Find Your Perfect Way to Study for the GMAT
Steven Sunmonu lays out his strategies and recommendations for GMAT success.
Steven Sunmonu, Dual Degree MBA/MPA, Class of 2016/2017 at University of Pennsylvania, Wharton School of Business, and Harvard University Kennedy School
I was born in Nigeria and came to the U.S. when I was two years old. I grew up on Long Island in a family of 13 (I was one of 11 children!) and went to Duke where I studied Political Science and Russian Literature. While at Duke, I discovered my love of media & entertainment by co-founding Duke’s record label. After college, I worked at Capitol & Virgin Records, where I put music in commercials. My proudest moment there was putting a song in a commercial that aired during the 2009 Super Bowl! I then transitioned to MTV International and Nickelodeon where I created and led strategies to turn shows like Beavis and Butthead and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles into toys and games that I eventually sold to retailers all over the world. I came to Wharton to add structure to how I solved problems and hopefully transition into a consulting or internal strategy career where I can practice the frameworks I’m learning in business school.
Dream career: Creating a music festival like Coachella in Nigeria and using it as a tool to encourage young professionals of the Nigerian Diaspora to invest their time and money in Nigeria’s future.
Why Business School? I wanted to add some analytical rigor and different problem solving approaches to the way I saw business. I also wanted to meet new and interesting people, travel the world, and safely test out new career choices and ways to live my life.
Before business school, I was: Manager of Nickelodeon’s International Consumer Product department. I led international strategy for the sale of SpongeBob, Dora the Explorer, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles toys and games around the world–seriously!
When I’m not in class, you’ll find me: Watching a WWII documentary, learning a new instrument or just hanging out with friends.
Advice for anyone thinking about b-school? Speak to as many people as possible and try to visit the schools. You won’t be able to determine if an MBA, and which type of MBA program, are the best fit for you until you see it yourself. One to two years is a short time if you’re having fun, but a long time if you’re unhappy. Spend the time up front doing research to determine the best program for you. Also, save up for those trips and pay down consumer debt! Look at waiving a core class or two if your school allows it and it makes sense for your academic interests.
My remedy for pre-test nerves: Go to the movies and spend time with my girlfriend. Her food is a great pick me up!
On the day before your exam, you should: Relax! Just have faith that you did all the requisite work already and have no need to cram the night before. You rarely learn something new the day before!
How did you fit studying for the GMAT exam into your busy schedule? I formed a study group and hired a tutor that helped keep me on track. I found that studying with others forced me to prepare ahead of time and made me stick to a routine that proved invaluable in making sure I had the knowledge and stamina to finish the GMAT.
How well-prepared for business school do you feel, after studying for the GMAT exam? Very well-prepared. The GMAT taught me to recognize patterns in old problems towards applying them to new ones and that you have to manage your time on tests and projects. A lot of business school is just learning how to apply frameworks to certain situations so having prepared for the GMAT, I was able to transition into business school already adept at pattern recognition. Also, doing well on business school tests is just as much about time management as it is about knowing the material. The GMAT was a great first experience in knowing when to cut a tough problem loose and instead spend more time on a problem that could be solved in the time allotted.
Four Ideas to Find Your Perfect Way to Study for the GMAT
"Success on GMAT, just like success in business school, is about using patterns that you recognize in previous problems and applying them to problems you haven’t seen before."
"Hi everyone. My name is Steven Sunmonu and I’m a first year MBA candidate at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. Today, I’d like to offer four quick tips to help you get ahead in your GMAT preparation. The first tip is study with a friend. Studying with a friend is great for three reasons. The first one: it’s just a really great extra piece of motivation. If you’re anything like me you’ve probably already put a lot of time and effort into your GMAT prep and occasionally you probably feel overwhelmed. Having a good friend in the room is going to give you that extra little boost of energy to help push you through to the next level. The second reason to have a friend in the room when you’re studying is by virtue of them being there, you’re going to be exposed to be different approaches to problem solving. That’s going to be incredibly valuable come crunch time when you need a different approach to solving a really hard math problem. The third reason is when your friend asks you how to solve a problem, it’s going to force you also to crack that problem and understand it really innately. I know that for me I have five great friends through an organization called Management Leaders for Tomorrow that were incredibly, incredibly valuable to my success on the GMAT.
The second tip I have for you is to practice recognizing patterns outside of the GMAT. Success on GMAT, just like success in business school, is about using patterns that you recognize in previous problems and applying them to problems you haven’t seen before. So, I know that at least for me, I would read articles such as The New York Times or The Economist and look how they structured their paragraphs and see what else I could glean from that to use on the GMAT.
The third tip I have for you is, if at all possible, try to get a tutor, preferably early on. Classes are great. But, I know that for me at least, it was not going to be the best opportunity for me to target my specific weaknesses. And again, I understand that tutors aren’t going to be possible for everybody, so going back to my first point pull aside a good friend who did particularly well in a GMAT and ask them if they can help you come up with a personalized study plan.
My last tip of the day is to use memory devices or mnemonic tricks to help you remember all the information you need on the GMAT. There are so many rules on the GMAT and so many exceptions to each rule that it’s really difficult to remember those when the clock is ticking. One tip that I use to remember all these tricks was I would actually turn some of these rules into songs, so if I got stuck I would just sing one of my favorite songs, having changed the lyrics to a specific rule and automatically it would come back to my mind.
Another quick tip is: take each process for each mathematical formula and turn it actually into an acronym, so then you can actually repeat like “ABCD” that stands for something else. Hope those tips were helpful and hopefully looking forward to seeing you guys soon. Take care. Bye."
Avoid the Challenges and Transition to B-School the Smart Way
"Now that you’re part of an MBA community you have a wealth of contacts and resources that can really be helpful to you as you start preparing for what careers are of interest to you."
Why You Need Get Involved and Develop Yourself Outside the MBA Classroom
"You’re going to leave business school a much better person and hopefully leave your business school a much better place by having been involved outside the classroom."
Is a Dual Degree Program the Right Choice for Your Education?
"I used the GMAT exam to apply to Wharton where I'm a first year MBA candidate but I also used it to apply and gain entry into Harvard Kennedy School MPA program."