Hypothetically Speaking . . .

. . . . . . . . Because Humor Matters

How I Flunked The GMAT

Written By: Michael Rochelle - Dec• 19•10

As an adult you learn to take responsibility when you make a mistake or fall short of expectations. Allegedly, it makes you a bigger person to take ownership, learn from your shortcomings, and simply move on. If you let it, failure can be just a pit stop toward eventual success. After all, Thomas Edison failed a thousand times before he invented the light bulb. A thousand! That said, realizing that failure is just temporary, and keeping in mind that the adult thing to do would be to accept all blame for the outcome, I’d like to report that I successfully failed the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT). However, it wasn’t exactly my fault. Really.

The day started out on a down note. Since the test was at 8 AM and the administrators requested that we get there at least 30 minutes early, I arrived in downtown DC around 7:10 AM just to learn that there was no street parking and most of the parking garages don’t open until 8 or so. After having to valet my car over 10 blocks away, I had to practically run to make it to the test center on time. Do you know when the last time I ran was? 1986.

The building was under construction so I had to use my limited Spanish-speaking skills to figure out how to get inside. Because I have a hard enough time knowing my left from my right in English, of course, I still ended up using the wrong door and then got fussed at and called every name except Michael by three men in Spanish. The only thing worse than getting cursed out in English, is getting cursed out in a foreign language. They curse with more emphasis. Fortunately, it only happens once or twice a week.

When I checked in at the security desk, I asked to use the restroom. The security guard sent me through a door and down some stairs to the lower level. I pushed on the door at the bottom of the stairs, but it was locked. When I went back up the stairs and attempted to return to the security desk, I found that the door I’d used to access the stairs was also locked. I then climbed 4 flights of stairs and checked all the doors along the way before learning that I was stuck on the stairwell. All the while, time was ticking away and I still needed to use the restroom.

Immediately I began to think of all the movies I’d seen where someone had used a stairwell to get away from an attacker before realizing that all the doors were locked. I listened for any form of sound. Nothing. Well, except for my stomach, which was upset due to the Starbucks I’d gotten that morning even though I’d been precautious and had taken a Lactaid pill that was supposed to have saved me from that experience. It was as if I was being drop-kicked internally. No lie, as soon as I finish this post, I’m calling the local drug store where I go the pills to speak to someone’s manager.

Anyway, after re-checking all the doors and realizing that the security guard wasn’t coming for me, I decided to take the stairs down as far as they went, you know, past the point where the janitors stop sweeping and mopping. Fortunately, when I reached the bottom, I found two unlocked doors: one that led into a parking garage, and one that led to an alley. The door would have locked behind me if I entered the parking garage and there was no guarantee that I’d be able to find a way out, so I hesitantly went back to the door that read alley.

Again, I began to think of all the movies I’d seen where some helpless individual was innocently strolling through an alley before an attacker chased after them. I had to wonder, was it safer to stay in the stairwell with one unknown attacker, or to venture down the alley where there’d be another attacker waiting? Because it was broad daylight, I opted to take the alley. Just as I was about to make it to the main street, two guys appeared and headed in my direction. I panicked as they drew closer. Surprisingly, they seemed really offended when I threw up my hands and offered them my wallet and iPod. I was just happy the two police officers declined. But in my defense, from a distance, cops and robbers look just alike.

When I finally made it to the suite where the testing was held, I almost got into a fight with the administrator. She asked what test I was there for, and I replied, “The GMAT.” She then asked, “The Kaplan or the GMAT.” Huh? Again I replied, “The GMAT.” Apparently I needed to have said it twice for it to register. I then took a seat and tried to make friends with the other test takers by asking them for a stick of gum. As soon as I’d gotten a piece and began to chew it, the administrator said, “You’ve got about 5 seconds before I make you spit that out.” I immediately scratched her name off my Christmas card list.

Next, I was stripped of everything: my wallet, my iPod, my cellphone, my watch, and yes, even my ChapStick. “But the test is 4 hours. I’ll die without my ChapStick,” I pleaded. The administrator must have believed all the answers were somehow stored within my lip balm. I was then given an ultimatum: either I give up the ChapStick, or I wouldn’t be allowed to take the test. I handed it over, but not before demanding that she not use it either. I gave her the evil eye to let her know that I meant business!!!

While the other test takers and I waited in the holding chamber before being seated, they began talking about how many months they’d studied prior, how many GMAT prep courses they’d endured, and how many times they’d already taken the test. I was too ashamed to admit that I’d studied on my own for a few weeks using a crappy GMAT book that had misspellings and bad math calculations that even I knew were wrong. It was then that I was told that we wouldn’t be allowed to use any form of calculator and we’d have to do the math by hand. Multiplication, division, fractions, decimals, percentages, exponents, perimeters, etc., all by hand!!! I was in need of a huge miracle. You know, like one of the parting of the Red Sea kind.

As soon as the test started, my mind went completely blank. The first hour was spent writing two essays and I, the writer, couldn’t do it. For once in my life, I had absolutely no opinion. I mean, I’m the guy who’d written a 15-page essay during the commercial breaks of an episode of Family Guy. I wanted to cry. To make matters worse, there was a timer in the corner of the screen that pointed out just how little I’d written and how many minutes I had left to make something happen, which certainly didn’t help my writer’s block.

And then there was math. Have you ever tried to multiply 5 x 5 x 5 x 5 x 5 x 5 x 5 x 5 without a calculator, knowing that you only had about 2 minutes per question? Or, what about dividing 66,342 by 359 all by hand? Yeah, well, after about the twentieth question, I knew that I’d have to start guessing or else I wouldn’t finish that section of the test. Ironically, the final section, reading comprehension, critical reasoning, and sentence correction, which should have been my stronger points, also left me stumped. Again, in order to finish the section, I had to guess the answers to the last 12 questions.

Finally, when the test ended, my dismal score popped up on the screen followed by video footage of Fred Sanford from Sanford and Son saying “You Big Dummy.” I knew that I’d done horribly, but a quick Google search proved just how terribly I really scored. You know you’re a failure when people who scored 200 points higher than you also complain about how horribly they did on the test. Yeah, it was just that bad.

So, what now? I’m moving forward with my application to grad school as is. If I get in, it will be based on my GPA, resume, and letters of recommendation. If I don’t get in, I’m going to pick myself up, dust myself off, and try again in three months—after I’ve taken the GMAT course like everyone else apparently has. Though I’ve never done so badly on a test in my life, the real story will be how I rebound from this failure. Well, my friends, that chapter is still unwritten. I guess we’ll all have to stay tuned…

Michael Rochelle
Access my full blog: http://www.justmichael.net/blog
Add me on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/michael.rochelle1

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  1. Weaver says:

    Sadly most tests that people study for usually end up in failure because of the cramming. I just recently took a Praxis test for Elementary Education 0012. Trust me it was a beast that took every last ounce of effort to sound correct and “cheesy” as possible. I had to get the brownie points. I wish you luck on the next test adventure. Tests never tell the true potential of an individual, but we live in a world of standards.

  2. juneous says:

    This is a very good story! Hey, all of that drama paid off! You still got into graduate school.


    P.S. In case you forgot, I meet you at Seans house.

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