ADVICE FOR STUDENTS WHERE ENGLISH IS A SECOND LANGUAGE
What advice would you give to non-native English speakers?
The GMAT is already a beast for native English speakers so I really admire all of you international students. I would be happy to help. Here’s one thing that should be in every ESL GMATer’s study diet and a few general things that are wholesome for every GMAT prepper:
1. Let’s start with a bit of advice for international students: Read a challenging article every day from a quality periodical. The Economist is a good option although any quality periodical will serve. I would suggest a weekly as opposed to a daily as the articles in weeklies tend to have more depth. Whatever you read: Be an active reader. Take as much time as you need to understand the article. Think about how the author supports his/her argument. Think about the main idea of the article. Also consider the grammar structures by tracking down subject verb agreement, tracing the parallelism of lists/comparisons, and identifying modifiers. Read with the aid of a dictionary and look up all words that you don’t know. Commit to this and your overall verbal score should see a nice boost.
2) Get the most out of your time by making a GMAT Study Schedule. Plan out every study session. Know what you will study ahead of time. Have a goal for each session. Put the sessions in your calendar and treat them as important business meetings. This may seem extreme but breaking up your studying into daily chunks will make this whole process more manageable.
3. For verbal, the vast majority of your practice should be on Official GMAT questions. With OG 13, the verbal review, question pack 1, and the GMAT paper tests, you have tons of practice. Avoid third party questions as they have a different flavor than official GMAT ones. If you need extra verbal practice, better to use LSAT questions as they are super high quality and have the added benefit of being a notch more difficult than GMAT questions. Best save them for when you have a solid verbal foundation as LSAT work is tough.
4. If you are targeting an epic quant score, you might consider a GMAT Club CAT subscription. These tests are super difficult – and probably not appropriate until you are scoring in the mid 40s – but they are excellent for learning many useful GMAT tips and tricks. They are especially good for getting your Data Sufficiency in championship form. Don’t pay attention to your scores on these – just focus on the learning.
5. You have about 4 months. Long term studying can be stressful and there is a real threat of burning out. Plan on taking the GMAT twice to split up the time a bit. So take a test after three months and then again 4-5 weeks later. You’ll also have the added benefit of less pressure on the first exam.
Which online tools do you recommend?
Unfortunately it is a tough one to answer. It depends a bit on what you are looking for.
Do you need help with fundamentals? For this I would suggest Khan academy.
Do you need help organizing yourself? Use the GMAT study schedule on the Atlantic GMAT site.
Are you having trouble with tough questions? Seek out explanations and ask questions on the GMAT forums.
At the moment I can’t recommend any online courses. I’m sure that most of the online GMAT courses will provide a pretty good overview and yes they will give you a structure and a snazzy interface with some graphs (and some even feature a puppet!). But really your two best friends in GMAT preparation are your GMAT schedule and your GMAT error log. With those two things, all of the official materials, an additional pack of third party tests for Quant, some LSATs for extra tough verbal, all of the information on the GMAT forums, and a kick ass attitude you have all that you need for a thorough self-prep. I know that this is probably not the answer that you were looking for but I hope that it is helpful nonetheless.
Which online and print resources do you recommend?
Here are some thoughts on GMAT prep materials:
Quant: The Khan academy is great to brush up on the basics, so certainly keep up with that. There’s an article on this very site with some suggested videos which relate to GMAT quant topics. After getting your fundamentals in place, you might try the free book from GMAT Club. That, along with explanations from the various forums, can get you pretty far. If you want more instruction, then look into the MGMAT Quant books. In addition I would buy the 6 MGMAT CATs and the GMAT Club CATs (Only for Quant work). If you want a strategy for any specific question type, I have probably written about it on the Atlantic GMAT question of the day. So you can just google Atlantic GMAT question of the day “Insert Quant Topic Here” and find a pretty thorough review of the subject.
Verbal: If you are just starting out and are not a verbal wizard, then you might want to warm up with Critical Reasoning questions 1-30 from the Official Guide 13th/2015 and Verbal review 2015 and all of the easy questions from Question pack 1. After doing these questions and doing some research on how to tackle assumption based arguments, I would dive into the LSAT work. Start untimed and then add timing as you get used to the difficulty level.
How would I evaluate a prospective tutor?
If you are set on hiring a GMAT company, then I would get the contact info for your prospective tutor so that you can chat with him/her on the phone about your GMAT preparation. Find out how he/she plans to prepare you. Find out how homework will be assigned. Will he/she be monitoring your progress in between sessions? How will the program be structured? What materials will you use? Get a sense for what this person’s style is. Are you comfortable chatting with them on the phone? That will give you some indication of whether you will be comfortable with this person as your GMAT tutor.
What are the best third party services?
Good question but not an easy one to answer. I’d think more about finding a good teacher than choosing a brand. Find out who is teaching the GMAT classes in your area and speak with the different teachers (you can also consider online classes). If you like the way that a certain teacher communicates his/her ideas and you find them knowledgeable about the test, then you might consider taking the class. If you can’t get somebody on the phone, then I would be skeptical.
I appreciate that you are looking for a class to keep you focused and to provide some structure. I think a class can do just that. Be aware that most GMAT classes should really be called Intro to the GMAT and so be prepared to be an active learner outside of class. There are lots of great resources out there (GMAT Club, Beat the GMAT, Khan Academy to name a few) to help you on your way to a great GMAT score.