I have been doing GMAT test prep for a long time. While I do score nicely, this was not always so. In fact, the first practice GMAT I sat for was in the low 600s. Having always aced my classroom courses, I was disappointed that my score was not aligned with my academic track record.
I got angry: first with the test-makers for creating a “stupid” exam, and then with myself for not being savvy enough to perform as stellar as I had hoped. Once I stopped doing battle with GMAC, I recalled that every one of my instructors in school had a different way of testing the material they taught and then realized that I did not approach the test correctly. If I were to raise my score, then I needed to acclimate myself to how the test-makers asked questions.
I also thought about my twin sister. She sees things that I am initially blind to, and I see things she doesn’t. Because of her, I realize that there is more than one way to build a house. So I went back to the drawing board. I took a prep course and listened to not only what my instructor had to say, but the insights that my classmates shared. I kept my mind open to different ways of viewing a scenario and attacking questions.
And I was not stubborn. Even when I got a question correct, I wasn’t adamant that my technique was absolute. I was open to all alternative paths to do problems. In time, I became more fluid and began getting more questions correct. With my new found confidence, I started answering questions more quickly. Even when I got a response correct but took too much time getting to the answer, I reached out to others, asking how they arrived at the solution more efficiently.
When I missed a question, instead of getting upset, I tried to figure out what my misstep was, what didn’t I initially see, what did I dismiss. I viewed my errors not as failures, but as areas I needed to improve. I stopped resisting the test. Changing my perspective was the key to changing my performance. With continued practice and diligence, I became adept in this test…even great enough to teach for Veritas Prep.
The GMAT is trainable. You just have to be willing to not fight the process, be receptive to other avenues of approach, and enjoy the challenge. You need to trust your instincts and realize that you are capable. You need to get comfortable with what is tested and how it is tested. And you need to change your mind set. At a later point, I will share with you some of the changes in perspectives that I made that improved my test-taking ability.
John Chismody is a Veritas Prep GMAT instructor based in Pittsburgh, PA. After receiving his BS in Engineering from the University of Pittsburgh, he went onto Duquesne University to receive his Masters. He moved to the Big Apple for a while, then down to South Beach, but has returned to his native home of Pittsburgh and continues to teach for Veritas Prep.