I Aced The GMAT In A Month And Got Into The MBA At Oxford University's Saïd Business School

GMAT-whizz, Shruthi Vijayakumar, was drawn to Oxford Saïd's emphasis on social impact and responsible business. She says prospective MBAs should speak to current students before they apply

How long do you need to prepare for the GMAT? Shruthi Vijayakumar studied for the test in a month, got a 700 score, and got into Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford.

But accomplishing this was no easy feat. Shruthi says she worked from five in the morning until nine in the evening every day to get the score she needed.

She recommends giving yourself ample time to prepare, allowing enough space to sit the test multiple times if necessary.

Between the GMAT and GRE, Shruthi felt the former was more widely accepted. While she'd heard the GRE would be useful to take if considering other programs, for the MBA in particular, the GMAT made sense.

Of course, getting into Saïd Business School didn't just involve scoring well on the test. Shruthi is passionate about education, leadership development, and how businesses tackle social and environmental challenges. She wanted to do an MBA program with a strong focus on these issues.

Following a series of social impact-orientated roles in her native New Zealand, she decided to take some time out to do an MBA, reflect on her career journey, and decide how to move forward.

BusinessBecause spoke to Shruthi to find out how she got into the full-time MBA program at the University of Oxford's Saïd Business School:


What were you looking for when applying to business schools?

Given my background and career interests, I was really drawn to the focus on social impact and responsible business that Saïd Business School has in its MBA program.

I was also looking for an MBA that was integrated well with the work of other departments at the university, so that I could go beyond just engaging with a business context and learn in a more inter-disciplinary way.

Of course, the school's brand was also an important factor. The calibre of people that come here for guest lectures is incredible.

What tips would you give to those applying for the Oxford MBA?

I spoke to a few graduates before I applied to find out about their experiences at the school, and I also spoke to admissions staff. The people I spoke to guided and mentored me through the process.

I also carried out a lot of research into the program, to understand specific aspects of it that were relevant to my career interests. I would suggest taking the time to reflect on your personal journey, where the MBA fits into that, and how you want to use the program for your further development.

Researching and thinking about my career path gave me more tangible things to write about—I could say how different elements of the program aligned with my interests, and how engaging with particular classes would help me develop my career.

Once you're in, remember that it's a one year program that absolutely files by. Keep thinking about how best you can use the year to move in the direction you want. There is so much going on beyond school work, like clubs, talks, competitions, social events, conferences and so on. This is why it's key to know what you want.

I came into the program with a set of focused questions, hypotheses and assumptions to explore and test which guided my decisions on what to engage with and how I spend my time. 

What are your future career plans?

I plan to return home to New Zealand and pursue entrepreneurship. I have been exploring different business ideas that revolve around social innovation, leadership development, and selling a service that enables businesses to build their talent and thrive in a changing and uncertain future.

How will the MBA help you achieve this goal?

The MBA has provided a fantastic environment to explore my ideas. The community at Oxford in particular—classmates, professors and guest speakers—have been a rich source of insight, and fantastic soundboards for testing and refining ideas.

The Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship in particular has offered a range of extra curricular activities which have been very valuable. 

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