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This review is from: The Official Guide for GMAT Review, 10th Edition (Paperback)Background - I am 13 years out of college. My test taking and math skills were pretty rusty. I want to get into a top 20 MBA program to make it worth the investment. Consequently a great score was very important. I was shooting for 700.
I bought the Princeton book / CD, the Kaplan book / CD, and the Official Guide from ETS. I also downloaded the PowerPrep software from ETS for free. I completely exhausted the Princeton and Kaplan material - test strategies, exercises, practice tests. I did all the practice tests in PowerPrep. Moreover, I did the last third of the questions from the Official Guide (the harder questions are in the back).
I did not take a training class. I took a Kaplan class 14 years ago for the LSAT and was not happy with the investment. Better would be to find a study partner in your area.
If you want a top score then my advice is to get all three books and download PowerPrep. You also need a lot of time to prepare, particularly if you're working full time or if you've been out of college for a while. I studied and practiced for about 8 weeks. You also need to be comfortable with taking the test on a computer. It is more difficult than on paper - harder to read on the screen, harder to take notes, etc.
First, start with the Princeton book - this will give you a solid foundation. Next, exhaust the PowerPrep software. This will give you a good baseline of where you are and where you need to focus. (I scored 730 and 740 w/ the PowerPrep software.)
Next tackle the Kaplan book, but only focus on sections where you are having trouble. Then exhaust the Princeton Software. (I scored 720 and 730 on the practice tests on Princeton's CD.)
Then do the Kaplan CD practice exercises and practice tests. The tests are very hard, more difficult than the GMAT . . . particularly the verbal. You will score lower on these tests. The practice exercises don't give you enough time to answer all of the questions. Nevertheless, try not to become too frustrated. Keep in mind that you are building stamina and you are improving by seeing new, challenging quant questions. (I scored 640 on the diagnostic, and 680, 580, 650, 600 on the Kaplan CD practice tests, much lower than Princeton and PowerPrep.)
When you're finished w/ the Kaplan CD, start doing the last 1/3 or so of each section in the Official Guide, 20 questions at a time. These are ACTUAL GMAT questions. The explanations are EXCELLENT, far better than either Kaplan or Princeton. Unfortunately some Official Guide questions are repeated from the PowerPrep software.
Meanwhile, mix in online practice tests from Princeton; again you'll have seen some questions before. Don't sweat the recycled material. You won't remember the answers to many of them and you'll have to rework the quant questions anyway. At this point it is more important to understand why you are missing certain types of questions repeatedly and to improve how you attack specific question types. (I scored 750, 710, 690, 730 on the Princeton online practice tests. However, these scores are suspect due to the recycled questions.)
My advice is to take NO tests the day before the GMAT. Clear your head some. Spend time getting comfortable with a template for the writing section. Review specific questions that you've missed in the past - the Official Guide is ideal for this - understanding the correct approach. Relax if you can and get a good night's sleep.
Last piece of advice, bring a snack and use ALL of BOTH breaks. Stand up, stretch, whiz, drink something, eat something. The test is exhausting and you need to use the breaks to clear your head and refocus.
If you do all this you should get a great score. The real GMAT was VERY difficult, even after all of my preparation. I even guessed on a few quant questions that I had no idea how to attack. The whole test went by in a blur. Stamina and timing, however, were not an issue with so much full-length practice.
I ended up with a 760, far better than I targeted and expected, even better than on any practice test I took. This was a pleasant surprise, given how difficult the test was as compared to much of the practice material. However, by using all of the practice material effectively I am now able to look at top 10 programs instead of top 20! Yeah!