When Your Expectations Are the Problem with Your GMAT Prep

We work with all kinds of GMAT students here at Veritas Prep. While our students come from all walks of life and represent a wide variety of ability levels, they often fall into one of these two camps when they first enroll in a Veritas Prep GMAT course:

They either are aiming too high and don’t realize how much time they need to spend on the “basics,” or they inadvertently stunt their own potential by butting an artificial cap on their expectations. While these two points of view are very different, they can both be very harmful to someone who’s trying to break the 700 barrier on the GMAT.

Does one of these sound like you?

Aiming High and Ignoring What Lies Beneath
“I’ve always done well on standardized tests — 1490 on the SATs — and in school — 3.9 undergrad in engineering — so I know I should be scoring over 700 on the GMAT. I’ve worked through all of the ‘advanced math’ and ‘800 GMAT’ books and understand everything, but I still struggle on practice tests.”

An Artificial Cap on Expectations
“I’ve been out of school for 13 years and the idea of having to use algebra and geometry again after all that time intimidates me, but my company will pay for me to get a part-time MBA. I worry that a full-length GMAT class is going to be way too much for me at first, but I don’t want to make studying a huge part of my life for a full year or anything. What can I do?”

As we have said before, the GMAT tests quantitative and verbal skills due to their relative importance in the academic components of business school, but another primary intent of the exam is to gauge managerial potential. The exam tests a finite scope of concepts and skills, and uses them to ascertain the problem solving abilities of test-takers who come from a wide variety of backgrounds, ability levels, and skill sets. To be successful on the GMAT, you will need to thoroughly understand the scope of knowledge that will be tested, and be able to apply it to questions that will probe for your ability to problem solve, budget time, work under pressure, and filter out distraction – all important managerial skills.

If you fit the first profile, you risk being so preoccupied with the “advanced” concepts on the exam that you overlook important-but-subtle fundamentals. The GMAT, for example, likes to position statistics or combinatorics questions so that they hinge on a simple definition of a unique number property (0 is an even integer, but is neither negative nor positive, for instance). In essence, the GMAT can distract you by appealing to your enthusiasm for the difficult at the expense of attention to minute detail.

If you fit the second profile, you may be likely to overestimate the difficulty of the skills tested on the GMAT, and at the same time fail to realize that the true difficulty of the exam lies in the managerial and problem solving components. Veritas Prep students are often surprised by the limited scope of the information that they need to know, all of which is covered in the course. While it may take time to again feel confident in each of the skills, doing so in context with the question types themselves will maximize your return on that investment of time, as you will take advantage of the predisposition of the GMAT to emphasize certain skills in particular situations. Developing an eye for those tendencies will allow you to better manage your time and attack questions more confidently.

Ultimately, the GMAT exam requires a thorough understanding of its testable skills and a series of strategies for approaching the questions in which those skills appear. Regardless of your initial level of familiarity and facility with the skills, you will want to ensure that you learn to apply them specifically to GMAT questions, which are often written in ways that will obscure the relevant skills or divert your attention from their particulars!

Do you need to take the GMAT soon? We have online GMAT prep classes starting all the time. And, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!