Sunday, August 26, 2007

Applications and the GMAT

I thought I'd go through how I got to this point - about to head to the UK for a year to do my MBA at Cranfield. It's been an interesting year.

I've been thinking about studying an MBA for a few years but was always put off by comments from supervisors and mentors that "they're not seen as anything special these days" as well as the idea of trying to work and study at the same time. Ideally I wanted to do a full time MBA at an internationally recognised business school but how could I just drop everything to go back to uni and how on earth would I pay for it?

I think a lot of life's opportunities come down to good luck combined with the right timing. In January this year I had just come back to work after a fantastic holiday in Thailand and work suddenly seemed like the absolute last place I wanted to be. I was straight back into the same project I had been working on for over three years and I realised that if I wanted things to change, I had to make them change.

That day an email was circulated around the site from our HR team explaining about the Australian Alumni Cranfield Scholarship. It looked like a great opportunity but there wasn't a hope in hell I'd get the scholarship. It got me thinking though. Why couldn't I take time out to go do my MBA? I think I spent every night that week on the Internet looking at business schools. I started searching the top 100 lists, looking mostly at Europe and focusing on schools that had project and operations management as core courses. I got it down to a top three but with a clear front runner.

I'd almost forgotten about the original email but going through what I wanted in an MBA, Cranfield came out far ahead of the rest of the pack for where I wanted to go. Some of the major attractions for me where the personal development theme running through the course, the active alumni association and the student make up which is a little older than other schools and is largely international.

I still wasn't convinced that I was actually going to do this for real but decided that I should at least apply to my top three and see where to go from there so I started to do my research on the GMAT. The Graduate Management Admission Test is made up of two 30 minute essays, 75 minutes of verbal multiple choice questions (sentence correction, critical reasoning, reading comprehension) and 75 minutes of quantitative multiple choice questions (maths, problem solving, data sufficiency). I had a look at some typical GMAT questions then found a testing centre and booked my test. The earliest I could get was about 4 weeks away and I had to go to Sydney to do it (from Newcastle).

A few days before my test I tracked down some practice ones on line and thought I'd go through a couple of them. I've got an engineering degree so I wasn't worried about the maths and my arts degree taught me to write essays but my grammar's never been great so I was mostly concerned about the sentence correction questions. DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE THE GMAT! Turns out my grammar was in the top 10% but my maths marks were horrible. They were asking about stuff I hadn't touched since high school (and hated then) - probability, permutations, geometry, surds - and you had about 2 minutes per question with no calculator.

GMAT took over my life for the next three days. Once I had revised all my senior maths and worked out the strategy involved in the test I had time for about 5 hours sleep before driving to Sydney. The cram sessions paid off and I came out with a score of 660, the average for Cranfield students. I think that week is when I decided I was doing this MBA thing for real - I hadn't gone through all that for nothing. Next step was asking my boss and another colleague for references, then filling in all the applications.

By the time I had finished writing up my Cranfield application I pretty much had my heart set on going and in the end it was the only school I applied to. I sent off my application and received an email inviting me to a phone interview with the Director of Recruitment (there was another essay to write and send in for the interview). A few days later I was accepted to Cranfield.

So now (early March) it was time to make a decision. My whole family was telling me I'd kick myself if I didn't go but I still had to work out how I was going to pay for it - $100k is a hell of a lot of money. I had applied for the Australian Alumni scholarship but knew that my chances of winning it were pretty slim so I went in search of other options. I had a fair amount saved (house deposit was the original idea) and my parents offered to help and I could always take out a loan. I had to do it so I sent off my acceptance. I was going.

1 comment:

Barun Moitra said...

Good Blog, welcome to the world of Cranfield Bloggers. We can start a common blog for Cranfield School of Management.

--Barun Moitra