Why Is The GMAT Difficult For Engineers?
Engineers face unique challenges on the GMAT due to their training. Engineering, by its very nature, is precise. While the GMAT often doesn’t require precision and will actively penalize pursuing it. What’s more, the training engineers go through tends to emphasize precision (rightly so). Which reinforces a great strategy for keeping buildings erect, but bad for testing cognitive flexibility and creativity with abstract concepts. Many times, in fact, the GMAT actually rewards solution paths that are imprecise. In point of fact, the estimation solution path plays a vital and frequent role in any successful GMATer’s arsenal.
Another frequent difficulty that clients from engineering backgrounds report is a lack of time, especially on the quantitative section. Solution paths that focus on methodically working through formulas will eventually leave even the most talented mathematician hamstrung on time. This includes the more abstract algebraic problems as well. Frequently, engineers need to focus on acquiring alternative solution paths for problems which they are already doing well. This is in sharp contrast to how many people prepare; focusing at the level of failure, rather than success.
While well prepared for solving problems, engineers’ training often assumes that a problem needs to be solved. This is at the core of many GMAT problems, where the optimal solution path often moves around the problem, rather than charging directly at it.
The applied focus that engineers bring to the exam results in DSMing, using a “go-to” solution path. This is typically formula derived, rather than customizing the solution path for the problem at hand, with deference to ease of execution, sparing time, and utilizing mental math. This methodical approach, however, can be turned to advantage if cognitive methodology replaces execution methodology.
A key phrase that we use at Apex is, ” If you are doing math, you are doing something wrong.” Our Head instructor explains this in more detail here.