I stared at my score. I had gotten 16 questions wrong. If it had been 16 out of 100, I would have been somewhat happy. But instead, I got 16 out of 37 questions wrong for an abysmal score of 57%. I hadn't scored that badly in a long, long time.
Last week I took a pre-test for the GMATs, the pre-qualifying exam to begin an MBA program. I'm still not 100% sure I'm going to go down this path but I've thought about it for years, and the first step is to pass the big test. The pre-test instructions said each section would take about 75 minutes. I scoffed at that. There's no way it would take me that long. I could knock both sections out in 1.5 hours flat.
Oh how wrong I was. I only got through the math section before my brain felt so fried I had to go straight to bed. And when I tallied up my points, I realized how far I was from where I thought I would be. In high school and college, I took great pride in my academic performance. I got into the Governor's School for Math and Science, even though I hated both those subjects. I graduated with a GPA well over 4.0, and because I had so many credit coming into college I graduated in 2.5 years.
So naturally, I knew I would barely have to study to ace the GMATs, just like everything else. Well, it turns out that 6+ years is a long stretch to not have touched a single math problem, and my brain just isn't quite what it used to be in that area. It was very humbling, and I was almost in tears with frustration, thinking I was a failure and I shouldn't even try this whole MBA thing.
And just like that, my perspective switched. All of a sudden, as I stared at my paper, I realized I had gotten 21 questions right. 21 questions! I haven't taken math since my first semester in college (and that was just a recap course to fulfill a requirement) and I scored over 50% on the first try. Not only that, a lot of the questions are kinds I have never seen before, haven't tried to solve, and looked at for the first time at 8:00pm after a very long day of work.
I can't say I'm proud of my score, and I still have a long ways to go before I attempt the GMATs if I decide to do that. But I have months until that day and in the meantime, I have a big prep book calling my name. Rather than starting at what I did wrong, wallowing in the feeling of failure and misery, I'm going to pick myself back up. I'm going to buckle down and see what I could have done better. And if the day comes where I sit down in a testing center to lay it all on the line, I'm going to know that I tried. And that is my definition of success.