The word “hero” gets thrown around too often these days, being applied willy-nilly to athletes, to 911-dialing-pets, and in some regions to sandwiches. But certain situations beg for a word like “hero” and make our common-use hyperbole a true shame. We need a bigger, more grandiose word to describe the heroism of Navy SEAL Team 6, the special forces unit that this weekend overtook a compound in Abbotabad, Pakistan to finally bring Osama bin Laden to justice nearly 10 years after the attacks of September 11.
True heroism often goes uncelebrated — LeBron James will throw himself a hero party if the Heat make the NBA Finals and Donald Trump will hold a press conference to celebrate his self-described heroism for killing a spider, but true heroes are often remembered anonymously, like at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier — and the Team Six heroes are no exception. The brave soldiers who should never have to pay for a meal or buy their own drink on American soil ever again will likely never be known by name or be personally thanked by the many who owe them such gratitude. In fact, the SEALs themselves will even deny the very existence of a Team 6. But they should rest assured that their actions this weekend ensure that, should they pursue a graduate management education, they will undoubtedly be successful. The GMAT scores of any member of Team 6 will undoubtedly start with a 7.
Here are 6 reasons why:
No personnel unit of any kind is better-trained than the Navy SEALs, a group renowned and admired for its persistence to quality training. The physical activities required to even audition for SEAL duty makes most athletes shudder, and those physically and mentally fit enough to begin actual SEAL training raise that bar many times over. Like successful GMAT test-takers know, practice makes perfect, but it’s also critical to train effectively and efficiently. The Team 6 members who performed Sunday’s mission had pored over simulations of the bin Laden compound, had regularly participated in simulated firefights, had been briefed on any and all defining characteristics of their target, and were prepared for anything that could go wrong, such as the downing of a helicopter and the need to destroy it immediately to avoid providing intelligence to the opposition.
As a GMAT test-taker, you should similarly get to know your opponent and its tendencies, and undergo multiple practice test simulations to be prepared for contingencies (your downed helicopter may be a pacing problem or a noisy neighbor) and battle-tested for the main event. Like the US military, you may have multiple opportunities to accomplish your objective, but each opportunity comes at a cost and they may be few and far between, so be certain to be prepared to make your next opportunity count.
Having thoroughly prepared for its mission, Team 6 was able to make quick, accurate decisions in a situation in which time was of the essence. One of the great triumphs of the mission was that, once the intelligence was obtained and the mission decided, it was executed with minimal opportunities for leaks or mistakes. That type of decisiveness can be all-important on the GMAT, as well — many a test has been lost because someone spent too much time hemming and hawing over their answers or how to begin a problem. When time is a priority and stress can be high, decisiveness is important — one needs to be confident in his process and execute it, as indecisiveness can lose both time and confidence, and a mission unravels. Rely on your preparation and execute, trusting that your instincts are correct.
To give sole credit to Team 6 would be a disservice to the work that the CIA and its operatives did to provide the details for the mission. Team 6 was successful in large part because it “acted on intelligence”. As a GMAT test-taker, you’ll need to be able to act on your own intelligence in order to succeed. Sure, IQ is a part of intelligence, but so is handling your study process and test-day game plan intelligently. Work smarter, not harder — take time as you study to summarize what you’ve learned into key takeaways, and to analyze your performance and work on correcting specific downfalls. Train yourself to recognize patterns and shortcuts that will help you avoid time-consuming calculations and processes. As on most tests you’ll take, the GMAT will reward you for being intelligent. Fortunately for Team 6, its members have intelligence to spare.
Few things will disrupt a covert operations mission or a GMAT test score like a few time-consuming, momentum-killing hiccups. For Team 6, that could have given the bin Laden team valuable time to launch a counter assault or even a preemptive strike; once the team had its marching orders it had to execute efficiently — moving quickly but deliberately to minimize mistakes and maximize time and the element of surprise. For you as a test-taker, efficiency will be key — you’ll similarly need to work quickly but not hastily, using the assets available to you (number properties, divisibility rules, answer choices as clues, etc.) to minimize the amount of time you take, but working just carefully enough to avoid the kinds of mistakes that could mire you in a deep hole of lost time as you dig your way back. As mentioned above, practice makes perfect in situations that require a deft combination of speed and accuracy. Which brings us to…
If you’ve paused to reflect on the triumph of Team 6, you’ve likely put yourself in the shoes of a soldier, focusing directly on your objective with a tunnel vision that only breaks to peripheral for items that could derail progress — an unexpected appearance of counterattack or a potential obstacle that had remained unseen until the last minute. Focus was key to the success of this mission, and will be a key element in the success of your GMAT exam as well. Focus applies to your study process – you’ll need to ensure that you block off time and distraction to study effectively — and certainly to your test day performance. When the hour arrived for Team 6, minor distractions — weather, unexpected people at the bin Laden compound, the flash of a comrade’s gun or the annoyance of an insect flying in your field of vision — were ignored in the same way that you’ll need to ignore the tapping of a neighbor’s pencil, the hum of the HVAC system, the temptation to calculate your pace-per-question on your notepad, and other test-day distractions that could deviate you from your task. You have a job to do and all the spoils and congratulations that come with a mission accomplished; you need to focus on doing your job and only on doing your job. Team 6 understands that, and then some.
Back in the Western world on the day of the Team 6 mission, other teams were “doing battle” (such a cliche that seems so cheap in these times of military conflict) in the NHL and NBA playoffs, the English Premier League and other soccer matches, and elsewhere in the world of sport. And in each contest, the television announcers likely took care to mention how difficult it is for a team to win on the road in a hostile environment. Well, undaunted by the odds facing it, Team 6 won on the road in the most hostile possible environment, crossing international borders from US bases in Afghanistan to the impossible-to-police lands of Pakistan, a country that the US could not trust with any sensitive information about this mission for fear of loose lips sinking ships, or helicopters as it were. Heading into the lion’s den to attack the Western world’s greatest living enemy in his own home, Team 6 had to remain confident knowing that its objective should — but was not guaranteed to — end in success if it executed properly. With a helicopter sacrificed en route and an unknown number of enemies dwelling in any given room of the fortified compound, Team 6 entered confidently and deliberately… and exited even more so. On test day, you’ll have every opportunity to feel intimidated and “the enemy” will attempt to make you uncomfortable with a sterile environment, tricky wording, a ticking clock, and a computer algorithm that makes you question your performance at several turns. But like Team 6 you must remain undaunted, confident that the only elements that you can control are those that you will control, and that your doing so will lead to success.
Team 6 is a unit of confidence, of decisiveness, of focus and intelligence. It’s well-prepared and accordingly works efficiently and deliberately. It’s conquered the world’s most intimidating foe of this century and done so in a way that makes the world proud. Certainly it can conquer the GMAT. Team 6 would score 700+. How about you?
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