[Summary at bottom]
Hi all, I took the GMAT last spring would like to share my test plan, debrief, and insights. This is geared towards people who are aiming for 740+ and need to lose that last bit of belly fat.
GMAT 1: 690 45Q/38V MGMAT, 10 Weeks Out
GMAT 7: 750 49Q/44V GMAT PREP, 2 Days Out
GMAT: 780, 51Q/48V
I am pretty good with mental math, am a native english speaker, and took SATs and APs growing up (so, a good deal of MCQ practice and experience). Even if this isn’t your starting point, you can likely get here with enough practice, and hopefully my post is still relevant.
Study Plan & Insights Along the Way
12 Weeks Out Start studying. The five books I’d consider required reading are: Official GMAT Guide + Manhattan Number Properties, Geometry, Data sufficiency, Critical Reasoning, and Sentence Correction. Cover data sufficiency strategy first and begin internalizing. I’d recommend starting on this very early – it is the trickier of the two math question types, and you really need to demonstrate mastery of the question type (the logic, the answer choices, your problem solving template should all be second nature eventually). Started putting in about 6 hrs/week.
10 Weeks Out: Diagnostic test. It’s critical to get one of these in early enough so that you identify your weaknesses. Equally importantly, taking the GMAT is a skill (literally taking the test – I’m not talking about problem solving ability), and the more practice you can get, the better. That leads me to another, potentially controversial, point: take many, many practice tests. The limiting factor should be the availability of good practice tests, not your time or effort.
6 Weeks Out: Be familiar with all the question types by now and practice all of them. I advocate against studying exclusively one question type for too long – establish a wide base and build up from there. By now you should be starting to have a good sense for test pacing. You’re now at basic familiarity with all pieces of the test.
4 Weeks Out: This is when you start to ramp up your studying. You’ve given yourself some time to get comfortable, and suddenly you realize you’re in familiar territory. Mastery is within reach! Take it to the next level – it’s worth four weeks out of your life. Keep studying, keep taking practice tests.
2 Weeks Out: Full throttle. Work the hardest problems you can find, and use every resource you have to identify and understand every mistake you make. Important: There will be questions that you are on the fence about, but end up getting correct. Go back to these. Do not ignore and forget about them just because you got the answer correct!
1 Week Out: Take the final GMAT Prep test if you haven’t already. This is your best idea of where you stand. Invoking what I mentioned about laying a wide foundation and then building on top of it, here is where you set the capstone. I personally saved the last quarter of each section of the entire official GMAT guide for this week. I timed and did each two page spread as if it were test conditions, and immediately afterwards went through each option of each question regardless of my answer. Understand why every answer is right or wrong. The GMAT guide does a good job providing answer descriptions, so use this to your advantage. If you’re having trouble, Google the problem – chances are, you’ll find a forum thread about that very question.
PS I spent 4+ hrs/day studying during my last week. During my final weekend, I would say I put in around 10hrs/day.
Score increase: 690 (MGMAT) to 780 (official)
Time spent: 3 months, many, many hours (7 practice tests!)
Materials used: Official Guide (OG) to the GMAT, Manhattan Prep
Key takeaways: identify strengths and weaknesses and work on them, get familiar with the GMAT itself (not just the topics)
If you’re looking for high-quality, effective GMAT tutoring, check out Trevor Klee, Tutor. 750 GMAT score, 5 star ratings on Google and Yelp. Tutoring can be done online or in Boston.