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Advice for Doing Your Best on the GMAT Exam

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Kemi Gbadebo

Kemi Gbadebo tells the story of her MBA journey.

Kemi Gbadebo is a graduate of the Rotterdam School of Management.

"Hi, my name is Kemi Gbadebo and I’m an MBA graduate of the Rotterdam School of Management. I’m Nigerian born, bred and raised and though I am a qualified lawyer, I worked in an advertising agency as a copywriter and content creator. I started considering business school when I realized I wanted more out of my career than I was receiving at the point in time. I wanted to contribute more to my clients’ success and make brands more valuable but I realized that I lacked the business know-how to properly engage with and advise my clients. I also wanted to transition from copywriting to strategy, which, given my status then would have been extremely difficult if not impossible. So I started looking to develop and hone my erstwhile dormant business skills and realized doing an MBA was one of the surest and quickest ways to achieve my goal. After a year of studying and a few months looking for a job, I got a position as a brand analyst in a digital brand agency, which is quite challenging but exciting."

Dream career: Brand and Service Design Strategist

Why Business School? It was a logical bridge to cross over from where I was to where I wanted to be. And it would help me transition to the field I wanted to be in.

Best GMAT study tip? Study for understanding first, then study for time management. The GMAT doesn’t test for what you know as much as for your risk taking abilities – knowing when to let go of a question that is taking up too much time and keep forging ahead.

Before business school, I was: A senior copywriter and content creator in West Africa’s biggest advertising agency. A very fun job with some very smart and talented people!

When I’m not in class, you’ll find me: I was usually in my room getting to grips with statistics or finance or some other quant-based course. Or doing assignments with my teammates.

Advice for anyone thinking about b-school? Be very sure B-school is the answer for you; It’s not the magic bullet that people assume it is and demands a lot in terms of time, effort, finances and commitment. And although it’s great for your career, there are many other excellent professional certificate programs out there. However, if you want to know about business, or learn to lead people in business, or work with diverse people in business, then consider an MBA. Ultimately, it can be very rewarding but that depends totally on you.

My remedy for pre-test nerves: Take your mind off the coming test and focus on taking deep, even breathes. Don’t look at anyone else. Focus on yourself. Also pray a lot! Pray for calmness, clear-headedness and above all, not to panic. That’s kryptonite right there, panicking when you think you’ve forgotten all the concepts you’ve worked so hard to learn. Trust that your subconscious will come through and that your brain remembers, even if your mind seems blank at the time. Staying calm is half the battle.

On the day before your exam, you should: Take the day off and do something fun! Give your brain and your nerves an opportunity to rest. It is a very hard thing to do, especially if you’ve been studying so hard, but it was the best advise I ever took. Your brain needs to power down from all that studying, so watch a movie or comedy, play sport or video games, get a massage, hang out with friends, cook, anything but do NOT look at those textbooks just for One. Last. Time.

How did you fit studying for the GMAT exam into your busy schedule? I studied during my lunch breaks, after work everyday and throughout my weekends. I didn’t have convenient access to class tutors, so I self-studied. I also used a lot of online tools, materials and support, which really, really helped.

How well-prepared for business school do you feel, after studying for the GMAT exam? After the GMAT? Nothing was impossible. All my life, I used to rigorously avoid anything quantitative but after going through the GMAT, I kinda fell in love with math because the concepts just finally made sense (apart from some aspects of geometry!). I had a very tough time with statistics in B-school but realized that the GMAT had given me a foundation of studying until I understood. And it stood me in good stead; you can understand anything, if you study hard long enough.

My Advice for Doing Your Best on the GMAT Exam

"Without a doubt, the GMAT is a nerve wracking experience. However, familiarity with it can lessen the fear."

