My GMAT Horror Story
The GMAT: My own personal geometry-ridden, permutation-infested, data sufficiency-riddled, algebraic, computer adaptive hell. I tortured myself with the GMAT for a full ten months of last year, and emerged from the experience emotionally scarred and very humbled. I took it twice – the first time was a disaster, and the second time I slayed the beast. In any case, the GMAT is not something to be taken lightly, no matter how smart you are /may think that you are.
There may be some of you out there reading this who thinks that I am exaggerating. I will admit that, at times, I am prone to a bit of hyperbole, but in this specific instance I am telling the honest-to-goodness truth. I hated the GMAT. Don’t believe me?
Make yourself comfortable, MBAdventure here is going to tell you a little story…
Once upon a time, there was a reasonably intelligent girl who studied hard, did well in school, took a management consulting job and – one day – decided she would apply to business school. But, as in all stories that involve an arduous journey, there were obstacles in her way from the very start. Think about it: Odysseus spent ten years trying to reach his destination, and had to contend with a Cyclops and the Sirens, for crying out loud. All our protagonist had to do was take on the GMAT. Simple, right? So she thought…
“Ok,” she said to herself, “I’ve got this.” Her hubris reared its ugly head and she forewent taking a class, opting instead to buy the books and study on her own. “I’m smart,” she thought, “I don’t need to take a class to get the 700+ score that I need.” She started studying on the weekends in the Fall, looking despondently out of the window at the beautiful autumnal days going by as she sat inside poring over the most boring reading passages, word problems, and critical reasoning paragraphs anyone could ever imagine.
She studied halfheartedly throughout the Fall, and really picked it up in December in the weeks leading up to her January 8th test date. As time passed, she came to a sudden and horrifying realization: She was making practically no progress. Literally. Her score was approximately the same four months after she started studying as it was when she took one of her first practice tests. Late in the game (e.g., one week before the test) she threw up a Hail Mary and hired a tutor. Alas, her tutoring experience really only helped her to realize the vast quantity of things she just truly did not know, and also put her out $600.
Despite clear indications from the universe that she absolutely should not take this test, her hubris led her to sit the official exam on a freezing cold Saturday in January. After all, she was smart, right? If all these other people could break 700, so could she. Never mind that she had never once achieved a test score that started with a 7 in all of the practice tests she had taken leading up to that point.
Needless to say, things did not go well. After the test, as she stared at the computer screen asking her, “Are you sure you want to see your score / have it permanently etched in your personal standardized – test taking history?” she felt a flicker of doubt. Should she accept the score, despite the fact that she had been forced to guess on an undesirable number of the math questions? Should she accept it, despite the fact that that weird science-y passage in the verbal section dealt with some strange phenomenon of astrophysics that she still didn’t fully grasp? Hmm…
But alas, the hubris! It made her click “yes”, and after an agonizing period of computation, the computer screen flashed the results of her ego-tainted GMAT journey: 590.
She managed to hold in the tears until she got to her car. A 590. She was doomed. Her worst fear was confirmed: She was obviously not smart enough to apply to business school. She was an idiot. She sucked at math, officially. She emailed her tutor in a panic. He said that “maybe business school just wasn’t for her.”
The next several months were a dark period. Life continued, but just barely. Her existence was tainted by the fact that she was, officially, a 35th-percentile-in-the-math-section-nincompoop who would likely not amount to much. In a burst of masochistic energy she quickly re-registered for the test a month later, hoping the 590 was a fluke but secretly fearing that it was all too accurate. She halfheartedly studied for the next several weeks, to no avail, and a week before this next test date she realized she was truly not ready. She canceled the test.
Her confidence was shaken. She threw in the towel. Business school would – obviously – no longer be happening.
But, as we know, the world keeps turning. Winter turned to spring, and one bright April day she snapped out of her funk and declared “I will NOT be beaten by this test.” The following things happened in quick succession: 1) she admitted she needed help (the first step in any transformative life experience, no?) 2) registered for a four day, two weekend crash course with Veritas Prep 3) got smart and organized about studying (more tips on this in tomorrow’s post) 4) scheduled her test and 5) hit the books hard. Most importantly, perhaps, was her change in attitude: No longer did she view the GMAT as a miserable foe hell-bent on destroying her intellectual street cred. Rather, she saw the whole experience as a challenge. She took it problem by problem, practice test by practice test, and – lo and behold – her scores started to steadily rise.
Armed with the support of the incredible Veritas team, her prep-class classmates, friends, family, and other random bystanders at the Border’s bookstore near her house where she frequently studied, she whipped herself into the intellectual shape of her life to take this thing on once and for all.
The day of her second attempt came at the end of June 2010. The morning dawned clear and bright, and as she did a few warm-up problems before heading to the test center she felt not unlike Eminem in 8 Mile, right before he takes the stage to rap battle Papa Doc in the final round.
Like Eminem, she emerged victorious. When her score popped up on the screen she could hardly believe her eyes: 710!!!
You know the rest of the story: After slaying the GMAT beast, she researched schools, filled out her applications, completed her interviews, and ultimately got in. The little girl is going to Harvard Business School in the Fall and – with any luck – will live happily ever after.
The moral of the story: If I can do it, you can too. Don’t give up!
More specific advice and guidance is forthcoming. Check back!