Whew! Finally got it done. Took the afternoon time slot in LA so I could be well rested - I normally do my best work in the evening, but 1:30 was as close to a nighttime test as I could get.
Score was 700 (Q 44, V 41). Definitely got my target score in math, but am a bit disappointed with the verbal result. In the powerprep tests, I got 44 on math both times but got 44 and 47 on verbal. Matters not, I guess.
I prepared for several months for the exam. I made it my new year's resolution to take the test sometime in 2003, so I bought study materials near the end of March, and studied in April, May, June and half of July.
In April, I generally reviewed strategies in the books and practiced problems 2-4 hours per week, then 2-3 hours on the weekend. I increased the weekend hours starting in May so that I had time to take and review practice tests. Starting in June, I was doing problems every other night (both verbal and math) to stay fresh, doing probably 4-5 hours per week and 4-5 hours on the weekend. I tapered off by the end of June, and in July I only reviewed past problems.
I bought Kaplan's main GMAT book, PR's main GMAT book, Kaplan GMAT 800, and (in May) OG. I would recommend all of them except the PR.
Here are the main learnings I had:
1. Repitition is key. I cannot underestimate this. There were no math problems I did not know how to start. I had a strategy for every one of them, which was made possible because I basically saw nothing new.
2. Practice tests are critical. My first ever practice test was a PR 650. I barely got either section done on time. My last test was an OG, and I got a 760 (I recognized 5-6 of the problems, though, so my score was not representative). On this test I finished the math with 4 minutes left and the verbal with 14 minutes left. On the real test, I finished the math with 7 minutes and the verbal with 6 minutes. Practicing got my timing down and made me comfortable doing many different kinds of thinking in a short time span.
3. Relax. A family emergency arose last week on the eve of my original test date. As a result, I had to cancel my test and reschedule. This stressed me out, but by the middle of the week I was concentrating on my practice results and I knew I would only hurt myself by being worried. This is so important. I went in there believing in myself, so when I knew I didn't get a question right (i.e., spent 3-4 minutes and still didn't have it), I knew it was ok because I told myself "get the next one, you'll make up for it."
You have to realize that 1/4 (8-9) of the questions are experimental. When you consider that probably none of the first 6-8 questions are experimental, because they are instrumental in determining your score, you see that 8 or 9 of 30 questions -- almost 1 of every 3 -- is experimental. Therefore, when you feel bad about a problem, there's essentially a 1/3 chance that it didn't matter.
Speaking of chance, I saw 3 probablity questions and 1 counting question. Despite the decent Q score, I don't feel that any of the questions on the math were of the very, very difficult variety. There were definitely no very hard DS questions. Akamai's recent DS questions were tougher than anything I saw on DS. Also, most of Stolyar's questions are more difficult than the PS I saw, and I'd say his DS are right in line. Obviously I missed a fair number of questions, but because the probability questions kept coming up I knew I was ok. For me, errors are usually a result of working too quickly. That's probably what happened to me on verbal.
The materials that best helped me prepare were the Kaplan books and OG. By taking Kaplan, I think I got used to working through difficult material quickly. By using OG, I got a sense of how exactly the problems would look and feel.
In sum, I'm glad it's done. 700 is ok, and I can enjoy the benefit of not being one of the "non-team playing snobs" for whom bb has such disdain
Questions, please fire away. I may take a few days and not look at this stuff, but I am not going anywhere.
SC was a little bit tougher than most of the OG questions, but there are definitely hard SC questions in OG that approximated the level of SC difficulty I saw on Saturday. This is probably my strongest area, and I am a native speaker, so I sometimes have difficulty discerning difficult SC from easy SC. Start with #200 or so in OG.
I got SC as Q#1, then RC #2-4, then a few more SC, then RC, then finally a CR at around #9 or #10. This meant that of my last 30 questions, by far the most oft-seen question was CR. To be honest, I really got bored with them and started to fade a bit. Of the ~12 CR questions, I bet I missed 3. Throw in a missed RC question and SC question, and you can see how I was down to a 41.
I don't want to sound like a broken record here, but the test was basically just like powerprep. I just did a better job on my powerprep CRs than I did on test day (I think). Will let you know when I get the report.
I would like to thank everyone for helping me achieve this score.