Full transcript

"Hi guys, hope you are all doing well today. My name is Kemi and I’m an alumnus of the RSM. I graduated March 2016. Today I’m here to talk to you about the importance of doing well on the GMAT as a way to gain entry into the school of your choice and to offer some encouraging words to those of you who may be intimidated by the test. Without a doubt, the GMAT exam is a nerve wracking experience. However, familiarity with it can lessen the fear. I remember that when I started studying I didn’t understand anything of what I was studying, even with the verbal section and I was considered an English major or English Master when I was in school. Prior to taking the GMAT, I had seriously avoided to do with arithmetic math, quant, anything at all. The closest I came to math or to doing quant was managing or budgeting my income. I mention this to give hope to those of you who think that you will never be able to do quant. If I can do quant, trust me, you can too. Amazingly, I did better on quant than I did on verbal when I did my test. About the test itself, I always say to people that the GMAT is not just a test of what you know. More importantly, it’s about how you can manage uncertainty and time. Don’t’ get me wrong, you need to understand the concepts. So if you’ve been out of school for a while, and you just started studying, you’ll find that studying may be tougher than anticipate because there are so many concepts to learn and to relearn and to understand and to know how to apply. However, for me after studying GMAT and taking several practice tests, I came to appreciate the simplicity and the cleanliness of quant. Because in quant, you see, concepts are always based on principles, equations, they add up or they don’t. Things are always black and white. And although you can manipulate numbers, numbers do not lie. I came to actually like quant and to be able to actually explain some of the concepts to other people. It was amazing. When studying for the GMAT, the devil really is in the details. Pay close attention to the questions. Never assume that you know what the question is going to be. Read each question very carefully because usually what you need to do or need to answer is hidden the equation or the details that you have been provided. The verbal can even be more challenging because many times when I was reading questions that I got wrong I realized that my brain had supplied information that wasn’t there. I just assumed I knew what the question was going to be. So always guard against that. Even though you know the question reread it again because to be sure that what has been asked for is what you’re working on. The GMAT is very important because it is a measure of how well you will perform in your MBA class and whether you will be able to keep up with your classmates, who trust me with often be very smart or smarter than you are. Depending on where you come from, your score can also determine what kind of school you get into or what kind of scholarships are available to you. However, and I want to say this clearly, getting into a good school is not just about your GMAT score. There are those who scored 670 or above and didn’t get into the school of their choice. This is because the MBA is about much more than how intelligent you are. The MBA is going to test how well you work with others, how willing you are to follow, and not just to be a leader, what sacrifices you are willing to make of the good of the team, how well you make decisions that benefit not only the business but also the people you work with or the people who work with you. Thus while it is important to study very hard for your GMAT, you must pay equal or even more attention to your essays. Essays, they show who you are, they round you out as a person, as a personality, and you can communicate what is important to you and what you’re looking for. So focus on the MBA essays just as much as the GMAT. Don’t neglect either of them. My advice to those of you who are going to take the test is to take as many practice tests as you can. Mba.com provides a simulation of the GMAT exam. The only difference is that you are not taking the whole GMAT itself, but everything else is the same which is fantastic because you get used to preparing your mind for the test. Practice with this as many times as you can and before you know it you’ll be smiling and will be on friendly terms with the test. I say this because knowing what to expect is half the battle sometimes. Also, remember, the GMAT is not just about what you know but how well you can handle uncertainty and time. By this, I mean that deciding to move on quickly when you can’t solve a problem in the shortest time possible. Know when to cut a question loose and move on. I wish you all the very best with your GMAT prep and preparations. Good luck."

My MBA Journey

"I knew that if I wanted to be of value to my clients, I needed to get business skills and a good understanding of how business works, so that’s what helped me decide to do an MBA."

Full transcript

"Hi there, my name is Kemi and I’m an alumnus of the RSM. I graduated March 2016. I want to tell you about my personal journey to do an MBA in the hope that it will help somebody else with his or hers. By profession, I’m a qualified lawyer, but I’ve always loved telling stories and coming up with creative ideas and solutions for brands, and so I decided to pursue a career in advertising where I worked as a senior copywriter and content creator up until 2014. My MBA journey actually started in 2010 because although I loved what I did and loved where I worked and loved the people that I worked with I realized I wanted more out of my career and I wanted a longer career trajectory than what I could see at that time. It was increasingly clear also that I was in a “creative only” box, and by that, I mean that clients considered me only valuable for their advertising projects and campaigns. Whenever I made suggestions concerning the business itself, I was rarely taken seriously and I discovered why. You know how it is said that “for he who has a hammer, every problem is a nail?” Well, communications was my hammer and I decided that I wanted more tools in my toolbox than just that. After thinking long and hard about it, I knew I still wanted to be in the marketing industry and help my clients build valuable brands but I wanted to do it in a different capacity than communications. I also wanted to impact the business as a whole and not just the face of the brand. It occurred to me that I couldn’t make that decision based on the qualifications I had at the time. Thankfully, my sister had just finished her own MBA and was able to advise me on how to research and decide what the best route would be for me to get to where I wanted to be. I knew that if I wanted to be of value to my clients, I needed to get business skills and a good understanding of how business works, so that’s what helped me decide to do an MBA. After deciding to do an MBA, I knew that I wanted to study overseas. I was born in Nigeria, I grew up in Nigeria, I worked only in Nigeria. I wanted to experience the world. I wanted a different perspective, a different way of thinking. Studying overseas would not only force me to leave my comfort zone and stretch myself, but it would also force me to reassess and challenge everything that I’d always known. I then had to consider how long I wanted to be away from the job market. When I first started my research, I first only considered American schools – I mean, don’t we all – which meant two year programs. But, as time went by, I considered the costs, not only in time but also in fees and loans, after my long preparation for the GMAT exam, I decided that two years was too long to be out of the job market, so I decided on a one-year program, which shifted my focus to Europe. Once I made up my mind to do an MBA in Europe, I decided that I wanted to be in a place in Europe that would afford me the opportunity to travel wherever I wanted to. Three reasons also helped me decide on RSM. First is RSM’s responsive MBA office. They were amazing. They were quick to respond to emails and answer questions. They also checked up on me to find out where I was on my MBA journey. They saw me as more than just a prospective student. Also, the Netherlands is the gateway to Europe and anywhere I wanted to visit – Paris, Denmark, Spain, Germany, Belgium. It was literally a train ride or one hour flight away. The icing on the cake was the one year orientation that you get after the MBA to find employment in the Netherlands or in another European market. This would afford me the opportunity to put into practice all that I had learned and also gain the international exposure and experience that I had always wanted. I also had looked forward to working with people from different backgrounds."