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Full-time MBA

GMAT prep experience: Hugo Packard


Name: Hugo Packard Class: Full-time MBA Nationality: British Pre-MBA role: Requirements and Business Relationship Manager Pre-MBA company: Ministry of Defence

Hugo Packard decided to undertake an MBA at London Business School as a means of facilitating a career change. After studying French and Italian at University, Hugo spent a total of seven years working in the defence/national security sector. Hugo hopes to work in strategy consulting upon graduation.
Q: What methods of study did you use to prepare for the GMAT? How were your days structured? Q: What advice do you have for a potential student who is reluctant to take the test?

I spent a few weekends in a row working through the Official GMAT Guide Book and preparing detailed notes, which basically meant starting at page one and working right through to the very last page. Whenever I came across a problem I didnt know the answer to I added it to my notes and once that was done, I went right back to the beginning and just focused on those questions. I also downloaded an app onto my iPhone called GMAT Toolkit. At first it really freaked me out because all the practice questions on there are really hard, but I used to take a look at that on the bus each morning and it ended up being really helpful. I had to be systematic about making sure that I understood the basic maths I think I worked out that I did about 1500 practice questions in the end, which isnt a ridiculous amount when you spread that over 8 weeks and each of those questions should take 2 minutes to answer, so it probably works out to 4-5 hours a week. Thats manageable in the context of doing a job at the same time.

I saw the GMAT as a means to an end. I wanted to go to business school and part of that required me to take the GMAT. Sit down and try the test, ignore the hype you read on the internet, and try to solve a few problems and if it feels like the sort of thing that you dont want to do then business school might not be the best route to take. I sat down last night working on my corporate finance problem set and its not dissimilar. Its applying formulas and structured thinking to solve questions.
Q: Can you see any benefits to doing the GMAT now that youre a student?

Obviously the main benefit is that it got me into a good MBA programme. It looks good on your CV if you get a good score, certainly for some careers such as consulting; they really like a good GMAT. It does get you back into that vein of doing work in the evening and learning again, especially if you havent studied for a long time.

A lot of what business school is teaching you is about being able to make sense of information in a structured way and that is exactly what the GMAT is testing. It gives you a certain amount of information, whether its verbal or quant and asks you to draw some conclusions from it.
Q: Do you need very advanced math skills to get a high score?

No. I dont have very advanced maths skills and I managed to get quite a high score. If youre the kind of person who just isnt comfortable with numbers you will just need to prepare more on the quant side, but its nothing you havent seen before.
Q: What practical advice do you have about the actual exam?

Another tip, really understand the properties of 1, 0 and -1. So many of the questions are built around the 1, 0 and -1, i.e. is 1 prime or is 1 not prime, is 0 odd or even, just random little things you would never really think about but make a big difference in quite a lot of the questions. The maths questions are built on basic principles rather than complicated calculations, a lot of the questions dont bother with bigger numbers because you can test the basic principles on those numbers. Getting into a routine with the practice questions is what can take you from a 600 to a 700.
Q: What impact did getting a good GMAT score have on the rest of your application?

I deliberately organised my test on a Monday because I wanted to be well rested over the weekend. I did one practice test on the Saturday and then one on the Sunday. I didnt see the point in doing them half way through my prep because I used them to boost my confidence just before the exam. Always double check your data sufficiency answers, I found them to be the hardest questions on the test. Its so easy to miss something. One fifth of the questions are on data sufficiency, but it was those questions that I found were the easiest to make a mistake on because they are much more precise.

It really gave me a lot of confidence in my broader application for business school. I was coming from a non-conventional business school background and worked in the public sector in a role that was about analysing verbal information. I wasnt that confident about whether the school was right for me. Getting a good GMAT score really made me think I was right for the school and vice versa. I felt that I should back myself when it came to the application and interview. This GMAT score tells me that Im a credible candidate, whatever else.