GMAT is hard

don't let the GMAT forums fool you

If you poke through popular GMAT forums like Beat the GMAT or GMAT Club, you’ll quickly encounter dozens of tales of GMAT glory.  You’ll read about people who improved from 580 to 710 or from 440 to 630.  You might even encounter the amazing story of the guy who got a 420 on his first practice test, and eventually made it to Harvard.  These “I just beat the GMAT!” stories seem to be everywhere, and some of them make beating the GMAT sound awfully easy. Almost every week, somebody contacts me about GMAT tutoring, and asks me why they haven’t been able to crush the GMAT like everybody in the GMAT forums.  And the first part of my answer is always the same:  there really aren’t that many forum participants crushing the GMAT.  It just looks like it.

The triumphant tales of GMAT success receive tons of comments, and end up getting bumped to the top of the forums.  But for every loud "I just clobbered the GMAT!" story with 40 comments, there are at least five (mostly unnoticed) GMAT forum posts that begin or end with "please help!!!" And I'm sure that there are exponentially more GMAT forum "lurkers" who have been demoralized by the GMAT, but choose not to post anything online.  The people who get ripped to shreds by the GMAT either post a very quiet “um, how do I improve?” query on the boards, or they don’t say anything at all.

So whatever else you do over the course of your GMAT preparations, don’t delude yourself into thinking that you suck because “everybody else is beating the GMAT.”  They aren’t.  Only a very small percentage of people who retake the GMAT actually improve their scores substantially.  Most GMAT test-takers are suffering, just like you.  And most of the guys who made huge GMAT score improvements also suffered, just like you.

So while the GMAT success stories are absolutely wonderful if you’re looking for some inspiration, keep them in perspective: we read these stories because they’re relatively rare.  That’s why they get all of the attention on the GMAT forums.

If you’re having a hard time with the GMAT, you’re definitely not alone.  Spend some time in the darker corners of the GMAT forums, and you’ll find plenty of people just like yourself, who are working their butts off to achieve their goals.  The GMAT may be easy for a very small handful of people, but if you want to improve by 100 points or more, you’ll have to work like crazy.  But at least you’ll have plenty of company.

fun with search engine queries

We're getting into the heart of MBA admissions season, which means that I've been running around like a madman these past couple of weeks. Several graduates of the Ninja GMAT program are now focusing every ounce of their spare energy on application essays, so most of my non-tutoring time has been occupied with application essay editing. No time for GMAT blogging, really. That said, I have several half-finished posts in the works. A full breakdown of the 2nd edition of the Official Guide for GMAT Quantitative Review might be coming soon (there are only 74 new questions--they ripped us off!), along with a lecture about why you really shouldn't stress about 1st-round MBA deadlines. This is the time of year when people start to lose their heads, and I'll do my best to encourage some rationality and calmness.

But for now, I'm a little bit tired after an insane couple of weeks, and I feel like writing a nice, frivolous post that has nothing to do with the life of a GMAT tutor in NYC. So here comes nothing particularly useful. You've been warned.

Thanks to the miracles of WordPress, I can access a list of all search engine queries that lead people to my little GMAT tutoring site. And some of them are pretty funny. Here is a random sampling of my favorite queries, along with some completely unnecessary, non-GMAT-related responses:

query: "gmat tutor in new york, $20" response: Good luck with that, buddy. Funny, I think they found my website because I said something about other companies' tutoring rates exceeding $200 per hour. Google forgot a zero?

query: "what are my shortcomings" response: I have no idea, but I can tell you about my shortcomings if you want. First, I'm not a perfect GMAT tutor all the time. There. I said it. And sometimes, I leave just a little bit of orange juice in the carton in the fridge.

query: "gmat essays who cares" response: Nobody, really, unless you really embarrass yourself; get something above a 4.0, and you'll be fine.

query: "gmat real illegal questions" response: *gulp*

And a few more, without my dumb responses: "many dumb mistakes gmat math" "an essay about nyc" "worried about gmat" "gmat gifts" "gmat is expensive"

And my personal favorite, which led several different users to my site: "gmat is hard."