Thursday, 31 March 2011

Countdown to exams

Having spent several days ploughing through the 'verbal' textbooks, I now find myself second-guessing every sentence I type and wondering whether I am using the correct structures and idioms(!!!!!!) - hopefully this will wear off soon as I'm not sure I can keep sane if this continues.

I've also had the chance to run through McGraw-Hill's 'Conquering GMAT math' 2nd ed again.  In short - a good basic overview of some of the maths required for the test, but it is *basic*.  For tougher questions, I'd look elsewhere and be warned - this book has quite a few typos and errors throughout, including within the 'gmat practice test' section..

I have also been grabbing as much as is available on grants, loans and scholarships - although it still seems there is still a gap between what I can afford and what is available.  Hopefully I will have time in the coming days to post links, as soon as I have had chance to digest all the information.

Finally, this years birthday present to myself is: the exam.  Oh great.  Two weeks and counting.

Free stuff
Todays jolly freebie comes courtesy of Kaplan (yet again). < >  I've booked myself onto one of their free test and review seminars - basically they e-mail out a full set of questions to work through (try to do this against the clock under usual conditions) and then have an evening session to run through the result.  At the very least it provides yet another full set of questions to work through for practice material.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

GMAT studies (2)

My last update was a week ago and I have spent most of that time locked away in the British Library, practising answering as many examples of verbal questions as possible.  I think it has made a difference, though time will tell... I'll get stuck into a second diagnostic next week, after a quick refresh of the maths section (I tried a number of 700+ questions this morning and came unstuck on exponents yet again).

I'm sure it's quite sad, but my walls have now been adorned with highlighted task-lists (funding/application deadlines) and a rather fetching map of the US - with locations of various top Universities stuck on for good measure.... so far it looks like the northeast is winning in terms of the number of top schools... if I'm lucky enough to get in I don't think I'll need to pack the shorts!

This weekend may be a little less productive than usual as I'm off to a family wedding - hopefully will get cracking on final prep on Sunday.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

GMAT studies (1)

Following the scare given to me by the prep software the other day, I set about putting together a study plan to cover off all the basics. 

Adding to my general need for revision across all the areas in an effort to get my practice times down to under two minutes per question, it is also clear to me that further work on number properties (especially when applied to data sufficiency problems), exponents and general grammar rules would be highly beneficial.

Fortunately the local library appears to be well stocked when it comes to GMAT prep books - and I've spent a successful, if not particularly exciting, day crunching through old copies of 'Kaplan 800' (containing a set of the tougher questions from both verbal and quant sections), McGraw-Hill's 'Conquering GMAT Verbal' (fairly simple) and 'Kaplan's GMAT Verbal Workbook' (which in parts repeats some of the Kaplan 800 questions, but is otherwise quite good). 

Hopefully, with a couple more practice question sets in the coming days, I will break some of my remaining bad grammar habits in time for the proper GMAT (when it comes to assessing test answers anyway).

Free materials
I stumbled across this site last night, and it seems to contain a number of subject specific forums stuffed with practice questions posted by members of the online community.  (some of these questions may have been  'borrowed' from a collection of the more popular textbooks....)

As a source of further practice material I'm sure I'll take a look at the site again in the future - though have noticed that for some questions posted, whilst a large number of community members are more than happy to post explanations of why the answer they chose is the right one .... it's possible that they (and a large number of others posting to the thread) are quite wrong!  Look out for posts tagged 'OA' as they (in theory) should contain, or link to, the 'official answer'.

One further useful note; it appears that the GMATprep test answers do not provide explanations - there are a number of beatthegmat forums that attempt to help you out in this respect.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Preparing for the GMAT

Within minutes of researching admissions criteria for MBA programmes around the world, it became clear that in order to study an MBA at a top-ranked University, one needs to have a good score on the GMAT.

Whilst the GMAT appears to test a narrow area of quantitative and verbal skills, business schools tend to view GMAT scores as an indicator of future performance on the MBA.  As admissions tutors will tell you though, it is not the end of the world if you're just a few points short of the average GMAT for your chosen school (as you will have scored higher than at least some of those currently admitted to the school) - the rest of your application (including references and essays) is equally important, if not more so.

To balance this it is also worth noting that if you've scored 770 on the GMAT you're not guaranteed a place in your chosen school, so make sure the rest of your application is as polished as it can be (but congratulations on the score anyway - that's a great achievement!!!).

Official GMAT site:
For a basic overview of the GMAT, the first source of information to call upon is the official GMAT website: .  Here prospective students can learn about all the individual sections, as well as receive notification of any upcoming changes to the exam*. 

One book I have personally found useful is the Official Guide (12th ed.), which contains pretty much all of the information you need on the exam as well as 800 questions written by the same people who write questions for the exam.  Some of the large tuition providers will include a copy of this book in their study materials, so check with them if you are planning to buy one of these packages - it doesn't make sense to pay twice.

In addition to the books on offer (you may find cheaper copies through local bookstores or Amazon), I would definately recommend downloading a free copy of the GMATprep software which allows you to sit two mock exams on their own PC - giving you a basic idea how the questions will be presented to you on the day, as well as providing you with an opportunity to get a basic idea of your scoring potential..

As you are provided with two practice tests, one useuful suggestion would be to take the first as a baseline at the beginning of your GMAT preparation; the experience gained during the first practice GMAT will help identify any areas to focus on during your studies, with the second to be taken later on in your studies when you feel you've got the material understood.

Training providers
In addition to the home-study option there are literally hundreds of training companies out there offering courses, and as with any course of tuition it is down to the individual student to pick a style of study that is appropriate.

The two big names that I have come across, Kaplan ( and Manhattan ( provide a range of home/class study options, as well as free online materials that you can take full advantage of, whether you decide to buy anything or not.

As with anything, there is an option out there to suit pretty much any budget and learning style.

Free materials
I will post links to any more free materials I come across as time passes.  For now, enjoy Kaplan's youtube offering, which links to 20 short videos covering a number of GMAT basics:

My route:
I have chosen the home study option for now, and have bought a copy of the Official Guide to work through.  This will be of course aided by any free materials and library books I can find, and suits my budget and preference for studying in starbucks with a grande classic hot choc + hazelnut :)

Incidentally, I took my GMATprep baseline test the other day and got 600 - aside from a few mistakes, I lost focus on the timing and failed to answer a chunk of the later questions - hopefully I can get quicker once I've had time to re-learn the material.  (One lesson here is that missing a question on the exam is penalised harder than getting a question wrong).

For me, the studying starts now.....

* At the time of writing this entry it is expected that a new section to the GMAT exam will be added in June 2012, but any scores obtained prior to this date will remain valid for the usual five years post-award.  Updates relating to the new section will be found on

First post - 18 months(?) and counting...


Embarking on a major new course of study is a daunting, but nonetheless exciting proposition.
Whilst I have been considering taking a full time MBA for quite some time, it is only recently that these thoughts have evolved into deadlines, information evenings and the inevitable GMAT prep.

As the days tick by, I hope to post any useful information / resources / links I come across as well as my personal experiences - so even if nobody reads this apart from me, at least I have a diary to look back on. 

I am certain the next year will contain its fair share of ups and downs as the applications machine gets into full gear... I will consider my job done if this blog proves useful to just one person out there. (inc. myself)

A bit of background:
  • Male, English, three weeks short of 29
  • Consultant based in London, currently between contracts
  • Graduated from the University of Leeds with a 2:1 in Information Systems & Management Studies 
  • 8 years management experience, 3 full time in industry and 5 as an interim/consultant through my own company.