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Do You Have “Grit”? The Real Secret to Nailing the GMAT (& Every Other Life Challenge)

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Read time: 4 minutes

Have you ever wondered what makes successful people different? What special advantages propel them to perform better and achieve more than everyone else?

Most of us like to believe it’s natural talent, superior intelligence, the right connections, access to money—or sheer luck—that give some people an edge in life.

And while this may be true some of the time, there is a far greater force at work when it comes to beating the odds and achieving great things. And believe it or not, this force plays a key part in the quality of your GMAT prep, your performance on test day, and your success as a business leader.

Are you staring down the barrel of GMAT prep right now, wondering how you’ll find time to study, if you can score high enough, or whether you’re even up to the challenge of an MBA?

Do you feel certain that an MBA degree could completely transform your life—but at the same time, acutely aware of the many obstacles standing between you and that enhanced reality?

And the big question: Are you clever and talented enough to make it?

What if we told you that success on the GMAT, in business school, and in life in general, depends on something far more powerful than natural skill or intelligence.

We’re referring to the often-overlooked, yet immensely important quality, known as “grit.”

What is Grit & How Will it Impact Your GMAT Performance?

Angela Duckworth (CEO, professor of psychology, faculty co-director of Wharton People Analytics, and 2013 MacArthur Fellow) pioneered the concept of grit with a groundbreaking study of 7th grade math students.

She looked at why some students succeeded at math, and why others failed. She documented success and failure patterns for so-called gifted students, those who really struggled with math, and every skill-level in between.

She collected overwhelming evidence that sheer persistence was the defining indicator of high grades—not intelligence or any special talent for math.

Students who simply stuck it out, and kept pushing to improve their skills, no matter how hard it was for them, consistently achieved the biggest bump in math grades—even higher than the kids who were naturally good at math!

She called this mindset of persistence “grit.” Here’s how Duckworth defines it:

” Grit is passion and perseverance for long-term goals. Grit isn’t talent. Grit isn’t luck. Instead, grit is about having…a goal you care about and holding steadfast to that goal. Even when you fall down. Even when you screw up. Even when progress toward that goal is halting or slow. “

Listen to Duckworth describe the nature and power of grit at a hugely popular TED talk she delivered on the key takeaways of her research.

Duckworth has gone on to study the success stories of business leaders, military personnel, students of all ages and backgrounds, and dozens of world-famous high achievers.

She has advised the White House, the World Bank, NBA and NFL teams, and Fortune 500 CEOs.

Duckworth’s work with Wharton People Analytics helps business leaders learn how to achieve their goals, develop their employees, and create organizations that perform at very high levels.

In short, this idea of grit has serious weight. It’s worth paying attention to.

Especially if you’re entering the field of business, want to become an effective leader…or at this stage, really need a high GMAT score, but aren’t naturally gifted in GMAT quant or verbal (who is?).

If natural ability isn’t the determining factor in your success, and neither is IQ, what’s really influencing your GMAT score?

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People with grit study harder, longer, and bounce back from setbacks more quickly

How Grit Predicts Your GMAT Score

It’s not a huge stretch to consider how perseverance will impact the quality of your GMAT prep, and ultimately, the score you achieve.

Anyone who has scored 700 or higher on the exam knows how much time and effort it took them to master all those quantitative and verbal topics, question-types, and GMAT traps.

Even people with high undergraduate GPAs—who’ve always done well on exams— have to work really hard to score high.

GMAC (the makers of the exam) actually did some research on this subject. Their survey of test-takers shows it takes a bare minimum of 120 hours of test prep to get a 700+ score.

How many people do you think actually put in that much time and effort?

Well, back in 2014, only 28% of test-takers even came close, clocking in at about 101 hours of GMAT prep.

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Take another look at that graph. An astounding 44% actually did less than 50 hours of studying. No wonder the mean GMAT score for all test-takers is an underwhelming 500 points.

Students simply aren’t putting in the required time and effort. They’re giving up early. They’re underestimating the difficulty of the exam. They’re overestimating their own skills, and assuming natural academic talent will be enough to earn a high score.

Many students are not doing the recommended 2000-3000 GMAT practice questions. They’re not completing 10-12 mock exams to build endurance, time-management skills, and pinpoint weak areas.

In decades of coaching students for the GMAT, we’ve seen this lack of follow-through sabotage even the smartest people, time and time again.

Harnessing Your Grit & Powering Through the GMAT

Nailing the GMAT really is a game of passion and perseverance—of sheer grit. How badly do you want that high score? How hard will you work to get it?

Over decades of coaching students, we’ve discovered it takes approximately  200 hours of prep to get a 700+ score. That’s a lot of study hours squeezed into evenings and weekends, between family obligations, and after long days at work. It takes serious commitment.

GMAT test prep is hard, there are setbacks, and the process can be exhausting. Such is life, right?

Your willingness to tackle the GMAT challenge head-on, and see it through to the very end, leaving no stone unturned, is what ultimately determines your success on this exam.

The grit you develop during GMAT prep will continue to bear fruit, as you face new, and probably even more difficult challenges at business school. Ultimately, grit is what will shape you as a leader.

The way you face the GMAT, and persevere to master those mind-bending quant and verbal problems, is a reflection of how you’ll tackle every other high-stakes challenge you’ll meet in life.

Remember: Duckworth has proven that grit is the great equalizer: it’s not about smarts, past academic performance, or even being the best at something—achieving your goals is all about pushing harder when the majority of other people simply give up.

That’s your edge. Use it to power through your GMAT prep, master the exam, and make your MBA dream a reality.

Have the motivation and commitment, but need practical help in a particular GMAT topic area? Browse the resources below for targeted support.

Resources to help you persevere through GMAT prep

1. Study with an expert GMAT coach at Quantum: Browse our top-rated courses and private tutoring options

2. Access free GMAT Quant & Verbal workshops in Toronto & Montreal: See a list of upcoming free GMAT workshops

3. Talk directly with a Quantum GMAT expert about structuring your study strategy, how Quantum courses work, or the MBA admission process: Request a free phone call here

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