What The Great Gatsby Can Teach you About the GMAT

I, for one, am very excited about the new Baz Luhrmann adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatbsy.” Re-reading the book in anticipation of today’s opening, I was struck by the differences in character between Jay Gatsby and the protagonist Nick Carraway, especially evinced by this exchange from Chapter 6:

“I wouldn’t ask too much of her,” Nick says “You can’t repeat the past.” “Can’t repeat the past?” Gatsby cries out. “Why, of course you can!”

So what does this have to do with studying for the GMAT, and getting into business school?

Most GMAT studiers tend to fall into two camps: those who look back on the books they’ve completed, the scores from their practice tests, the number of questions they’ve answered and those who look forward to the concepts they still haven’t covered, the sections of the Official Guide left to complete, and the ever-dwindling weeks left before the Big Test. So which way is better? Should we study for the GMAT like Nick Carraway or like Jay Gatsby?

The answer is a little bit of both! Here’s how looking to the past AND looking to the future can help you achieve higher scores in your prep!

The Past

  • Don’t worry too much if your practice test scores are inconsistent, especially if you’re using different companies’ tests. Are you finishing the sections in time? What types of questions are you getting wrong? Use your practice tests as a diagnostic tool to tell you where to go next.
  • Don’t ever waste time beating yourself up over the results of one study session. Everyone gets tired, and has days where they just can’t seem to get any questions right! Jay Gatsby might not have been able to let things go, but you certainly can (and should!).
  • Look for your own “blind spots” – any particular concepts you’ve been avoiding, even unconsciously?

The Future

  • Make sure you’re keeping a realistic study-plan – are you piling too much on, or facing burn out? Try to study in shorter blocks, and take breaks.
  • Are your goals realistic? If you’re looking for a 200 point gain in two weeks, you might need to re-consider. It’s not that miracles can’t happen, but a 700+ score rarely happens after a few weeks of cramming.
  • Study with purpose. If you can pinpoint via your practice tests exactly what types of questions you’re getting wrong, then you can sit down and try to tackle them in focused 2-hour sessions. Study smarter, not harder!

While Jay Gatsby’s determined clinging to the past might not be the best model for a GMAT test-taker, he is the quintessential “self-made” man, who through his own hard work and discipline became the wealthiest man on Long Island, and typifies the American Dream. So if you can take a well-deserved break from your GMAT studying today, I’d highly suggest a ticket to Gatsby before getting back to your books.

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Vivian Kerr is a regular contributor to the Veritas Prep blog, providing tips and tricks to help students better prepare for the GMAT and the SAT.