GMAT Tip of the Week

Lights, Camera, Action

(This is one of a series of GMAT tips that we offer on our blog.)

What have you been up to this month? You may be spending your time watching the NBA or NHL playoffs, or the Giro d’Italia. You may be participating in early-season triathlons or late-season marathons. If you’re President of the United States, you may be trying your hand as a stand-up comedian. Regardless of your May pursuits, if they’re any of the above, they are likely preparing you for a successful performance on the GMAT, as peak performances tend to come in a familiar three-step pattern: ready, set, go; bump, set spike; game plan, warm up, perform. All signs point to I came, I saw, I conquered.

With President Obama’s standup routine at the White House Correspondents dinner, he followed a traditional jokemaker’s protocol – warm up the room, set up a situation, and then hit the punchline. In this month’s many athletic events, peak performers are starting with a game plan, moving to a warm up, and then delivering when it counts. So should you on the GMAT, remembering that the GMAT as a peak performance is comprised of a similar progression.

The GMAT begins with the AWA essays, a pair of 30-minute writing samples designed to test your communication ability, and for which the scores are used sparingly in MBA admissions. Effectively, the biggest threat to your MBA candidacy from the AWA section isn’t necessarily the essay score itself, but more likely the way in which that hour will impact your overall performance on the ever-important Quantitative and Verbal sections, which combine for your score between 200 and 800. How can you use the AWA section as a competitive advantage, and not a threat?

Game Plan
Assume that the AWA section comes first for a reason – in spending an hour writing about generic topics, students are apt to lose track of (or at least worry that they’ll lose track of) the formulas and strategies that they prepared and memorized. That hour poses a legitimate threat to your short-term memory (which shouldn’t contain much, as through thorough preparation you can internalize, rather than memorize, most everything you need to know…but I digress). But know this: the noteboard that you will use for your mathematical calculations is the very same one that you have for your essay outlines – you can use it to jot down any last minute reminders that you’re afraid you may forget, and then progress through the essays without worry that you’re diverting your attention from what truly matters coming up next.

Warm Up
As we’ve mentioned, the AWA comes first, and many examinees see this as a negative. But, viewed the right way, the AWA hour can be a definite positive for you. The AWA is a chance to warm up on a section that matters less than the others. During the essays, you can become better accustomed to your surroundings, try out the earplugs and noise-reduction headphones that you can request from the test proctor (some find them essential to filter out distraction; others find that the pure silence is more distracting in itself), and ease in to the exam with less pressure than you may face later. What’s more, the essay types run fairly parallel to the verbal questions you’ve seen later, so they can prep your thought process for those.

Once you’re warmed up and comfortable, you’re ready to peak. Like a cyclist enduring the initial rolling hills before a summit finish on the Alps, or a basketball player finding his jump shot while avoiding foul trouble in the first half, you can build your level of comfort and confidence through the essays so that you’re ready to attack the quantitative section coming next. Remember — the GMAT is a great opportunity to feel the adrenaline and energy of a peak performance opportunity like a sporting event or live performance. Prepare effectively, warm up properly, and embrace the challenge enthusiastically, and you’ll add your name to the list of peak performers who come through in the clutch.

GMAT Tip of the Week

Practice The Way You Play

(This is one of a series of GMAT tips that we offer on our blog.)

Sports Illustrated ran an interesting article this week about Barack Obama and the influence that the game of basketball has had on his political career. The implication — and some theorize one of the reasons that he won in the hoops-heavy states of Indiana and North Carolina — is that he governs the way he plays: getting others involved, playing defense with discipline, making the smart play, etc.

