The Morals of the GMAT

The GMAT is not merely a test for graduate school.  Several very valuable qualities of the mind, useful in the course of human life, are to be acquired or strengthened by it, so as to become habits, ready on all occasions. Let’s examine a few of these qualities:

1. Decisiveness, which looks at the information and question, and considers the best course of action; for it occurs to the test taker, ‘how can I break this down into something I can figure out quickly?  What is the situation and question really getting at?  Can I ballpark or use the answer choices to narrow it down?  How much time is worth spending to get this?’

2. Discernment, which turns the question over inside and out, takes in all the information, assessing premises and conclusions, and asks what is missing or assumed.  It is adaptable to situational issues, aware of the danger of traps and enticing phrases, the pattern of answer choices, and the probability of what a good answer will look like.  It is alert to the use of information by the test maker to hone in on the proper reasoning.

3. Pacing, to move and answer neither too hastily nor too slowly. This habit is best acquired, by observing strictly the format of the test; such as, if you choose an answer, you cannot go back; if you spend too much time on early questions, you’ll have less for the rest. And it is therefore best that this format should be observed in practice and elsewhere, as the test becomes thereby more the image of human life, and particularly of business . . .

4. Resilience: And lastly, we learn by the GMAT the habit of resilience, or not being discouraged by a difficult question, the habit of searching for something useful where nothing is immediately apparent, and that of persevering in narrowing down answers. The test is so full of different situations, there is such a variety of logic, and one so frequently is able to narrow down the answers or break down the question after stepping back and thinking it through, that one is encouraged to realize that every question is imminently doable . . .

If you finish one section early, you ought not hurry to the next, or get uneasy at the wait. You should not sit and stare at the clock on the screen, nor reflect on your previous answers, nor think about all the formulas you might need, nor worry about what schools you’ve selected to send the scores.  For all these things distract; and they defeat the purpose of the break.

You ought not to endeavor to boost your score by taking more time on questions upfront, by ensuring you’ve gotten as many correct answers as early as possible: for your early success will be false and fleeting, and you will be less able to finish the rest as quickly or as accurately, and you will face more difficult questions besides, on which you will make more errors or fall into traps; and it is your floor that must be guarded, not your ceiling that must be reached.  And having several incorrect answers in a row is far more damaging than is having a few interspersed throughout a section.

You must not, when you have gotten your score, believe that you are destined for a business school based on the score alone; but endeavor to recognize that the score is a piece of evidence in your ability to reason and process information at the level business schools desire.  If the score is good, you should tell yourself, ‘now go and prove you are as capable as these scores indicate you are.’  If the score needs improvement, you should tell yourself  ‘you understand the questions, but you are a little inattentive;’ or, ‘you made careless mistakes or fell into traps, and chose too quickly;’ or, ‘you were doing well, but lost focus and didn’t recover as well as you could have.’

Lastly, if the effort is only practice, then moderate your desire of getting all the answers correct, and be pleased with victory in deliberateness: don’t go for the straight calculation, but endeavor to discover the shortcuts or quick logical keys that unlock the problem.  Don’t rotely weed through passages or scan answers looking for enticing phrasing, but step back and consider the situation in general and then zoom in to the detail.  By this generous and adaptable approach you may, indeed, take a little more time upfront or over think some particular question; but you will win what is better: overall time, accuracy, and confidence in your ability to understand and adapt to any question, especially as it relates to the qualities of the mind above mentioned.

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This parody was written by Joseph Dise, a Veritas Prep GMAT instructor. He has been teaching for us for the last 6 years in Paris, New Brunswick, and New York City.