How Understanding her MBTI® Type Helped my Daughter Do Better on Her GRE

“I just can’t seem to crack one section of my GRE exam”, said my daughter, Mahita.

 Mahita has verified her Type on the MBTI® instrument as ISTP. As a Dominant Introverted Thinking Type, she wants to demonstrate competence at whatever she takes up.


 Having decided to take the GRE in the final year of her Engineering degree, she had, over two months, begun to prepare for it quite seriously. And now there was less than a fortnight to go.


 “My scores on the practice tests are stagnating under 319-320. I seem to be losing most of my marks in one or two sections. Will you help me?” A rare request that could not be ignored – we started exploring the issue.


She started with the questions she had got wrong and we went through the logic behind the correct answers. Twenty minutes later she was still frustrated. “I understand the logic when you explain it or when I see the answer, so why am I not getting it right while taking it?” she asked.


“Do you remember your MBTI® results?” I asked, rather tentatively. I wasn’t sure she would see the connection between the GRE and her Type. Not at a time like this anyway. “Actually, that is why I asked you for help”, she responded.”


Encouraged, I reminded her of the difference between the Sensing and Intuition functions, two preferred ways of taking in information. Sensing trusts a sequential, element-by-element way of taking in information. Intuition tends to take in information in a big-picture way, registering the patterns in the data rather than the data itself. We take in information using both Sensing and Intuition but we prefer one over the other. We tend to trust our preferred function more and we reach for it first, especially when we are under pressure, for instance, during a timed test.


The sections bothering Mahita required her to get a ‘sense’ of the passage first before looking for the specifics in the sentences. For example:


For the following questions select the two answer choices that when used to complete the sentence, fit the meaning of the sentence as a whole and produce completed sentences that are alike in meaning


“ I read the sentence and then each question and go back and forth to find the correct answer ”, she said. “Actually my choice is usually as grammatically correct as the correct answer.”


“It is not just the grammar or correct English. Can you read the sentence or set of sentences and give me a sense of what they are trying to convey?” I asked. “Let us tackle the questions after that”. Effectively, I was telling her to pause after reading to use her iNtuition function first and Sensing next, reversing her preferred process and asking her to flex.


“Won’t that slow me down?” (a typical anxiety for all Types when asked to use a less preferred function)


“Initially perhaps; let’s try it a few times, slowly, to get it right. We can pick up speed thereafter”.


It took a bit of practice and then Mahita’s scores on the practice tests moved up steadily. She landed a 333 out of 340 on her GRE.


Not a bad ROI on the MBTI® instrument, huh?




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