GMAT Tip of the Week

GMAT prep
The Secret

To many across the world, tomorrow is Christmas Day, a day of celebration and the spirit of giving. With that in mind, we at Veritas Prep offer you the gift of this GMAT tip, with the obligatory background first.

If you’re like many young men in the 25-40 age range, you may well have received a copy of Bill Simmons’ bestselling sports book The Book of Basketball this holiday season (and perhaps even this morning). If you’re like the author of this post, that book cleared up “The Secret” that you’ve been waiting since you were 10 years old to discover — a secret that your boyhood hero, Isiah Thomas, claimed in his 1989 book Bad Boys enabled him and his fellow Detroit Pistons to win a world championship in basketball. In The Book of Basketball, Simmons cites a conversation with Isiah in which the Piston great tells him The Secret to winning championships:

“It’s not about basketball.”

What Isiah means by this is that, to win a championship in basketball, you need to understand beyond the strategy of the game, the height/speed/athletic ability of the players and the statistics that they create, and be able to see the bigger picture. Winning games requires all of these things, but winning championships requires a higher level — mental toughness, unselfishness, confidence, poise. Many of these lessons are learned through experience, though some may simply be innate, but the concept of The Secret explains why some of the greatest athletes to play the game often fell short, and why only a few select teams and leaders were able to sustain championship-level success.


And that brings us to your Christmas gift — The Secret of the GMAT:

“It’s not about math and verbal skills.”

Much like, to win an NBA championship, you simply must have a high level of athletic talent, to succeed on the GMAT you need to be comfortable with the baseline skills that are tested on the exam. But, like having superhuman athletic talent alone won’t win you an NBA championship (I’m looking at you, Karl Malone), simply having those math and verbal skills won’t directly translate to GMAT success, and in many cases you can achieve that success without an inordinately high level of “talent.”

If the GMAT isn’t about math and verbal skills, then what is it about?

According to the Graduate Management Admissions Council itself, via its spokesman Dr. Lawrence Rudner: math and verbal skills are important, “but we’re predominantly concerned with testing higher-order thinking skills.”

The GMAT is an exam commissioned by the admissions directors at top business schools to test the skills that they value most in business school applicants. Could those skills exclusively be related to calculation without a calculator and the recognition of flawed grammar? Likely not, when you consider that, among the must-have technological tools that your school will have you purchase are:

-A financial calculator
-A computer that includes Microsoft Excel (for calculation), and
-Microsoft Word (which includes a tool to check your papers for grammar)

These skills are certainly useful, but cannot be the primary considerations for business schools when it comes to admissions decisions. Rather, schools want to know:

-How well do you make decisions under pressure?
-How prone are you to making assumptions or thinking narrowmindedly?
-How efficiently do you solve problems?

These higher-order thinking skills will likely determine how effective you are as a manager, and are the skills that, therefore, business schools seek when admitting students. Naturally, to gauge these skills, the writers of the exam need to ask questions that take place in context, and so math and verbal skills come in to play as they provide that context in a way that also tests skills that are good for any higher learner to possess.

How can you apply The Secret to your preparation?

Ensure that you have the essential math and verbal skills at your disposal, but don’t consider them to be the ultimate goal, and don’t spend an inordinate amount of time memorizing anything that seems obscure. Instead, spend your time learning strategies to dissect GMAT questions efficiently and methodically, and analyzing the types of mistakes you tend to make when your mind does narrow under pressure. The Secret may not make the process easy, but it will certainly make it possible.

For more GMAT prep tips and resources, give us a call at (800) 925-7737. And, be sure to follow us on Twitter!

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