This helps me keep my head in the game and makes me feel more confident. Just because half the people here say they took off the last day or went to go watch a movie, doesnít mean you should do the same if that doesnít work for you! (I actually was glad I studied in the morning of my test, I had 2 questions related to the material I studied that morning).
AWA (analytical writing): This probably wasnít the smartest thing to do but I truthfully didnít study for this section at all. On the day of the test, I spent around 1 hr or so reading Princeton Reviewís section on this, thatís it. The first essays I wrote were the ones I wrote on the test.
Comparisons: Since everyone keeps asking about these, I'll address them here. OG is pretty comparable to the real exam, but only the last 1/4 or so of each section. Don't fool yourself by doing well in the early questions of those sections and feel prepared. GmatPrep was the closest to the real thing. Manhattan GMAT Adaptive tests were way harder but are scored way easier. The MGMAT exams helped me become "tough" in regards to the math section. After doing the MGMAT adaptive exams, nothing the Gmat could throw me was too hard or something that would shock me
Here is a list of the resources I used and what I thought about each one:
I canít think of much else right now, but if you have any questions for me, donít hesitate to ask.
- Princeton Review: I found this book helpful for two things only: an overview of the test early on in my prep and the tips in the AWA section. Even though I had the 2007 edition, I found the book was outdated and in some cases had false information. For example, my book said clearly that math diagrams on the GMAT are drawn TO SCALE unless otherwise noted. This is clearly FALSE. Diagrams on the GMAT are almost always drawn to confuse you even if there is no notice. Also, they still havenít updated the fact that ETS doesnít run GMAT anymore (and thus all their info about blank sheets of paper, etc, were false). Their advice on the exam is still pretty good, but by no means is this an exhaustive book for study.
- Official Guide: Like you may know already, the OG and the accompanying two Math/Verbal practice books are priceless. They were very useful for realistic problems. The only bad thing is that they can be misleading to someone as the problems at the starting ĺ of verbal and math were way easier than the ones I saw on my test. This is one bad part about these books. Donít give yourself fake confidence by being able to answer the earlier questions easily. I did this on the verbal and look at how low I scored.
- Manhattan Guides: I bought all the Manhattan Guides and truthfully I found them to be very helpful. Even I thought they were expensive at first, but, you can always resell them after (if you donít write in them), so the actual cost is probably only about 25% of what you pay. They also have info in them that is not in any other book. These books especially helped me strengthen my core skills like I mentioned earlier.
- GmatPrep: Obviously very useful as it looks exactly like the screen on the test. The version I installed at home actually seemed to have jaggedy text which was kind of difficult to read. I was worried about that, but at the test center the text was very nicely anti-aliased and easy to read.
- Manhattan GMAT online Adaptive exams: These are very difficult and a bit too lenient in terms of scoring. Donít be fooled by the high scores you see here, but I found the tough math section to be useful in raising my math score.
- Princeton Review online exam: I found this to be too easyÖbut the scoring seemed decently accurate. I only took one of these because I didnít really feel like it was representative of the real one too much.
- Written Exams: The written exams you can buy (or download at some sites) are only mildly useful. The majority of the questions are too easy so you wont really see those questions much. I felt like these tests were a lot more about answering easier questions quickly (as there is much less time per question for these problems). So I wouldnít buy these exams if I were you.
- Other Resources: Read the debriefs here, download the study guides people have made and join the gmat-network yahoo group which has a lot of resources available for download. Donít go overly crazy trying to do these, but if you use the right ones, I think they can be very useful.
- Random Tips: I donít know if this will help you, but I had 2 or 3 questions about finding the units digit of a sum. Learn how to do this kind of problem
Also remember that throughout my studying process I was very busy (~65 hrs/week) at work which is why Iím sure you will find holes in my studying strategies. If you have more free time than me, you should probably do more than I did.
Oh yeah, I know this section doesnít matter much, but I also got my AWA score today, and I got a 6 . Hopefully this can make up for my low verbal performance.
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