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How much time did I take to prepare for GMAT?

One of my distant relatives, who had been preparing for a few months for GMAT and was still at quite a distance from her target score, asked me this question some time back.

“More than 10 years”, I replied. “You won’t need as much.”

What GMAT primarily tests is one’s way of thinking, and I believe I have been thinking in that way since high school. So, when it came to GMAT, I didn’t face much problem and didn’t need much time separately to prepare for the same.

However, the fact that I didn’t need much dedicated time to prepare for GMAT shouldn’t discourage you from putting in time and effort. Nor should it be used to label me genius. It’s not that I could solve these questions since birth. It has required a lot of effort over the years, and now it looks to people as if everything comes naturally to me. I tell my students, “You may be sharper or more intelligent than me. But what has taken me years to build would need more than a few days for you to build. Have patience. See my ease with questions not as a sign of genius but as a result of effort. In such a case, you’ll cherish efforts and not run away of them considering them as a sign of your lack of intelligence. “

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In his best-selling book, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey explains the importance of the accuracy of the map or an accurate understanding of what leads to success. In the GMAT space, I keep encountering people who have been given a wrong map and have thus wasted several months or even a couple of years following the map with no results.

Stephen Covey writes:

Suppose you wanted to arrive at a specific location in central Chicago. Through a printing error, the map labeled “Chicago” was actually a map of Detroit. Can you imagine the frustration, the ineffectiveness of trying to reach your destination?

You might work on your behavior—you could try harder, be more diligent, double your speed. But your efforts would only succeed in getting you to the wrong place faster.

You might work on your attitude—you could think more positively. You still wouldn’t get to the right place.

The fundamental problem has nothing to do with your behavior or your attitude. It has everything to do with having a wrong map. If you have the right map of Chicago, then diligence becomes important, and when you encounter frustrating obstacles along the way, then attitude can make a real difference. But the first and most important requirement is the accuracy of the map.

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“When you’re arguing with a fool, make sure that the other person isn’t doing the same thing.”

I came across this saying today, and I found it very relevant. A lot of times, both parties are arguing assuming that the other is a fool. If we make an effort to go beyond our own perspective and thoughts, we’ll probably see that our perspective may also be perceived as foolish from one point of view. Probably, then, we’ll be more open to others’ perspectives, ones that we now consider foolish.

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“Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.” – Henry David Thoreau

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I like this definition of ‘Intelligence’ by Scott Barry Kaufman:

“Intelligence is the dynamic interplay of engagement and ability in pursuit of personal goals.” 

I especially like the words “engagement” and “pursuit of personal goals”. 

If the goals are truly ‘personal’ i.e. they are your own, not forced or borrowed ones, you’ll be engaged. And I believe if you are engaged, you’ll learn; you’ll make connections; you’ll understand. 

I believe that intelligence is nothing but accumulated learning or understanding. 

Thus, I can also say that intelligence is accumulated engagement. 

If so, the main question becomes “How engaged are you in your work?”.

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About Chiranjeev Singh

An Alumnus of IIM Ahmedabad and with scores of 780 (2017) and 770 (2013) on GMAT and 99.98%ile on CAT, Chiranjeev is one of the most qualified GMAT tutors in India. Chiranjeev has earlier served as Director of Curriculum at e-GMAT. Chiranjeev has been helping students ace GMAT since 2012. He follows a concept-based methodology to teaching GMAT and is very committed to student success. You may contact him for any private GMAT tutoring needs at He conducts online sessions for students across the world.

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