January 3, 2013
US News & World Report issues perhaps the most revered b-school ranking list. Unfortunately, Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business is the most recent addition to an unfortunate list of peer institutions. The following is from a recent Huffington Post article:
“Tulane informed U.S. News in December that officials had discovered its A.B. Freeman School of Business misreported “average GMAT scores for full-time MBA students entering in fall 2011 and the total number of applicants.” Tulane said the school had misreported a batch of data from the fall of 2010 and possibly in earlier years as well.”
2012 was apparently a popular year for such grievous ethical violations. George Washington University, Emory University, and Claremont McKenna College all disclosed the misreporting of admissions data “in hopes of improving their standings in the highly influential college rankings.” Investigations of the details of each institution’s breeches led to the two latter schools retaining their rankings, but George Washington’s was grievous enough to result in it being removed entirely from the list (it was 51st at the time). What will ultimately come of Tulane is as yet unknown.
If I have said once, I’ve said it a thousand times: GMAT scores are an extremely important element of an application package. While I would very much prefer this bit of information to be underscored in other more reputable ways, what Tulane has done nonetheless reveals the weight of this quantitative measure of an applicant’s strength.
December 21, 2012
At this time of year, a lot of folks out there are stressing over an impending GMAT test date or looming admission decisions. Most likely, it’s both. ‘Tis the season for aspirant graduate students to hurry to meet application deadlines only to have to wait weeks (if not months) to receive word from their targeted MBA programs.
Although the end-of-year holidays usually mean time off work, too much eating and drinking, and gifts from friends and family, it is certainly not a time devoid of its own inherent stressors. And, if that stress was not enough, the myriad facets of b-school admissions serving as compounding factors can leave many of us curled up in our beds under the weight of it all.
Of course, nail-biting shrouded in an electric blanket does us no good and, in fact, makes things worse. Here are some ideas on how to push back at stress and set up for success:
- Study. Yes, I know you are doing that, but thorough preparation is all you can do, and it’s good enough.
- List, on paper, GMAT stressors according to two categories: intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic stressors are things about the test itself. For example, data sufficiency questions, strategic reading, properly identifying Critical Reasoning question types, time management, etc. Extrinsic stressors are those that are out of your control in the immediate but nonetheless affect you now. Examples are getting into b-school, the desire to please or make proud your parents/spouse/friends/self, the cost of everything, your future with or without an MBA, etc.Of these two types of stressors, preparation is the only thing you can do to overcome them. Intrinsic stressors are removed or otherwise ameliorated by prep, and prep is the only thing you can do to take your mind off of the extrinsic stressors while simultaneously positioning yourself for the best possible outcome on most or all of these extrinsic buggers.
- Plan the post-test celebration well in advance of Test Day. You need to have really fun things to do with really fun people locked, loaded, and ready to go as soon as you step out of that testing center. No matter the result—good, bad, great, or other—you are going to have a fantastic time and congratulate yourself copiously for all the hard work you’ve put in. (Just don’t get arrested.)
- On test day, remind yourself that you are ready—you have seen all this stuff before and you’ve already swung this bat a thousand times with the expressed function of perfecting that swing. Test Day is different, but the game is the same. Play it like you know how to play it.
Here, I’ll turn to clinical psychologist and co-author of Stress Management: A Comprehensive Guide to Wellness (Ballantine Books, revised 2004), Edward A. Charlesworth. Bloomberg Businessweek recently leveraged Mr. Charlesworth’s ideas in a column and they are worth a read. The column is titled How to Handle MBA Admissions Anxiety and you can find it here.
After considering these two lists, please let us know how you handle stress. Chances are, your approach will help someone else! And Happy Holidays!!!
December 11, 2012
Bloomberg Businessweek posted an article that reaches beyond the superficial issues tangentially relevant to the aspirant MBA.
The article gets straight to the most timely and crucial concern at the forefront of any prospective b-schooler’s mind as well as their closest friends and family: holiday gifts. Whether you need ideas for giving or receiving, Bloomberg’s survey of students, professors, and administrators at our nation’s top schools is sure to provide sage advice that will bring ear-to-ear smiles of gratitude this season.
