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Lawyer to MBA at LBS - no coaching

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Joined: 01 Jan 2017
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Lawyer to MBA at LBS - no coaching  [#permalink]

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New post 17 May 2018, 09:24
Hello all, I’m a lawyer turned MBA student – I received offers from LBS and Cambridge Judge with a 730 GMAT, reasonable (but not amazing) undergraduate marks and no coaching. I hope this post will help others who may not fit the traditional finance / consulting mould. You can get a great GMAT score and you can get into a great business school!

Be organised – it pays off!

I started preparing for the GMAT in January 2017, with the goal of sitting the GMAT in March (giving me plenty of time to re-sit if needed) and applying for business schools in R1 September 2017. I know this seems like a long time, but the reality is the process of applying for MBAs takes about a year. I felt a lot more relaxed knowing that I could invest the time I needed to do well on the GMAT and a couple of bad scores during practice tests early on didn’t get me too down. And preparing for the GMAT took longer than expected, and I didn’t end up taking it until June.

GMAT resources and plan

I’ve always struggled a little bit with Maths so Quant and IR were always going to be my weaknesses. There is an overload of information and resources out there which can be a bit overwhelming. I used the following resources at various points, by no means do you need to use all of them and there simply wont be enough time to get through all of these, but my thoughts on them are below.

Veritas Prep

I bought the set of 12 books second hand, which cover quant and verbal concepts. I found these books to be the most useful of all the resources I used. The theory sections at the front of the book are very comprehensive and have good examples in them, particularly for the quantitative sections. In addition, the books cover the ‘strategy’ aspect of the GMAT in addition to just the theory which I found to be quite useful – e.g. time saving techniques.

Each book as a heap of questions in the back, and I think if you were to do every question in these books, which is definitely achievable, you would have a pretty solid foundation and feel comfortable with a wide range of questions.

Some of the questions are quite challenging, but the Veritas prep website has solutions for all of them if you register. I did every question again and again until I got them right.

Manhattan Prep

Again I bought the set of books second hand. I bought this before I bought the Veritas Prep books. I found these to be ok, but not great – they link up with the official guide which is handy if you want to use the official prep materials and work through the questions in an organised way, but I found the explanation of concepts to be a bit simplistic. The focus seems to be on completing a certain number of questions in the allotted time. While this is important, for the purpose of understanding concepts I think it is better to just get through the questions in a ‘reasonable’ time and focus on time saving techniques over the course of your preparation rather than diving into it straight away.

That being said, each of the books comes with a unique code which you can use to access the online material, including 6 practice tests and I ended up using the 6 manhattan tests during my preparation.

Official guides

Again, these are useful as they have so many questions, but you will never get through all of them, particularly if you have the quant and verbal add-ons. This might just be my personal preference, but I preferred to study topic by topic to really solidify my understanding of concepts so I found the organisation of the official GMAT questions (which is by difficulty rather than topic) a little but hard to navigate. It is also more difficult to use if you want to focus on certain types of questions.

Practice tests

I think the MGMAT practice tests were overall a bit harder than the official GMAT practice tests and the actual GMAT so don’t be discouraged. I was averaging around the 650 mark and was surprised to see that I got 700 on both of my official GMAT practice tests that I did shortly before my actual test.

I would suggest saving the two free official tests that you get with the GMAC software until shortly before your test. From memory I completed mine 4 and 2 weeks before my exam and for the month before my exam I focussed on getting those questions right that I got wrong in the practice tests.

In total I probably did a total of 8 tests, roughly one every 3 weeks (and two fairly close to the exam). I wouldn’t try and do an exam every week or anything like that, it’s better to do them less often but do them properly – i.e. actually sit down for the full 3 hours, take the allocated 8 minute breaks, write the essay etc.

General tips

Getting a great GMAT score helps not only with admissions but also with scholarships. If you can get a score which beats the school’s average, then I think you are more likely to get a scholarship from the school.

For verbal, my only suggestion is to read, read, read, read. Memorising some rules are helpful for SC, but I did not have more than one page of notes for my verbal sections. Reading is so simple, but you will pick up sentence structure (to help with SC), become quicker at reading and skimming (for RC) and identifying holes (CR). The more you can read, the more the answers will come naturally to you – read some well written books (Little Women, All the Light We Cannot See, When Breath Becomes Air, Do No Harm). I actually noticed when I was not reading literature often, my verbal would struggle…it is amazing what you pick up by osmosis.

For quant, I chose not to use an error log, I found it way too time consuming when I could have been doing other things rather than making an excel sheet look pretty and monitoring stats - also I'm a lawyer so natural aversion to excel! I found it more useful to make some notes as I went through the veritas prep books (e.g. writing out square numbers up to 20, some divisibility rules, common formulas etc.) Then, when I finished a practice test or practice questions and looked at the solutions, if there was anything ‘tricky’, useful or shall I daresay interesting, that I learnt, I would write it down in my book with the question. Before every practice test I would re-read my notebook…by the time the gmat came around I had a pretty handy set of notes that were specific to the areas I struggled in and tips and tricks scattered throughout.


Allow about 6 weeks for applications. Start with a comprehensive CV (about 2-3 pages) that you can send to your references along with an explanation of what they should expect. For example, I sent each of my references a document which set out the questions they would be required to answer, questions that I would be answering in my application (and thoughts on my response), deadlines, an overview of the school and why I was applying there, and why I was applying for an MBA – this was by no means as exhaustive or polished as my final application, but it does force you to think about what your application will look like at the outset and makes life easy for your references!

Writing your application

Get the easy questions out of the way. Save all the questions and their word limits into a word document. Start writing anything and everything you can think of. Go back and re-write it…a week later you might want to say something else, or say something differently. If you spend a few weeks going through the questions iteratively I think you will find at the end you have responses which do reflect your true goals and personality, at least that is what I found. I don’t think there is any point in trying to guess what admissions officers want you to say. If you do really want an MBA and you think you can add value to the program, it will come out in your response.

Of course the only admissions essay I’ve seen is my own (!) but I don’t think there is any harm in showing personality, using a conversational tone or showing some humour (appropriately of course!)

At the end of the day, admissions officers are people too. I don’t think they are out there to judge you, or have a checklist of things you should say in your essay. I was never really tempted to get an admissions consultant - get a friend to read your essay to see if it makes sense and sounds genuine, is my advice.

Good luck!
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Joined: 16 Feb 2018
Posts: 15
Location: United States
GMAT 1: 770 Q49 V48
GRE 1: Q170 V170
GPA: 3.94
Re: Lawyer to MBA at LBS - no coaching  [#permalink]

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New post 17 May 2018, 13:37
Awesome thoughts! What inspired your career switch?

Colin Keeler
BeenThere Technologies

Twitter: @BeenThereBiz
Instagram: beentheretech

Re: Lawyer to MBA at LBS - no coaching &nbs [#permalink] 17 May 2018, 13:37
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