Your GRE Prep and The Success Myth
Recently, The Wall Street Journal’s At Work blog published an entry and subsequent live chat that spoke to a concern I hear almost every one of you voice at some point in your GRE prep: “I’m just not very good at [standardized tests/geometry/learning vocabulary/etc]”. This attitude perpetuates what author Heidi Grant Halvorson calls “the success myth”: The common misconception that innate ability is the only, or even the most important, factor that affects performance.
Attributing others’ success to natural talent is detrimental to your own potential success. It prevents you from focusing on the behaviors that you have the power to adopt and that have been proven to drive achievement. According to Halvorson, “strategies like…planning ahead, monitoring your progress …and perhaps most important believing you can improve, can make all the difference between success and failure.” I’ve seen many of you get discouraged by a topic or question-type, give up on that one area, and then gradually lose hope of improving your GRE scores at all. This doesn’t need to happen: As long as you can identify what is tripping you up, then you can work on it and you can improve your GRE skills and score. Now, determining why a particular area is difficult for you is not an easy process, but you have multiple resources at your disposal to help you understand each of the topics tested on the GRE:
- Our free GRE Question of the Day and explanations
- Our free GRE practice tests
- Your Kaplan teacher if you are taking a Kaplan GRE On Site or Anywhere Course
- This very blog!
In the chat that Halvorson hosted after her initial post, she discussed the success myth more in-depth, offering the following thoughts on the setbacks that everyone inevitably experiences while working towards a goal: “When we believe we can improve, we handle failure much more adaptively. Learning from our setbacks and persisting is so important – otherwise you sell yourself short.” This is easier said than done, but here’s how I frame the issue in my classes: I love mistakes. I absolutely cannot get enough of them. The more gaffes you make in practice, the less likely you are to make them when it actually counts – on GRE Test Day. When you think about it that way, making mistakes becomes a positive force in your prep, instead of feeling like a failure.
Now that you’re sufficiently motivated to dive back into your studying with gusto, here’s one final thought from Halvorson about how to realistically set goals: “There is no limit to how far in advance you can set a goal [or limits on what that goal is], but to stay motivated, you’ll need to feel like you’re making progress, closing the gap. To do that, set sub-goals… Reaching sub-goals sustains you over the long haul.” Keep this in mind as you set your overall goals. Working towards small, manageable ends will help you reach the overall result that you want. Tackle one thing at a time, and if you start to get overwhelmed, make the goal smaller and start again. It takes persistence, but just remember that you’re not alone: Everyone gets discouraged at one point or another; it’s how you handle it and move forward that will determine your final outcome.
What do you think – how do you handle the feeling that someone else is just naturally better than you? How have you overcome it? Let us know in the comments!