Conveniently, the write-up is broken down into categories: technology, travel, fashion, rest & relaxation, and stocking stuffers and more. Here, we highlight a few of the best ideas then offer up some more of our own. At the end, let us know what missed the list!!
From the article:
- PowerPoint remote. This simple device future students can use in their upcoming and at times seemingly endless number of business school presentations makes all the difference in the world. The presenter is not tethered to the keyboard or mouse and can focus more on conveying information that catches the attention of the audience, professors included. Clickers take a presentation to the next level and students who use them will be the envy of their peers.
- Plane tickets or vouchers. Students are poor or at least poorer than they would be if they were working instead of going to school, and travel costs are always high. Ask for or give money toward airfare even if a trip is not currently on the radar.
- 3-hour Four Seasons spa package. Because… why not?
From Kaplan GMAT:
- Test-prep help. This gift can come in a couple of different forms. One of the most effective and least expensive ways to help a future MBA beat the GMAT is a simple promise of support. The GMAT demandstime. Write it down (or ask for a card): vow to make sacrifices that will help a test-prepper eek out solid study time.Financial help toward GMAT test prep classes is a gift that can yield huge impact. A lot of us want to make others’ dreams come true during the holidays, and help getting admitted to a top choice program is a way to wield some real holiday magic.
- A new suit. Even for those that already have several, a new suit makes everyone feel great. Feeling great helps ease interview and presentation nerves—two things MBAs will know all too much about.
- IOU textbooks. It may have been awhile since you bought a textbook from a university bookstore and even though you might remember they were expensive, trust that prices have only risen. When staring down the barrel of a $195 accounting tome, a shot of some cellared holiday cheer will be most welcome.
- Interest. Let’s finish out with another free gift that keeps on giving. The road to business school can be lonely and daunting. A reliable soundboard that truly cares about navigating the twist and turns as a co-pilot can be a tremendous gift to individuals seeking an MBA. It may sound corny, but sincere interest can be the best gift ever. Pledge to be there as a shoulder to lean on during the ups and downs of preparation road.
December 3, 2012
Part of my job as a Kaplan Test Prep GMAT instructor is to host events such as free practice tests and preview classes. At the end, I like to cover the various prep options Kaplan offers just in case an attendee is interested. We have four packages to choose from:
At its most basic, the decision boils down to what kind of learner you are. In this post, however, I’d like to focus on the differences between options 1 and 2 because that is the most common choice people weigh with me.
The first thing to keep in mind is that both the On Site (classroom in a brick-and-mortar, traditional environment) and Anywhere (classroom in our live online virtual Adobe® environment) have seven out of a total of twelve class sessions held online. Here, I am referring to Kaplan’s Fixed and Flex class sessions.
Our six Fixed sessions are comprised of three Verbal and three Quant classes. Each of these introduces the student to the Kaplan Methods for each question type and the major strategies our students put to use when cracking the GMAT as well as the primary content knowledge necessary for test day success. If you are an On Site student, all six of these foundational classes are exactly what you are used to from back in school. You have a classroom full of colleagues, a GMAT expert you can shake hands with, and a dedicated time and place to show up.
You might be surprised at the core differences between the On Site and the Anywhere course: you can’t shake hands with your Anywhere instructor. That’s it. Well, that and you can wear your pajamas to class since you can attend from home.
In all Fixed and Flex online classes, an on-camera instructor engages the class and coaches students through the course material. Meanwhile, at least one other GMAT expert instructor (sometimes several, depending on class size) is off-camera fielding questions and interacting with the class. Additionally, all instructors assigned to Anywhere classes are available outside of class for email correspondence. Of course, On Site instructors continuously exchange emails with students even after the Fixed sessions are completed all the way to Test Day and beyond.
