Bonus GMAT Tip of the Week: Regulate the GMAT Like Nate Dogg

GMAT PrepIt’s a sad week here in (or, well, just up the coast from) the LBC. One of the true legends of West Coast hip hop, Nate Dogg, passed away this week. Amidst the comebacks of his contemporaries — Dr. Dre with his new album, Snoop Dogg segueing back to rap after his flirtation with poppy Katy Perrydom – Nate struggled with complications from a late 2007 stroke and never recovered to join them.

The legacy he leaves behind is impressive; sports columnist Bill Simmons once called Nate Dogg the “Robert Horry of rap” (or, rather, the other way around), noting that it was difficult to ever pinpoint what made either star so great, but regardless whenever either was involved the project was a runaway success. Nate’s smooth, baritone vocals on hits by Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre, Warren G, Ludacris, Eminem, and others, formed the bass line for an era of music. And in that G Funk Era, regardless of the topic – gratuitous violence, gratuitous sex, gratuitous drug use – Nate’s style was unflappable. Perhaps that’s his greatest legacy – his flow was incredibly consistent and smooth. And it’s that classic Nate Dogg style that can teach you a thing or two about how to beat the GMAT.

In order to succeed on a test that throws you various topic after topic in a whirlwind of time and exam pressure, you need some of that Nate Dogg demeanor. The best illustration may well come from Nate’s best-known lyrics, from the Warren G single “Regulate”. As Warren G sets the scene, notice his panic level:

They got guns to my head, I think I’m going down
I can’t believe this happening in my own town
If I had wings I would fly, let me contemplate
I glance in the cut and I see my homie Nate

Warren is so panicked he’s hallucinating here – dreaming of flying away? Concerned more with the location of his near-death experience (“in my own town”) than other more practical circumstances? Sounds a lot like a pressured GMAT student, perhaps facing a difficult Reading Comprehension passage. “I can’t believe they gave me a passage about astronomy! That’s my least favorite passage topic!” Like the location of Warren’s assault, the topic of the passage doesn’t matter; it’s your execution in answering the questions that’s important. Enter Nate Dogg, ever calm and methodical:

Sixteen in the clip, and one in the hole
Nate Dogg is about to make some bodies turn cold
Now they dropping and yelling, it’s a tad bit late
Nate Dogg and Warren G had to regulate

With a quick inventory of his assets (sixteen in the clip…), Nate surveys the situation and decides how to handle it, calmly and efficiently.  His voice on this track never wavers – it’s bold, confident, and relaxed, perhaps because he’s known all along that he’s in control.  Nate is like a savvy GMAT test taker, who will identify the actionable details of a problem or passage immediately and work from there.  On a  difficult Reading Comprehension passage, to use that example again, the Nate Dogg test taker will begin noting the author’s intent by focusing on the organization of the passage: “The previous theory….however, new research suggests…therefore a second theory has been proposed…”  Just as Nate inventories his ammunition, the savvy test-taker identifies and prepares to leverage the assets with which a passage or question supplies him.  Next?   Action:

I laid all them busters down, I let my gat explode
Now I’m switching my mind back into freak mode
If you want skirts sit back and observe
I just left a gang of those over there on the curb

In one of the more improbably confident verses in all of music, Nate reveals that once he’s surveyed the situation and leveraged his assets the “process of elimination” of his enemies is, well, much quicker than it might have seemed.  But that’s an important point regarding a pressure situation like the GMAT: if you focus on actionable details and refuse to allow the many distractions and emotions to interfere, the process to a correct answer should be significantly clearer.

The remainder of that verse, however vulgar it might seem, demonstrates another huge reason that Nate Dogg would have crushed the GMAT.  “Now I’m switching my mind back into freak mode…”?  After rescuing his buddy from a near-death situation, Nate has the presence of mind to immediately focus on his next, completely different task, like a biathlete immediately reducing his heart rate to target-shoot after a grueling ski workout.  And that’s the nature of the GMAT as much as it’s the nature of G-Funk – you have to be able to quickly shift gears mentally from one question type to the next.  We’ve discussed multiple times in this space the danger of allowing your perception of your current performance to detract from the rest of your test, and it’s also worth mentioning that, particularly on the verbal section, you’ll be barraged with a number of different topic areas in rapid succession:  poetry, botany, hypothetical nation’s election system, journalistic integrity, the introduction of a new species to an ecosystem, quasars and pulsars, early joint-stock companies…  You’ll need to think like Nate Dogg in order to succeed: be mentally flexible to immediately switch your mind into another mode (e.g. from grammatical decision making to reading comprehension) and focus on the actionable details of each question and don’t allow yourself to be sucked in to the peripheral content discussions.

It’s no coincidence that Warren G needed to be saved by Nate Dogg on this fateful day: Warren let himself be rattled by his surroundings; he focused too much on peripheral details and not enough on action items; he allowed self-doubt to cloud his thoughts.  All the while, Nate analyzed the assets he had, leveraged them to confidently make decisions that would directly make progress toward his goal, and was able to change mental gears immediately when a new challenge presented itself upon completion of the previous one.  That’s why Nate could close out the track by taunting the mythical GMAT that stood in his way: “If you know like I know, you don’t want to step to this”.  Nate knew all too well that if he kept his wits about him, stayed calm and unflappable, and remained consistent to his style, he could ride that consistency and poise to success over and over again.  Sadly, that chain of continuous success ended this week, but you can pick up Nate Dogg’s legacy and carry it along to your own success.  GMAT regulators, mount up.

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