I've been studying for the GMAT since about mid January, discovered this site along the way, and found that it has been great for tips, but more importantly for realizing that I am not the only one who faces anxiety about the exam. The entries that I've read through in this site helped me realize that there is no shame in seeking help for your weaknesses. I will take the GMAT on May 12th, and again if I have to, but I feel that I've hit a turning point in my preparation that might be able to help others.
First off, I'm an adult with ADD. I actually found out about it 4 years ago during my first attempt to take the GMAT. The diagnosis of 3 separate psychologists was unanimous, and it confirmed something I kind of thought I had all along. Throughout every stage of my academic career, grade school through college, I would get into honors programs based purely on the results of IQ tests, but then proceed to underperform miserably, and consistently linger in the bottom quartile of my classes. There were occasional curve blowing performances on exams, but it was really hit or miss.
For the past several months I have trained relentlessly for this exam, and have cut just about anything not related to work, study, sleep, or working out from my life. I've done all the Kaplan Premier
problems, Manhattan GMAT
, and am working my way through the OG 11
. I study 2 hours during the weekdays, 8-10 hours on both Sat and Sun, and of course take my medication. Last week I took my 4th Kaplan
practice CAT and finally showed a 20 point improvement over my first exam, I got a 560. I was dejected, angry, and I could not understand why my brain seemed to freeze on site of hard problems. After all that study time, practice problems, 3 months of not going out or socializing, and all I can show for it is a 560?
I would read the postings of the guys who would study for one month and then blow the doors off of the GMAT and just think to myself, maybe I really am an idiot. Maybe I'm just deluded about this entire idea of going to B school. After all, if there's a guy who can study 1 month and score a 750, and I'm studying 3 months for a 560, what chance do I really have at keeping up with all the brilliant non ADD people in b-school? Is it smart to give up a high paying job in hedge funds and go into debt, just to be at the bottom quartile again?
After some deep thinking I realized that I am obviously NOT one of those guys who can study for a month and get a 700+, but that doesn't make me a complete idiot.
You see the epiphany that I came to was that everyone has their OWN style of learning. This fact is well documented, and in fact part of the reason I am a top salesperson is because I am very good at assessing the "learning style" of a prospect and adapting to how they specifically process information in order to make the sale. Some people just need a pitchbook and they are ready to buy, while others need several demonstrations and have a ton of questions. The vast majority of salespeople I see, both in my company and outside of it, approach all prospects in the same way, and get frustrated and call the prospect an idiot if they don't buy.
Being cognizant of my condition, I realized after much blunder that just reading the text books, doing the problems, and reading the explanation, HAS NEVER WORKED FOR ME. After deeper reflection and review I realized that literally THE ONLY time I really performed to my potential was during one on one instruction. The only instances in the past in which I would seek one on one instruction was when I was about to fail a class again. Then, after acing an exam, I would stop the one on one instruction and fall back into under performance.
I had been resisting idea of getting a personal tutor, because it seemed to me that to do so would be an admission of weakness, and by extension an admission of stupidity. But then I realized this is really no different from using a personal trainer at the gym. I am a bit of a fitness enthusiast, and several years ago I hired a top class trainer who taught me how to workout so that I would get lean instead of just bulky like the powerlifting guys. We are all blind to our own faults, our recurring inefficiencies, our failure to follow proper form.
Last week I evaluated several tutors, all of whom scored 780's or better, had MBA's from Ivy league B-schools, and found one whom I felt to be the best match. I sent him 10 problems which I considered to be very difficult, and had been paralyzed by during the practice tests. (Mostly data sufficiency problems with inequalities, and stuff with lots of moving parts) We met last Monday, and he showed me how I should be approaching problems, what to focus on, what not to get distracted by, the mechanics of some of the trick problems that made them solvable within 45 seconds, etc. I shall omit the specifics, but the point is that I learned more in that 1 hour than I would have on my own during 2 weeks. What I needed was a person to directly interact with, to bring life to the solution manual, and most importantly to stay focused on the task at hand.
Sure, the tutor won't be there on exam day and he can't do my homework for me, just like my trainer can't do my pushups for me or be there for me in the ring during a boxing match. However, he can help me get the most out of my preparation and serve as an objective opinion on my state of readiness.
His comments were eerily familiar to that of many teachers I have had before, who saw in me raw potential to do extraordinarily well, upper 5%, if I do the work. As a salesperson I can smell bullshit from a mile a way, but I did not feel like this was not an attempt to get me to take more lessons.
Whether you have ADD or not, if you are putting in 20+ honest hours a week studying for the GMAT and find yourself struggling, I suggest that you reexamine your strengths and weaknesses. By that I don't simply mean, do you keep missing sentence correction problems, but think about your historical academic performance and if necessary get somebody to help you. Maybe you just need a couple of pointers and you'll be on your way or maybe you need fundamental work done across the board. Whatever the case, if you've put in the requisite time and effort, and you aren't seeing results, you're obviously not doing something right. Getting poor results on your GMAT practice tests doesn't make you stupid, but continually repeating the process that gives you the same bad score does.
I took the Kaplan course
in the classroom four years ago, it's a good program but it did not fit my learning style. I looked on Craigslist here in NYC and found at least a dozen tutors ranging from $50 to $120 an hour.
If you think that you might have ADD, it couldn't hurt to have yourself checked out, if you get a positive diagnostics it will come more as a relief if anything. If you know you're an adult with ADD and are getting owned by the GMAT, you have to realize that this exam attacks some of our core weaknesses, staying focused, being particular about details, and moving from one structured task to another both quickly and seamlessly. In short you are going to struggle, but it's not impossible. There is a version of the GMAT for people with documented learning disabilities, but I myself refuse to take it.
In closing, I hope that this entry provides some insight to other journeyman GMAT takers. Perhaps some of you have faced the same challenges that I have. I will keep you all posted in the weeks to come, and wish you the best in your efforts to prepare.
I have A.D.D, and I'm too lazy to read the whole post. However, you should apply for extra time on the test. I got it. You deserve it. There is no way I can read a passage quick and compete with people who don't have memory disorders like me and A.D.D. I didn't discover it till I was 20. I'm 24 now. It showed in my ACT scores.(33 in math, 17 in reading). Nothing you shouldn't get help for