He Conquered The GMAT & Went To Jail For It

by John A. Byrne on

Lu Xu looks like the proverbial suburban guy next door -- but he has taken the GMAT more than 500 times

Lu Xu looks like the proverbial suburban guy next door — but he has taken the GMAT more than 500 times

If a Hollywood producer only knew his story, Lu Xu sincerely believes the narrative of his life would make a movie with the potential to be as big a blockbuster as “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

Instead of pulling off a stock market scam, for several years Xu pulled the wool over the eyes of the people who administer the Graduate Management Admission Test, the de facto exam to get into a business school.

Call him “The Wolf of the GMAT.”

For at least two and one-half years of his life, he would saunter into test centers from Toronto to Miami with a fake passport or driver’s license and take the test for prospective MBA students. Sometimes, Xu would arrive in a bad wig and with a female name. Other times, he would impersonate his clients just by walking in exactly as he appears today, except a few years younger. His scores on behalf of others would typically reach 750 out of the highest possible score of 800, putting someone in the 98th percentile of all test takers in the world.

‘I WAS TOO INTELLIGENT FOR MY OWN GOOD’

Ten years ago this July, Xu was indicted in a scam to defraud business schools. Along with four other men and a woman, he and his friends sat for a total of 590 exams from January of 2001 to July of 2003. On his own website under the title “GMAT Hero,” Xu acknowledges that New York State investigators and the Federal Bureau of Investigation confirm that he had taken the GMAT and the GRE 212 times in that two and one-half year period alone–roughly once every four or five days. Xu, however, had been taking the test for other people for nearly six years by the time he was caught.

After serving two years and eight months in prison, Xu says he has done what the Leonardo DiCaprio character Jordan Belfort did in “The Wolf of Wall Street.” Instead of becoming a motivational speaker in sales, however, he has gone legit as a part-time GMAT teacher who tutors clients as a hobby out of his home in Flushing, N.Y.

“I was too intelligent for my own good before,” he concedes. “I truly believe that I was beyond good and evil. I was like a powerful and unstoppable machine…Now I am happy with my normal life. The only thing I want to do now is to help other people have an easy and happy life free from the suppression and torment by (the) GMAT.”

 AS THE GMAT TEST CELEBRATES ITS 60TH ANNIVERSARY, NO ONE HAS TAKEN IT MORE TIMES THAN XU

A Chinese-born GMAT whiz whose English name is Lewis, he thinks of himself as the world’s most accomplished GMAT test taker. This Thursday (Feb. 6) is the 60th anniversary of the test first given on Feb. 6 of 1954 to 1,291 potential graduate business students. Since then, the exam has been taken more than nine million times–but no one has sat for it more often than Xu who has zipped through the test more than 500 times.

“I am a hero of (the) GMAT,” he says in all seriousness. “I am a walking legend in (the) GMAT world. The test is part of my life. What happened to me can be made into a movie like ‘Catch Me If You Can’ or “The Wolf of Wall Street.’” He’s probably right.

What makes his story all the more extraordinary is that this GMAT guru is not merely a test junkie. He is a highly educated man who began taking the test for the intellectual challenge. He came to the U.S. in 1994 as a 24-year-old PhD student in biochemistry, During the course of his life, Xu has earned an MA, an MBA, and an MD. He worked as a chemistry teacher for City College in New York, as well as a research scientist in the molecular biology department at Mount Sinai Medical Center.

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  • GMAT_Hater

    GMAT and GRE should be removed as a requirement for admission. They caught 160, what about the others? perhaps there are many of them successful men and do well!

  • Rich D’Amato

    John,
    As always, you sure do make P&Q equal parts entertaining and
    informative…

    However, a fact and an observation may be in order to round out
    the story.

    Fact: At no time did Dave Wilson visit with Xu Lu, never mind
    offer or take advice from him.

    Observation: For every ecstatic GMAT testing
    experience Xu Lu had while impersonating someone willing to pay him to cheat on
    their behalf, some honest, hard-working test taker could very well have been
    denied a slot they deserved in a business or management school
    program.

    It is protecting those honest, hard-working individuals — and
    the business schools they seek to attend — that drives GMAC to continue to
    invest in the security needed to catch the Xu Lus of the world and to inform
    schools directly when the possibility exists that they may have been sent a
    corrupt score or unknowingly admitted a student who cheated on the exam.

    Rich D’Amato, Vice President, Communications
    Graduate Management Admission Council® (GMAC®), makers of the GMAT Exam

  • JohnAByrne

    Thanks for clarifying Rich. Much appreciated.

