[Summary at bottom]
Alright, Tip #1: Keep Calm, and expect (maybe even plan) to write the test twice!
I was told me a Manhattan Prep tutor that most students write the test twice simply because the have significant test anxiety in the first attempt, but I didn’t think this would apply to me. I was very wrong! There was even a point where during my first attempt when I couldn’t get a simple fractions questions (Sum of two easy fractions divided by two other fractions)..something I should have gotten correct with no preparation at all. My overall score for my first attempt was 610 (Q36, V38).
I had my second attempt about 16 days after the first. In my second attempt, I deliberately focused on controlling my test anxiety. It wasn’t perfect..in at least three different points, I had to completely stop, close my eyes and breath slowly for 2-5 seconds. These 6 – 15 seconds may seem like a long time, but it really helped me reduce my stress levels. I scored a 700 (Q44, V41). I’m confident that my conscious effort to keep anxiety levels slow made the most significant impact since my first attempt.
Tip #2: This is one that not a lot of test-takers talk about; focus on improving your strength (whether it be Quant or Verbal), and let go of your losses at a certain point.
I kept scoring below Q44 (56 %ile) in all my practice tests, and as a former-engineering student, this was hurting my ego. On the other hand, I consistently scored above V35 (76 %ile). So naturally, I practiced improving my Quant score, and figured the verbal is “good enough”.
I was fortunate enough to realize something a week before my second attempt – although I’ve tried to improve my Quant scores for close to a month, it hadn’t gone anywhere. But I knew I can improve my verbal score..I just hadn’t tried it yet because I wrote it off as “good enough”. Plus, improving each percentile for verbal would have stronger net positive effect on my overall score! (I verified this on Magoosh’s score chart). So I drilled hard on verbal that week. I did VERY little quant..just enough to keep me warmed up for exam day. I was able to improve to a 94 %ile on my second exam day (V41). Moral of the story – sometimes it’s better to focus on your strengths and cut your losses.
(Now, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t focus on only one of Quant and Verbal. Get your base level going first, do 2-3 practice tests, and then determine which you should be focus on.)
Just in case you are wondering, I did the Manhattan Prep Interact (online) course and all 6 practice test there, and one Veritas Prep practice test. I also bought a Magoosh account because I figured it would help me understand a few Quant principals better, but I didn’t really use it much (I can sell that too if you are interested). I was hoping to score more than a 700, but I got into my preferred school because the rest of my application is strong, so no more GMAT studying for me! 😀
Score (beginning to end): 610 (official) to 700 (official)
Study time: > 1 month
Materials: tutor, Manhattan Prep videos, Manhattan Prep tests
Key takeaways: keep calm, focus your studying on what would improve your score most
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