first of all thanks to you, the admistrator of this amazing forum and to everyone else that has helped me during the last two months in preparing for this monstrous exam.
Yesterday I finally took my chances and, needless to say, everything was just different from my expectation so i decided to write about my experience.
First of all: Who am I?
I'm an italian, 31 years old electronic engeneer who is now in the final steps to get a second university degree in economics.
How much did I prepare?
I started to study for Gmat at the end of February and as, I work for an international manufacturing company and travel a lot, I was unable to dedicate to study more than one hour in the morning and two in the evening of each working day. During weekends, and from the last tuesday, I studied more or less from dawn till dusk (but without tarantino's vampires).
What did I studied? (BOOKS)
Well basically everything available on the net, and when i say everything I mean it.
- Original guides (10th or 11th): I would say that these books are an absolute necessity for everyone who starts to approach gmat. Clear, on the subject and with the best answers you will find. Unfortunately the number of hard questions available is unreasonably low. If you already have one of these two edition no need to purchase the other
- EZ books on math. They are very well done for starters but useless if your mathematical background is already strong, I have finished probably just 3 of the nine books i purchased as they are very specific to different sections and quizes are just different from Gmat's. They can be really useful but I would recomend them only if your mathematical background is unsufficient or if you are in no particilar hurry.
- Kaplan 800: well, to me, the book was quite disappointing...nothing as hard as I was expecting and also nothing really worthy to be purchased in how to resolve unusual questions. I was expecting something different... but I see that on the net most of reviews are very positive so maybe it's just me.
- Kaplan Grammar workbook: I found it on the net..is a collection of sets and quizes...just skimmed it but had no time to go in detail.
- Cliff Gmat: although not famous as other books I found it quite useful. Exercises ragnes from easy to hard and explanations are in the average. I would recomend to get it if you feel that you have covered the basis but still not ready for the hard questions.
Mcgraw-hills GMAT 2007 and 2008: these are the books I started to prepare with. They are very good and cover things such as how to prepare presentation letters and how to manage interviews that i didn't find anywhere else. I would say a must have to start the preparation. Unfortunately quizes are just in the average.
Nova: I started this book at the beginning of my preparation but didn't finished to find time for kaplan...well I did a mistake. The part I did was really good and skimming through the rest I see that some questions are of a level similar to what I later found in the exam. Recomended for advanced preparation.
-Critical reasoning bible: This is absolutely the best books of the lot. It is dedicated entirely to CR but it does a wonderful job. If you want to succed in this part of the test this is the book you have to buy. No real need to purchase anything else on the subject. Highly recomended to anyone.
- Learning express Gmat: I read only the first 100 pages, verbal part is well done and detailed, math part, not read just skimmed, doesn't seem sufficient. Not sure about this one.
- Manhattan sentence correction: Another must have. Covers only SC but does an wonderful job. No need to purchase anything else on the subject.
Recomended to anyone.
- Manhattan critical reasoning & reading comprehension: The CR part is inferior to the Critical reasoning bible but the RC part is definetly worthy to be studied. Recomended
- Module 2: An ETS (?) internal document that covers only PS. Very well done to prepare for strange questions (like the number of 0s in 1000^1000), there are some errors here and there but it's a must have for covering hard problems. It does what I supposed Kaplan 800 would have done.
- Module 5: Another ETS (?) internal document, covers only RC but is not at the same level of Module 2.
- Module x: I understand there should be another 3 modules in this serie but I haven't been able to find them on the net, if you do I would recomend to download them as they seem to be made by internal people.
- Oxford essential guide to writing: didn't touched...is not even specific to Gmay. Probably worthy to read if you plan to have your exam in one year.
- Peterson master the gmat 2007: another well done gmat book that lacks hard questions. I would say is interchangable with MCGraw-Hill's and Cliff's
- Peterson writing skills for GRE/GMAT: entirely dedicated to AWA. I have done only the first 70 pages but found it really interesting.
- Peterson ultimate Gmat toolkit: another well done gmat book it is slightly harder than master the gmat but the concept of "take it to the next level" is not really next. Again between MCgraw-Hill,cliff,peterson (master) and this one probably one is sufficient.
- Princeton review Gmat: not really went in detail. Skimming through it seems quite well organized, probably a little better than the average omnicomprehensive gmat book.
- Princeton review gmat verbal workout: dedicated to CR/SC/RC is well done but I would recomend it only if you don't have the time to read the CR bible and the manhattan series.
- Tania: The powerscore Lsat logical reasoning bible: just skimmed through it...I would say that it appear to be inferior to the CR reasoning bible but I'm not really sure.