In upcoming posts, I’ll assess each of our Fixed and Flex sessions. I don’t have the opportunity to delve into this level of detail at marketing events, and I am excited to be able to use the blog to do so. In the mean time, if you have any specific questions about the various means of prepping for the GMAT with Kaplan, please post them below!
November 10, 2012
Prepping for the GMAT is tough. Often, people underestimate the time and work necessary for GMAT success. Even when a test prepper does lay out a sufficient runway and exploits the highest quality test prep materials available and utilizes those materials consistently and effectively, when test day finally arrives that prepper might still not feel ready to sit for the exam. If the students has been regularly taking practice tests between hard-working days at the study table, it is easy to tell if test day will go the way it needs to go.
At this point, the student has two options: take the GMAT and hope for the best, or, push the test date and continue studying.
Assume choice 1: Take the GMAT and hope for the best. It becomes very clear for everyone who seriously prepares for the GMAT that hope does not yield a strong GMAT score. Instead, a GMAT score is derived from the work you put in. It is absolutely true that people can work very hard yet still not see the level of progress they’d like or need. After all, you can swing a golf club the wrong way 100 times and it will still be wrong on the 101st. Even so, if the student has equipped themselves with the best GMAT prep resources around, scoring well on the test does not come easily, and one can certainly not expect a magical 80-point gain on test day just because that’s what they want.
Assume choice 2: Push the test date and continue studying. No one wants to do this. They registered to take the exam on a specific day for various reasons most which are likely very sound. In addition to the annoyance of altering set plans, moving the exam forward means it will be part of your life for longer and if the GMAT does nothing else, it definitely looms large, and a rescheduled test date also comes with a $50 penalty. None of that is good.
However, every admissions officer you can find will say the same thing. “Present your best self.” If fifty bucks buys you another two weeks, three weeks, even a month or more to really buckle down and make significant score progress then it’s worth it.
Last night after class, a student starts our conversation with this: “I need seventy more points on the GMAT than I got yesterday on the practice test I took for one of my Official Test Day Experiences. Is it possible to make that gain in the two-and-a-half weeks I have left before I sit for the real thing?”
“Is it possible? Um… sure. Is it easy? Not even remotely. Is it likely? All things considered, including the fact that you have a life that will continue to march on despite that you are trying to prep for the GMAT, no, it is not likely.”
I continue, “What happens if you don’t take the exam in a couple weeks? Are we up against application deadlines here?”
“Kinda… Well, not hard up against them. I’m looking at January 15th as my drop dead date, but I really want to get the GMAT out of the way so I can focus on the rest of the application; particularly the essays.”
“I understand all that, I really do. However, looking at the score report you just showed me and considering all you hav going on in your life outside of this GMAT business, how would you feel if I doubled your remaining prep time before test day?”
“Oh gosh. It would feel great. It would remove a lot of stress.”
“Some things about the GMAT experience are out of our control. But one thing we have at least some control over is when we take the exam and what we do before that time comes. Give yourself that gift. Turn two-and-a-half weeks into five.”
With tears of relief she replied, “OK.”
November 1, 2012
Data. Whisper it slowly, softly. Think of all the poems written throughout history longing to capture the sublime intimate immensity of the human data experience. Think of the endless songs of heartbreak, devotion, and passion that carom across the significance of data.
Let’s take this to the next level—let’s leave the mushy stuff behind and go straight for carnal, hard-hitting sex appeal. Let’s pair “data” with “scientist.”
According to an October 2012 Harvard Business Review article, ‘data scientist’ is the sexiest job of the 21st Century. Data analysts working with Facebook and LinkedIn came up with the job title only four years ago in 2008 to describe a large contingent of the labor force that had long been wrangling, interpreting, and using to forecast the colossal numerical records our digital age generates. As evidence the sheer volume of information these libidinous professionals are charged with mining, a quote from the aforementioned article: “If your organization stores multiple petabytes of data…” A ‘petabyte’ is equivalent to one million gigs. That’s a lot of thumb drives.
