GMAT Tip of the Week: D-Day

GMAT prepThis weekend marks the 66th anniversary of D-Day, the Allied invasion of Normandy Beach to reclaim mainland Europe during World War II.

One of the most renowned military missions of all time, the Normandy landings took years of planning and coordination to allow the Allied troops the advantages they needed to make landfall against a robust German army. The term D-Day itself was — in all its GMAT-esque form — a variable for the timing of Operation Overlord, the code name for the mission. For security reasons, the date and time of the invasion was a variable for all but the top military officials, so the majority of the armed forces knew the mission would take place on “D-Day at H-hour.”

D-Day has become a fairly common term for GMAT test-takers to note as their “moment of truth” when they finally take the exam. As the Allied nations prepare to celebrate the anniversary of D-Day, the Veritas Prep GMAT Tip of the Week team would like to offer you an outline of what your D-Day will entail:

Much like storming Normandy Beach, entering the GMAT test center will cause some apprehension and fear. In perhaps the ultimate version of the Trojan Horse tactic, the Allies spent months crafting the ultimate deception in the form of Operation Fortitude, amassing fake positions and equipment opposite the French shores of Calais to give the appearance of an attack far east of the intended Normandy destination.

On your D-Day, the GMAT will likely be the outfit providing the distraction. When you arrive, you’ll be put through a security proceeding not unlike what it must be to check in for basic training, or, worse, prison. You will:

  • Have your identification checked thoroughly against your registration (make sure that your name is spelled the same on both, and that your birthdate is correct when you register; test-takers have reported that they were refused admission for typos on their birthdate and for using nicknames that did not match their government-issued ID names)
  • Have your photograph taken (your “mug shot” for the GMAT files)
  • Submit a fingerprint or palm scan, both when you register and at each time you return to the test room after a break
  • Leave all of your belongings — including watches, cell phones, sunglasses, jackets, hats, etc. — in a locker
  • Only be allowed to use the GMAT-provided noteboard (essentially laminated, spiral-bound pieces of legal-sized graph paper) and pen, and not pencil and paper

Why is the GMAT more secure than an international flight? In part because the GMAT is such a high-stakes exam, and because people have a fairly high incentive to try to cheat. As an honest test-taker, you should embrace the security, as it ensures that you’ll be graded fairly against your competition.

Perhaps just as importantly, however, the GMAT is performing such extensive security to create pressure. The GMAT, after all, is a test that seeks to determine which candidates will be the most successful in and beyond business school — in essence, who will be the best managers. Managers — CEOs, VPs, entrepreneurs, traders, brand managers, etc. — need to make sound, logical decisions in pressure situations, with large sums of money and/or the livelihoods of employees/shareholders/clients hanging in the balance. With time pressure and the check-in process reminders of how important the test can be, the GMAT can replicate the types of pressure under which you’ll need to solve problems and think critically in the workplace.

To combat the pressure, keep in mind that, unlike the historical D-Day, yours comes with a second chance. Business schools almost exclusively only care about your top score, and do not at all frown upon retaking the exam once or twice (it’s that eighth straight 400 score that may raise some flags about your decision-making…why did it take so many attempts for you to study differently?). On your D-Day, you simply have the opportunity to add an asset to your candidacy, and the only risk you really incur is the $250 exam fee (pricey, but nothing compared to, you know, the fate of the entire free world).

Even more powerful is this realization: the GMAT uses pressure as a tool to keep your score down, which means that, in the absence of pressure, your score would likely be higher. In turn, you can take this to mean that the questions alone are not as difficult as advertised! A slight change of mindset can turn the negative of pressure into the positive of confidence – if you take that pressure as an indication that, in the chess match of the GMAT, the opposition is bluffing, you can use that confidence to relax and circumvent that stress.

As you approach your GMAT D-Day, perhaps the words of the Commander-in-Chief of the historical D-Day, Franklin D. Roosevelt, will inspire you: the only thing you have to fear is fear itself.

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