- Vedic_maths_original: Attention on the net you can find also vedic_math but is not as complete as this one. Ths book is incredible..it teaches you how to solve complex equations in half of the time. Problem is 1) to understand it you must be already very good at math B) is unlikely that you will find many occasion to use these concepts in Gmat...probably only once or twice. Anyway recomended for advanced users
What did I studied? (Software)
The idea here is use everything you can...most of the software you will try will have only 3/4 full practice tests so sticking to one is just not an option
- Kaplan Premium/Advanced/Workshop...: there are probably 20 versions of this software out there. Usually very well done with lots of exercises and explanations (on some versions even games) unfortunately the exercises' difficulty is lower than the gmat actual exam (at least of mine)
- MBA.com simulation: A must have as the interface is essentially the same of the exam. The questions are, on average, easier than on the real exam.
-Peterson: This software is shitty...it need 40 second just to start and sometimes the characters are displayed with different fonts or resolution. Exercises again somewhat easier than in the real exam.
-Princeton review: Maybe the best after kaplan as you will have 4 full tests to work with.
-Pearson:..on m pc didn't even started.
-Arco Gmat: just ok...nothing exceptional
-Oxford concise dictionary: you'll need babylon...but for the rest is very good to buil a decent vocabolary
-Other vocabulary tools: didn't tested.
-800 score: flash applications with only exercises but maybe the best to prepare for hard quetions. Recomended for advanced users
What did I studied? (Exercises)
The more you do the better you'll perform but be sure to use a clock because the real test will be timed.
-Gmat sample question papers: Past Gmat exams...what are you waiting? start to do them as soon as you can
-1000 RC/SC/PS/CR/DS: basically a compilation of the exercises that you can find on other books or past exams...highly recomended but only if you can find the explanations, otherwise use them in the last week.
-Gmat paper test: quite a lot of tests with a timing indication...useful but without explanations
- Awa topics: be sure to read them all...I didn't and I performed quite poorly in the AWA, don't underestimate this part of the exam.
What did I studied? (Other material)
- CatchMeIfYouCan-ProblemSolving TECHNIQUES.pdf: Absolutely a must if you want to get an 800. Is not even near to be enough but surely it helps. It explains how to approach to very hard problems. Recomended but only if you aim to over 700.
- Math shortcuts: on the net you can find many .doc files that provides mathematical shortcuts. Generally they are well done and useful but sometimes formulas are wrong. Recomended but with caution.
- University of minnesota Gmat: just a series of average exercises..don't download it.
- IMS gmat: just a series of average exercises..don't download it.
-Gmat study strategy: the story of a guy and how he prepared to GMAT...if you have time go ahead but I would say the forum is the right place for this kind of stories.
- Idioms Gmat: just go on a P2P and downaload most of them... you cannot learn enough of them.
- Mathematical reasoning: the story of logic ...leave it
- Combination & permutations (MANSW): everything you'll ever need on the subject...it start slow but the last pages are full of notions on Combination and permutation with restrictions... On the subject is worthy to google a little bit but this is a must have for advanced users.
How much did I prepare? (Tools)
I used basically two tools to prepare:
1) A word document where I pasted all the mathematical and verbal concepts I didn't know each time I read them.
2) An excel error grid, divided in 4 sheets (one for each section RC excluded), where I pasted all the questions I failed and their explanation if available.
In the last 10 days , I studied hard on these two documents and did tons of exercises.
As I was writing before...everything was different compared with what I had expected.
There were probably 20 other students with me, we started the exam with a 10 minutes difference between one another.
-Awa sections: Awas were much toughter than I expected...The argument was more convincing and substantiated than I was expecting, while the issue was on quite intricate involving three different positions on the responsability of managing job losses....I think i performed much lower than what I did at home (probably a 4 but let's see in 15 days)
-Pause: also the pause was very different from my expectation I had to record my finger print image on a machine just to take the break...really odd.
- Math: OH MY GOD! And I though to have been prepared! Guys I don't know if I was particularly unlucky but all my questions have been spectaculaly hard. Most of the time I tried a simulation first 3-4 questions were quite average and I thought it was a milestone of the whole concept to have a rising difficulty. My exam was instead just hard from the start to the end. First question was on the probability to select an x,y point with certain mathematical properties out of a rectangle...well it was one of the hardest questions I have ever answered.
Usually I finish the math section 4-5 minutes in advance...here i answered the last question with 1 second left (fiuuu).
Really strange...maybe the changed some rules in cat program?
Verbal: Here exactly the contrary...most of the time my results with RC and SC questions have been problematic, instead on the exam most of them were really easy (indeed I was shitting in my pants convinced to be aiming to a very low score) and 3 of the 4 RC passages were really short, not even reaching the screen bottom.
Premises: I never scored more than 670 before the last week while in these last few days I have scored a 700 with princeton review and a 760 with mba.com (the night before the exam) but with 2 questions already seen. I was aiming to get a 690-700 score instead:
94% on math, 99% on verbal; 99% when combined.
I litterally jumped on my chair and continued to jump until i reached the door, once outside I just screamed: 770!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I still have to convince myself it is not a dream!
Well guys...this concludes the longest post ever.
Thanks again to all of you!