  • Jacob

    What happens to the transcripts of the students who submitted the Lu Xu GMAT scores and have already graduated years ago?

  • JohnAByrne

    They got away with the fraud, sadly.

  • Dan Edmonds

    Speaking as someone who has tutored for the GMAT for 15+ years, I’ve been offered as much as $50,000 to take the test for someone, so this is no surprise. Would have been easy to do, though I never did. Hell, I once got an offer from a guy at the Prometric Learning Center to take the test for him when he saw my score on the test. I’m willing to bet this is more common than anyone would like to admit.

  • Mei-Li

    The sad fact is that is not an isolated incident of GMAT cheating. There has been some investigative reporting in the Chinese media. An undercover journalist posing as prospective MBA applicant was offered services of professional test takers. This practice of cheating is more systematic than in the US and often a group offer this service, it is not seriously prosecuted by Chinese officials and the risk return makes it tempting. It is almost a part of gaming the system. Some US MBA students sometimes wonder about how some Chinese applicants managed to be admitted. Their class participation does not reflect their high test scores.

  • http://hbstimes.com/ HBStimes

    How did that happen? They clearly committed fraud!?!

  • gerde

    catch them if you can ;)

  • Girish Patel

    Good to know some one can do like this!

  • http://www.perspective-jyoti.blogspot.com/ Jyoti Pandey

    This makes me wonder what is GMAT all about! Apparently this test determines potential success of the candidates in the graduate program. If all the 590 candidates passed out of the MBA program successfully without the GMAT as they never took it, then doesn’t it mean that GMAT doesn’t prove a thing?

  • realityO

    GMAT is very profitable business and there is kind of implicit mutual benefits between GMAC and most business schools that is keeping GMAT necessary for admission. Lots of professors at top schools work on designing questions for the GMAT, schools need scores as kind of prestige and distinction..so, it seems all parties (except students) are happy with keeping it. But, the reality from an academic point veiw, ALL the MBA programs with all forms such as executive, part time, distance, global, professional, evening,…etc all of them has exactly the same curriculum and same materials, and only the full time that asks for the gmat! that makes everyone wonder if the other forms do not require the gmat giving the same academic materials will be studied?

  • MBAdude

    Interesting. Why isn’t he a practicing physician? A lot of his comments were over the top symbolic like it is really a war or a drug or something. Wish him all the best but doubt he is the best.

  • http://hbstimes.com/ HBStimes

    Seriously… Lu Xu has their names, no? This undermines the whole system. You punish the guy taking the GMAT, not the real frauds paying him to do so. If this is the kind of signal that the GMAC wants to send out…

  • Matt

    “Observation: For every ecstatic GMAT testingexperience Xu Lu had while impersonating someone willing to pay him to cheat on
    their behalf, some honest, hard-working test taker could very well have been
    denied a slot they deserved in a business or management school
    program.”

    A very good point. Although this also kind of speaks to the inadequacy of the GMAT as an indicator of a candidate’s potential success in business school, as well as the inadequacy of the admissions processes that rely so heavily on a GMAT score.

  • Narciso Castellanos

    I’m skeptical about the veracity of this whole thing.

    First—and most obviously—there’s a direct link to the guy’s website!
    It seems to be nothing more than a(n, admittedly, rather clever) way to get free advertising. Methinks P&Q got suckered.

    Second—I can’t find any reports of this ostensibly newsworthy story from any major news outlets, even though such things have a way of living forever on the internet.

    Third—just look at how it’s written.
    “Xu acknowledges that the FBI confirms…” … Yeah, no.
    “He wore a bad wig” … Yeah, no.

    I smell fake. Shopped.

    Although my hat is off to Mr. Xu for being so clever. And getting free advertising.

  • CanYouRead

    “One dean said, ‘That is fascinating. We are just now in our boot camp and we can’t figure why how this one guy who scored well on the test is struggling so much on the easy stuff. “

  • nanguneri

    Absolutely doesn’t prove a thing, unless these candidates changed their way of thinking, now that they have gained admission into some prestigious institution, which they otherwise presumed they wouldn’t. Such a shift in the process cannot be measured or verified easily.

    GMAT, GRE, and other similar tests are administered merely to handle capacity constraints. The formula behind how to take the GRE or GMAT and come up with the admissions criteria is so vague and hidden, which is itself a reason why institutions wouldn’t reveal the same.

    Statistically, there are candidates who are very close in GMAT or GRE scores and there is no way on earth one can prove that the one rejected is not as qualified as the other who got in.

