Today’s guest post comes to us from Maureen Sweet, who scored a 750 (V42/Q49) on her first GMAT attempt.
I once read that standardized tests don’t measure how smart a person is, but rather, how much test prep they can afford. When I started studying for the GMAT about eight weeks before my scheduled test, I promised myself that I would get the best score I possibly could without paying more than the $250 exam fee. After all, the GMAT is only ONE element of getting into business school, and beyond that, you have to pay application fees, transcript fees, and eventually a pretty steep tuition. My fledgling business acumen suggested to me that I should try to save here for further investments down the line.
Most online GMAT study resources suggest that you buy study materials or pay for a course at some point in your test preparation, so I had to develop my own plan for preparing for the exam. In the end, I was able to isolate three free resources to guide me through my studying.
The result of using these resources? 750.
Resource #1: GMATPrep Software from MBA.com
If the makers of your exam are offering you free software, why wouldn’t you download it? I read through some of the test-taking advice provided and did some of the practice questions, but the most valuable part of this software is the practice exams. As soon as you sign up for the GMAT, take the first of the two free practice exams. This will help to determine which areas of the exam you should focus on in the rest of your studying – in my case, it was the quantitative section. It will also give you a pretty accurate baseline score that will help you to determine just how much work you’ll need to do to reach your target score.
Resource #2: Library Card
There are dozens of books out there claiming to give you the best GMAT prep that money can buy. But there’s really no way of knowing which one is actually telling you the truth without trying out every single one. That’s where a library card comes in very handy. I went to my library’s website and placed holds on every e-book promising improvement on the GMAT quantitative section (and a few offering help on the other sections – couldn’t ignore them entirely). As each book became available, I downloaded it to my iPad and spent evenings studying and taking notes. Some books were clearly better than others, so I focused more on those ones. And even the worse ones had good practice questions, so they weren’t total losses. I usually only had access to one or two books at a time, but that was all I needed for an evening of studying.[pullquote]Prep4GMAT was a great way to keep my brain feeling engaged and refreshed between longer study sessions.[/pullquote]
Resource #3: Prep4GMAT App
Paging through the app store for free study materials, I came across Prep4GMAT. It neatly filled the gap left behind by the other two resources. Living in New York City, I spend a lot of time on public transit, so Prep4GMAT gave me a simple, mobile-friendly way to spend a 30- or 40-minute commute reviewing GMAT concepts or going through practice questions. During my lunch break at work or waiting to meet a friend for coffee, I’d get out my phone and a small notepad and work through some of the quantitative practice questions. Prep4GMAT was a great way to keep my brain feeling engaged and refreshed between longer study sessions.
Out of these three resources, it was Prep4GMAT that really came to my rescue when, one week before my test date, I took the second free practice exam. In spite of all the studying I had done, I mismanaged my time and ended up panicking mid-exam and scoring worse than I had on the first practice exam. At that point, there wasn’t a lot of time to learn new concepts; what I really needed to do was spend the last week doing timed practice questions and figuring out just what was taking me the longest.
During that last week, Prep4GMAT was more useful than ever. I was able to isolate problems by the concept covered so I could see just how long it took me to work through probability versus geometry versus algebra. The timer on each individual question showed me where I was spending too much time and when it was probably more valuable to just guess on a question in order to have more time to spend on concepts that I understood more clearly. The explanation of each answer helped me to see where I could make quick fixes to improve my overall score.
On the day of my exam, I had overcome the panic of the week before and was able to stay calm and focus on one question at a time. Thanks to Prep4GMAT, I could see where my challenges would be before they overwhelmed me, and I made educated guesses on the one or two questions that looked like they were going to throw off my time management. I earned my 750 without spending any money on test prep, and I’d strongly recommend Prep4GMAT to anyone looking to do the same.