The GMAT: Learning From My Experience

Last Updated Oct 10, 2007 7:51 AM EDT

When I was preparing for the essay questions, I read in my review book (we'll get to resources, I promise) that one of the biggest indicators of a good score was length. Apparently, the more you write, the more you convince the computer that you know how to write. Luckily, I'm a hugely verbose writer, so I took that to heart and wrote as much as I could without getting ridiculous.

My husband, whom I either forgot to mention this pointer to or who ignored me if I did, does not believe in saying anything more than you need to, so he kept both essays short and sweet. The result? My scores were double his on the essay portion.

Concerning the quantitative section, let's just say that math is not my strong point. I have decent math skills, but it was definitely my weakest section. Conversely, my husband is much stronger in math than the verbal side.

For me, the math took some work -- and lots and lots of review. I haven't studied geometry in more than 15 years, and it wasn't something I could just pick up again by looking at it. I did A LOT of the math drills. Do as many as you can, and always go through the answers. My review book was very good with explaining how you should come to an answer -- and any shortcuts you can take along the way.

Now, my husband is more math-oriented, but don't let that fool you. Few of us really use geometry or algebra on a daily basis. So resign yourself to the fact that a review is in your best interest.

And here's something noteworthy mentioned by both my husband and a colleague: Watch your time. Both of them boast better math skills than me, so they easily got caught up in the challenge of answering every question correctly. That's fine, but don't forget about the time limit. In their zeal to conquer the math section, they found themselves struggling to get everything done at the end.

For the verbal section, my biggest worry was getting too cocky. As a writer and editor, I thought, how hard can it be -- I do this for a living, right? While I scored higher on the verbal than math, here are some caveats for likeminded verbal people.

With the sentence correction, do your homework. The GMAT doesn't necessarily follow the same usage rules that you're used to. Taking some practice tests will give you a better idea.

Don't rush through the reading comp -- it's more detailed than you might expect. In addition, it asks more complicated questions -- ones designed to make sure you understood the passage instead of just skimmed through it.

For the more math-oriented test takers out there, my husband said the hardest part of the verbal section was the reading comp. He thought the passages were incredibly boring and therefore found it hard to pay attention to what he was reading. In addition, this is the last section, so don't let test fatigue hurt your score!

Next time: We'll talk about test prep resources.