That must be a typo, right? The GMAT isn’t anything like tennis. I don’t need to know the Pythagorean Theorem to play tennis. And when I take the GMAT, I’m not even allowed to stand up, let alone run around the room. So what is the title of this post talking about?
When I take the GMAT, I pretend that I’m playing tennis. I do not pretend that I’m taking a final exam.
When I was in college, I did as much work as I could on every problem to try to make sure that I got everything right. I could afford to spend that time because college exams didn’t have the kinds of time constraints that we have on standardized tests. I didn’t have to make any “tradeoff” decisions between problems. I also expected to be able to answer every question (or almost every question) correctly, and the professors expected that those students who had studied adequately would also be able to answer all or most of the questions.
But the GMAT doesn’t work that way. The more time I spend on the current problem, the less time I’m going to have on the remaining problems in this section, and there’s a penalty if I don’t finish or get a lot wrong in a row. Further, because of the way the test is scored, I am not going to get all or even almost all of the questions right. In fact, except at the highest and lowest scoring levels, people only get about 60% of the questions right – even for a 700!
So, rather than think of the GMAT as a school test, I think of it as a tennis match. Here’s how the two are similar:
* GT = GMAT Translation
In a tennis match, my goal is to win the last point, because that means I’ll also win the match. (GMAT Translation: I have to put myself into the best position to “win the last point” – though I won’t necessarily get that last question right. I might get it wrong. I just need to make sure I give myself a shot at getting it right.)
Now, I don’t want to imply that I should rush through the middle of the test just to make sure I can answer that last one. Clearly, if I lose too many points in the middle of the tennis match, well, that will be the end of the match right there. (GT: I need to move steadily through the test and address each question for an appropriate amount of time. I need to give myself a decent shot at every question.)
At the same time, I remember that I’m going to win some points and I’m going to lose some points. Hopefully, I win a few more than I lose, but I’m definitely not going to win all of the points. (GT: I’m going to get a lot of questions wrong… but I can still win the match!)
When my opponent takes control of the point and starts running me side to side, tiring me out (GT: I get a question that’s too hard for me), I make a strategic choice. I give myself one last shot to try to hit a winner (GT: I make an educated guess). If my opponent wins the point, I applaud (“Nice shot!”), forget about that point, and gear up for the next one. (GT: I let it go. I don’t want to get bogged down thinking about that one question because then I’m going to be too distracted to concentrate on the next one. Instead, I remind myself that I don’t need to win every point in order to win the match.)
If you’ve been struggling with timing, switch up your mindset and “play tennis” with the GMAT on your next practice test. This could be just the thing to help you get past the “I must get everything right” mindset!