GMAT Practice Exam #1

*I want to take a moment to say that my heart is heavy with sadness for the victims of the senseless violence that took place in Boston Monday. I pray for the families and friends of the victims and for the city of Boston that they may find some sort of peace in this most difficult time.*

A short post this time around just to recap my first GMAT Practice Exam.

MBA.com, the folks who administer the GMAT itself, recently offered up a free GMATPrep Software Package that comes with 90 questions as well as 2 full length practice exams. It’s as close as you will get to a “test-day” replica. If you’re studying like i am, you should go and download this now.

I’m still early on in the GMAT prep process. I took a diagnostic about 2 months ago that told me about what I expected: that I’m strong in verbal and a little shaky in the quantitative section. I was studying pretty leisurely when the above-mentioned software came out. It couldn’t have come any sooner as it gave me something other to look at than the GMAT prep books I’ve been lugging around.

I found some time to sit and take a full practice and came out with a 640. While it’s not my goal (700 club minimum, 730 target, 750 reach), I could just feel during the practice the questions that I knew I would cream with a month’s dedicated practice. Sure enough after a week of targeting those pesky Data Sufficiency questions, I’m hitting them at about a 90% clip. They are almost (gasp) fun for me now. I find myself chuckling maniacally when the solution finally smacks me in the face and talking crap to the text book for trying to sneak one by me…

Erhm. Anyways. I’ve found that I’m a practice person when it comes to the quantitative section, and a theory person with the verbal section. I need to hammer out a repeatable approach to quant problems. In the verbal section, I’m much more fluent. I have a flow that results in some pretty elite score ranges so I don’t want to mess up whatever mojo it is that I have going there.

I certainly won’t be resting on my laurels. I know how important the GMAT will be for my application. I don’t boast the greatest undergraduate resume, so the GMAT is going to be a very important piece in proving to the adcoms that I have the mental chops for B-school.

My plan is to target my biggest return on investment spots over the next two weeks and then take another practice exam. From there, hopefully, I’ll be ready to dot some i’s, cross some t’s, and take the real thing.

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The Schools

My apologies for the absence. I’ve had my head buried in GMAT study and school research for the past few weeks trying to ensure that at least one of the following schools will decide against the infamous “ding.”

Last year I was seriously considering applying to business schools for admittance into the class of 2014, before determining that it would be best for me to gain another year’s experience in the workplace and to take some extra time to really plan out my career. I had some new opportunities at work via my second promotion in as many years, and still felt cloudy about what exactly I wanted from an MBA.

That additional patience has paid off in so many ways. Taking weeks, months even to just let the idea of a graduate degree stew in my mind has given me more depth on what I want from school, from my career, and at an even higher level in life. The dreams that I’d find myself scribbling on various Post-It notes developed into ideas and goals that were hashed out over a warm keyboard and numerous empty bottles of wine until they evolved into a one page “Personal Mission Statement.” I still refer to that page if those clouds try to settle back into my mind. You can’t fulfill your dreams until you have conceptual clarity over them.

In essence, I’ve found that what I need from a Business School is:

  • A team-based approach to learning with plenty of case study opportunities
  • A strong global outlook paired with a robust study abroad program
  • An excellent track record of placing graduates into strategy consulting careers
  • Research opportunities that may grow into further partnerships with the school
  • Successful student organizations, particularly an African Business Group

Most of all, I needed a school that was going to be a partner in this life journey, not just a stop along the way.

As you can tell, I don’t ask for much.

I believe in a team-based approach to learning because interpersonal skills can be developed using that method, and are necessary in today’s (and more importantly tomorrow’s) business climate. I need plenty of case study opportunities because I don’t come from the business world and diving into real life scenarios will get me acclimated much quicker.

I want my school to share my global outlook. I was raised in the states (God Bless the USA) but wasn’t born here, and as such I have always been the guy much more interested in the “World” section of the WSJ than any other. I could spend hours regaling you on my views of global economical trends and how the world will soon be less western-centric than at any other time since WWI, but luckily for my readers you can find most of my views neatly packaged in Fareed Zakaria‘s “The Post-American World: The Rise of the Rest.” It’s a fantastic read, trust me. But I digress. We are all global citizens, and I want my school to actively enable its students to be just that.

My school must have a strong record in placing graduates into consulting careers. Pretty simple. It’s how I want to start my post-MBA career, so the schools I apply to are going to be good at getting me there.

Research opportunities. This is something I added to my list after reading up on some of the schools. I was very impressed and surprised with research opportunities available to MBA students at two schools in particular. Researching organizational behavior, for example, its very interesting to me. I’ve gone on to order some books from professors at these schools to do some further exploration. This is where the school’s media campaigns really shine. You can get a clue into what the professors are up to when a school’s social media accounts, YouTube, Facebook, and email newsletters are well done.

Successful student organizations are a must because it is, in my opinion, the best way to network with your fellow classmates. Whether it’s a Consulting Club or Christian Fellowship Club or a Soccer Club, those connections that you make will hopefully last you a lifetime. And who knows, one of those people may end up hiring you, or vice-versa. My particular interest/lovechild/passion is in either joining or starting up an African Business Club. I’m African myself and I strongly feel that the continent has incredible growth potential. I want to get in on the ground floor of this both in terms of investment and also with some social enterprise involvement. I want to give back to Mother Africa, and I can’t think of a better way than by tapping into some of the future leaders of America and getting them involved. While they’re still relatively young and impressionable.

While researching the schools and programs (or programmes ;)) I continued referring back to this list of basic needs. In my case, once I had those needs described and understood the schools almost revealed themselves to me.

So without any further adieu, here is my (preliminary) school list in alphabetical order:

  • Fisher College of Business (Ohio State)
  • Fuqua School of Business (Duke)
  • Harvard Business School
  • Keenan-Flagler School of Business (North Carolina)
  • Kellogg School of Management (Northwestern)
  • London Business School
  • S.C. Johnson Graduate School of Management (Cornell)

So we have two Midwestern schools, two mid-Atlantic schools, two Northeastern schools and one all the way in London-town. It may seem like a mixed bag on it’s face, but once you dig into those schools they match very closely with the needs that I detailed above.

Let me head something off now. Ohio State is by NO MEANS a “safety school.” I don’t believe in that concept. Fisher is an up and coming program which will become one of the more sought after MBA programs as its reputation continues to increase. It also ticks off all of my listed needs (and then some in the case of consulting careers and research opportunities). In general, if you take the time to look beyond the Top-10 rankings sheet, you’ll find alot of schools with alot to like.

So, that’s my list. If you’ve made it this far into the post I commend you. I promise to keep things tighter next time.

Until then.