DK\’s Blog

June 23, 2006

What GMAT’s and LSAT’s Really Test

Filed under: Business,Career Advice — darrenkelly @ 10:20 am

Tonight at the Denver Entrepreneur of the Year Award dinner (actually, 8 “Entrepreneurs of the Year” in 8 categories, with 3 companies in each, proving that the sponsor, Ernst & Young, really knows how to make all potential clients feel loved), I learned something from Brent, an attorney at our law firm Cooley.

He used to work for Princeton Review, the group that sells books and (now) courses on how to do well on the GMAT.   I did pretty well on the GMAT, so I felt comfortably smug sharing my honest belief that the only reason I did well is that as a kid I used to do lots of puzzles from “Games Magazine”, and many of the stupid GMAT questions required the same sort of canned rules & tricks to quickly answer them – much like the video games of today which require players to learn the “secrets” of unlocking the next level.   I thought this was a truly idiotic way of assessing intelligence, and that doing well on the GMAT or LSAT only proved that you knew that there was a system of rules, and if you figured out the secrets, you could win.

Brent pointed out that THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT THE EXAMS ARE ATTEMPTING TO REWARD – people who figure out “the game” and “the secrets” to winning.  

This is a stunning insight that every college-bound high-school student, and frankly, most participants in the overall corporate Rat-Race should memorize.    GMATs, and much of corporate life, IS A GAME.   Figure out the rules, and you win.   I always felt this way about most college courses (it isn’t what you learn, but the fact you figured out the way to get good grades with each professor) but the larger lesson is smack-down, in-your-face life-changing.  The same rule applies to almost every part of life.  Since I’m mostly familiar with how economic incentives rule behavior (the only other one is sex, which I’m pretty sure is the main reason people want to do well economically, but that is a topic for another posting later), here are my best guesses at the “secrets” of winning the economic game:

 – You have to be lucky to win

 – You have to put yourself in a position that increases your odds of being lucky.

That is it.   Talent, effort, etc. are important, but those are a given.  Lots of people are smart.  Lots of people work hard.  Everyone knows some jerk who made a fortune, despite obvious character flaws that should have prevented he/she from ever being promoted from assistant hamburger flipper.   But if you apply this test, I bet you 10 out of 10 will be people who took a chance to put themselves in a position for the big win.   Whether it be entrepreneurs in a start-up eating cans of corn and sharing a house with their fellow employees, or mega-million atheletes who achieve the pinacle of success in their field, or traders on Wall Street, the big winners hold a ticket in a lottery where the probablity-weighted odds are a lot better than the ol’ powerball draw.

So there you have it.   I passed the GMAT in 1991, and just now figured out how it was truly relevant.

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1 Comment »

  1. And knowing the right people will help you win, which also helps explain why a certain classmate can be extremely succeesful without doing a damn thing!

    Comment by Sandeep's Jacket Fan — July 29, 2006 @ 3:30 am


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