After I posted that I got a 740 on my GMAT, I’ve received numerous emails asking how I went about preparing for it. Here’s what I did.
I got several of Kaplan’s study guides. Here’s the complete list of the best books to prepare for the GMAT. I’m cheap so I didn’t actually buy them. I borrowed them off friends and spent a couple 12-hour days at Barnes and Nobles solving them.
The GMAT is broken into two sections, Math and Verbal.
In the Verbal section, I kept getting critical reasoning completely wrong on the practice tests, so I concentrated on that section more. Kaplan is known for being a lot tougher than the actual GMAT. This acts to make sure you don’t get overconfident and the reverse psychology worked very well in motivating me.
I found the Math more challenging than the Verbal and so I devoted significantly more time to it. Make sure you get the books with the practice tests on CD. I solved numerous examples in all the books and gave all the timed practice tests.
After giving several tests, I realized that my main problem was I couldn’t complete the whole math section and in my rush to complete it I was getting stuff wrong. In none of the Kaplan practice tests did I score more than 610. In fact, for most of them I scored in the low 550-580 range.
Even though I never scored more than 610 on the practice tests, I felt that I couldn’t do any further prep and had to take the exam.
During the examination I decided to go very slow on the first several problems. These problems count the most towards your overall score. I figured that as they would get progressively more difficult, I’d get an incredibly different problem that I’d immediately know I couldn’t solve and instead of wasting time trying to solve it, I’d just skip it and my timing would be back on track. This strategy actually worked out very well for me. However, it came with a lot of practice. I finished with 1 minute to spare on both sections.
I think the best advice I can give you to keep giving tests. The practice itself will probably help boost your score a little bit.
If you can’t motivate yourself to study, you can take the Kaplan Prep courses, but at $1,500 they’re a little pricey. I was actually seriously considering taking the courses but my wife vehemently opposed the idea. (I guess she knows more about my abilities than I do!) One advantage is that you get to take a practice test at the actual center on the real GMAT. That way you really know where you stand.
Verbal is a little tricky to prepare for. If your language skills suck, there’s very little you can good other than actually cramming the grammar rules. I suggest you spend a lot of time reading English literature and watching British movies! It’ll be more entertaining and you’ll probably learn just as much.
The Math section is much easier to prepare for. One thing you need to focus on is becoming math-minded. If you’re scared of counting your change at a grocery store, then you’ve got a lot of preparation to do! I strongly recommend reading Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and Its Consequences. You should be able to get it at your library or buy it online for $5. It’s an easy to read book that gets you thinking about using numbers in everyday life. These sort of books have the added advantage of boosting your IQ!
Make sure you solve the Kaplan 800 book. It has a list of the toughest questions and are great practice for the actual exam. Even if you’re not aiming for a 700+, it’ll help boost your score. You definitely want a good score since most schools provide merit-based scholarships which are dependent on your GMAT score.