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Hacking the GMAT in 8 days

This is how I scored a 730 (96th percentile) on the GMAT in 8 days: The summer
before I started my senior year at Northwestern University, I finished my
internship and still had a month left. My brain was getting bored, so I picked up
an LSAT book and decided to take the test. After the first week, I put the book
down. I really did not like that test. So then I opened up a GMAT book and took a
practice testit was much better.
I went back to college, and from time to time I would pick up the GMAT book, but
never actually spent much time on it. Then one day, I decided to take the GMAT.
Why? First, I thought it would be a fun way to test myself. And second, it wouldnt
hurt to have the GMAT done incase I decided to apply to business school (once
you have a job, it will be hard to find time to study).
So I attended a Manhattan GMAT (one of the top GMAT test companies) class.
The teacher handed us a syllabus and told us it would take a minimum of 3
months in total of preparation (2 months of class and 1 month of practicing on
our own). I was not thrilled. I went home after the class and started reading
GMAT forums. I remember reading everywhere that it took on average 100 hours
to master the GMAT. I took a look at the next day that the GMAT was being
offeredit was 8 days later. I signed up, went to sleep, and woke up the next
morning eager to start my 100 hours.
Why is this guide important? As soon as I signed up, I looked for a guide for
taking the GMAT in 8 days. No guide was nearly this short. The shortest course I
found was the Manhattan GMAT course during which you stay in a hotel for 2
weeks and learn the GMAT non-stop (super expensive).
Materials to purchase (*):
Official GMAT Guide
Official GMAT Quant Guide
Official GMAT Verbal Guide
Official GMAT Integrated Response CD
Manhattan GMAT
Algebra GMAT Strategy GuideFractions, Decimals and Percentages GMAT
Strategy GuideNumber Properties GMAT Strategy GuideWord Problems GMAT
Strategy Guide
* Purchase all of these in e-book format. On the actual test, you are going to be
looking up at the computer, down at your paper, and then back up at the
computer. Get in the habit of doing that by using electronic books. Additionally,
time is a huge constraint; you need your books NOW. Getting them electronically
is a massive advantage as you can get them in seconds. Personally, I
downloaded all of mine off of Kindle. Oh and also, since it was on my Kindle, I
could pull up textbooks on my phone and study while commuting on trains or
busses!
The test is broken down into 4 parts:
1. Essay
You analyze an argument
2. Integrated Response
Mix of quant and verbal
3. Quantitative

1.
2.

1.
2.
3.

Data sufficiency
Problem solving
4. Verbal
Reading comprehension
Critical reasoning
Sentence correction
First, forget the essay. At the time I took the test, most business schools had
publicly stated that they didnt care about the essay. And literally, the only prep I
did for the essay was the night before I took the test. I went through about 20
essays (both in the official guide and the Manhattan GMAT guide) that had scored
a perfect 6 out of 6, realized that they all had the same format, memorized the
format, and reproduced that on the test the next day. Sure, I only got a 5/6 on
the essay, but when you only have 8 days, every second of study time is
valuable. I have typed up my essay notes below:
Essay (formally referred to as the Analytical Writing Assessment):
Identify/ Summarize the evidence +conclusion
List the flaws (3 to 5)
a) Cause and Effect
i. Conclude that x causes y when y causes
ii. Conclude that x causes y when y causes x
b) Statistical
i. Sample is not representative of the entire population
ii. Conclusion does not match statistics
3. Analogy
i. Not enough similarities to draw conclusions
4. Other
i. Unsubstantiated assumptions
ii. Vague words: some, many, few
iii. Ignoring supply+demand fundamentals
iv. Drawing a strong conclusion based on weak evidence
5. Find 1 or 2 ways to strengthen the argument
6. Choose the top 2 to 4 flaws -> write essay
7. Proofread
Essay outline:
Tell what you are going to say
Say it
Tell em what you told em
Intro:
First sentence: paraphrase argument and state that it is flawed.
General Format: The author concludes x based on y, howeverSecond
sentence: In drawing this conclusion, the author not only fails to X, but also Y,
furthermore, the author Zs.
2nd Paragraph (biggest flaw)
State your point
Elaborate and/or provide examples
Explain why this indicates a weakness
3rd and 4th paragraph

