MBA Application Prep Series 1

It is entirely possible to apply MBA on your own. Before getting into the details, you need to know that each person has his or her own way to learn. The following might work very well for me, but you may want to adapt it and make it work for you.

Choose schools (1 month)

  • Review what industry or function you want to go for after MBA
  • Review what other aspects of life you want to have, e.g. living in another country or city.
  • Review what your experience is and be realistic
  • Research about the schools about their class profile, work placement, education method, and culture.

Choose 3 to 5 school that match your answers to the questions above and ensure if any of them send you an offer, you would go. If you feel any school on the list you hold hesitation against, you can remove it from the list. Because the application process will be like a marathon, so you may not want to waste your effort and time in the schools that you won’t attend. I used the following following filters to get mine:

location(life aspects/industry) > school resource (industry) > reality (experience)

GMAT test (3 months or more)

  • Plan GMAT review and test as early as possible, since the result will be valid for 5 years.
    The components of GMAT are the followings:

    • Analytical Writing (AW, Score: 6, Difficulty: ✏️)
    •  Integrated Reasoning (IR, Score: 8. Most likely a combination of Quantitive and Critical Reasoning and you only need to get 8 out of 12 question right to get an 8. Difficulty: ✏️)
    • Quantitive (Score, 60, but will combine with the Verbal part. All of the points are within the scope of Chinese high school mathematic. Some might a bit off the book, but not too hard to relearn.)
      • Data Sufficient (DS, Difficulty: ✏️✏️ )
      • Problem Solving (PS, Difficulty: ✏️ )
    • Verbal (Score, 60, but will combine with the Quantitive part.)
      • Sentence Correction (SC, very strict academic language, some of the daily grammar use, such as “Just do it”, does not apply to this part. Difficulty: ✏️✏️✏️ )
      • Reading Comprehension (RC, similar to readings in IELST, but more focused on the structure and logic of the article. Difficulty: ✏️✏️)
      • Critical Reasoning (CR, not in Chinese education outline, so a bit difficult to learn in a short amount of time. Difficulty: ✏️✏️✏️)

Converting Quantitive and Verbal will give you a score of 800 in total. So in the end, you will get test report like this: 700, Q 48, V38, AW 5.5, IR 8. Usually, the score in the schools’ statistics refers to the score of the Quantitive + Verbal part, the 700 in the example.

Some may say the Quantitive part is easy for Chinese, but it also needs your attention, just not as much as you put into the Verbal part.



  • Official Guide (OG, computer or mobile version, question is easier than real test)
  • GMAT Prep Simulation Software (comes with Official Guide, difficulty is similar to real test, each time you do the test, some questions can be different, but the question library is limited)
  • Manhattan Prep, Sentence Correction (with 5 Test Simulations, very detailed on grammar)
  • 700+ questions for SC
  • 700+ questions for CR
  • 700+ questions for Quantitive
  • Test Simulations (There are some learning websites provide free simulations, not adaptive tests though.)
  • GMAT forums and clubs


Assessment – Review – Simulation – Test

  • Assessment
    1. Take the assessment test in GMAT Prep Simulation Software. Since the test is adaptive, which means as you get correct, the next question will get harder. So skip if you feel stuck with some questions. 600 ish in this assessment is totally Ok, Don’t feel frustrated.
    2. When the report comes out, you need to record what type of the questions you made mistakes, what knowledge point is the focus of the question. Then you should have a good view of which part you do well, which part you need more review and practice.
  • Review
    1. Make a review plan for next 2 to 3 months. Allocate your time accordingly. e.g., if you did well in RC, 1 hr to go through 2 articles in OG would be enough.
    2. Include 1 or 2 hrs to review Manhattan Prep, Sentence Correction and MAKING YOUR NOTES, found this is the most useful way for to me to improve my SC. Attached an example of my notes, but you have to do it on your own, the process is way more critical than the notes itself
    3. Include 1 or 2 hrs to each component of the test every day.
    4. Here is an example of my task in a week. If your work needs you to devote more time, you can spread the tasks over a longer period. The point is to keep your rhythm.
    5. You should finish reviewing and noting Manhattan Prep, Sentence Correction around 2 weeks. Finish most of OG in a month if you do them every day. Note if you can keep a 90%+ correct rate for questions from OG, you should be ok to get a 700ish from GMAT Prep software.
  • Simulation
    1. Find a website that you can do simulation test, the whole set, from AW to IR to Q to V. Don’t use the test 1 and 2 in GMAT Prep and the 5 simulation test from Manhattan Prep yet. Spread them into next 1 or 2 months as your milestones and checkpoints.
    2. Keep the routine you had in Review part, but practice 700+ questions, instead those from OG. This is very important for those aiming 730+. 90% correct rate in OG only give you 700ish, Each question, and each answer, you need to know why it is wrong, why it is correct.
    3. At night you need 3 hrs to do the simulation, take note of the mistakes, if you find the explanation provided by your simulation website is not reliable, you can search other GMAT forums and clubs using the question as the keyword. Here are some I used:
      1. Manhattan Prep’s forum,, a tutor named Ron is really great at explaining questions. He also has an online session on each Thursday, you can watch the replay as well. I use Manhattan Prep’s forum to check SC and CR questions
      2. GMATclub,, good place to find explanation to questions
      3. Chase dream (Chinese), got lots of good suggestion on review and application strategy.
    4. Here you need to get used to submit your answers through a computer and use the paper and pen to solve problems.
    5. Organize your notes. Eventually, the process of finding the explanation and taking notes is more important than the notes itself.
    6. Record your simulation scores and the changes on each part, adjust time accordingly.
    7. Here are some examples of the notes and record I took.

