Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The much dreaded GMAT

Jan/Feb is the time most R1 applicants start hating their jobs (after the year-end appraisal), start thinking about their future vision (or lack thereof), indulge in higher contemplations such as one's stagnant career/life and thus zero in on an MBA as the ultimate salvation. The first logical step of course is to get the GMAT out of the way. This post is intended to give the reader an idea of how to effectively plan one's GMAT prep, ace it and hence not waste time and $$$ on a second attempt :-). So here goes...

Preparation time:
The amount of time to budget for the preparation depends on the current and expected workload over the subsequent 2-3 months. Writing the GMAT in the first quarter of the year gives you ample time to prepare and attempt it again in the unfortunate event of a bad score and still have enough time to apply in R1. So the general idea is to finish the GMAT(final attempt) by June/July. I would say 2 hours everyday (including weekends) for 6-8 weeks is ample preparation time to get a score above 700 or even 750. Discipline is key here. If you miss preparing for a day you need to make it up over the weekend. Instead of going strictly by time, I found it more effective to go by a weekly plan. Every Monday I made a plan for the week and stuck to it, catching up on the backlog over weekends. Also keep in mind that while preparing for the GMAT you need to shortlist 5 schools to send your score to for free. Budgeting some time for researching schools will save $$$ because you can avoid wrong choices made in a hurry. (Will write a separate post on managing the school research parallely)

The benefits of an error log:
Maintaining an error log and revisiting the errors at regular intervals,say every week, will help you to identify patterns in your errors and thus your problem areas. It is better to note only the questions/problems for which you went wrong and not note the answers. This way when you revisit the log you can solve the question again from scratch. The outcome could be:
a) you arrived at the right answer- this is the ideal scenario and it means you are improving (unless you just made a lucky guess)
b) you arrived at the same wrong answer as the previous time - this means you have not learnt from your mistake
c) you arrived at a wrong answer different from your previous answer - this means you are making wild guesses and better review the underlying concept first.
To summarize- an error log is a dynamic indication of positive/negative(or lack of) effects of your prep. Used effectively, you will find that the error log shrinks week after week culminating in no errors or a bunch of minor silly mistakes.

Materials I found useful:
1. The Official Guide for GMAT Review (OG- 11th Edition)
2. Kaplan 800
3. Other material available on online forums

Tests to take:
1. Powerprep (till 2005)
2. GMATPrep (since 2006)
3. Tests downloadable from various online sources.(I used google to find them)

Sites with good material and forums:
1. TestMagic

Too much material might end up confusing you. It's better to get an idea of all the stuff available and decide which are the ones you are going to use instead of hoarding everything aimlessly. Once you know what material you will be using it also becomes easy to plan your study time accordingly. Participating actively in the GMAT forums is very helpful. You can greatly benefit from the different approaches described by various people. The forums also foster healthy competition and you can get an idea of where you stand vis-a-vis the competition.

A sample plan:
Month 1
week 1 - Barrons/ Princeton or some easy material to familiarize yourself with the GMAT pattern
week 2 - OG (11th Edition)
week 3 - OG
week 4 - OG
every week end - revisit all errors from the error log and identify weak areas

Month 2
week 1 - Kaplan 800, 1000 CR 50-60 questions each day
week 2 - SC 50-60 questions each day
week 3 - CR, SC 30 questions each day
week 4 - RC target doing 25 GMAT passages or so.

Month 3
first 20 days - 1 test each day from various sources.
next 5 days - Revisit all errors marked as important, read your notes if you have made any. Solve a few problems of each type everyday so that you don't lose touch.
D-Day - 3 : GMATprep1 (2006 software) test and analysis
D-Day - 2 : Princeton2 , Powerprep2 (2005 software) test and analysis
D-Day - 1 : GMATprep2(2006 software) test and analysis.

3 months is a lot of time. The above plan can be implemented easily in 6-8 weeks.

One piece of advice:
Last 2-3 days it's best to relax and not study anything new. Take it easy, write some tests, and sleep well.

PS: I deleted this post by mistake. So had to post it again, sorry to the people who had commented