If I had to take the GMAT again
From PhD Prep Track
I emailed this to a friend the other day and figured that I would post it on here also.
If I had to retake the GMAT here is what I would do:
I would not take a prep class: I don't think they are geared towards people who are trying to get a high enough score to get into an elite school. However, if money isn't a big deal and you question your ability to be self-motivated you might consider it. None of my friends in my program at BYU took a prep class and all did very well. If you do take a practice test done by Kaplan or something and don't do as well as you want to do don't worry. They make their tests much harder than the actual GMAT because they want to scare you into paying a lot of money to take their test. I score almost 100 points higher on the real test than I was scoring on the Kaplan practice tests I had.
Buy a couple of books to study from: Make sure one is the official guide (big orange book) which has good practice questions from the people who make the GMAT. Get one other book that is good for test taking strategies. Make sure at least one of them has some computer software for practice tests. I got the official guide and the Kaplan prep book which came with a cd that had about 6 practice tests on it. I didn't do this but I wish that I would have gotten a book that focused on harder questions. I think one good book is called GMAT 800.
Become familiar with the types of questions on the test: Read through just a brief description of the types of questions and maybe do a few practice questions from each section. You'll see what I mean once you start looking over the stuff. It might be a good idea to take one practice test from the software that you bought just to get used to the time constraint and format. Again, don't get worried if you don't score too well on this first test. Also know what the test format is going to be like.
Take a practice test from MBA.com: MBA.com is the website that you use to register for the GMAT. They also have a couple of practice tests that you can take on there. I would use these wisely because they are by far the most accurate practice tests there are. I got almost exactly the same score on these two practice tests as I did on the actual test. It is a test bank so you can take a practice test from here as much as you want, but you will run across repeated questions. I would take one practice near the beginning of studying to know where to focus studying and to have a good perspective on where you actually are to compare with where you want to be score-wise. I would take the second practice test a few days or a week before taking the actual test to gauge how well my studying has been going to know how hard I need to cram for the last little while.
Do a lot of practice questions and practice tests: The hardest thing about the test is the time constraint. I think that most people could probably do almost all of the questions on the test if they could take as long as they wanted on it. Because this is the case it is important to do a lot of practice questions. Practice tests are really good to get used to the amount of time that you have. Being a computer test also makes the format a little different to get used to. One other thing to be aware of is that the scores when comparing the quant and verbal scores is interesting because the point scores do not correspond to the same percentile score. For example, if you get a 50 on the quant and 50 on the verbal that means you did much better on the verbal section than the quant section. For more info check out: http://www.testmasters.net/gmat/GMATInformation/scale.aspx It is also useful to go back and look at the strategies after you have taken a handful of practice tests. Take as many practice tests as you can. There were a few days that I took two or more full length tests.
Don't really study for the written section: For two reasons: If you speak English well it is really easy, and your score on it doesn't matter that much. This is the last thing that I looked at as I was walking into the test. I spent about half an hour just looking at what it was and scored a 5.5 out of 6. As long as you speak English as a first language and are confident in writing you should be more than okay. I think they have this section just to make sure that people speak English. There are a lot of people (a lot of them from Asia) who study for years to take this test to get into a good program in the US. This section helps to make sure that these people can speak English well enough to communicate a little bit. When people ask about your score they never ask about your written score. It just isn't that important. Also, it is at the beginning of the test so you don't want to waste precious thinking power on the written section because you will probably need it for the quant and verbal sections.
Don't freak out: The night before I took the test I was just looking at some GMAT blogs online and it freaked me out because there were people who had literally been studying for years and were discussing questions that were much harder than I had prepared for. I had only studied for few weeks because I got sick right before the test and started feeling very unsure about my preparation. I wish I wouldn't have freaked out though because the test was easier and less painful than I expected. Nevertheless, I did freak out during the test on the last few questions on the quant section. I thought that I had totally messed up the entire test because I had gotten anxious near the end of the quant section. I was upset during the entire verbal section, but was pleasantly surprised when I did get my score. Most people that I have talked to got higher scores than they thought they were going to get while they were taking the test. So stay calm during the test. That is by far my biggest regret regarding the GMAT.
Realize that you can take it again: This will help with my previous point. I had a couple of friends who retook the test and did better. One did slightly better (10 points) and one did significantly better (80 points). So be calm during the test and realize that you can take it again. This doesn't work for everybody though because some people just aren't good test takers so no matter how many times they take it there score won't change. From what I have heard as long as you have only taken it a couple or a few times schools will only look at your top score.
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