What does this mean for your GMAT preparation? You, too, can learn to be more effective by taking a lesson from the game of basketball. One of the most important disciplines in basketball (sorry, Shaq) is shooting free throws, as most close games are decided at the end at the foul line. For this reason, basketball coaches everywhere adhere to the practice that the best time for players to practice free throws is at the end of practice, after running sprints. At this point, they can simulate the feeling of shooting those important late-game shots – when they’re tired, their hands are sweaty, their legs are heavy, and their heart rate is pounding. It simply doesn’t make a great deal of sense to practice free throws at the beginning of practice while they’re fresh and energized, as the most important such shots they will take just won’t take place in that environment.

On the GMAT, you will face Reading Comprehension passages only near the end of the exam — after you’ve written AWA essays for an hour and spent 75 minutes grinding through the Quantitative section. At least one difficult Reading Comprehension passage will face you after you have been testing for over three hours, at which point you will need to be able to focus on a dense, four-paragraph essay on quasars, or a comparative study of Emily Dickinson and Robert Frost, or an analysis of the history of vaccination. At this point, simply staying focused may be your biggest challenge, as your mind will have been stretched in multiple directions throughout the course of the exam.

This is why it is important to take a lesson from the all-time great basketball coaches and practice the way that you’ll perform on test day. Study Reading Comprehension at the end of your normal study sessions – after you’ve worked through an hour or two of Data Sufficiency or Sentence Correction. Sure, it may seem almost enjoyable to pick up a Reading Comprehension book on a lazy Sunday morning in an easy chair with a fresh cup of coffee (perhaps with Lionel Richie’s “Easy Like Sunday Morning” in the background), but you won’t receive the same benefit of needing to stay focused while exhausted and distracted. If you discipline yourself to practice GMAT Reading Comprehension questions while tired, you will develop skills to read effectively under duress, and by doing so feel much more comfortable when you face tedious passages late in the exam on test day.

For more help on the GMAT, visit Veritas Prep to find a prep course near you.

Announcing the 2008 Veritas Prep GMAT Instructors of the Year

And the winners are…

One of the most difficult challenges for the Veritas Prep headquarters staff each December is selecting its Instructors of the Year from an incredibly talented pool of teachers around the world. Veritas Prep GMAT instructors are among the most accomplished groups of people you can find, as the faculty boasts PhD degrees from Ivy League schools, MBAs from all of the top programs, pedigrees in professional music, comedy, and athletic performance, and hundreds of awards won from other professional and academic organizations. From NCAA All-American selections to the Philly’s Phunniest Comedian award, Veritas Prep instructors have won countless honors just to be selected as qualified to teach the classes in the first place (in addition to the requisite 99th percentile GMAT score); to be selected as the elite members of that faculty is an honor that must truly be earned.

When selecting the award winners each year, the Academic Services staff at Veritas Prep considers the highest-ranking instructors based on student evaluations – to win, an instructor needs to grade out at over 9.5/10 on the question “I would give my instructor the following overall recommendation” – and factors in the informal, unsolicited feedback that students submit when reporting their successes and satisfaction with the program. This year’s winners are:

David Newland – Boston and Virtual Veritas Prep

Much like a rock star, David can possibly best be described using the phrase “back by popular demand”, as his students’ friends voraciously call the Veritas Prep offices to ask when David will be teaching next. Upon hearing that he had been chosen as Instructor of the Year, David noted that “I had a pretty good year, but really I was just trying to set the stage for a run at the award in 2009”.

Burak Powers – Houston and Austin

2008 was a good year for people named Burak/Barack, and like his namesake the co-winner of the Instructor of the Year award was able to impress audiences with impassioned speeches rife with both thorough knowledge and a “yes we can” attitude. Burak sets a new precedent for instructor evaluation score as a frequent recipient of the “write-in eleven”, earned when students feel the need to rate their instructor higher than the upper-limit score of 10. Much like Barack, Burak looks forward to an even-better 2009 as he strives to live up to the lofty expectations created by his success.

Congratulations to both David and Burak, and to the entire Veritas Prep faculty for a year of record-setting excellence. For more information on the Veritas Prep faculty, and a complete list of Instructor of the Year award winners, please visit our GMAT instructor profiles page.