GMAT Lessons from the College Football Season

Joe Lucero —  September 5, 2012 — 2 Comments

September is the greatest month of the year. At some point in the not-so-distant future, my AC-unit will be able to finally power off after five straight months of keeping me inside, away from the Texas heat and the West Nile carrying mosquitos that the heat brought with it. But more importantly, September means that football is finally back. So with that in mind, here’s four lessons from the college football season for those of you who need help rationalizing your Saturday afternoon absence from your GMAT study place.

1)  Schedule the Cupcake Sections Early

GMAT footballOregon hasn’t been spending the last three months preparing to face Arkansas State. And when September 1 rolls around, Oregon would prefer to pull its starters sometime early in the second half. A loss to an early season opponents would definitely hurt their BCS chances, but if the Ducks play half-decent football at the start of the season, they can focus on playing their best once Pac-12 teams start traveling to Eugene in late September.

For you, walking away from the test with a 2 on your AWA or IR section could be a bad thing when it comes time to apply to business school. But running up the score on your AWA won’t help your 200-800 score and you don’t want to exhaust your brain during the first hour of your test. But if you’ve thoroughly prepared for the quant and verbal sections of the test, and have watched some tape (such as our IR recordings or AWA labs) on what you need to do for the two warmup sections, you’ll do just fine early and can focus on playing your best once the quant section shows up on your screen.

2) Focus on One Question at a Time

One game at a time is the clichést of football clichés. Resting on your past laurels is as futile as looking ahead to a future game and either trap might cause you to fall to your next opponent. Sunday through Saturday is about studying, practicing, and then beating the next team on your schedule and only on the following Sunday will a coach begin talking about next week’s game.

On your GMAT game day, you will have 37 consecutive quant opponents and 41 verbal ones. When you’ve finished 20 questions, there is no benefit whatsoever to thinking about the previous battles you’ve won or lost. Maybe you made a mistake with your math that you didn’t realize until after you hit submit. Maybe you spent too long on a question. Maybe you’re dreading getting some combination question, a question type that you always seem to get wrong. None of that worrying will help you answer the question in front of you or help improve your overall score, so don’t waste the energy. Only one question that you see will help your overall score and that’s the one on the computer screen at any given time.

3) Play Your Best at the End of the Test

Last season, Virginia Tech and Wisconsin both ended the college football season with records of 11-3. Yet Virginia Tech went from being ranked 5th to 21st after finishing the season with two consecutive losses. Wisconsin rebounded from two mid-season losses and went from 20th to 10th in the final AP poll. Identical records don’t reflect identical performances.

On a computer adaptive test, such as the GMAT, not all questions are created equally. The first questions mean more in terms of raising (if you get the question right) or lowering (if wrong) your score. But just like a team ranked highly in the middle of the season doesn’t celebrate that fact once the season is over, you won’t walk away from the GMAT celebrating a moral victory if you were in the top 10% after question 15. A lot has been written about not overemphasizing the first few questions on the GMAT (such as this), but the most important thing you need to remember is that the only percentile that you’ll see is the one that’s calculated after your final question is submitted.

4) Defense Wins Championships

The offense is the flashy, point scoring, scoreboard lighting, record breaking show that brings fans to the stadium. But if you want to win over the long term, any Bear Bryant or Knute Rockne will tell you that you need to have a stout defense.

So you’re a master of three-dimensional geometric probability questions? Superb. But you will never see a 700+ level question (much less these ones) until you can master every simple algebra, circumference, factoring, and distance problem that the GMAT will assuredly throw your way. As I have said many a time in my Manhattan classes- the easiest way to get a 700 on the GMAT is not to spend your time solving 750 level questions, but to be 100% confident on questions in the 200-690 range. It’s not flashy (nor is it fun) to relearn the Pythagorean theorem. But building a safety net will assure that no matter how tough a question the GMAT throws your way, you’ll be able to bounce back, answer the next question, and be proud of your final score when the GMAT clock hits zero.

Joe Lucero


Joe Lucero has both a Biology degree and a Master of Education from the University of Notre Dame. He also has a 780 on his GMAT. In the fall, you will find Joe in a much better mood during weeks after the Fighting Irish win their football game. During the rest of the year, you will find him looking for new places to travel, reading almost anything non-fiction, crossfitting, and trying to solve every challenge problem in the Manhattan GMAT Student Center.

2 responses to GMAT Lessons from the College Football Season

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  2. Beautiful insightful post. Never thought that it was this easy. Kudos to you!

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