Data scientists are the sum of a unique set of parts and forward-, strategic-thinking companies are utilizing the distinctive minds to innovate. Kaplan Test Prep did not go unnoticed by the HBR article:
“The test-preparation firm Kaplan uses its data scientists to uncover effective learning strategies.”
As the leader in test preparation, it is our mission to provide the most accurate, effective, and robust resources in order to ensure the success of our clients. With more material than even our most ambitious students can work through, Kaplan collects massive amounts of performance data. Our scientists bring their creative minds to bear on this information to ensure continuous improvement and uncover the most ground-breaking and successful test preparation curriculum available in the world.
So, what do you think of Harvard Business Review’s take on this new and “sexy” profession?
September 13, 2012
The Associate Director of MBA Admissions at Stanford University, Allison Davis, amplified the discussion over the potential impact of the Integrated Reasoning (IR) score in an admissions decision. In August, she posted on her department’s blog titled “Why you shouldn’t worry about Integrated Reasoning.”
Since you are reading Kaplan’s GMAT Blog, I can only assume that you are in the midst of prepping for the GMAT exam or otherwise quite interested in topics surrounding the GMAT exam such as business school, MBA programs, graduate school admissions, etc. I can also imagine that Ms. Davis’ provocative title may well have sparked a hesitant albeit palpable feeling of relief. After all, such a bold statement about a generally feared section of the test from a representative of one of the most competitive and influential MBA programs in the world must be either commonly held or similarly held within most if not all MBA programs out there, right?
Evidence suggests that this is likely true. In “Schools To Ignore New GMAT Section,” David Byrne, founder of www.PoetsandQuants.com, quotes top admissions officials at the Wharton School, INSEAD, and Kellogg as saying very similar things to Ms. Davis at Stanford. Granted, despite the high profile of these four institutions, we are hard-pressed to come to a generalization about MBA admissions committees worldwide. However, what we do know a few things that, considered together, present a meaningful list of evidence that support an inference or two about what IR scores will mean for this year’s round of admissions decisions as well as those in the near future. Here’s what we know:
- Admissions officers have never seen IR scores before.
- Because they have never seen IR scores before, they have no established student data from which to measure prospective student data.
- GMAT scores are valid for 5 years.
- Many people will have valid GMAT scores that do not include an IR score to present to admissions committees.
- GMAC has a percentile distribution table for IR scores achieved and GMAC updates this table with new data regularly.
- A reported IR score will be accompanied by its then current percentile range.
- Admissions officers will see the IR score along with the other scores in the Official GMAT Score Report of an applicant.
- Some have said that, this year in particular, they will not factor the IR score into an admissions decision.
- Even those who claim the IR score will not impact this year’s decisions, they also say that they will be actively collecting the data and devising a structure for how to incorporate the new scoring data into admissions decisions made in the future.
- Integrated Reasoning will not be removed from the GMAT.
So what does all this mean to us? What supported inferences are we able to draw, and what should a test taker do during GMAT prep with respect to the IR section?
- The IR score will become more and more important in the future. Therefore, at minimum, those folks who are not submitting applications to b-school for the upcoming admissions cycle should diligently prepare for the IR section.
- It might be true that many are not taking the IR section as seriously as they could in light of the generally accepted idea that the IR score is not very important right now. Thus, the IR scoring data currently collected might be skewed. If that is the case, then the percentile distribution of IR scores might become more competitive. (Note: In the first published scoring scale, a 4 equated to the 50th percentile. When the scale was recently updated, a 5 now represents the 50th percentile.)
- Although some admissions committees are on record as saying they will not use IR scores in the established decision-making process, they will see the scores. Hence, there is a chance that a low IR score could have some impact in the mind of an admissions officer when evaluating an applicant. This impact, if it occurs, could be positive or negative.
- It can be imagined that some MBA applicants who do submit applications this year will not be accepted. Some of those individuals will like their GMAT score and not want to take the test again. Some of these individuals might have a low IR score which does not align with the percentile range of their Verbal, Quant, AWA, or Total GMAT scores.
- Finally, the absolute best and safest thing to do for any future GMAT test-taker is to diligently study for the Integrated Reasoning section and score as high as possible.
