What GMAT and GRE tests feel like and what you can do about it

The cartoon above very closely depicts what it feels like taking the GMAT or the GRE. I am using metaphors to help you understand different types of experiences and challenges, and for each challenge, I am suggesting solutions that you can incorporate early on in your training. Some of the suggestions may not be immediately obvious and may require more research on your part.

1. You

You are an accomplished individual but want to be somewhere else in life.

Believe in your potential!

2. The bridge

The narrow bridge represents the test you are taking, which connects where you are right now to where you want to go. Crossing this bridge feels difficult and demands very meticulous and focused steps. The latter part of the journey will be even more challenging because of the adaptive nature of the test. 

Strategy: Get to know the content of the test, the scoring algorithm, and the details of the adaptive nature (GRE and GMAT are both adaptive, but in different ways), and the common distractions it presents. Give the test all the time and seriousness it deserves. Respect the difficulty of the test and prepare accordingly.

3. The briefcase

All of your accumulated experience and training are carried with you. They give you balance in the moment and will also be the tools you use to succeed when you reach your destination.

Strategy: The tests are designed to reveal candidates who possess the skills to do well in business schools and graduate schools, and eventually in the fields of business, science etc. Choose carefully what skills to develop and how to properly train for the test. An effective set of tips and techniques will make your test taking experience much easier and help you achieve the score you need. 

4. Rush

Even though the path holds some risks, you are in a rush and have to maintain a certain speed as you have limited time to cross the bridge (finish the exam).

Also, as you have an appointment with success on the other side of the bridge, you feel a great sense of urgency and impatience while navigating challenges on your chosen path. However, you should take your time to train yourself and not attempt the cross prematurely.

Strategy: Learn time-saving tips and techniques, practice alternative methods for addressing questions, and memorize relevant information. Undo bad habits that can slow you down. Practice recognizing when you should let go of one or two “bad” questions. You may be forced to do so on the exam.

5. Treacherous traversal

The test is relatively short, and your career success waiting on the other side will be long. Nevertheless, the 3.5-hour test can be grueling due to fear and self-doubt that is normal for everyone. To reach your goal, you must train in a systematic way, as though putting one foot in front of the other while walking. And in moments of pressure and stress, you must trust in your training. 

Strategy: You have 3-4 short hours to apply all your training and attain the scores you need for admissions to your desired schools. Practice enduring the time-pressure, physical lethargy and mental fatigue you may confront during the test. Practice a lot and be psychologically prepared to win!

6. Sharp rocks

Your small mistakes during the cross can be quite costly unless you quickly hold on to the bridge and get back up. Similarly, careless mistakes on the GMAT or GRE can add up and spell trouble.

Strategy: Be aware of the traps and pitfalls. More importantly, record your errors in a log during your preparation and review them often so that you can avoid similar mistakes on the test. Making and using this log will increase your confidence significantly by evidencing your careful and methodical preparation. Furthermore, being aware of your mistakes and potential traps will help you cultivate the habit of looking before you leap. 

Remember, sharp rocks are not only technical problems on the test: also watch out for inner hesitation and self-doubt.

7. Gamble

Thankfully, GMAT and GRE will allow you to make some mistakes, and one or two errors will not be fatal especially if the mistakes are made on difficult questions. Without taking some calculated risks, it’s unlikely that your journey will be successful.

Strategy: The clock is ticking, so learn how to remove bad answers and maximize the odds of choosing the right answer in case you are behind on time in the test. Train yourself to guess and estimate the answer when you don’t know the solution to the problem. 

Attempt all questions. There is no negative marking on either of the tests, and more importantly, a blank answer is much more detrimental to your score than a wrong one.

Finally, try to spot the tests’ weaknesses and take advantage of them. 

To summarize, you have already made a long journey arriving at the place where you must cross this bridge to success. Merely facing this challenge is a proof of achievement and intent. To continue onward, it is important to consider what you carry with you from the past, and quickly gather anything you will need for facing the challenges of the near future. This process constitutes rigorous training and will help you stay confidently balanced while avoiding the inner and outer barriers to your goal.

For any important journey, the wisest use a guide. The guide can help you determine your readiness, advise you on what is useful and what can be left behind, and can clearly narrate the challenges along the path. Making use of a guide takes the worry out of travel and ensures a safe arrive at your destination.

The Star Tutor has guided very many clients through their GMAT and GRE journeys, and they have moved on to great careers. If you need some help preparing to face these tests, please check out the reviews of others who have gone on to their appointments with success (on Yelp, for instance). The Star Tutor is always ready to help.

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