He tried the OG, Manhattan GMAT, Target Test Prep, and Powerscore.
He found TTP for quant very helpful, and Powerscore for Critical Reasoning pretty helpful. He also thought the OG was essential.
He studied full-time for one month, and pretty much scored consistently around 750.
Paying it forward because hearing others’ GMAT journeys/score debriefs were very helpful during my prep. Spending too much time reading those anecdotes also totally psyched me out so…. hopefully this is more helpful than anxiety inducing.
I want to share my experience because I come from a performing arts background and while I consider myself “good at math” (based on my competency in high school over 10 years ago lol) I’m also terrible at studying.
- OG 2018 + both Verbal and Quant Reviews
- TTP 1-month subscription
- MGMAT Strategy Guides (all quant guides + SC)
- PowerScore CR
- GMAC Official Practice Exams (purchased exams 3 to 6)
- GMATClub quant CATs (only took them for free on holidays)
I knew I wanted an MBA to pivot my career. I began a brief stint of studying in Fall 2018 by going through (aka: hacking through) the MGMAT quant guides over the course of a month, and sort of just dropped my studying when I finished that. An MBA was still 2-3 years away at this point, so without a structured plan/timeline/exam date in place, I lost focus.
I picked up studying again in Summer 2020 during remote working. Once again, I went through the MGMAT quant guides over the course of a month and it felt like I was going through them for the first time. I obviously did not retain any of my studies from before. While I understood everything I was reading in the strategy guides on a basic level, I had trouble applying the concepts quickly to difficult OG questions, and sure as hell could not answer many questions in ~2 minutes.
Come July, I was furloughed from my job and now, lucky me, had the luxury of time. I had a come-to-Jesus moment about the state of my industry post-COVID and after a few weeks of moping, decided to kick my GMAT prep into full gear. I had the quant knowledge, but needed the structure. In comes TTP.
Target Test Prep:
I signed up for the 5-day trial of TTP and was immediately impressed. After gauging how quickly I could move through the modules, I decided to purchase the 1-month plan knowing I could extend it another month if necessary. I was able to go through the chapters very quickly (yet thoroughly), however the quizzes are VERY time consuming. It’s easy to say “oh, it’s only 10 questions” and then realize 10 questions means minimum 20 minutes + another 20 minutes of review. Hard quizzes are easily over a 45 min commitment each.
For lengthy modules like Number Properties, which had like 10 Hard chapter quizzes if I remember, I did maybe 3-4 Hard quizzes, moved on to the next modules, and would come back and do another 1-2 Number Properties quizzes to make sure I was still on top of it.
What I really like about TTP is it really forces you (if you’re so willing) to drill the concepts and through the multi-chapter Review Quizzes, it reinforces previous topics. Also I loved the notetaking and bookmark features. I’m terrible at taking notes and would have never had the discipline to take notes or bookmark questions to review on my own without this feature.
I finished TTP in its entirety with 2 days to spare before my subscription ended. I may have done it quickly but I did not skimp out on any chapters/quizzes. Keep in mind I was not working during this time. I think it would have been impossible to do in this timeframe otherwise.
I then realized some new chapter subsections and quizzes popped up! The Expert+ track was added just before my subscription ended. I then went through all the new material, and on my last day reviewed all my bookmarked questions and went through all the Need-To-Knows, which I appreciated are all in one place.
I HIGHLY recommend TTP. At the risk of offending anyone who is struggling to get a high quant score, I really believe anyone can obtain a high 40’s Quant score by using TTP no matter your starting point. But you must trust the process — no shortcuts!!!!
MGMAT guides were good, no doubt, but I think I would have had the same quant competency if I had just started with TTP. The content of MGMAT was good but the structure/chapter layout just didn’t work for me. I sort of understood tricky topics like combinatorics and probability with MGMAT, but with TTP they became second nature. TTP was also kind of… fun? Idk don’t judge me.
I didn’t get a chance to look at TTP Verbal so can’t speak to that, but based on my experience with Quant and reading other reviews, I have no doubt it’s excellent.
I highly recommend PowerScore Bible for Critical Reasoning to learn the 10 different question types. I went through the book quickly and then went to OG to drill questions.
SC I know is challenging for both native and non-native speakers alike. I went through the MGMAT SC guide which I thought was good, but I thought the pages on idioms were totally overwhelming. I don’t know how anyone can learn idioms that way. Fortunately SC is a strength of mine naturally, so I think that is what held up my Verbal score. I’m sorry I don’t have more insight to SC prep.
For RC, I found GIN’s RC Strategy on GMATClub to be helpful.
I cannot stress enough the importance of the Official Practice Mocks. As important as they are in gauging your score, the mocks are such an essential source to trial your endurance, focus, timing, strategies, and test conditions.
