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Christine Cheng.

MBA: Essec International Luxury Brand Management.

As a fashion lover with C-suite ambitions, an MBA has always been on my list of must-haves. While I used to think “Harvard or bust,” my mindset changed when I discovered Essec’s MBA in Luxury Brand Management. I was sold on the school’s highly specialised programme, strong relationships within the industry and its location near Paris, the world’s luxury and fashion capital.

Even though I was only applying to one school, the application process was daunting. There were so many elements involved: recommendations, interviews, essays. Still, none of these posed as much of a challenge as the GMAT (Graduate management admission test) did. For me, the GMAT represented the first, and greatest, hurdle on the track towards my MBA.

Unlike some of my undergraduate classmates, I had not had the good foresight to take my GMAT at the end of college while my brain was still in study and test-taking mode.

Not having done any maths other than end-of-meal tip calculations for the past few years, the idea of a timed exam without a calculator terrified me. Factor in the essay and strange new integrated reasoning section for a combined three and a half hours of testing and the GMAT seemed an insurmountable task.

I turned to my friends for advice and was given battle plans ranging from two weeks of after-work cramming in the coffee shop to months-long preparatory courses complete with online, classroom, and one-on-one study.

Lacking the time and funds necessary for any special courses, my strategy ended up involving two months of after-work studying and taking every free practice exam I could get my hands on.

I downloaded the free prep software from the GMAT website, borrowed study guides from the library and purchased the Official Guide to make up my arsenal of study materials.

A key tool I used and credit very much for my GMAT success is a laminated notepad and erasable marker set which simulates the items provided in the actual exam. Practising with this notepad helped me to get comfortable with the non-traditional materials and the amount of space I had to do my scratch work. It’s these small details that can make the difference between getting a score you’re OK with versus one you’re proud of.

Armed with a score I am proud of, I forged ahead with the rest of the application. I am happy to report that I now find myself facing the new challenge of finding an apartment in Paris for the forthcoming year.

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