It’s almost two years back that I had written a post with exactly the same title.. At that time, I had not taken the test myself and hence, wasn’t sure enough of whatever I was suggesting. Since then, I have pointed to the mentioned post to a number of friends, colleagues, juniors, friends of friends and total strangers looking for advice for GMAT preps and many of them haved used that successfully. (Some of them are already B-school students a year ahead of me.)
Recently, when I forwarded the old link to an interested batchmate, he pointed out that with sentences like “perhaps I’m not the right person to rely upon for guidance” and “none of this has been tested to work.”, the old post perhaps needs some brush-up. I re-read the post and somewhat agreed to what he said. In addition to the removal of sentences like these, the old plan could do better with a bit of tweaking:some steps about which I got to know in the later part of my preps.(though in essense, the old plan still remains more or less the same.)
So here’s how I would recommend tackling the GMAT:
1) Get started!! Dont know anything yet abt GMAT?? Know everything about it right at the first encounter. Start by taking out a slot of 3-3.5 hours for yourself on a weekend and go for a full-length test. I would recommend going ahread with Powerprep Test-1 first.
/*You can download Powerprep and GMATPrep from the following links:
First one is older version of GMAT software from makers of GMAT.. Second one is the latest one.. Both of these can help u know what all things r asked in GMAT..But I’d suggest u use Powerprep now and save GMATprep for a later stage , when u hav a fair amount of preparation under ur belt.. At that time, GMATprep score will giv u a fair idea of what u r likely to get on the G-day.
2) Now u know at least something about each section of GMAT.. Also, by this time, you know your areas of strengths and areas which require immediate atention. Now is the time ot get the real preps started. Pick up some strategy book like Kaplan(comprehensive/premium) or Princeton Review.I have heard mixed reviews about PR, but Kaplan is something that I have tried myself and would surely recommend to anybody. From whatever I’ve heard, I’d suggest staying away from Barrons
3) For a good number of aspirants, sentence-coorection is the major pain-point. To have a control over this section right from the start, go with Manhattan Sentence-correction guide. That’s really an amazing book to get you started on sentence-correction. Some people recommend brushing up grammar from books like Wren-n-Martin. I personally don’t think that it’s of much use (though it’ll never hurt). Because GMAT doesn’t test the puritan-grammar. It tests what we can call as GMAT-grammar, where sometimes you need to pick from two grammatically correct sentences and decide which one is more correct. And if strengthening your GNAT-grammar is your aim, there’s no better way to start than Manhattan SC guide.
4) Once u feel that you have perfected the strategies, go for Powerprep-2 and compare the results since you first started.Another reason for going for Powerprep-2 at this stage is that a number of Qs in the test are directly from the OG. So it’s better to use the test before u start with OG.
5) Next is the turn of the bible: Official Guide to GMAT.. At my time, it was OG11, but i guess OG12 is already in market. Complete it from cover to cover.. Excellent collection of Qs and all the real ones.. No strategies, just Qs, As and explanations. But u know the strategies quite well from step (2)..Better do all 5 sections in parallel.
( Most ppl preparing for GMAT do (2) and (5) in reverse order; I too did the same as suggested by many ppl.. Did OG11, then Kaplan Comprehensive) Still I’d suggest u to do a strategy book first.. OG will give u lots of chance to apply those strategies)
6) By the time u reach this step, u’ll know a lot of things, and u can decide for urself what u want to do next depending on your prep-level.
In case, you clearly know that one section needs attention, tackle that first. In case, it’s still sentence-correction, you can try Sahil’s or Spidey’s notes (Look over on net and u’ll find these)
In case you feel that your preps are in a good shape: you are scoring 700+ consistently, but want to take it still higher. go for Kaplan 800.. The level of Qs is higher than the real GMAT, but still that’ll gear you up to face Qs at the toughest level.
7) In between all these steps, keep taking timed tests to guage ur progress..
8) Final lap: Back to the basics: In last two weeks, it’s recommended that you come back to the basics. Do OG a second time. Even if the Qs are same, try attempting them. Don’t allow your mind to fall in the trap that you know the answer. Ask yourself whether you are really clear why that particular option is the answer.
Also do join som active mailing list/forum to discuss Qs…. It particularly helps u utilize ur free office time when u dont have access to books and would not like to open GMAT forums..:D Also read success stories from PagalGuy/Businessweek/GMATClub ( hope u r already a member at all these forums.) That’ll keep u motivated and charged up…
Is coaching needed??
Depends. IMO, most of the stuff that is asked in the test is quite elementary and can be learnt if you plan properly and then stick to your plans meticulously. Moreover, lot of online help is available in form of online study groups/forums. But coaching can be useful if historically, you have had probs with Maths/Grammar. If this is the case, you should actualy go for a coaching. The stuff that they ask is quite basic and can be covered well with good guidance.
How many full-length tests?
As I have written above, keep taking the tests regularly. Keep the average to a mininum of once every two weeks to a max of once every week. The tests not only keep you updated of your preps-level, but also provide you with the test taking mindset, which is missing in most of us after years of corpo-life.
Is AWA important?
No, it isn’t, unless it’s absymally low. But if you’re like me, you won’t like your score of GMAT 770 to be accompanied by AWA 4.0 or something. Mine was 5.0 (55 percentile) and it pinched me everytime I needed to fill it up for any school. (Particularly, the percentile part. ) Trust me, with very little effort, 5 or more is quite attainable.
Nothing can come close to the real thing. So GMATPrep and Powerprep are surely unmatchable. Next, I would rate the MGMATs by Manhattan. You can certainly locate some Qs which you won’t ever expect to see on the actual test, but still the overall level is quite similar. Kaplan tests are surely not a representative of the real thing, but I would still recommend them to build test-stamina.
How much is a good score?
Depends. I have seen people with 650 getting calls from everywhere and people with 770 getting dinged at a number of places. So GMAT is actually just a part of the package, But remember, it’s one of the only few parts of the package on which you still have control. Moreover, if you are from a competitive pool (like Indian-IT-Male), chances are that you’ll need a good score to have a reasonable chance at your dream schools.
In case you have any more Qs about the above steps or GMAT preps in general, leave ur Q in the comments and I’ll try to answer that.