    If institutions were to increase their capacity to admit students (thus making more revenue) and yet keeping the program at its pristine quality, then there is no need to administer such tests. Look at the candidates performing historically in their school, volunteer or “for-profit” jobs and other skills and model the process to let new candidates as to what the profile of the candidate would be if they were to be admitted. Likewise, show at the end of the program who made it, didn’t make it or barely made it or made it very well (rank them) and correlate it to their pre-admission profiles without the GMAT and/or GRE scores. But alas, the institutions wouldn’t do so.

  • robert brady

    GMAT/GRE is a con and nothing more than a very course filter mechanism for snotty nosed universities and a gigantic revenue generation machine for the owners of the testing methods!

  • jr

    Coarse*

  • Burcin Dizman

    I’m currently preparing to apply to some business schools in the US. I’ll take my first GMAT next week and it looks like I’m the only one around who thinks that this test is actually working in the applicant’s favor.
    Let me explain. I’m 32 years old – which means I received my undergraduate degree 10 long years ago. Unfortunately, 22 years old me was pre-occupied with other stuff during college and as a result of this I graduated with a pretty low GPA (2.5 out of 4). Later on, I started working for one of the biggest banks in my country and as I entered the business world, simply put, my vision expanded. While my career took off with the help of my interpersonal skills, I developed competencies that I did not know even existed in me and I became ambitious along the way. I was promoted in a short while and then moved to telecom sector etc but I don’t want to bore you with my CV. Cutting the long story short, although I have a seriously low undergrad GPA, I have very strong analytical & verbal skills and I’ve been very successful in the business life. Now, if the GPA was the only indicator of my potential for success in business schools, it would be misleading for the admissions committees. I have scored around 710 for multiple times in practice GMAT tests and I feel like the test is really good at evaluating one’s verbal and quantitative abilities. But most importantly, I feel like I have a chance to counterbalance my low GPA which is a result of some bad post-teenage decisions taken a decade ago. I have a chance to show the admissions committees that I’m better than that. And for all of this, I’m thankful to GMAT.

  • GRUGGED

    The way he writes on his website, too … Everything seems quite dubious — How could such a poor writer consistently be in the 99%?

    Goes to show that tests such as the GMAT measure passive intelligence, which is not a good indicator of the more important active intelligence …

  • GMAT Hero

    This is the worst article in the history of Poets and Quants. This guy did not “conquer” the GMAT. He committed fraud and did something that tens of thousands of people in the U.S. could do – score above 730 repeatedly on the exam. Consider that he took the exam so often that he would no doubt have seen questions over and over.

    It is EASY to go in and take the test yourself. Ask any tutor – they will tell you it is thousands of times harder to coach someone else to do it. This guy is not special and someone needs to let him know it.

    This a deplorable article that gives publicity to a cheat and a fraud.

    Terrible stuff. Looks like Poets and Quants is just another website that will write anything.

    Pitiful stuff Jon. Just pitiful. By the way, did he pay you for this “ad?”

  • Eric

    This is a great article – thanks!

  • Bunny

    Anyone who did not know that what he was doing was illegal is a moron in my book.

  • Journalism?

    Wow thank you. To me this being a fake story is the only thing that makes any sense. I mean, this is just too off-the-wall…. Basically every quoted statement in this article sounds like it came from the mouth of a legit insane person.

    “I truly believe that I was beyond good and evil. I was like a powerful, unstoppable machine…” In the context of an admissions test, this is the most ridiculous statement I have ever heard. Scratch that: in any context, this is the most ridiculous statement I have ever heard.

    “What happened to me can be made into a movie like ‘Catch Me If You Can’ or ‘The Wolf of Wall Street.'” OK, pretty ludicrous, but then John follows that up with “He’s probably right”!!! John…. no. I’m not saying I wouldn’t give my life savings if I thought this movie could be made, because I would, but I am saying that to suggest that this farce bears any resemblance to “The Wolf of Wall Street” is an insult to criminals, movies, and wolves everywhere.

    His “website” takes the delusional rantings to the next level, so if you’re tipping your cap to this dude for snagging some free publicity, consider what is being promoted here for a second… My personal favorite was “I was given the power by heaven to know some, but not all, the exact questions in your future test” … I love the fact that he reeled it in a bit there by conceding that his heavenly powers do have limits. Gotta keep the layers happy, I suppose.

    And that article cover picture?!?! Whaaaat the f is that?? So many questions: why are you posing in a random part of your yard? why are you sharing the frame with a toyota corolla and a disinterested cat?

  • EPOC

    Why would they pass out? There were no illnesses nor any excessive drinking referenced in this article

  • EPOC

    Fraud is rampant in the USA where many MBAs work. That is the least of it… many many people cite degrees they never earned.

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