Tried Manhattan, didn’t like it. Tried Target Test Prep, liked it more, but realized that he needed to apply it to Official Guide questions to improve on his score.
He highly recommends using an error log and taking regular practice tests, but not wasting the official GMATPrep ones (so using Manhattan CATs instead).
I’ve always been a very passive Reddit reader (my first ever post), but I’ve relied on reading your stories and tips so much the past few months that I wanted to share my story and hopefully give back.
- Native English speaker
- Non-Quant background
At the recommendation of a friend, I started with the full suite of Manhattan books on 7/15. Prior to starting studying material, I took the first Manhattan CAT, scoring a V29 V44 (590). I came to find out that the Q44 was a fluke and I should have scored quite a bit lower. My next Manhattan CAT, after two weeks of studying exclusively Manhattan materials 5+ hours per day, fell to a 570. I was understandably frustrated and demoralized.
Seeing the fall in my quant score was perplexing and led me to realize that my quant foundation was very weak. After making it through the majority of the Manhattan All the Quant series, I quickly decided that I would need to build my quant foundation from ground zero. Based on all of your recommendations, I turned to TTP and never looked back.
As all of you know, TTP can be grueling. Single chapters can take days to weeks with hundreds of problems per chapter, but it’s more than worth it if you have the time and commitment. I continued taking Manhattan CATs during my TTP and Manhattan verbal studies as to not extinguish my official CATs (highly recommend this strategy), and slowly but surely, my CAT scores were rising, but almost all on the Verbal side. Again, I was really confused and since my TTP test scores were relatively strong (75% to 80% on the hard tests) and I felt my quant conceptual basis was strengthening.
Having completed most of TTP, I took my first in-person exam (V31 Q42 600). Again, absolutely crushed and demoralized. I started questioning again whether I could get to my 700+ mark. After sulking for a few days, I hopped back on the horse and started tuning my studies with other sources. This is when I realized TTP is a tool, not a solution. TTP questions can be incredibly difficult, but they ultimately do not precisely simulate GMAC official questions. Equipped with everything that I learned through TTP, I started hitting the OG guides hard. I logged my errors, revisited weak topics, and by the end, I could answer every question (at least quant) without fail. This was probably a function of memorization, but memorization is somewhat beneficial on the GMAT as you can refer back when solving similar questions. This is really when I saw an inflection in my Quant score, going from a Q42 on my 9/1 live test to a Q49 on my 9/19 CAT.
My biggest takeaway was how beneficial the OG guides are… once I had the foundation to utilize them properly. Slugging away at OG problems when you don’t understand them is simply a waste of your time and a waste of the problem.
When it was all said and done, I managed to swing from a 570 Manhattan CAT on 8/2 to a 740 official score on 11/13. It was rough, I questioned whether I could get there several times, but I promise, all of you are more than equipped to do the same. The GMAT is a ridiculous test that, in my opinion, tests how bad you want it. If you want it bad enough, I promise that all of you will get to where you want and/or need to be.
Tips and Learnings
- If you’re severely struggling with OG questions at a certain level or on a certain topic… stop. Go back and reinforce that topic or practice the same topic at a lower difficulty. You’re likely lacking conceptual knowledge, and by hacking away at problems, you’re not learning and simply wasting time + problems. If you’re anything like me, you’ll remember the problem/answer and it will fail to serve its purpose once you’re actually ready to solve it.
- Resetting GMATPrep exams can be very useful when your initial performance was poor. I received a few repeats, but overall since my first takes were relatively poor, the majority of the questions were new. When you do receive a familiar question though, penalize yourself on timing (wait an extra X seconds before submitting), otherwise, you’re cheating yourself on timing simulation. A few seconds here and there make a big difference across the entire test.
- Don’t neglect verbal, especially if you’re coming from a non-quant background. This was probably my biggest mistake early on. Not having the quant foundation, I was placing 95+% of my time towards quant because I knew its where I could make the biggest dent in my score. But once I started hitting consistently in the Q47+ range, I should have started weighing my studies more equally. At Q47+, you’ve proved to schools that you can handle quant work, now focus on scoring big and upping your Verbal, which is a heavier weight in your composite score. Going from V39 to V43 is going to be a lot more effective use of your time than Q47 to Q51. Balance is key to big scores, and you won’t get there by neglecting verbal.
- ERROR LOG… ERROR LOG… ERROR LOG… there is no better way to identify your weaknesses. And don’t simply log your errors, log your struggle problems as well. If a question took you too long yet you still got it right, log it. Timing on difficult problems is ultimately how you secure higher scores, so you should consider taking 2.5+ minutes to solve an error.
- I know everyone says this, but read sentence correction for meaning. You’re never going to learn every rule or idiom that the GMAT tests, and even if you do, that doesn’t account for all the exceptions. By reading for meaning, equipped with basic grammar rules, you’ll be more than good to go.
- You’re going to have ups and downs. It will feel like a setback, but use these opportunities to understand why you’re struggling. Often it’s something as simple as a single topic or two. This is where the error log comes in handy as you can narrow down quickly and start seeing patterns.
- Manhattan Prep All-The-Verbal/Quant (didn’t use Quant much, but relied on Verbal)
- TargetTestPrep (main Quant prep resource)
- GMAT Official Guide 2020
- GMAT Official Verbal Guide 2020
- GMAT Official Quant Guide 2020
- GMAT Advanced Question Guide
- Erica Meltzer’s The Complete GMAT Sentence Correction Guide
- PowerScore Critical Reasoning
- GMAT Official Practice Questions Sets #1 and #2 (the extra questions you can buy for the online practice system)
- GMATClub Quant CATs – excessively hard and not always realistic of live testing questions, but a great challenge when you want a push
- GMAT Hacks Challenge Problem Set – a great resource of GMAT realistic quant problems, especially the Extreme Challenge set. It’s not extreme by GMATClub standards, but they’re realistic of actual Q49+ problems.