GMAT Ship Sinking? Don’t change a thing!

GMAT Preparation

When things seem to go wrong in your GMAT prep (and outside it) it’s natural to seek change. But, change isn’t always good. Fine tuning and tinkering can quickly become rabbit-holing. Even after a soul crushing GMAT experience there may be nothing to fix in terms of your studying. Maybe you woke up on the wrong side of the bed and had a crappy test day. Maybe you just need more time doing exactly what you’re doing. 

I know that it’s a challenge to work hard on your GMAT and to come up short. And, sometimes there’s a solid reason for switching things up. However, let’s be aware that it is very tempting to adjust in the face of adversity. Here are a few things to watch out for in your preparation.

Too much focus on targeted content

The GMAT is a critical reasoning exam. Improving your critical reasoning skills is hard. The process is abstract in nature and improvement isn’t linear. Sometimes you go through valleys during which you feel stagnant. There’s almost always an ascent but it’s tough to feel great while you’re stuck in the mud.

So what tends to happen? You look for simple answers to complex issues. Most often there’s a tendency to want more targeted content. “I’m finding probability really hard so let’s do more of that!!!”. 

It’s not unlikely that you’ll have a probability based question on your GMAT. It’s also true that getting all probability questions correct is a positive thing for your GMAT score. However, you could probably also get all probability questions wrong and still get a 49 on the quant. Why? Because:

  1. You’re not going to get that many of any one piece of content on the GMAT. 
  2. There’s a ton of space to skip questions. You can get upwards of 10 questions wrong on the quant section and still earn a 49, which, though depressingly in this day and age of crazy GMAT percentiles, is only the 74%, is still a fantastic quant score.

Getting overly targeted with quant content may make you feel great as you master one tiny thing but will be at the cost of the bigger picture. That’s not saying: don’t do targeted quant content!

Yes, do targeted quant content. Learn all of the basic math. Learn strategies for GMAT questions. But once you’ve got a critical mass focus on mixed sets that will better approximate what you’ll experience on a test. And in those mixed sets you’ll see all types of content into which you can dig deeper during review. The review will naturally get you focused on what targeted content you need to work on.

I need to solve everything immediately!

It’s not uncommon for me to be completely lost at the beginning of a question. Well, not lost but maybe still finding my way. The goal isn’t: see the question and know immediately how to solve. Sometimes that’s the case. Sometimes it’s not. 

Be OK just getting things organized. Usually the lightbulb moment comes from some basic setup not from just eyeballing the raw data. Let the inferences flow from your work. You don’t have to come up with them out of nowhere. And not having an immediate reflex for every single question isn’t a sign that things are going wrong or that you need to change something in your preparation. 

The GRE Trap

The GRE might be a better option for you. But it may not be. We’ve seen some people switch with very little work and really excel on the GRE while others stayed right around their GMAT score. If you have a fundamental content, strategy, or study issue it will likely follow you to the GRE.

If you haven’t been able to excel on the GMAT it could just be that you need more time. Time that you’d probably also need on the GRE. For most people it’s a better strategy to get their GMAT house in order before attempting the switch to the GRE. 

If you are putting in a solid effort and working on the right things it should just be a matter of study hours and GMAT attempts before you see improvement. And, if you hit the 5 GMAT limit and no dice, then, great, move to GRE. The extra GMAT work will still apply.

Big Picture

When you are done with your MBA, no one, including you, will care about how many times you took the GMAT or whether you had to switch to the GRE to hit your target. It’s very rare for someone to just sail through this process. Yes, it happens. There are some superstars who just nail it. 

But: most very smart people struggle at some point. Most take multiple tests. It’s also important to keep in mind that if you’re going for a top ten MBA program you’re probably aiming for an A or A+ or A++ GMAT score. Not good, great, or excellent. But superb, massive, fantastic, or near perfect. 

Some Motivation to KEEP GOING!!!

I recently had a student who moved from a 560 to a 740. From an average GMAT score to an amazing one above the median of any MBA program on the planet. It took her:

-5 months

-4 exams (3 of which she took after we started working together)

There were ups and downs. Disappointments. Setbacks. Life getting in the way.

This morning, I got this message:

“Third times the charm!”

Just got out and wanted to let you know I got a 740!

48 quant

42 verbal

Whether third, fourth, fifth or eight is the charm, it does not matter. Stick with it!