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My GMAT Students Are “Totally Obsessed Weirdoes With Unbelievable Work Ethics”

Richard asked his private GMAT tutor in New York to write a post on him. It’s written anonymously because Richard, known to his tutor as Money9111, promised that he would only reveal his tutor’s name after he’s satisfied with his GMAT score.

I’m a full-time GMAT tutor who tends to attract the obsessive “hard cases” of the GMAT world.  Earlier this year, I worked with a student who has spent seven years studying for the GMAT, and she’s taken the exam nine times.   Nearly all of my students have taken the GMAT at least twice before contacting me, and close to half of my students have taken two prep courses or more.   So in one sense or another, almost all of my GMAT students are – and I mean this in an absolutely loving way—totally obsessed weirdoes with unbelievable work ethics.

But Money 9111?  Special.  Very special.

First of all, I don’t think he ever sleeps.  He sends me ellipse-filled emails at all hours of the night.  (We actually started working together because of our shared love of ellipses.  No, really…)  He’s often exhausted when he comes to tutoring sessions.

OK, I just made up the part about boiled cabbage.  That’s not really true.

In all seriousness, Money 9111 is a smart, likable guy who hasn’t had an easy time with the GMAT… as you can probably tell from his blog.  For some people, filling in little bubbles comes naturally.  Unfortunately, Money 9111 is not one of those people.

Before I continue, let me crap on the GMAT a little bit.  The GMAT is an outstanding measure of your ability to fill in little bubbles while sitting in a windowless room.  It’s a solid measure of your ability to read useless garbage while paying mind-numbingly literal attention to useless details.  And it’s a pretty good measure of your ability to use 9th-grade math to solve bizarre, useless math problems.

Other than that?  I’m not sure that it tells us much.

After almost a decade in the test-prep world, I can tell you that GMAT scores don’t always tell us what we think they tell us.  One of the most competent, capable, intelligent students I’ve ever met scored in the 400s on most of her practice tests, and she was flabbergasted to pull a 570 out of her butt on test day; I’m convinced that she’ll be a CEO someday, and some lucky firm will be blessed to have her.  One of my highest-scoring students of all time was a smelly nimrod with the emotional intelligence of a stoned, drunk, slightly rabid raccoon.  He scored over 750 on the GMAT, and nobody in their right minds should hire him to work with other human beings.

So yeah, good luck interpreting GMAT scores.

The way I see it, the best business leaders are usually what I call “grinders”:   they may or may not be naturally brilliant at filling in little bubbles, but they’ll work like hell to achieve their goals.  If I were the emperor of a top business school, I would reject all of the lazy smart people who love filling in little bubbles and can get a 750+ without trying (oh shit, that’s me), and I would fill the program with savvy, likable grinders who work their nuts off.  The most successful people might not always be booksmart, but they’re usually tough as nails, in some sense or another.

Money 9111 might not look like a badass, but he’s definitely one of those guys who has that “grinder” mentality—he’ll achieve his goals one way or another, and he’s exactly the kind of character you would want in your company or at your MBA program.  As I’ve watched him duke it out with the GMAT over the past several months, I’ve become increasingly convinced that he’ll do whatever it takes to kick ass… and he really doesn’t care if he suffers mightily along the way.

And the GMAT is definitely making him suffer.  Money 9111 has more GMAT books than his GMAT tutor does.  He has GMAT SC idioms written all over his walls.  He’s been studying daily for six months.  And tons of things still don’t come easily for him.  He’s naturally sloppy with his algebra and arithmetic.  He usually can’t resist the urge to skim RC and CR passages, which means that he’ll randomly miss easy shit on verbal, especially if he’s sleep-deprived.  Number properties and inequalities make him crazy.   This GMAT thing must be his own personal hell.