Moderator note (Andy): this was originally posted on 5/17/12, Here is the link to his study guide
highest score on GMAT while working in banking
Background: I recently took the GMAT and scored a 770 on my first and only try. Long story short, I studied and took the exam under conditions that would not be considered ideal by most people. I work 80+ hours a week and pull all-nighters relatively frequently (which led to a lot of days off from studying). If you are interested in taking the exam, or simply in hearing about my experience, please read on.
How to Score High on GMAT: Steps to Success
Here is what you will need and the process of how to do it:
- Manhattan GMAT book series (8 books total - 5 quant, 3 verbal)
- GMAC Official Guide and Official Quant and Verbal Review workbooks
- About 8 weeks (1-2 hours per day, 2.5 hours for days you are taking a practice exam, 1-2 days off per week)
- A banker mentality (your time is precious, money is of no consequence, failure is not an option, etc.)
Get Familiar with GMAT and take a Diagnostic Test
Step 1 - Familiarize yourself with the exam and take a diagnostic test (
Take a few days to familiarize yourself with the exam. Read blogs/websites/the introduction in the Official Guide (or just read this post). This is also when you want to motivate yourself to do well on the exam - read about your dream schools, read other peoples' success stories - after doing this, you should be Brady4MVP style motivated about getting in to b-school.
All you really need to know is that there are three sections: Essay, Quant, and Verbal (in that order). Do not even worry about the Essay section until the last week of your preparations. Also note that the exam is changing in early June 2012 (not really that big of a deal, they are switching one of the essays out for an "Integrated Reasoning" section - this changes nothing because it appears to be relatively easy and is not part of the main score out of 800).
In the quant section there are two types of questions: Problem Solving and Data Sufficiency. In the verbal section there are three types of questions: Reading Comprehension, Critical Reasoning, and Sentence Correction. Familiarize yourself with the question types. The quant is 37 questions and the verbal is 41 questions and you get 75 minutes for each question, so you should be shooting for around 2 minutes per questions (+ or - depending on the section).
Also note that the GMAT is a computer adaptive test, so the questions change in difficultly based on whether you got the previous question right or wrong (ie. the next question will be harder if you got the previous question right, easier if you got the previous question wrong). Do not spin your wheels too much on this because on the actual exam, there are also questions that the GMAC is testing out for next year, which will appear randomly throughout the test. What is important to note is that you cannot go back once you submit an answer.
Once you feel like you know enough about the exam, log-in to the Manhattan GMAT student center and take practice exam 1 (I skipped all the essays until my last 2 practice exams to save time) - this will give you your baseline score (mine was 660).
Study with the Manhattan GMAT Guides
Step 2 - Review concepts (4 weeks) - you can skip this step if you want to, but make sure you have a good study guide (I can post mine if people are interested)
Go through the Manhattan guides (skim if you want) and put together a "study guide" with all the concepts that you need to know (this is very easy because Manhattan actually bolds most of the important concepts in the margin). Do the problems at the end of each chapter as prescribed by the guides - the good news is once you are done with the 8 guides, you will also have gone through all the problems in the Official Guide.
Many people will recommend charting your answers in an excel spreadsheet so you can go back, sort, and track the reasons for your mistakes, etc. This is probably a good idea, but I didn't feel like doing it, so I just marked my answers on paper and circled the ones I got wrong (make sure to keep track of questions you got wrong because you will go back to this list in the last week of prep).
You should be able to get through each guide in 2-4 days or less (depending on which guide it is). I took a practice exam after I finished the 5 quant guides and another after I finished the 3 verbal guides to see how reviewing the concepts impacted my score (scores for these exams respectively were 740 and 730).
You can purchase the full Manhattan guide here on Amazon.
Work on Official Practice Problems
Step 3 - Practice using official problems (1-2 weeks)
This is the most important step (besides taking the exam of course). I went through each of the two workbooks separately. You could do questions from each question type each day, but that seemed like too much of a hassle / flipping between different books and different sections. I allocated one day for each problem type for a total of 5 days (1. PS, 2. DS, 3. CR, 4. RC, 5. SC). At the end, I made a list of all my wrong answers and took a MGMAT practice exam (score was 730). Take a day off and gather your thoughts. The last step is the most important in my opinion. Make a list, broken down by problem type, of all the questions you answered incorrectly. Go over your study guide and then go through all the questions until you get them all right and thoroughly understand each question. Next, take a practice exam (my score was 770). If you are not happy with your score at this point, I would recommend going back over the concepts and problem types that you are having difficulty with. MGAMT is great because you can download an analysis of your performance on the practice tests to see where you weaknesses lie.
At this point, you should be a little over 1 week from your exam. GMAC offers a program called GMATPrep which is now also available for Mac (you can also use a free trial of Crossover to run the PC-version on a Mac). This program comes with 2 free practice exams, which are the closest to the actual exam, so make sure to save these for the end (last week). Others will tell you not to take practice exams that close to the real exam because of fatigue/burning out, but for folks in finance, this is complete BS. I took one of them about 5 days before the exam and the other one 2 days before the exam (scored 770 on both). For these exams, I would also not skip the essay sections because you want to make sure you are good on stamina and this is also the time to start practicing so you can max out the AWA Essay score (its out of 6.0). The day before the exam, I ordered a product from GMAC for $30 called GMATWrite, which scores your essays using the algorithm used by GMAC. I scored 6.0 on both essays and it boosted my confidence for the exam (ended up scoring 6.0 on the real exam as well). I can post my guide for AWA Essays in a separate post because this is getting way too long.
Advice on Taking the Exam
Step 4 - Take the exam
Relax, get a good night's sleep, eat a healthy breakfast, work out, listen to classical music, stop by your testing site the day before, blah blah blah, do whatever you think will work for you. I got almost no sleep and ate some Burger King on the way to my exam and did just fine, so to each his own.
Step 5 - Rejoice!
You are now done with the GMAT and can rejoice in your banker greatness!
I hope this was helpful, and for those applying to b-school this coming fall (or just taking the GMAT to get it out of the way), feel free to use/modify this approach to your liking.
For those of you who have taken the exam, how did my method differ from yours? How did you end up doing on the exam?
I am also open to answering questions/discussing GMAT related topics if it will be helpful for fellow WSOers.
Read More About GMAT Prep on WSO
- Best GMAT Prep Books For Self-Study - Recommendations
- Preparation Time Studying For GMAT
- How I Got A 770 On The GMAT . . . Whitecollarandsuspenders Version
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