GMAT crash course

how to scare your GMAT tutor

I have no idea whether other GMAT tutors are the same way, but I usually watch my phone like a hawk when one of my students is taking the GMAT. I get pretty excited about the prospect of seeing somebody succeed after weeks or months (or years) of hard work. Unfortunately, the other side of it is that I'm always battling that nagging little worry that my student might not do as well on the GMAT as I'd hoped or expected. Today, one of my favorite students here in NYC left me a very cryptic voicemail after his test, which made me worry a little bit. I was tied up with other GMAT students all afternoon, and didn't have a chance to call him back. A few hours later, I received an email from him. The subject line just said "GMATTED". If you've read my blog in the past, you know that I use the term "GMATed" pretty often. It means "the GMAT f**ked me over."

So yeah, he scared me. This guy definitely put in his work, and seemed like one of the most consistent, steady performers I'd ever taught. Some students' scores bounce around wildly from day to day, and I pray for luck when they take the actual test; this guy, though, was rock-solid in all of his prep, and I was shocked that he got GMATed.

He didn't get GMATed at all. He got a 690 (44Q/40V) on his first try, which is enough to keep him in the conversation at pretty much any b-school out there. Very, very good stuff. By "GMATTED," he just meant that he was exhausted and could barely form a sentence.

Dude.  Please, don't scare me like that again.

Fortunately, I've had a very gratifying run of great results from my GMAT students over the past couple of months. My magic number this fall seems to be 710--before Mr. GMATTED, three of my last four students managed to get 710s, and that's always fun to see. Two of them were taking the GMAT for the very first time, and both did three-week "crash courses" with me. In one case, a student had already taken a Veritas course, and I just helped her fill in some holes. The other crash-course guy managed to make huge leaps on quant--he scored 37 on his first test, and a 47 on the real thing. Can't beat that. Both of these students were extremely talented, so I'm not going to claim that three-week GMAT crash courses are generally a good idea... but it can work, when the stars align properly.

My absolute favorite success of the season--and possibly of all-time--was a guy that I'll call Mr. P. Mr. P called me when I first moved to NYC last summer, and he'd already taken the GMAT three times over the course of about six months. He had done craploads of self-study, and had already worked his way through pretty much everything Manhattan GMAT has to offer.

Here's the crazy thing: despite all of his hard work, Mr. P's scores were flat as a pancake. Exam 1: 640/40Q/37V/6.0. Exam 2: 630/39Q/38V/6.0. Exam 3: 630/38Q/38V/6.0. I complimented him on his remarkable consistency, then threw the proverbial kitchen sink at him in an effort to shake things up. As with the venerable Mr. V, it was tough to find material that Mr. P hadn't seen before, and that always makes life challenging and interesting if you're a GMAT tutor looking for (relatively) painless ways to help a student gain points.

And guess what? Mr. P managed to scare me a few months later with a depressed-sounding voicemail. We'd shaken things up, all right: he jumped to a 44 on verbal, but his quant actually went down, leaving him with an unsatisfying score of 660. Ooops. Time to fire the GMAT tutor?

Here's the good part: one month later, he rolled back in to Pearson VUE for his fifth attempt at GMAT glory, and got his 710. There's a guy who deserved every damned point of that 710, and it was a lot of fun to see him get it.