## GMAT Prep: Attitude is critical

Due to some recent student interaction that is disturbingly similar and concentrated with respect to my total student body as well as a conversation I had this morning with my wife in regard to a few students in her Psych 101 class, it is time to resurrect an old post on the importance of your attitude during GMAT prep. Take a moment to click that link and read the story told therein.

Now, admittedly, upon reread, the story is pretty vague. What I was attempting to get across is that your perception of what you can do is a tremendously important variable in the type of score improvement you can yield with a GMAT test prep regimen.

I am often asked, “How much can I expect my score to increase after taking this class?” This is a valid query to pose, but one that simply cannot be answered with any precision. A score increase is a factor of several variables. Here’s a simplified equation:

Final GMAT Score = Diagnostic Score + Target Score + Quality of Prep + Quantity of Prep + Attitude

I call this a simplified equation because many of these variables are comprised of several other variables. Take, for example, Quantity of Prep. On its surface, this appears to be a straight forward, easily quantifiable metric. However, you can further break down quantity by total hours of study time spread over a total days of study time. A good rule of thumb is 120 to 150 hours spread across about three months. Then, of course, you can look at how many days per week and how many hours per day and the typical duration of a study session (note the implications of the word “typical”). At this point, it is easy to see how Quantity of Prep inevitably influences Quality of Prep. Like I said… it’s a simplified equation.

Despite the inherent complexity of the preparation levers mentioned above, let us focus on the final one listed: Attitude.

Coincidentally, in my last post about how Benjamin Franklin would kill the GMAT I included a quote by Henry Ford that says, “Whether you think you can or can’t, you’re right.” The inimitable and profound truth in this statement cannot be overstated. I have seen, and am currently seeing, way too many students engaged in depressing self-fulfilling prophecies that involve their steadfast disbelief in their ability to learn something. Topics range from the micro, like learning how to set up the ever-useful chart for combined work problems, to the ultimate macro: the GMAT itself.

I have said before in uncountable forums that one’s success on the GMAT is borne of tenacity above all else. And tenacity, as it happens, is built on the back of a positive attitude. So, the next time you find yourself engaged in self-deprecation and making defeatist proclamations, STOP! Remind yourself, instead, that you are highly educated, highly intelligent, and eminently capable of beating the GMAT, for it is the truth.

## GMAT Resolutions for 2012

One week is just about enough time to make and break all sorts of New Year’s resolutions.  I actually avoid making any, but my wife likes to do it which almost always results in me having to come up with a few.  After that round of car trip conversation, I promptly (if not intentionally) forget about the ones I made so breaking them doesn’t ever bother me.

Despite my attitude, the intention of making introspective promises to better your life and self is not lost on me.  In fact, I am here now to advocate making a few specifically regarding your GMAT goals.  Here are five things to consider:

1. The GMAT is changing in June and you should take the test before that happens.  With the addition of a new Integrated Reasoning section, test preparation is going to be more difficult and take more time.  Keep in mind that GMAT scores are good for 5 years, so even if you don’t plan on going to grad school right away, load your bases now.
2. GMAT test prep is a long road.  All things considered, plan on a 2-3 month time table from your first study session to Test Day.
3. Commitment is key.  We have seemingly limitless demands on our time.  Your GMAT prep is a personal undertaking; a decision you’ve made that no job or school schedule is going to factor in.  Neither will your friends and family.  You are solely responsible for setting and maintaining a study schedule.  Make it the rule, not the exception.
4. Plan on taking the test once.  Now, that is not to say that retaking the GMAT when necessary is a bad thing.  But, when planning your schedule (item 3) be sure to factor in items 1 & 2.  Keep in mind that you must wait 30 days between test days.  Therefore, if you take the GMAT in mid-May and aren’t happy with your score, you are going to have to take the new GMAT which means a lot more studying.
5. Never underestimate the power of your attitude.  Commit right now to maintaining a positive one.  You can absolutely get the score you need to get, but it is going to take hard work and Preparation Road is full of peaks and valleys.  Believe in yourself and celebrate mistakes.

## Celebrate GMAT score progress, no matter what

Over the last couple days, a few of my students took a practice test.  All of them did better than their last test.  However, each shared a common reaction to their increase in score: disappointment.  What?  Why?  Shouldn’t one be happy when one makes measured progress toward their goal?  Well, sure, but we all tend to be our own worst critics, don’t we?  We are too quick to tell ourselves, “It’s just not good enough.”

As I’ve mentioned before, attitude has a major impact on both GMAT prep success and test day performance.  Fact: you are not going to be at your goal only halfway down the road.  The important thing is that you are making progress toward it, and you need to let yourself celebrate that progress.  Even if it’s just another ten or twenty points, you deserve to be proud of the improvement.  Build on that momentum so you can keep the chart headed in the right direction.

Most of the time, after students watch my reaction, they tend to allow themselves a little smile.  Rome wasn’t built in a day, and the concept applies to your target score.  Keep at it and get yourself some ice cream.

So how are you supposed to interpret a drop in scores?  Come back tomorrow to find out!  I’ll discuss the very normal and very common ‘performance dip’ in my next blog post.