GMAT Tip of the Week: Peyton Manning & Omaha!

The crisis has largely been averted. As we approach Sunday’s Super Bowl, our collective eyes are no longer intently watching the thermometer in East Rutherford wondering how a polar vortex might affect the most American of all holidays, Super Bowl Sunday. We can now get back to the number we all REALLY care about:


How many times will Peyton Manning yell “Omaha” during the game?

The current estimate from Las Vegas sportsbooks is 27.5.

While we all poke fun at Peyton’s repetitive cadence and while Peyton himself cashes in on endorsement deals from all the biggest firms in Nebraska, let us not forget that there are two major GMAT lessons you can learn from Peyton’s “Omaha” calls at the line:

1) Do the same thing every time.

Peyton Manning says Omaha a lot. He’s incredibly deliberate and repetitive in everything he does. And it’s taken him to the summit of his industry. GMAT test takers would be wise to heed his example – note that Peyton deals with time pressure (the play clock, the 2-minute drill) all the time but his deliberation makes him comfortable. And by doing the same thing over and over again his routine is incredibly effective at getting him through the first few seconds of any important play.

You should do the same. In a word problem, you should always read actively, assign variables, and check for anything unique in the answer choices, all in the first 30 seconds of seeing the problem. In a Critical Reasoning problem, you should read the question stem first, identify your goal, and usually check the conclusion, all within the first 30 seconds. When exponents are present you should look for relationships between the bases (and try to get them all the same) and look for opportunities to factor addition/subtraction into multiplication, all in the first 30 seconds. Good GMAT test-takers are boring – they have a system for each type of problem and their first 30 seconds are typically somewhat scripted. They don’t see “unique snowflakes” in each question, but instead they see standardized components and go to work on them.

Peyton yells “Omaha”, never “Des Moines” or “Topeka”. Learn from the man. Form good habits and stick to them. Be predictable, be boring, be successful.

2) But be flexible.

The reason Peyton yells “Omaha” is to allow for flexible play calls at the line of scrimmage. Reportedly, the Broncos go to the line with two different play calls in mind, and “Omaha” signals that they’re going to the B play. In football, like on the GMAT, you have to be flexible. Sometimes the defense surprises you and you need to go a different direction.

This comes up often on the GMAT – you start to set up the algebra but realize that your second step gets messier than what you started with. You have to call an Omaha and go back to testing answer choices. You identify clearly that statement 1 is sufficient but then statement 2 points out that you haven’t even considered the possibility of a non-integer. You have to call an Omaha and reassess statement 1. You’ve eliminated answers A, B, and C but D and E are awful, too. You need to call an Omaha and reconsider which decision points you’re using to dictate your choices. Maybe that clumsy-looking sentence structure is valid, after all.

You can’t yell out “Omaha” in the test center without repercussions, but you can heed the advice from what “Omaha” stands for. On the GMAT you’ll find that most questions are best answered with a regimented-to-the-point-of-boredom approach, but that sometimes you have to be ready to adapt. Omaha covers all of that. So as you watch the Super Bowl this Sunday, pay attention to Peyton Manning, a master of both rigidity and flexibility. The road to New York City, Palo Alto, and Cambridge goes right through Omaha.

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By Brian Galvin