I took GMAT on 9/3/2003, and scored 740 -98% with (Q-51, V-38).
It’s been a rocky summer: I started thinking about GMAT and decided to take it On 6/1/2003, the date when I finished an important research paper and wondered what to do in summer. I purchased all the books: Official Guide, Kaplan GMAT, Kaplan 800 and Kaplan Verbal in the following week.
Initially, I believed, based on my experience, that the key is to find a competent study partner. I went to Princeton Reviews offices and posted a few “look for GMAT study partner” notes, but received no response. Perhaps, this is a country which cherishes ?individualism, not teamwork
Knowing that Verbal is my weak area, I first completed Kaplan verbal book in about two weeks. I did the first PP test and scored around 650. I started Official guide by the end of June, and got through it by the end of July. Before taking the test for the first time on 8/12/2003, I scored 740 on PP2 and consistently around 620~650 on two Kaplan exams and one Princeton Review online test.
It was a terrible night before the exam. Despite taking two sleeping pills for the first time in my entire life, I couldn’t sleep till 5AM. I went to take the test nonetheless. Predictably, I scored 690 (Q49, V34) and AWA 6.0.
I had thought of stopping right there. However, knowing that I can easily score beyond 700 under normal condition makes me feel like a quitter if I don’t give it another shot. To avoid the insomnia problem, I decided not to register the next exam in advance but to do a walk-in. However, the devil strikes even harder this time. I couldn’t sleep for any night throughout last week, perhaps because I know that if I sleep well, I will take the test. The mental game was so torturing that, finally, I decided not to take the exam and instead to rely on other aspects of my credential to build up my MBA application. I didn’t touch any GMAT for the past three days and indulge myself in reading some Chinese websites. Yesterday, I burned all the GMAT books and said to myself “Oh, good lord, this journey is over, I will go with whatever you give me”.
I had the first good sleep last night. I woke up this morning feeling so relaxed that I almost had sex with Thanks to Lord, I took a look at the clock hanging on the?my wife—no kidding wall, and noticed that it was still 6:37AM. I rushed to the testing center and performed well.
In mid June, I enrolled a GMAT test prep class (http://www.gorillatestprep.com/). It is not expensive and I did that solely to find a study partner. In the first class, the instructor talked about picking numbers as an essential strategy for math. He talked about it again in the second class, I became impatient and he told me that I just had to try and see how magical it is. I conceded. He talked about that again in the third class. That is when I decided to quit it and he kindly gave me a partial refund. For people who have similar background to mine (graduate degree in science, and strong math skills but not very good at verbal), I’d suggest them not to take those prep classes because prep classes generally target American students who are usually not good at math.
Materials I have worked on:
Kaplan Verbal book—one pass.
GMAT official guide – one pass, then reviewed the sentence correction part which is my weak area. I didn’t finish the entire math portion though because I don’t have enough time.
Kaplan 2003. – 50 percent of it.
Only touched the Kaplan 800 book for part of its sentence correction portion. It may be good, but I hate those “expert suggestions”.
Kaplan simulation exams – the math is harder and I couldn’t finish the math portion of the first exam. Since I did that right before my first exam, I carried that “rush” feeling and attitude into the real GMAT exam, as a result, I guess I made at least two or three stupid mistakes so that I only scored 49—a disappointing score for a Chinese student. No insult here, but the culture among Chinese GMAT takers is: if you miss one point, you fail; if you miss two, you are a loser.
In retrospect, I was correct when I decided that grammar is my weak area and I worked on it extensively. At the beginning of this summer, I thought I would use this test prep process as a chance to improve my overall English ability. Luckily, I found a suggestion from this forum that Schaum’s Outlines for English Grammar is a good book.
I bought it and studied it carefully before delving into the preparation journey. It is a very good book which provides solid foundations on grammar for non-English speakers.
For the question on how to improve math skills, I’d suggest you get a pre-college level math textbook and spend perhaps a months to solve all the problems. I am not being cynical here. Honestly, I believe that is the best way to prepare for it. I did the same thing for my grammar: grab a book and solve the problems. In retrospect, I am glad that I did it because I have learned something beyond GMAT itself. If you prepare for GMAT solely with GMAT problems, then you won’t really improve your fundamental skills which may be carried on in your life beyond GMAT.
The Indian friend’s point is well made. Yes, I think generally Indian and Chinese schooling systems put more emphasis on math training. One example is that in Chinese pre-college schools, calculators are not allowed because it discourages students from working things out by punching numbers directly. If you look at each year’s Olympic Math competition, almost every time Chinese representatives will win at least five gold medals. I am not saying Chinese educational system is superior to that of the US. On the contrary, I like US system better because it encourages creativity.
1) How close was the verbal to the OG?
Ans: Very close. But take note that my verbal score is only 38, so it may only reflect that level of difficulty.
2) How long were the reading passages? There were four of them? Which topics?
Ans: Three long ones, around 70 lines each, plus a short one 40 lines. Topics are interesting though I am not supposed to disclose them here.
3) Is it true that on the real test almost none of "strengthen and weakening" questions in critical reasoning section?
Ans: No. There are quite a few weakening questions and strengthen question, though they take different form, such as “how to better evaluate these claims, etc”.
4) What was the most difficult problem in math? What was the difficulty of math compared to OG?
Ans: It is close to those in OG. A few problems are difficult because they are of new types,
i.e., they haven’t appeared in OG before, so it takes more minutes to fully understand them. Once you did, none is difficult.
5) What were the topics for AWA?
Ans: Easy topics. I have always thought that is very stupid for ETS to list those topics in advance. Guess what will most foreign students do? They write them in advance and memorize them. That is why some B-schools have students who have AWA 6.0 but can’t write a simple term paper. It is just plain stupid. I didn’t bother to write them in advance because I am reasonably confident in my ability to write as I have lived in US for seven years and have published many technical papers.