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The October- November GMAT Syndrome

GMAT preparations

While preparing for the GMAT it is not uncommon for test takers to come up against a wall and discover they still have an Achilles ’ heel that could cost them the chance and wash out all the efforts that have gone into the preparation. What is the reason for this last minute discovery about oneself? How come the weakness was not attended to? Is this panic genuine and yet curable or is it a deep rooted ‘fear’ of the test for which there can be no last minute remedy?

There is a test taker syndrome that is rife at this time of the year. Every October to December, for the past 14 years, I have observed the predictability with which GMAT test takers behave. The more placid ones who are in less stressful jobs or careers have written the exam well ahead of their application deadlines and are single mindedly focusing on applications. The ones who decided on the GMAT late and started preparation just a few months before the application deadlines around October/ November and are in careers that consume them are forced to run everything together – preparing for the test, nailing it and applying. It is the latter that sadly outnumber the others. As a result, come October and there is a new genre of student wanting immediate and remedial attention for some or the other woe related to the GMAT. And most often this woe is related to the Verbal – the sentence correction, the critical reasoning and the reading comprehension.

Is there any possibility of rectifying the problem last minute? Well that depends on how ‘last’ minute it is and on how severe the problem is.

In the case of individuals who have undertaken the preparation on their own and are falling short of their dream score by 50 to 60 points (they need a 650 and are not scoring more than 580) the problem is likely to be mended by exposure because in every likelihood they have not explored study materials and their self-study has denied them the advantage of exposure to other test takers, different materials and GMAT jargon – all vital in the understanding of the test. As for the self-study type who are lagging behind, the first piece of advice is postpone the test. Do not hope to be lifted out of your GMAT woes with the wave of a wand!!! There are no miracles as far as this test goes. Now find a good training institute and step out of your cocoon if you really want to make headway with your preparation.

Individuals who joined a training institute and were promised the world are often among those who panic last minute. But why? In all probability they got so carried away with the environment of success that was built around them that they overlooked the possibility of failure. Attending classes regularly does not guarantee results. What guarantees results is your own vigilance to the situation, regular feedbacks of your performance through tests and rich and intelligent discussions with trainers. If you have not indulged in all this your scores will not please you and your anxiety will be all the more compounded by the fact that your deadlines are drawing close. The situation is complicated and what you need to settle it is specialized, professional attention – find the right person/people to help you with those tongue twisting sentence corrections and the over-the-head-transmission reading passages. Enroll for intensive remedial sessions and focus on only what is troubling you or what you did not get help with earlier.

In verbal there is one skill that can compensate for a lot else that you may lack. That is the skill to zoom in on what is relevant and to stay focused. Much of what is presented in a question is irrelevant and hence should be ignored in order to avoid spending energy on the wrong point. Most often verbal training misses inculcating this skill in the students. Training is prolix and tedious and aimed more at theory, which in the case of verbal is not enough to tackle the test. In case of the need for last minute remedial classes it is this skill that the trainer and student must work to build. Of course, learning to zoom in on the focal may be difficult to learn but it is the only last minute remedy that will ensure a higher verbal score.