I’m in the camp that one shouldn’t “waste” an Official Mock on a cold attempt. There are other free sources to diagnose your areas of strengths/weaknesses. I did the diagnostic tests (untimed) in the OG book and the TTP diagnostic. While these didn’t give me a score estimate on the 200-800 range, they served their purpose in getting a feel for the exam.
I took my first mock AFTER getting through most of TTP so… I was done with most of my studying before taking my first mock. Do I recommend this? Idk. I mostly did this because psychologically I was dreading getting a low score and put it off as long as possible. I was also planning on only using the 2 free exams + resets because I didn’t want to give GMAC any more money.
Honestly when I got the 750, rather than being happy, I thought “Well, it’s all going downhill from here.” While the score was fine, the test taking experience was miserable.
After taking #2, I decided it was time to schedule an in-person exam. I had been debating in-person vs online for a long time, but after a huge renovation started taking place in the apartment above me, I realized online was a no-go.
I am in NYC and had to constantly refresh the test center availability like a madwoman to get a desirable time (not 8am and not 6pm, and not in NJ lol). I got lucky and secured an exam time for 2 weeks out.
I did the resets for #1-2 and unfortunately just had way too many repeat questions. I caved and purchased 3-6, and at this point also switched the order from Q-V to V-Q. As you can see I took 1 mock a day leading up to my exam to the point where it felt routine, and exam day felt just like another mock.
#1: 750 (Q50/V42/IR7) – Sept 7
#2: 770 (Q50/V47/IR7) – Oct 13
#3: 740 (Q49/V42/IR8) – Oct 17
#4: 750 (Q49/V42/IR3) – Oct 18
#5: 770 (Q49/V47/IR8) – Oct 19
#6: 750 (Q50/V41/IR7) – Oct 20
GMATClub quant scores were all over the place: Q26, Q39, Q41, Q44, Q45, Q48, Q48. I thought they were extremely difficult. They are good for getting in quant practice but the questions are so different from OG. They also made me feel miserable lol.
My exam was on a Saturday late morning. I ate my usual breakfast, then decided to go to GMATClub to review some 700+ questions in my areas of weakness (inequalities, CR assumption). This was a terrible idea because I couldn’t answer a single question correctly and it soured my mood lol. Whatever, took the train to midtown, got there an hour early, and then sat in Bryant Park to look over the AWA template.
- Verbal: I was initially caught off guard by how large the text on the computer was. I usually practice on my 11 inch laptop, so this was an assault on the eyes. Verbal felt similar to mocks, maybe slightly more difficult – I psyched myself out on some CR questions and changed my answer at the last second on more than a few of them. I also lost focus a few times – during my mocks I would sometimes pause the exam to close my eyes and take a breather. Obviously I don’t recommend that. During the actual exam I was like, shit I can’t pause this! Focus! You paid $275 for this!
I chose to not take a break between the Verbal and Quant sections because I never did during the mock exams. However, I totally didn’t pay attention during the mocks and didn’t realize the instruction screen before the second section was only 30 seconds long. I was setting up my booklet and then the test launched into Quant so I lost a few seconds. Setting up the pages into 4 quadrants and writing down time markers were so essential to my timing in mocks.
- Quant: Quant felt very comfortable and do I daresay — easier than the mocks? I always make stupid mistakes during mocks though and I’m sure I did here too.
I took a break here and was very happy to get up from my seat. I had no concept of time though so I just went to my locker, drank some water, treated myself to a piece of dark chocolate, and went back to the exam room probably in a span of 2 minutes.
- IR: IR was a breeze. I felt IR was always a crapshoot during the mocks (looking at you, IR3 on Practice Exam #4). I got lucky with an easy IR section.
- AWA: I never did the AWA section during the mocks and never fully wrote out a practice essay. My response was very um “concise” aka short. I figured I wouldn’t get a 6 but was hoping for a 5.5.
Final score: 740 (Q49 / V44 / IR 8 / AWA 5)
Going into the exam I pegged myself as a 730-750 scorer based on my experience with the mocks but was totally prepared for a lower score, 760 obtainable if I brought my A game, and 770+ would have to have a lot of luck involved.
I was obviously very happy to get a 740 and the Q49/V44 breakdown was very consistent with my mocks. In the post-exam rush, I was thinking, wow that was fun should I take it again and try to score higher?
I probably would have done a re-take if the cost wasn’t so high. Plus, I think I got lucky with a manageable exam, and a Q49/V44 was very much an accurate representation of my aptitude, so it would’ve been a crapshoot whether I get a higher score without extensive additional prep.
GMAT is very much a mental game. I saw a post on here about self-awareness and I think it’s so important. You discover a lot about your test-taking mentality through the mocks, which is why I think they are so essential to GMAT prep. Sure, I just wrote a GIANT wall of text, but everyone has their own strengths and style, so figure out what those are and use them to your advantage. You’ve got this! Happy to answer any questions.