# How GMAT Failure Leads To Success

• “OK, so I know that I start with 6 + x – (something) on the left, and that equals 9 – (something) on the right.  And so let’s think…I take away x cups total, but .6 of that is raspberry and .4 of that is chocolate.  So I’m adding x cups of chocolate on the left but then taking away .4x because 40% of what I take away is chocolate.  And I’m taking away the other .6x of raspberry on the right.  Now let’s make sure – I have to add and take away the same amount, check.  And what I add is all chocolate, and what I subtract is 40% chocolate and 60% raspberry.  Does that match my equation, 6 + x – .4x = 9 – .6x?  It looks that way.”
• “Is it really then as symmetrical, when I combine the terms, as 6 + .6x = 9 – .6x?  That all checks out, so let’s finish the math.  1.2x = 3, so 12x = 30 and x = 2.5.  That’s answer choice B, and that seems to hit all the requirements here.”
• And of course there are multiple ways that conversation can go and still arrive at the correct answer (which is indeed B), but the big takeaway is that most test-takers who get this right have to go through an internal dialogue like that.  Most have to set up the equation incorrectly once or twice and then talk themselves through why it’s right or wrong before they arrive at the right process.

Why?  This is how business works.  You have to challenge your ideas and hold them up to hypotheticals and challenges.  There’s no one blueprint for success in business, and so on many hard GMAT problems there’s no blueprint either.  Or if there are, there are far too many for any of us to memorize and implement.  You have to be willing to test out a theory of how to set something up, then look at it from a different angle and ask yourself whether that’s really accurate.  And often you’ll find that it’s not, but in finding out what you did wrong you’ll see the path to how to do it right.

The problem with this is that many of us are used to getting things right the first time.  A great many GMAT students will look at a challenging problem and within a few seconds look up saying “I don’t know how to do this.”  Which is why the most important thing to learn for those 700+ aspirants is how to teach yourself on the fly and how to embrace (or at least feel comfortable) doing it.  GMAT students who, in that situation, quickly follow up “I don’t know how to do this” or “Am I really allowed to…” with “wait, wait – don’t tell me” tend to perform the best.  So keep that in mind.  80% of success is just showing up, but you want that last 20%.  Much of that comes from being willing to try, fail, and try again.

Brian Galvin of Veritas

Brian Galvin is Director of Academic Programs at Veritas Prep, a GMAT prep and graduate school admissions consulting provider. This is his second column for Poets&Quants.com. His contrarian views appear monthly.

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