Taking The GMAT 21 Years Later

Test 2


I first took the GMAT on Saturday, June 18, 1994. I was 25 years old, and hungry in my soul to take my career to the next level.

The test date is notable for two reasons: #1 – the evening prior, O.J. Simpson led scores of police on a televised chase around Los Angeles (thus making last minute studying impossible) and #2 – it was one of the last GMATs that included only the verbal and quant sections.

Shortly after that test, GMAC decided MBAs should be able to write more than just lunch orders and “You’re fired!” memos. So they added what is now the Analytical Writing Assessment.

A few years after that they added the Integrated Reasoning section. And now it’s all jacked up.

So to prepare for this second test, I had both a lot to review and a lot of new concepts to learn.

I bought The Official Guide for GMAT 2015. I cracked the 838 page, 4 lbs tome. The font was small – so small I could barely read it. The first of many red flags.


I perused the first practice exam. The math looked completely foreign. This was of particular concern because the quant section was my strength on my last GMAT. Back then I was only seven years removed from high school, so recalling secondary math rules was much easier than it is today.

At 46, knowledge of geometry isn’t recalled so much as it is exhumed. I have to jack-hammer through the asphalt of time and dust away decades of dirt to remember that the area of a polygon = 180(n-2) where n = awww hell man, my life is halfway over and nobody is EVER going to ask me this stuff again before I die!

It’s not that knowing how to compute the area of a trapezoid has zero value to humankind, but one is unlikely to ever hear the following in a job interview:

“We really like you and we love the way you think about the marketplace. So we’re going to make you a very generous offer…right after you tell us the area of this mutant rectangle.”

Compounding my frustration with the apparent pointlessness of the questions was the fact that the practice test was legitimately hard. It felt like a young person’s game.


My brain felt like it was in the same shape as my middle-aged body. Which means that my frontal lobe is balding and my cerebellum sports man-boobs and a muffin-top. Perhaps it’s natural atrophy, but it couldn’t have been helped by 15 years of trans-scalp Rogaine absorption.

So, the modern GMAT quant section is much harder than what I remembered. And these new sections aren’t much fun either.

This is all on my mind as I begin my official test. Here we go.

The writing portion proves to be more annoying than hard. The quantitative section goes very much as described above, but I think I did okay. The reading comprehension stuff is stressful, but mainly makes me grateful that English is my first language.

The Integrated Reasoning section, on the other hand, is a mind-bending pain in the ass – like taking the SAT on peyote. It seems to exist only to screw with my head and make me doubt myself. The obvious answer to every question is “Who gives a sh*t?”, but I don’t see that listed among my choices.

“Ha ha. I’m funny,” I think to myself and begin to repeat this rhetorical mantra.

Then something dawns on me: that’s actually why the GMAT is here – to find out who gives a sh*t and who doesn’t.

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.