This past Saturday marked the end of my GMAT career. Like many reviews I read when I was first starting out, I want to come full circle and I write down the tips and tricks that I learned along the way. I had no idea what I was doing when I first started out and, like any hard goal in life, the task seemed daunting in the first place. As you inch along though you’ll see that the test really is not that bad and very do-able.
I ended up getting a score that I am happy with and proud of. What was it? Who cares. What matters is the personal goal that you set for yourself and the work that you put in to get to that goal. This isn’t the SAT and comparing scores is for high school. Scores are relative to your goal so what’s it matter what someone else got?
tr;dr The gmat is your “standard” standardized test. It sucks, and takes commitment. The score you end up getting completely depends on where you start and how much work you put in. MtB does a great job of outlining a self-guided program.
Of course you’re going to find the people that hardly put in any work at all and do great. I knew from the beginning that I was not going to be one of those people, nor did I want to leave my score to a half ass chance. I believed in the “there is no easy way”…way. Lets start from square one
Why the GMAT?
Right around after I graduated I had a little one-on-one conversation with myself. I wrote down my long term goals and thought about what I wanted my future to look like. While the path isn’t always clear, I know that in the future I am going to want to be managing people. I had the awesome opportunity of running an organization in college and after seeing “that side” of how things work I knew that I was going to continue to manage people in the future. I find that I’m passionate about helping others complete their goals. Couple that passion with wanting to run my own business and I knew that I wanted to get an MBA. The cool thing about the GMAT is that it is good for 5 years. You don’t have to have the slightest idea about what you want to do in your business future when you start studying for the GMAT.
The Program (12 - 17 weeks)
We have an educational assistance program through work and I was stoked to find out that the GMAT was covered under this expense as well. With that I could basically take any class that I wanted. Long story short, I searched through a bunch of different resources and ended up going with a self-guided program. I stumbled upon the Military to Business Program. I liked this program for three reasons,
- It was free, this guy isn’t out there to make any money off anyone
- Self Guided, I knew that I would be able to full customize the program to fit best with my learning style
- “Hard work/no bs.” He wasn’t claiming to have a master shortcut but rather focused on the hard work required.
Basically this MtB strategy says, “Look there is no easy way to do this. The GMAT sucks and it is going to take hard work. Follow the steps in this program and work hard and you’ll know that you have maximized your potential. You’ll have left it all out on the court and you’ve done all that you can do.”
This program isn’t for those who have a hard time staying focused for a long period of time. I mean, the GMAT isn’t fun and you’ll have to stay into it for a long time. If you want to try and find shortcuts or an easier way I suggest you go check out some of the mainstream options. They have a lot of money backing their methods and they work for a lot of people.
- OG - Official guide
- OG Extra - Official guide for verbal/quant review
- Kaplan WB - Kaplan workbook
- PR WB - Princeton Review workbook
- Kaplan 800
Week 0 - Practice Test
Take a practice test without ever touching a study book. See where you are at and get an idea for what a test feels like. Your score is going to look horrible, good, that means it’ll be that much cooler when you beat your goal and improve.
Week 1-12 - Getting the foundation down
I had time on my side so I dragged the process out quite a bit. I spent 2 weeks on each different subject. You want to start with your hardest subject first. Not only do you have the most energy in the beginning but you will also be practicing this one the most. Six subjects, two weeks, twelve weeks of getting your foundation down. The subjects that were hardest to easiest for me were: Sentence Correction, Reading Comprehension, Data Sufficiency, Critical Reasoning, Problem Solving. Two weeks per subject might sound like a long time, but were trying to get a good score here and we’re not looking for something easy. I would average about 1.5-2.5 hours each week day with about 6 hours every weekend.
Do practice problems galore. You’ll start to notice that most of the questions are the same but with different numbers. It is very important to get totally in the zone and get sensitive/familiar with all of the questions. Once you start recognizing what is going on you’ll start to see that most of the quant questions have tricks to solve them quicker and verbal questions have a very easy process of elimination model.
Keep doing practice problems and completely submerse yourself in the GMAT. Tell your friends that you can’t go out to Polk this weekend because you have to study. Take practice tests and get your testing endurance up. By this time the GMAT will probably be taking over your life.
Eat a big meal the night before. Get all your food groups in. When the test morning comes up make sure you eat a good breakfast. You’ve been looking forward to this moment for a long time. I downed a red bull right before and I was stoked for the test. Borderline excited for it.
Tips and Tidbits
- The GMAT honestly comes down to you’re level of comfortability with the questions and realizing that the structure of many questions repeat themselves.
- I’ve heard people say that you shouldn’t study the day before. I say who cares. Although, if you’re at an unhealthy state of nervousness then you should focus on keeping your cool rather than studying. I personally was fine and wanted to stay in GMAT mode so I practiced right up until the test.
- Sentence Correction - Its really not that bad. The the GMAT only tests you on about 5 rules 80% of the time.
- Critical Reasoning - Have a very narrow mind when reading the prompt. Read the question before hand.
- Reading Comprehension - When you find yourself reading frivolous details that don’t matter, skip them, they really don’t matter. Look for sign post words to track the tone of the author.
- Problem Solving - These problems really shouldn’t take to long at all. They appear hard but what they are really testing is your ability to think outside the box and organize information.
- Data Sufficiency - You need to think in terms of extremes. You’ll need to think about the information that you need but also think about all possible values of a variable. Example: Is |x^2|>2? A. X>-4 Do you have enough information to solve this problem?
- Essay - The essay is really just one long critical reasoning problem. When thinking of what to write about remember CAST - Counter example, Assumptions, Strengthen, Terms
- Integrated Reasoning - Probably my least favorite section on the GMAT. It is graded separately and felt like something that was in the way of my focus for the other parts. Get good at sorting tables.
- http://gmatclub.com/ (bunch of GMAT nerds but they have problems on there that are very well rounded)
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vEB8y2EqhSw (Only one of many GMAT videos online)
Let me know what you think
If you have any questions at all about the GMAT don’t hesitate to reach out. @gregkamradt