Mahattan SC Notes

SC 700 Sorting

SC All Question Sorting Correction


  • 3 days before your test, go to check your name, date of birth and country of citizenship are correct.
  • 2 days before your test you should stop the simulation
  • 1 day before your test, prepare needs for the test, including the followings:
    * Wallet
    * ID
    * Keys to home
    * Mobile phone
    * Chocolate and half bottle of water
    * Contact and map to the test center
  •  Rehearsal the test in your mind, this will help ease your anxiety. The simplified process here:
    1. Enter the test center, use the restroom, read the policy
    2. Put your stuff in the locker, follow the instruction. If they ask you to put your water and food outside of your bag and other things into the bag, then put the water and food, and your bag together into the locker, please do so.
    3. Record hand print and take a photo (after this you can not use the restroom until the test begin)
    4. Test (Now GMAC changed the sequence but I don’t think the break time is altered, so you have some time to get out the test room to eat really quick)
    5. There were 2 breaks. AW(30min)- IR(30min)- (optional break 10min)- Q(around 1 hr)– (optional break 10min)-V(around 1 hr) – Unofficial Report

You can pick either or both of the break to eat your chocolate and drink some water, do not talk with others. I only use the break between Q and V, since it is close to 12 pm, lunchtime, need some energy.
If you feel nervous wearing ear plugs, just don’t use them. After AW, there will be less noise from typing.
After the test, treat yourself a bit, 1/3 of application is done.

IELTS test (half month or more)

Language test, can be arranged when you have decided you want to do an MBA program in an English speaking institute, and you came from a non-English speaking country and had any experience to study/work abroad.

  • The result will only be valid for 2 years.
  • Including Speaking – Writing – Reading – Listening

I only took IELST, so that is what I can talk about. Note that this is a language test, so it is not GMAT-like at all, somehow you need to switch to your normal English mindset, not the GMAT one.


  • Cambridge IELTS 7-11
  • IELTS writing blogs or tutors
  • IELTS introduction videos


Not some specific to talk about, but there is some skill needed to do well in IELTS.

  • Since it is a language test, the purpose is to your ability to understand the language, not the logical reasoning within the language. So scanning for detail is quite handy in IELTS. When the question asks what is the telephone number of the park, there must be a sentence in the article or a line in the conversation saying that the number is [xxx]. You can apply this skill to most of the questions in IELTS, except the questions from the last article in reading.
  • The hardest for the non-native speaker is writing. If your daily work does not require you speak English, speaking might be another obstacle.
  • Find 1 or 2 IELTS writing blogs you like, usually hosted by an IELTS test marker. They know what a 9 band writing answer looks like. If they have services to mark your writings, definitely do so to check where you are.
  • Use the vocabulary list organized by theme in those blogs, enrich your vocabulary in certain areas.
  • Most of the time, it is not how fancy your vocabulary is, it is about the whole feeling of your article, can others understand. So you need to be extra-careful about the spelling, grammar, and structure. I put a 9-band writing example in Grammarly, only 2 non-grammar suggestion popped up, but mine got 13 corrections directly. Not proud of it.


  • Make an appointment for your speaking test. This part is separated from Listening, Reading, and Writing. You can do it either before or after the other 3 parts.
  • Similar to GMAT, enter the test center, usually at your local university. You need a copy of your test notification to get in.
  • Take photo and register
  • Go to the classroom. Listening – Reading – Writing in this order.
  • In listening, there will be a lot of instruction, so you can use the time read the questions. Once you can open your test booklet.
  • In reading, DO NOT read the whole article then answer questions. You will not have enough time to do so. Instead, read question 1 then go to the article scan the 1st paragraph for the corresponding sentence, then next question. In most of the case, questions in IELST follow the order in which the corresponding sentences appear in the article.

In next part, I will share how to put together an application package of your own.

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