From The Bench To B.School: A Scientist’s Road To Enrollment (III)

JonMcEuen —  June 13, 2011 — 3 Comments

by Jonathan McEuen, guest blogger

Jonathan McEueun is a Manhattan GMAT grad who is off to Wharton this fall. We asked him to share his application process with us. What follows is Part 3 of 5 posts in a series about his experiences. You can read Part 2 here.

Don’t Get Lost Before The First Step

The big question of How should I prepare for this test? quickly becomes a set of much more detailed, specific questions:  Do I enroll in a course? Should I buy books and study on my own?  What if I need to take the test multiple times?  All this tends to become a little overwhelming.

I tried to calm down and bring myself back to the first question.  I knew I needed structure and guidance.  I again turned to friends for recommendations.  It was word of mouth that brought me to Manhattan GMAT, and into a class run by Abby. I speak with the assumption that you will be skeptical and perhaps dismissive of my opinion, but I credit MGMAT “ and more specifically Abby “ for helping me score in the 99th percentile on my GMAT.

Finding The Approach

Most courses (probably) throw similar tools and tactics at their students, but that to me wasn’t the real value.  Abby stuck on us to utilize those tools and tactics.  All of a sudden I was running question drills with a timer;  I was moving things around in my apartment to recreate a testing environment.  In general, I was trying to adapt my life around the GMAT, and for that I needed a guide.

In my spare time, what little of it there is, I like to train for long bike rides and occasionally a 100 mile race.  The parallels between this and the GMAT studying process would be the key to helping me succeed.  These challenges are often won or lost by a thousand tiny cuts, small decisions that aggregate in victory or defeat.  For example “ though I was strained for a single time to study each day, I had 20 minutes in the morning, 15 minutes at lunch, and throughout the rest of the work day where I could do a few questions.  It wasn’t perfect, but each small session built towards my goal.

I depended on my class tools “ I made flashcards for what might have been the first time in 15 years.  I followed the recommendations on analyzing practice performance and made spreadsheets to track my experience.  I recorded it on my phone whenever I ran a block of questions so I could ensure at least two sets a day.  When I sat down to do a fresh question I blocked out everything else around me.  I tried to put myself in the head space of the testing room, the ambiguity of the adaptive format, and the intensity of a self-timed task.

An additional set of rules came into play in class.  I forced myself to answer questions first whenever possible.  I have often played a more passive role as a student, but decided that this was a case where I would be missing out on a lot of opportunity if I didn’t come in prepared to explain my logic and answer in front of a class.  I also allowed myself to ask follow-up questions if I was confused by an in-class walkthrough.  My teacher was outstanding and insightful, and I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to make the most of every minute we were all working together.

Test Day

The week leading up to the GMAT was one spent tapering (just like those long bike races).  I had learned what I could, my timing was as good as it could be, and so the job was to prevent myself from getting in the way.  I slept as well as I could.  I walked around with earbud isolating headphones without music, and I walked to the test center twice to prepare.  Our brains are attuned to change and novelty, and I didn’t want that to distract me.  It’s the same reason I try to ride through cycling courses before the day of a ride or a race.

The exam itself was a blur.  There were successes and failures, problems I spent too much time answering, and others I would have gotten had I spent more time.  The room was air-conditioned, but you could hear the clatter of keyboards and mouse clicks throughout the entire time.  This gave me a moment of distraction, trying to triangulate where everyone else was in their test.  Time wasted.

One key tool was scrolling through the memories of my flash cards before submitting each question, trying to identify tricks.  Since I had made flash cards throughout our course, this was a great tactic for refreshing theories, and it helped me deconstruct more than a few questions.

The blood sugar valley came during the break.  It’s a small thing, but nutrition can make a huge difference on your cognition, and so I made sure I had the right mix of sugars and proteins to keep me going throughout the exam.

The end of the day was really the end of three months of transforming myself into a machine designed to destroy the GMAT.  While I might not have been perfect, I wouldn’t have performed nearly as well if I hadn’t followed my gut and taken the in-person course.  It compensated for weaknesses that I would have had a very hard time addressing on my own.

Read Part IV of Jonathan’s application story here.

Jonathan McEuen, PhD is a Senior Associate at The Frankel Group, a life sciences strategy consultancy in New York and Cambridge, MA.  He will be attending Wharton in the fall as a member of the Healthcare Management MBA Program

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3 responses to From The Bench To B.School: A Scientist’s Road To Enrollment (III)

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