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For me as a student, learning was often the last thing on my mind to try to score well – especially right before exams.

I remember, before my class 10th exams, I bought books with previous 10 years’ questions. I spent the last few days before my exams going through the books to find trends for what kind of questions might or might not be asked in the exams.

During the period I devoted the most time and effort to studying, I learned the least. In fact, learning was not even on my mind. Scoring was.

While I did learn things along the way, I hacked through most of my education. What’s more, at that time, I did not even realize that there could be another way. My objective was not to be a LEARNER but to be a SCORER – by pretty much any means necessary.

🔘 A poorly designed test would reward scorers and punish learners.
🔘 A somewhat well-designed test would somewhat reward learners and would allow smart scorers to do well.
🔘 A really well-designed test would reward learners and punish scorers.

The GMAT falls in the third category. And for many test-takers, especially those from a typical Indian education system, I believe it is their first experience with a test of this kind. For many, I think this is where the struggle starts.

I feel I did not grasp the actual reason for why B-schools ask for the GMAT score all these years. I felt the test was a way for schools to filter out applicants who did not have the aptitude to do well in the test. I think I realize now that the test is a way for the schools to ensure that applicants reach an aptitude level – built either over many years or through dedicated prep for the GMAT – that the schools believe applicants require. Simply put, B-schools do not want to eliminate people who do not reach a certain score on the GMAT. They want you to work hard and inculcate the habits needed to do well on the GMAT in your day to day life. Doing this would ensure you’d do well both during and after your MBA. Is that elusive high score a hurdle or a stepping stone? The only difference is in our perspective.

Many (many) years ago, in an interview, I was asked to calculate the average speed of a car that “did” A to B at 40 km/hr, and B to A at 60 km/hr. I quite confidently and immediately replied with 50 km/hr. While the candidate next to me lay busy doing some odd calculations, and, after what seemed like an eternity, finally wrote 48 km/ hr^^. The interviewer immediately circled the value and drew an unnecessarily huge check mark next to it. He had got it! Bravo! Huh!*

I clearly understood what had just happened. The other guy was better in Physics than I was. Simple, sad, succinct. The question had no means of evaluating true aptitude, of course. In raw intellect I still was #1; I just had not had the time to refine it.

Today, at the age of 37, and with close to a decade of “leadership” experience, I suddenly find myself questioning that incredible analysis, and perhaps many other such “defenses” I have offered myself since then.


*I was ranked 4th out of 800 odd in that competition.++
++The other guy came 3rd.
^^48 km/ hr is correct. Average speed = Total Distance/ Total Time = 2D divided by [ D/40 + D/60 ] = 2D divided by [ 5D/120 ] = 2D X 120/5D = 48 km/ hr.