You’re at a party and a friend asks, “what have you been up to these days?”
“Oh, not much, just preparing for GMAT,” you say with deep dread.
As you talk about it, your anxiety mounts, and suddenly you want to leave the party to go home and force yourself to study for the Graduate Management Admission Test. But then, every time you sit down to practice, you lack energy and feel that you’re not really making progress. You end your study session dissatisfied. The cycle of procrastination and anxiety continues.
Check out: Make Your GMAT Schedule Step by Step
Sounds familiar? For many people, the exam ends up as a source of anxiety for months or even years. The issue here is framing. When you see the GMAT just as an obstacle that you have to overcome, of course you’re going to end up suffering the whole way through. But if you can reframe the experience in terms of the life skills that you’re learning, it becomes a lot more interesting and valuable. The biggest mistake people make on the GMAT is not recognizing the powerful opportunity it gives them to gain valuable life skills.
What the GMAT teaches us
Think about what the GMAT is actually testing. At Merchant GMAT we know that the exam is not testing your intelligence or potential. Instead, it’s testing your ability to set a long-term goal, be disciplined, and face your strengths and weaknesses. This is not random. These are critical skills that you need to develop in order to succeed at business school (and life in general).
So, for a minute, don’t even think about the content of the exam. Think about these core skills and how you’re doing at them. Are you setting long- and short-term goals? How’s your discipline these days? Are you aware of your strengths and weaknesses? If any one of those questions makes you pause, then you know where you need to start. Focus on those skills in your GMAT study instead of focusing on the content. Memorizing grammar rules for Sentence Correction isn’t super inspiring, but it’s much easier to get inspired when your goal is better discipline. That’s something you’re going to need for the rest of your life.
Skill #1: Goal setting
When you first decide to study for the GMAT, it’s crucial to make a long-term study plan. Studying a bit every day but with no direction will get you nowhere. If you planned to run a marathon, you wouldn’t just run a lot on random days and hope that you’re ready in time for the race, right? So don’t think that’s going to work on the GMAT either. There are many sample study plans online, but the important thing is to find (or design) a study plan that works for you.
Skill #2: Discipline
Once you have your plan, following through is a different story. This is where the discipline comes in. Discipline is an overarching theme in GMAT prep. Just having the plan isn’t enough: you have to actually follow it. This isn’t necessarily fun and it does take a lot of work, but one great thing about having an actual plan is that you know exactly how much studying you need to do each week, and when. So conversations such as the one at the beginning of this article won’t stress you out. You probably still won’t look forward to studying, but at least you won’t feel like you need to study constantly and still aren’t achieving your goals.
Skill #3: Self-awareness
If you’re still not convinced that studying for the GMAT is a valuable learning experience, think about our last core skill: reflecting on your strengths and weaknesses. This is the hardest one, but the most important one to learn. We go through life being rewarded for what we do well. So, we make our strengths even stronger. The things we’re not so good at we can mostly avoid doing. Not so on the GMAT. If you ignore your weaknesses, the GMAT will find them. If you find it impossible to stick to your study plan, that’s a good sign that other parts of your life lack discipline as well. If you can’t force yourself to think deeply about your weaknesses, then you may need to do some more introspection to figure out what’s really going on.
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Once you’ve done the GMAT, these core skills will be necessary for any future goal that you have. Let’s say, after you take the GMAT, you decide you actually do want to run a marathon. Or learn French. Or read 50 books in a year. The skills you developed while studying for the GMAT—long-term goal setting, discipline, and self-awareness—will help you achieve these new goals.
Don’t make the mistake of seeing the GMAT as an obstacle instead of an opportunity. Reframe your experience to learn valuable skills that will help you out for the rest of your life as you work toward whatever it is you want to do.