Confessions of a GMAT addict, jailed for his obsession

 Lu’s website states ‘GMAT is art, and she is my love’

Lu Xu is part of GMAT history, and legend. He wrote the GMAT (and a bunch of other tests) hundreds of times, for different people, often in disguises. And he went to jail for it.

According to Lu ‘I took 212 GMAT and GRE tests confirmed by New York State and FBI records. The real number of tests taken by me could be well over 500.’

 Lu Xu is still madly in love with the test.

When I asked him if he had any regrets he said simply ‘Oh, yes. I only regret that I have but one life to take 200+ GMAT tests.’ He didn’t do it for the money. He got addicted to the GMAT. He fell in love with it’s beautiful design.

‘The test is addictive, I got addicted to it. Like a computer game if your performance is good the computer will keep giving you tougher questions. The tough questions look so exciting. Beyond expression.  Words fail to express the feeling. It’s so beautiful.’

Lu Xu took the test in the days before security around the GMAT was so tight. In fact, he says someone from the Graduate Management Admissions Council came to visit him in prison for some tips on beefing up security.

When Lu first wrote the GMAT in 1997, security around the test was much less stringent, and there were no palm scans at test centers. At that time, the Computer adaptive test was first introduced and there were not a lot of materials available. The GMAT was like a mystery to Lu.

Lu had moved from China to America in 1994 to complete his Ph.D in Biochemistry.

He attributes his quantitative ability to the training methodology in the Chinese education system. Most Chinese test takers ace the quantitative section, in part because calculators are considered contraband at school. Lu told me he remembers a student sneaking a calculator into class. To the students it was an expensive and fascinating treasure. But the teacher threw it into the trash.

Lu also managed to improve his Verbal abilities through living in the US, and reading English magazines like TIME, Economist and Harvard Business Review. When Lu took the GMAT for his own business school application, he scored 790.

 Friends started asking him to take tests for them with their student ID. But then those Lu calls ‘bad friends’ saw his money-making potential and helped him forge documents like passports and drivers licences. He would write a range of tests like the GRE, and college exams. But the GMAT was his favourite. Sometimes he would write 2 GMAT tests a day at different test centers, always scoring well above 700. He once took a ‘vacation’ to Florida and wrote 19 tests in two weeks.

Obviously, today Lu teaches GMAT preparation to students. His company GMAT HERO, is based in Beijing but he teaches students from around the world over skype. A GMAT teacher, he explained, will never get bored.  ‘GMAT is a beautiful game. You never get bored with playing with it. GMAT is another world. You enter it, and then you do not want to come out. It is pure and simple inside it.’

Has taken the GMAT more times than any other person. That’s at least according to the authorities. When I asked about his insights into the test, he told me how it’s fascinating that the Quantitative and Critical Reasoning Sections are inherently the same. He loves how data sufficiency is part math and part logic.

I also asked Lu what his experience with the GMAT has taught him about himself.

‘I realized that the determination and courage are the keys to crack the test. The test presented me a great challenge at the beginning, and after I met the challenge, I realized that I was a different man and I saw something different in me: something shining, something intelligent, something courageous.’