If you have been out of touch with academics for some years now (which I suspect is the case with most people) practice 20 problems from each section with some light revision of the concepts. Take the test after you have completed all the problems. This way, your diagnostic test will give you a true “diagnostic” score and tell you where you truly stand before preparations start full swing. My theory is that if you take the diagnostic test straight off the bat you might get an unusually low score because you didn’t remember some silly concept which could be obtained by simply glancing at it.
So my advise would be as above when it comes to diagnostic tests so you are not stressed unnecessarily.
Once you take the diagnostic test, you know where you stand and then you can determine how many weeks of prep is necessary. I got a 690 on my diagnostic and after 8 weeks of prep my score was 770.
It is silly to get hung up on just the score. You must make sure you analyze the test thoroughly to identify you area of weak points. If possible, record them in the GMAT scoring sheet freely available on www.beatthegmat.com, www.testmagic.com orwww.gmatclub.com. Also make sure you record whether wrong answers were due to silly errors or concept errors.
Step 2 – Books & Resources
Upon taking the diagnostic test and identifying the weak areas, buy the books which you need. I used the following books:
OG Quant Review
Manhattan SC, CR Guide
OG Verbal Review
I really recommend MGMAT guides for all the sections. Its effectiveness in the SC section is well known but I found that for the Quant section too it is of immense help. It really drives in the concepts in a simple, GMAT focused way. In order to do well in Quants it is a must that you are fundamental concepts are rock solid before you start practicing like crazy. See my more detailed post here.
OG12 is of course great for practice. So is Kaplan. OG Quant guide is very simple and not worth wasting money on. OG Verbal guide in contrast has good questions to practice with.
Besides books, there are several online resources:
However, I did not use the online resources except the occasional snippet of information.
Step 3 – Study Schedule
After buying the books and identifying the resources, set up a schedule for yourself.
Oh, meanwhile, please do set a test date for motivation. Without a test date you are doomed. Period.
The most popular strategy seems to be to spend 2 weeks on a weak section, 1 week on strong section etc. I beg to differ. I believe the better strategy is:
0. Start cycle
1. Pick up a section (not completed in this cycle)
2. Run through the concepts
3. Practice problems (partial set if you want to)
4. Identify weak areas
5. Go to step 1 with another section (if all sections not completed else go to Step 6)
6. Take a test and analyze
7. Go to step 0.
Yes, there are several gaping holes in the “algorithm” but you get the idea. My first cycle lasteed about 30 days (6 days for each section). 2nd cycle lasted 15 days, 3rd – 9 days and last – 5 days. All approximations. This way you can go on identifying weak areas and strong areas and keep allocating time and resources accordingly. It makes for a more targeted and efficient preparation.
The length of each cycle can expand and contract based on the need to catch up on concepts etc.
Go through the MGMAT SC book at least 2 times and make sure you do the advanced section – It seems tough at first but you warm up to it.
Step 4 – Take the test
And finally take the test. Make sure you rest well before the test. I don’t know if it is ok to not practice one day before the exam or not but make sure you rest well. See my debrief for better understanding,
I know this is not a lot of advice; However, there is tons of good advice out there on usual things and I want to contribute in a way which will add to everything else.
This report is adapted from The Phoenix’s blog posts at “The MBA Roller Coaster.” Previous posts on Poets&Quants: