Why Gmat preparation is hard and how to do it

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This post is about GMAT preparation and a lot more. It’s a post about having the right mindset for learning new life skills. Adopting a positive mindset starts by acknowledging the challenges that are more than just intellectual.

In this post I will:

  1. Explain why GMAT preparation is hard.
  2. Define a mindset that makes your GMAT preparation journey more tolerable.
  3. Give you four personality tests.

The idea of the post originated a few months ago.

Some background information first

I always tell my Gmatbuddys the following gmat preparation guidelines:

  1. Read problems to understand, not to solve.
  2. Don’t obsess over metrics.
  3. Embrace uncertainty.
  4. Don’t compare yourself to others.
  5. Lose urgency and embrace the learning process.
  6. ‘Know’ a concept – don’t ‘know of’ a concept. The difference is vast.
  7. To know a concept or problem, learn how to teach it.

Resistance to advice

I am always amazed at how resistant to common sense advice my students are. I find that I must remind them on a regular basis. In fact, so often that I discovered that my students perceived me as too harsh or tough.

“Me?” I thought?

I am too empathetic.

It came as a surprise therefore when this happened:

A true story

Some months ago a frustrated student of mine said “Ayham, please, some empathy”. We were solving a problem and I was exerting some pressure to move forward.

I had always considered myself empathetic so the reaction surprised me.

The student almost screamed at me.

I wasn’t empathetic it turns out, or at least not as empathetic as I had thought.

In fact, if you look closely, you will realize that my words betray some lack of empathy on my part.

Observe:

“I had always considered myself an empathetic person.”

me

There is no better definition for lack of empathy I think.

If you think you are empathetic then, you’re probably not.

That was personality test number one.

Now this is not a post about empathy, but what I did to become more empathetic to create a better learning experience in Gmatbuddy.

Back to GMAT preparation

To maintain the effectiveness of Gmatbuddy, I decided to subject myself to the horrors of balancing life, work, annoying GMAT showoffs, and preparing for a long period of time.

I wanted to be in the shoes of my students to ultimately create a better gmat preparation plan by discovering any false assumptions I had.

Even though many Gmatbuddys have made significant improvements, I am always left with the feeling that I can create something even better.

I couldn’t go through the gmat prep phase again as there is too much bias and knowledge about the experience that I have long internalized.

My goal was to overcome something that was intellectually challenging, thought provoking, life changing and that also put a lot of pressure on my partners in crime.

This is the How:

The solution was to retake a challenging online course in probability theory that I had struggled to complete in the past.

Here’s a summary of my attempts with reasons for failure.

Attempt #1 – 2018

Got too overconfident, fell behind, and could no longer catch up.

Attempt #2 – 2019

Humbled by my previous experience, I took the second attempt seriously. But summer in Barcelona happened, family visits, and then you know, the rest was history.

Attempt #3 – 2020 + Covid lockdown

This time, I was going to do it. No compromise I thought:

I paid for a verified track and told everyone in my family I was doing the course.

Subjecting oneself to the pressure and the prospect of humiliation does wonders to the motivation.

Lock down silver lining

Now you might think COVID-19 came in the way to finishing the course but in fact, it gave me more time to work.

I enjoyed the lockdown really. It has been about 10 weeks now (or a year?) and my sanity is in check (I think).

Did you hate the lockdown?

If Yes: You’re an extrovert.

If No: You’re an introvert.

That was personality test number 2.

I really put a lot of time and effort into the course and discovered some incredible insights about probability.

Some mind blowing things I tell you. Anyways, I will write a post about that later.

Here however was another incredible discovery:

I broke every single guideline I demand of my students.

Every, Single, One.

Here the GMAT preparation guidelines again:

  1. Read problems to understand, not to solve.
  2. Don’t obsess over metrics.
  3. Embrace uncertainty.
  4. Don’t compare yourself to others.
  5. Lose urgency and embrace the learning process.
  6. ‘Know’ a concept – don’t ‘know of’ a concept. The difference is vast.
  7. To know a concept or problem, learn how to teach it.

Human nature is too powerful though, especially when the pursuit becomes about your ego.

Gmat preparation tips
Hey you – you’re fabulous

Managing your inner fears is perhaps as challenging, if not more challenging than the actual GMAT, or any endeavor you pursue.

I found myself breaking every single rule when I did the midterms, solved the problems sets, watched the lectures. I wanted more to finish the course than to learn the content.

My mindset was to finish and see the ‘green tick’ of complete.

I once laughed when a learner complained about the green tick not showing when they complete a task, but I found myself extremely bothered when it happened to me.

Every time I complete a task I check my progress bar to see whether I am close to passing the class.

It’s a tremendous urge that was hard to overcome.

Every time I looked at a problem, I thought about how I can solve it instead of spending time to understand it in my own words.

Not comparing myself to others was extremely difficult.

It was especially hard when the occasional a@@$o@e goes on the forum

and starts their post like this

“So I scored 95% on the midterm but I have a doubt, why does….”

First of all, Silentmather901, why do you

1. Need to tell me you did well?

2. Need to be validated, incognito mode, by strangers? It’s absurd.

“What a loser I thought.”

But then again, why was I so angry? I mean I don’t know who SilentMather901 is.

Every gmat test taker can relate to hidden users showing off their performance on forums.

It was just strange that I broke all my rules. 

It was becoming about ego, not learning probability.

I better understood the struggle that my students go through on the months they prepare, and the tremendous pressure it places on their families as well.

That’s one thing I learned:

If your family is not in on it, you’re going to have a hard time. Because it can be unfair, especially when you’re not seeing results and you go into the dark place.

Imagine being seen in your ‘pyjamas’ at 2 am working on math problems looking like a lunatic.

It’s not good. Don’t make it about ego and go down the rabbit hole.

Remember,

It says nothing about you if you have to spend more time than you think.

It’s silly to compare yourself to others because we all have different experiences.

Focus on yourself.

I took it for granted that it’s easy to follow the common sense rules, but I was humbled by my experience.

Once you’ve mastered a subject, it’s easy to forget that it’s hard to learn the basics and internalize them. Until then, don’t expect others to just switch them on.

So I have become more empathetic. (I think).

Note: if you’re wondering whether I passed the probability course then you have an ego problem.

That’s personality test number 3.

So, here are the GMAT preparation rules again:

  1. Read problems to understand, not to solve.
  2. Don’t obsess over metrics.
  3. Embrace uncertainty.
  4. Don’t compare yourself to others.
  5. Lose urgency and embrace the learning process.
  6. ‘Know’ a concept – don’t ‘know of’ a concept. The difference is vast.
  7. To know a concept or problem, learn how to teach it.

It’s ok to forget.

Remember to remember them.

But it’s ok, no pressure if you break them sometimes.

Ps: if you kept going to the end for personality test #4 then you’re obsessive compulsive.

That’s personality test number 4.

The end.

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