Here’s what I believe: Tests not only measure what you know, they also measure how well you take tests.
It’s extremely rare that someone waltzes into a GRE or GMAT center without preparation and aces their test. Even a lot of test preparation won’t always help if you don’t employ a multi-intelligence approach to your study and test-taking strategies. Tests judge you beyond academic know-how, and reward or penalize you based on how adept you are in using other forms of intelligence such as your heart and gut intelligence. When all three types of intelligence are honed and used appropriately, they can upgrade your performance and increase your score.
In this post I introduce how to think about these intelligence modes as well as some techniques to master them so you can approach the test in a focused and confident manner. Here are the three forms of intelligence:
“Head Intelligence” involves mastering material and recalling it correctly.
“Heart Intelligence” is dedicating time, focus and endurance to complete the test.
“Gut intelligence” involves answering questions in a conscious manner. You need to be fully engaged with each question, and not distracted by other things happening around you or in your mind.
While these tests are highly coachable, most people focus on “head” intelligence and neglect “heart” and “gut” intelligence. Utilizing all the three types of intelligence, however, promotes an increased intimacy with the material and process and helps your performance. These different types of intelligence are also transferable to a myriad of other situations, including relationships, your job, and in the pursuit of your goals.
So how do you learn to use and trust your head, heart, and gut, to answer questions correctly as often as possible? Practice.
First, “head” intelligence. Have you gone through the content and are you assured you’ve mastered it? If yes, move on. If not, what will it take to learn all that you need to know to get the score you need? How many medium and difficult questions must you answer correctly (assuming you get all the easy ones right should they show up) to earn the score you seek?
Get some “heart” in the mix: set a goal and develop an action plan to actualize it. Included in the plan should be when and for how long you’ll study (keep in mind you might want to take the exam at least twice). Be aware of how long the test sections take and what this feels like. The test is a marathon, not a sprint, and the study for it should be as well. Remember: it’s not just what you know; it’s how you show up for the test. (This last point will be discussed more in part II).
Finally, doing a lot of practice will allow your “gut” intelligence to kick in. You’ll start to feel the difference between a right, wrong, and a weak answer. It’s a kind of knowing that is somewhat indescribable, but you’ve likely felt it at some time – like when you “get a feeling” about something, someone or a situation. While I don’t recommend you solely rely on your gut as a test-taking default strategy, don’t be surprised when you become so aware, that you begin answering without even reading RC essays or looking at the questions in the math/quant! I’ve demonstrated this to students and now boast a near-perfect score on many Facebook tests even when I don’t know the subject matter. I have cultivated head, heart and gut intelligence and you can do it too!
For best performance on the GMAT, GRE or any other high stakes test, learning to understand, identify, and integrate the three types of intelligence combined with continuous practice promotes engagement with the questions. Use of the multiple forms of intelligence makes the process more dynamic and focused and leads to more consistent performance at a higher level.
Bara Sapir, CEO and Founder of Test Prep New York and Test Prep San Francisco, is a nationally recognized test anxiety relief expert and sought-after speaker with over 20 years of experience. Each year she helps hundreds of students through workshops, webinars, articles, products, and books, and works privately with a number of students.