Q and A with a GMAT Test-Taker

Q and A with a GMAT Test-Taker

(aka an interview with a schizophrenic mad scientist)

AB: Who are you and why is your rambling recount of a self-admitted waste of time and money interesting or informative for our readers?

TT: The long answer starts in my youth with a rebellious streak a mile wild, the quick wit common to most smart-alecs, and a disdain for formality and process and ends with a relatively bland PG rated bio which describes a 15 year career in test prep. The short answer (the one I think you are more interested in) is that I’m a test-prep expert, which means I’ve spent the last decade and a half teaching, writing, and taking tests. Which means for me taking this test is more of a sport than a chore. It also means that I have a 20 – 80 point advantage on most of you reading this since there is no pressure or stress when I take the test.

AB: Why would any sane person waste his time and money taking a test when he doesn’t have to?

TT: Because in order to teach the test I have to know the test and in order to know the test I have to take the test.

AB: Can you describe your test experience?

TT: Sure. On Monday the 13th I decided to take the test so I logged on to mba.com and checked seat availability in the New York area. Fortunately, there were 2 seats available at the 42nd street location (which I’d heard was horrible so naturally I wanted to take it there) in November. One of those seats was on the 15th at 9am (egads! That’s early!) and the other on the 28th also at 9am, since all other appointments were in December I sucked it up and registered for the 15th.

AB: So you’re not a morning person?

TT: I got into test prep so I would not have to keep regular hours. So no I’m not a morning person. Anyway, I get my appointment. Come the morning of the test I wake up at 8:08 a.m., now if you know anything about Brooklyn you know that you can’t make it from most places in Brooklyn to 42nd street in Manhattan in under 30 mins. So I hustle out of the house (the morning hygiene routine will not be discussed). I put on the iPod for the subway ride to put myself in the right frame of mind (Chico DeBarge). After typical New York morning rush drama, I arrive at the center at 9:09 a.m. worried about whether I’ll be allowed to take test.

AB: Don’t the rules say you’re supposed to arrive 30 minutes early.

TT: That’s why I was worried. Anyway, I get there and luckily I’m not given any flack for being late. I get there, check in at security, show my id to the pretty lady at the reception desk, fill out the form that says that you will not release any questions or information about the test, have my digital picture taken, verify my demographic information, take my two Prometrics #2 pencils, and finally and escorted to station 7.

AB: So before you discuss the details of your test (of course we won’t disclose any specific questions, though our readers might want to check out (these questions), did you have a plan or specific goal going in?

TT: Well, yes and no! The primary goal of this test was to see what types of questions and content was being delivered by the test to students who score in the 500 – 600 range. Since the vast majority of students do not exceed 600, I felt it was important to get a test with questions that reflect that score range. So that was the goal. Here’s the no part of my answer. I’m not quite a technical research scientist; I’m more of a mad scientist so my outline of the experiment was vague to say the least. I had a goal but no plan. (Editors note: having a goal but no plan makes that goal very hard to accomplish).

AB: Can you generally outline your plan in math and verbal?

(Editors note: When reading this the proverbial grain of salt must be taken. The experience of one standardized-test-loving slacker is not reflective of all test takers.)

TT: Sure. My math plan was fairly simple: get questions 1 and 11 wrong, and guess on questions 27 – 37. Figuring that this would reflect how a careful but relatively slow student would take the test. In verbal the plan is where I really had no plan except to get some things right and others wrong and I don’t even know how much I got right and wrong cause I paid little attention.

AB: Is there anything you want other test-takers to know about taking the GMAT?

TT: In quant, anyone who wants a good shot at a decent score has to have a solid command of Basics, Arithmetic (especially rates, averages and ratios) and Algebra. Consider the first half of my quant test:

PS – Number properties

DS – Geometry – Quadrilateral

PS – Arithmetic – ratio

PS – Algebra – Roots

DS – Algebra – Function

1:04 remaining

PS – Algebra – Roots

PS – Arithmetic – Work

DS – Geometry – Lines (with percents)

PS – Arithmetic – Combined averages

DS – Arithmetic – Average/Median

PS – Algebra – Exponents

DS – Arithmetic – Word Problem Percents


PS – Arithmetic – Rates


PS – Algebra – Sequence Function

PS – Geometry – Cylinder

DS – Geometry – Circle/Coord Plane

DS – Algebra – Inequalities

Overall the test was typical, about 51% PS and 49% DS, with a good distribution of topics, but mostly weighted toward Arithmetic, Averages, and Basics. The scaled quant score was a 35.

AB: Am I reading this right? Did you really spend nine minutes on a question?

TT: Yeah, I did. Pride is my one (wink, wink) sin. I foolishly tried to solve a problem algebraically and got all discombobulated, knew I would have substituted numbers but I’m a GMAT expert and I wanted to do it with real math. Seven minutes in I repented my sins and just substituted numbers. I was able to recover my pacing later in the test but that was not a good thing. But I think its reflects what happens to many test-takers and they should take the lesson that one long question (within reason) will not kill you.

AB: Anything else unusual about the quant?

TT: This test had a higher number of geometry questions, than I usually see. Many of them also combined other concepts like finding ratios and percents, but still it was quite a few geometry questions.

AB: What about the verbal?

TT: Verbal was fairly typical and I paid less attention there, as I said I had a goal but no plan or system, so any discussion of plan or score is not really useful. But briefly here’s what the test looked like:

SC – comparison and idiom

SC – verb and idiom

SC – pronoun and verb

RC – 40 lines (5 words per line) – 4 questions – biotoxic agents vs insecticides (eloquently used the words paucity and parasitize)



RC- 40 lines – 3 questions – Meteor that originated on mars



CR – paradox


Other passages

53 Lines – 4 questions – Brown II (revisit of Brown vs Board of ed)

54 lines – 3 questions – pre-1990 IT economics


Typical distribution of topics meaning there were more weaken than any other type.

There were a few memorable ones:

Which of the following would be most explain why the statement that the teachers currently work long hours plays no causal role?

Which of the following would be useful in evaluating the argument above?

The bolded phrase plays which of the following roles in the argument?

The argument makes which of the following mistakes?


Standard fare: lists, comparisons, pronouns, verbs, 1 or 2 modifiers,

Most questions tested one or more topics.

AB: You’ve got a great memory for your test. How do you do it?

TT: As soon as I leave the test I write down as much as I can recall so that I can analyze what I did and how well my plan worked.

AB: Any final comment for our readers?

TT: Study hard. Practice a lot. Get comfortable with all question types. Be prepared for multiple reading passages back to back. Be ready to adapt to strangely worded/presented questions.

AB: Was the 42nd site as horrible as you had been told?

TT: No it wasn’t. The testing room is close to the street so it might get loud at certain times of day but I didn’t find that it was particularly bad.

AB: Well thanks for taking time to talk to use. When will you be taking the GMAT again?

TT: Well you can only take the test once per calendar month so I won’t be taking it again until at least December. Also the test is expensive and though I would not mind doing it every month unless someone wants to donate to my test fee I wont be able to take it again for a while.

AB: Thanks a lot. You’ve provided our readers with great insights.

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