6 Signs You’re Studying Too Hard for MBA Admissions

6 signs you’re studying too hard for MBA admissions main image

Applying for a place on an MBA or EMBA program is a stressful time for applicants. With GMAT prep to consider, essays to write and MBA interview skills to polish, MBA program hopefuls can be forgiven for neglecting everything from their social lives to their personal hygiene in the run up to exams.

MBA study is no stroll in the park (something we strongly recommended you do if experiencing any of the below) and requires a great deal of time and commitment. The pressure that comes with GMAT prep and essay writing can result in a few hiccups along the way – so if you’re feeling the heat and are experiencing any off the following issues, it may be time to take a study break!

Lack of sleep

no sleep

Remember those mornings when waking up well-rested and carefree was commonplace (and undervalued)? Well, now they are as rare as an introvert on the trading floor.

Sleep is essential to MBA study. And no, we don’t mean procrastinating in bed surrounded by unopened books; we are referring to the age old mantra that humans need eight hours’ sleep to function properly for the day ahead.

“Brain recall becomes stronger after sleep, and information becomes easier to access. Sleep is fundamental, as it allows memories to consolidate. It's a good idea to learn something just before going to bed, and then let your brain do the work," says Sergio Della Sala, professor of human cognitive neuroscience at the University of Edinburgh, in an interview with The Guardian.

Unfortunately, the stress of exams and MBA interviews can result in difficulty sleeping for candidates. Long days turn into long nights and the luxury of a full night’s sleep can quickly become a thing of the past. Try to get some rest by listening to verbose radio plays or watching nature documentaries before bed: these both relax the mind by making you concentrate on something different when you’re tired. Who better to be serenaded to sleep by than Sir David Attenborough?

You become a social bore

social bore

Surprisingly, nobody especially wants to hear about verbal reasoning tests and analytical writing over a few beers at your local. GMAT prep is only ever interesting to those sitting the tests. To everyone else, it is merely jargon, or an unusually complex and mundane weather report that requires a huge amount of concentration to (willingly) take in.

Common topics of conversation such as the latest political gripe or the weekend’s football scores are no longer a priority on MBA program applicants’ agendas – but it is recommendable to at least pretend you’re fully up to date on these topics so as to pass as a normal functioning human in the company of friends. So take a study break and make some small talk.

You start seeing GMAT equations everywhere


Equations pop up everywhere during MBA studies. Simple daily routines such as reading maps and measuring ingredients for cooking unexpectedly become an extension of algebra, and make calculations a daily irritant to candidates.

There comes a point during revision when going over the same facts again and again can unintentionally dull the efficacy of study. If, when resting, you see equations falling like Tetris bricks in your mind’s eye, enlist the help of a friend to help you take a study break. Although making time to go to a concert or see a play may seem counterproductive to the end of goal of enrolling on an MBA program, it can be beneficial in the long run.

Many schools, including the University of Birmingham, actively encourage students to take regular breaks from revision – the same principles apply here:

“Make sure you take regular breaks. Sitting at your desk for 12 hours a day does not mean you are revising effectively. Break up the day by going for a walk and getting some fresh air; even making a drink will mean you can refocus your mind so you don't lose concentration.”

You become a recluse


Daylight is a luxury afforded to few during GMAT and MBA interview prep. Days become filled with reading endless examination papers and self-help books, which may result in you developing an almost uncanny resemblance to Nosferatu when exam day finally looms.

So snap the laptop shut, ditch the pajamas and venture into the sunlight for some much needed down time during study sessions. However, if applicants suddenly find that they’re shrinking from the sunlight and have developed an inexplicable aversion to garlic – we would advise you to consult a GP.

You argue more


The critical reasoning section of the GMAT is the perfect excuse for applicants to be a little more argumentative and awkward around the house. Your spouse may be brought close to insanity when the merest proclamation, such as, “Whole wheat bread is better than white,” can result in a heated culinary debate (honing your reasoning skills naturally).

An MBA applicant’s sudden kinship with Plato or Socrates may create friction around the house. Avoid dinner table Armageddon by simply keeping your high-minded thoughts to yourself. Great men such as Plato and Socrates wouldn’t have got far in life if they had tried to debate fiercely with their wives whilst they were digging into a KFC bargain bucket.  Do everybody a favor and keep your verbal reasoning practice within the confines of your study.

Congratulations: you’re accepted!


The ultimate indicator of hard work is the positive results that follow. If you finally receive your place in an MBA program, the intense study regimes and MBA interview preparation you put yourself through will all be worth it. During MBA studies, applicants can become introverted as they try to deal with the mountain of prep work that lies before them. Try to manage your time effectively by balancing a healthy amount of work and play into applying for MBA study. It could be the difference between an MBA program rejection letter and an offer of enrollment.

Helen Vaudrey
Written by Helen Vaudrey

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