“I Hate the GMAT.” How to Work With Your Frustration (Part I)

“I hate the GMAT.” I know. I get it. I’ve been there.

i hate the gmat
This just came in from GMAT himself. Not so fast, buddy; at least buy me a drink first.

Let’s talk about how to fix that so you can move forward.

Let’s Start at the Beginning: Why Do You Hate the GMAT?

There’s no right or wrong answer here. I really actually want to know. I’m not going to be like some people I know and stop you as soon as you start listing the reasons and give you a lecture about why your reasons are invalid, immature, or the ravings of a drama queen. 

Yeah, fuck that noise. I hate those people.

On the contrary, I want you to take out a pen and paper and write out all of the horrible things that you think about the test. Let me get you started.

  1. The GMAT is unfair.
  2. The GMAT is stupid.
  3. The GMAT is expensive.
  4. The people who work at the GMAT test center are dicks.
  5. The GMAT is basically an IQ test for 1%-ers. 
  6. The GMAT makes all the great things I’ve done in my career so far seem insignificant.
  7. The GMAT is biased toward Western-style logic and makes pretty weird assumptions from time to time.
  8. The GMAT sounds like it was written by a bunch of people living in Iowa.
  9. The GMAT makes me want to cry.
  10. My husband calls “GMAT” in his sleep at night.
  11. I was never good at math.
  12. I’m not a native English speaker.
  13. I am a native English speaker but I’m shit at grammar.
  14. I don’t know how to use an apostrophe.
  15. etc… 

Most of these are true for most people, some are true for some people, others won’t even matter (e.g. the GMAT will never test you on apostrophe placement). 

What matters is that you get all the stuff out on the page. Set a timer for five minutes. If the timer goes off, keep going. I want you to get it all out. 


Write at least 50 things under the heading… “I hate the GMAT because…”

Figure Out What’s Out of Your Control

A lot of this stuff, like, oh, I don’t know, “I’m not a native English speaker,” you really won’t get very far with. How, pray tell, do you propose to change that? Do you have a time machine? Do you want to be adopted, pre-verbal, in a different country? (Pro Tip: make it an English-speaking one, yes?) Even if that much is true, good luck with the project.

(And, for the record, well-spoken non-natives score as well as and quite often better than native English speakers. If you can read well enough to understand the test, you speak well enough to succeed–well!–at GMAT Verbal.)

What I want you to do now–dog forbid you put this shit in a spreadsheet (yo, business school students, amirite?)–wait, actually, if you DID do it in a spreadsheet stop and do it again with a pen and paper. What’s wrong with you? This is serious.

Now you’ll see why: take your pen and cross out all the stuff that is legitimately out of your control. You think you’re going to make them charge less for the test? Right… in that case, I have a bridge to sell you–cheap!

Figure Out What’s in Your Control

This part is, in principle, easy. 

So all the shit that is still there and not crossed out. That will be the stuff that you can actually do something about. Try to make sure it’s things you might actually spend your time doing.

For example, “taking Pearson employees at the test centers to corporate bonding groups so that they can learn to be less assholey” is not going to get you very far. 

Those people have terrible, terrible lives. It’s better to realize the mistakes that have got them so very far in life and pity them–they have to watch high flyers like you coming in and out of the exam room day-in and day-out and reflect on their poor contraception choices. No wonder they hate everyone. 

See? That’s Buddhism (or so I’m told). 

What I mean is things like “I hate the GMAT because I’ve never been good at math.” That’s a nice crunchy one. We can work with that. 


Write out a new list…

In this case, make it things that you actually can fix given enough time, help, or psychological wherewithal.

Even if it seems unreasonable right now, think about if it were someone you know who’s super-competent. Could they fix it? 

Still write that down. Then give that person a call and ask her how she’d do it.

Things I Need to Work On for the GMAT

Righto–so we have a list of the stuff that is fixable, at least by some stretch of the imagination. Now it’s time to prioritize. 

The more granular and topic-based this is, the better. For example:

  1. I struggle with Probability.
  2. I struggle with verb tenses in Sentence Correction.
  3. I don’t even know what Integrated Reasoning is (it’s OK–no one does!).
  4. etc… 

Now you know what you need to work on. Now is the time to seek books out that address these particular topics. 

You might be better off at the beginning with a book that’s simply Quant-based or Verbal-based. My advice would be to look for ones dedicated to the particular topics, hopefully oriented toward GMAT. 

For example, you’d only need the first ten pages of any respectable Probability textbook to nail all the GMAT Probability questions in terms of raw math, but understanding how the GMAT asks the questions will be the hard part. Again, GMAT-specific books. 

If you have questions, talk to a trusted tutor. 


List and identify at least five specific, granular topics that you know you need to work in your GMAT prep. That’s your focus for the next 1-2 weeks.

The GMAT is Built to be Frustrating

Start with contempt. If you get frustrated enough, the GMAT wins. While it’s nice to really enjoy something and pursue everything “for the love,” let’s be honest–that’s bullshit. 

At least at the beginning.

Here’s a more interesting way to look at it. From my own life, I had really never taken language learning seriously and I have zero French skills when I moved to Paris at age 23. 

This might not seem too bad–for those of you who speak English as a second language and perhaps just your mother tongue otherwise may have had a different experience.

On some level, native English speakers actually feel a bit dumb about not speaking other languages and are generally at least accepting of people who speak with an accent or who make errors as long as those people are, more or less, communicating.

(There might be the occasional asshole who speaks loud and slow and still doesn’t stop using some obscure word or whatever, but these are the exceptions, not the rule.)

However, I decided to pick up French in a notoriously hostile environment–Paris; the rest of France is awesome and the people are ace!–full of people who would mock or shame those who dare to speak French with an accent or, dog forbid, make a preposition error. 

In one memorable encounter, I remember, the guy actually said, “I respek ze french langage too much to spik wif ze peeple hoo no spik perfectly.” Yeah, dipshit. Lucky I don’t feel the same way about English, eh?

Long story short, I learned French–and boy did I. I got so pissed off at all the eye rolling, rudeness, and Parisians speaking their bad English really. Slow. As if. I was. Mentally challenged. that I studied my ass off and actually got fluent reasonably quickly–in just over a year, I was taking Masters-level classes at the Sorbonne, doing orals and writing papers in French.

Now of course that didn’t stop all Parisians from thinking their English was better than my French. Obviously ze eenglish is a language inferieur and these Parisian ass-clowns will continue to Dunning-Kruger their way into thinking they don’t talk like Pepé motherfucking Le Pew. 

Whatever. Doesn’t matter.

What does matter is that my French skills got sharp totally out of contempt and shame! 

You, my friends, can do the same with GMAT. 


Pick five things from your list that righteously piss you off about the GMAT. Use those as fuel for your fire of contempt.

More Advice and Home to come in “I Hate the GMAT” Part II…