Case Studies and bedtime stories

The EMBABE Diaries

Before the EMBA – Getting In

The best source of information about applying to the LBS EMBA is the programme’s web page, which even includes videos from alumni on how to prepare your application essays. I found writing the essays incredibly difficult, so don’t really feel that I can offer much advice in addition to what is already on the school’s website, but I will try to gather some ideas from colleagues and share them in the coming months. I do, however, have some tips for you on GMAT – see below.


As you may have noticed from the information on the first page (or gleaned from my penchant for unnecessary parentheses and very long sentences), I am a lawyer. I stopped paying attention in math class at age 14. I was understandably wary of GMAT Quant: what do you mean they don’t let you use a calculator? And you have an average of two minutes to finish each exercise? What is this, a conspiracy to keep lawyers out of business schools? Once I got past the initial panic attack however, I found GMAT maths not quite as  daunting as I thought it would be. I actually ended up (dare I say it?) almost enjoying it all. You will find tons of GMAT preparation info on the Internet (even The Economist produces GMAT prep software now) but here are my Top 5 GMAT Quant pearls of wisdom:

  1. The orthodoxy seems to be that you should start your preparation by doing a diagnostic test. Crazy, I say. If it’s been 20 years since you last even thought about maths, the only thing you’ll achieve by doing a diagnostic test is that you’ll get very depressed. Buy a GMAT revision manual (I used Manhattan GMAT’s Foundations of Maths, which very helpfully starts by reminding you what number and digits are – I kid you not) and work thorugh the theory step by step first. Then do the diagnostic test. If you’re feeling ambitious, buy the more advanced books and work through them too (they’re expensive, but you can sell them on eBay when you’re done). I haven’t tried prep courses, so can’t tell you how good those are.
  2. Try to trick yourself into enjoying the studying process. Think of it as brain training, Alzheimer prevention, advanced Suddoku or preparation for helping your kids / grandkids with homework – whatever works. I find it very difficult to get better at something I hate.
  3. Learn to let go. Timing is essential so learn to give up on exercises early if they take too long.
  4. Accept that you will get a lot of questions wrong even if you do well. The test is computer-adaptive, which means that you always get questions at or slightly above you competence level. I for one found this to be the most difficult thing about the GMAT – the tests are tougher the better you get so it’s easy to feel discouraged.
  5. If you are Eastern European, take the opportunity to savour this as one of the few occasions where you can count yourself lucky to come from an ex-Communist country. We covered most of GMAT maths by eighth grade so even if, like me, you checked out of maths in high school, you won’t be learning this for the first time.

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