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Updated: July 31, 2010 16:17 IST

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GMAT: Testing intelligence. Photo: Mohammed Yousuf
The Hindu
GMAT: Testing intelligence. Photo: Mohammed Yousuf

The question here is not if you are intelligent but if you are able to handle the programme.

Whether a geek, freak or genius there is one thing a college applicant dreads more than anything else: a standardised stamina-oriented long test. Most of us are left wondering how this will ever gauge our intelligence. Considering the emphasis placed on these tests, we are always confused as to how this one test relates to how well we will do in life.

Common platform

Although you may tend to roll your eyes at the mention of these tests, from the SAT to the GMAT, all these are based on similar principles. Some longer than others, they place students from various backgrounds on the same platform for colleges to make their choices. But is this the best platform? But, says Ashok Sarath (vice president, GMAC), “The GMAT is not an intelligence test. Its purpose is to assess a student's ability to handle the curriculum at a graduate management programme.”

Although most students may have spent hours practicing and memorising techniques in order to do well, these standard tests are more a test of stamina. They test your ability to evaluate complex problems for more than a few hours. The thing that restricts one from accepting this as a possible task is the fact a human's average capacity to focus falls under the limit of 45minutes. Over all of this comes the pressure; knowing that the name of your future college depends a lot on these scores.

The real question to be asked however is: what are these tests preparing students, the next generation, for? Especially with economic circumstances being what they are today, jobs are not ordinary. Studying hundreds of textbooks and knowing every formula that existed is not going to be enough. We are looking at a world with far more challenges to face. Employees are expected to make decisions that need a critical mind. After all, no textbook or essay told a manager how to deal with the economic crises that enveloped them.

It is as though the recent economic depression has woken up organisations such as the GMAC to make their test more critical, and out of the textbook. As of June 2010, the GMAT is morphing itself to suit the current day, testing the future generation to see if it is ready for a more complex day at work. The improved version of the GMAT consists of an integrated reading section that tests the critical intelligence of prospective management students.

Challenging themselves, students evaluate data, choosing one among four choices, proving that they can make critical decisions. Not only are they reading and evaluating situations but browsing through data sheets and tables as well. In some cases, they are asked to state the relationship between data points, as they would in business school. The last section, like any other, is pressured and timed for a period of 30 minutes, much like the atmosphere at work.

Test of learning

Managers who are applying for a graduate course probably have the ability to make choices that keeps them above the rest. Thus far, this seems to be the best test of intelligence, in the practical sense. You are asked to think for yourself, knowing that your choices make a difference. The GMAT is testing if your previous experiences at work have brought you to the right mindset, to sit under the name of a certain graduate college.

With greater challenges come greater expectations. Not only do they prepare the students for the next generation but graduate programmes to choose the crème de la crème, the cream of the crop.

Niranthara is a student of American International School.

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