Repeat what you did in the second paragraph


Last paragraph
Explain how the argument can be strengthened
Suggest ways in which we can evaluate the conclusion
State that the argument is flawed
General format, As it stands, however, the argument is flawed for the
reasons indicated.
GENERAL ESSAY NOTES:
Keep it simple- its a computer program and a person grading (and they
only take 2 minutes to read your essay)
Time management
5 to 7 on discussion points20 minutes writing3 to 5 proof readingVary
length of sentencesUse transition words generously
ex: first, second, third, therefore, additionally, consequently, because,
since, finally, similarly, converselyDont refer to yourself
Integrated Response
For this section, I would only do the practice problems from the official guide.
Make sure you do the ones in the book, as well as the problems that come on
their CD (it comes with the book). I did both the official guide and the Manhattan
GMAT guide. I simply just learned way more from the official guide questions.
And unfortunately, I lost the CD with the additional practice questions
When I took the test, most of the top business schools had publicly stated that
they did not care about the IR section (Harvard Business School said that they
would still consider it). This was because the IR section was brand new when I
took the GMAT. Therefore, business schools didnt have historical data to
evaluate IR scores.
Quantitative:
2 sections
Problem Solving: basically like normal multiple choice
Data Sufficiency: you are given two statements and you need to decide
which of them are sufficient to answer the question (this type of question is
unique to the GMAT)
Both quantitative sections test fundamentally the same skills: your ability to do
math, so I will address them both at once. Doing well on the quantitative portion
comes down to how many practice problems you have done. The more problems
you work through, the more likely it is that those same problems will show up on
your actual test. Dont waste your time with the lessons. Learn which problems
you really dont know by trying to do them and working through them with the
answer key. To cut down on time, start at the end of the Official GMAT
Quantitative guide and work backwards. Questions at the end are generally
harder, so you will learn faster.
I first started with the syllabus that the Manhattan GMAT instructor had given
me. It had lessons and then practice questions selected from the GMAT guide
and the Manhattan practice books. After the 3rd day of working through the
syllabus, I knew I would not finish in time for the test, so I only worked on official
GMAT math problems for the rest of the time. One of the biggest
takeaways that I got from doing both the Manhattan math problems and the

official GMAT math problems was that the official math questions were much
more accurate and helpful in terms of what was actually on the test. On the
other hand, Manhattan solutions to problems usually showed faster and simpler
methods to solving similar problems.
Another key strategy is to use Khan Academy. There are going to be times
when you are burned out from working through problems. When this happens,
open Khan Academy and navigate to the GMAT page. There I found that he had
recorded himself working through every math problem in the old GMAT official
guide. This is extremely useful, since you can see someone work through
problems and explain step by step what they are doing and why. This was
probably the best tool for quickly learning the math section that I used.
Along the way, you may realize that you forgot how to long divide or multiply two
numbers. You will also realize that it is easy to miscount zeros and decimal
places. You have been warned.
Random notes on the Math Topics:
Ratios
You will see these a ton. They are very easy to make a simple mistake on.
Factors and Multiples
You need to memorize divisibility rules
Ex: A number is divisible by 9 if the sum of the digits is divisible by 9
You need to memorize the square of 1 through 20
Rates
These probably gave me the most difficulty. Drawing a picture of the
problem helped.
Systems of Equations
Most times, this means just plugging one equation into the other
Overlapping Sets
Quickly draw and label a Venn diagram
Right Triangles
There will be a bunch of rules listed on these in both the Mahnattan GMAT
book and the Official GMAT book. You need to memorize all of these.
Inequalities
Rearrange the inequality
Exponents
There will be a bunch of rules listed on these in both the Mahnattan GMAT
book and the Official GMAT book. You need to memorize all of these.
Percentages
If you have trouble on these, draw a box and shade in the appropriate
percentages so you can visually see the problem
Coordinate Geometry
Draw stuff and count spaces carefully
Verbal use the official guide
Reading comprehension
First, skim the questions so that you know what you are looking forRead it
like it is a story. Understand the general flow of the logic, and write a small note

next to paragraphs so that you can quickly reference paragraphs when


answering questions
Critical reasoning
Just do a bunch of these. Take all the ones you got wrong, and go over
them with a friend. This is important because when you initially try to solve the
problem, you will create a line of logic in your head that makes sense to you. It is
hard for you to change your line of logic without someone else helping you to
think differently
Sentence correction
Both the Official GMAT Guide and the Manhattan GMAT Guide will have a
list of common sentence corrections that you will have to look for. I have
reproduced my outline of this section below:
Types of Errors:
Misplaced modifier
Modifier is placed far away from subject, thereby not modifying it
Dangling
Not really clear what it is modifying
Ex: I got some tips for how to protect myself from the police.
Squinting
Modifier may modify 2 different subjects
Ex: Students who miss classes frequently fail the course
Pronouns do not agree
Improper comparison
Wrong subject/verb agreement
Wrong verb tense
Improper sentence structure
Incorrect idiom: You simply need to memorize these. I have listed common
idioms here to kick start youbetween: 2 people, among: 3 people, fewer: a
specific #, ex: fewer children (countable nouns), less than: a continuous
quantity, ex: less devastation (quantities), farther: distance, further: degree,
contrast A with B, dated at, responsibility to, same to A as to B, so A as to be B,
much: used for an uncountable quantity, such as rain, many: used for a
countable quantity, such as people, aid in
Other tid-bits:
Where you study is important: Fortunately, my girlfriend lived about a
minute away from my house. When I studied, I would only take my GMAT
material to her place and study at her desk. She would do work directly behind
me. Therefore, anytime I felt like taking a break, there was someone behind me
to call me out on checking E-mail or Facebook. This held me accountable and
helped me to stay focused.
Diet: While studying for the test, I was on the Ketogenic diet. Im not sure
how this affected my mental performance, but having cut out carbohydrates, I
did feel like my energy was lacking at certain points in my study marathon. On
the other hand, it greatly simplified my choice of food, so I put almost no mental
effort into choosing my food. Maybe this helped me focus on the GMAT more? I
dont know.

Signing uphere: If you are going to take the GMAT seriously, you need to
sign up. If there is no deadline (test date) and you havent paid the $250 to take
the test, it is going to be much harder to motivate yourself. Sign up here.