Thursday, May 30, 2013

That time I decided to go to grad school: GMAT edition

I decided relatively last minute that I was going to apply to business school for Fall 2014. It's something I had thought about for a while, especially as I watched some of my close friends apply to full and part-time MBA programs and start school. I definitely had second-hand excitement about the experiences they were having both in and out of the classroom, and knew I wanted to have similar experiences of my own.

I talked to 1 or 2 friends to get their thoughts...they were beyond supportive, which led me to believe that perhaps I could in fact do this. It was relatively simple for me to choose the program I wanted to apply to, although I later added complications to this (but we'll get there). One of my biggest criteria was the coursework. When I graduated from Georgia Tech I knew I didn’t want to work in an overly quantitative field and the undergrad Management program had limited HR/Organizational Behavior classes, which ultimatley limited my career opportunities. I wanted to make sure the MBA program I applied for offered classes that were going to help me advance on my current career path. The short answer to a long question was yes.

The next steps happened kind of quickly. First I found myself perusing the Goizueta website on a Sunday afternoon. Then all the sudden I was filling out the application. Then I created a GMAT study plan, mainly because I was SO DAMN OVERWHELMED by everything I had to do and it was a great way to avoid actually studying for anything. The application process included filling out personal details in a traditional application, essays, recommendations, a resume, GMAT results and an interview.


The actual application was simply filling in the blanks. The essays were under way quickly. After freaking out for a minute, I found 2 fantastic recommenders (both from work). I updated my resume and had someone give it a once-over, and I scheduled my interview.  The only thing really holding me up was the GMAT. I bought a study guide a long time ago, but hadn't bothered opening it or taking the test.

I knew that would be my biggest hurdle.

My original plan of attack was to create a schedule that I could follow up until test day. I took the test on the last possible day before the application was due and in hindsight, I really should have taken it sooner, just in case.


So there it is – the study schedule I created one fateful Tuesday night. I followed this schedule loosely until the first day of GMAT class. The best piece of advice the instructor gave us in terms of how to study was this:

Commit to a certain number of problems per day, not a set amount of time.

If you commit to 2 hours, you'll get significantly less done than if you commit to finishing 30 Problem-Solving problems. Doing a set number of problems also offers the ability to really get a feel for how long each problem is taking you, and you can time yourself. This eventually becomes critical and the biggest obstacle to overcome with the test. Timing is everything!

Emory offered a free GMAT class 2 Saturday/Sunday’s in a row (more details on how to join these sessions here), so I took advantage of that in advance of the test. The vendor was MathSP and I thought the sessions were phenomenal. I'd highly recommend the MathSP program even if you are paying for them on your own!

I also sent my original study schedule to a friend who just taken the GMAT and applied to business school as well, and his comments were these (which I found pretty helpful):
  • Are you OK to take the GMAT after the app is due? Just make sure (I was not)
  • I wouldn't take both weekend days off. I get that you have showers on Saturdays, but then put in some time Sunday maybe?
  • I would take a lot more practice exams. Reading books is great and all, but real-world practice is crucial. I would try to take a total of 4 practice exams before you take the real test. Related to previous point, these are much better to do on weekends as they take a ton of time (~3.5 hours?).
  • Think about getting in one practice exam ASAP to help gauge where you are – is that the diagnostic test you have?
To answer his questions: Yes, I was okay to take the GMAT after the app is due, but only because I was registering for the GMAT prep class offered through Emory. No, I wasn’t planning to take both weekend days off (blanks just meant I didn’t know what I was doing yet). I ended up taking 5 or 6 practice tests using free software from (it's legit, promise!) And I added one to the first weekend rather than a couple weeks in so I could see where I needed to focus my studying. Turns out, I had verbal in the bag so spent 95% of my studying efforts on the quant section.

So, the important question is how did it go?

I set a minimum test score goal at the beginning of the GMAT class, and told myself that if I got that score or higher, I'd submit that to Emory and if not, I'd study more and re-take the test. After nearly 6 weeks of studying 10-15 hours/week, I took the test on a Tuesday morning (perfect choice!) and ended up scoring 10 points higher than my goal! High five, pat on the back, and GOODBYE STUDYING! I cried when I got to my car, I was so glad to be done and so proud of myself for what I had just accomplished!

Coming up --
  • That time I decided to go to grad school: Essays edition
  • That time I decided to go to grad school: How do I choose? edition
  • That time I decided to go to grad school: Why?
This has been such a long process, and it's been killing me to not write about it! I had a hard time finding genuine, real experience posts about the grad school application process, so even though it's different for everyone, hopefully this answers some questions or addresses concerns someone out there in internet-land has. Feel free to send me an email with questions, too! I'm certainly no expert, but having done it recently, I've at least got some perspective!


1 comment:

  1. That is very cool, congratulations! I am getting a jump on the GMAT because I wanted to start applying to get in an MBA program as soon as possible. I have been taking an online GMAT prep course to help me prepare for the test, as it being online has been very convenient for me.