So, what do you think about the new IR section? What are you doing to prepare? How do you anticipate the scores to come into play in the future? Do you think that they will have any impact this year despite what some admissions departments are saying? We’d love to hear your thoughts!
August 29, 2012
For a previous post, a colleague of mine offered up the embedded video at the top, which I love. He said, “That video clearly demonstrates the “primacy of doing.” Ever since receiving his email, the phrase “primacy of doing” has echoed in my mind on a seemingly endless loop.
I had already begun to kick around a post idea on Kaplan’s Official Test Day Experience—mainly because I think it is one of the most attractive and impactful GMAT prep opportunities our company offers. If you are a Kaplan student who is on the fence about signing up for the Official Test Day Experience, or, you are not yet a Kaplan student and wonder what this is, here’s the scoop:
All Kaplan GMAT students* have an exclusive opportunity to take a practice test on-site at an official Pearson/VUE testing center. In fact, you can take it at the very same testing center where you will sit for the actual GMAT exam.
Think how meaningful that is! To take a full-length computer adaptive practice GMAT in the very room where you’ll take the real thing and have the opportunity to review a detailed breakdown of that test in its entirety is… All of my students who exploit this aspect of their course rave about how happy they are to have done so and how much it will assuredly help them on test day. In class, I then use their experiences to inspire and convince their colleagues to do the same.
When reading through some articles on BusinessWeek.com, I came across an interesting thought on “authenticity.” The author had been searching for a definition of the word, and he eventually created his own: closeness to the source. As I am sure you’ve already done, connect this idea with those surrounding the Official Teat Day Experience and the phrase “the primacy of doing.” How could I not write this blog post??
To all Kaplan students reading this post who have taken a practice test at a testing center AND to all people who have taken the official GMAT: please reply in the comments section below with your thoughts on the value of knowing exactly what to expect from your test day environment.
August 25, 2012
As you likely know, with the inclusion of the Integrated Reasoning (IR) section came the exclusion of the one of the previously required essays. Before the test change, GMAT test takers built their Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) score on the backs of two essays: Analysis of an Argument and Analysis of an Issue. These two essays would be scored independently—by one human and one computer—then those two scores would be averaged for a total AWA score on a 0-6 point scale in ½-point increments. In order to keep total testing time at 3.5 hours, test makers decided to cut the thirty-minute Analysis of an Issue essay and insert a thirty-minute Integrated Reasoning section.
So what can we make of this decision? Now, let’s not bicker about the Integrated Reasoning section here; it is what it is and we all have to deal with it. Rather, let’s focus on the essay left standing. Since we still have to write, are we better off with the Argument essay over the Issue essay? And, if so, is there a way we can ensure a top-scoring essay on test day? Good news: yes and yes.
First, writing an Argument essay over an Issue essay is preferable because of all the work we do studying GMAT Critical Reasoning (CR) questions. Seventy percent of CR questions we will see on test day will come from what is known as the Assumption Family of question types (aka, the Argument Family). In each of these question types—Assumption, Strengthen, Weaken, and Flaw—we always approach in the exact same way. That is, we identify the Conclusion, then we identify the Evidence, and then we can tease out the author’s primary Assumption(s) by applying our highly tuned critical thinking skills. You see, a GMAT argument will always state both a conclusion and evidence for the conclusion. What we will never be given, what the author will never state explicitly, are the underlying assumptions that allow this evidence to lead to this conclusion. But, in order to answer Assumption Family questions we must identify what those unstated assumptions are.
The good news about the Argument essay can be summed up by “The Four Truths” present in every single essay prompt created:
- There will be a Conclusion.
- There will be Evidence.
- There will be Assumptions linking the Conclusion and Evidence.
- Those Assumptions will be flawed.
Beautiful, right? The better we get at Critical Reasoning, the easier deconstructing the AWA essay prompt will be. In the Issue essay, we had to come up with our own ideas, reasoning, and support for taking a particular position on an issue provided. However, in the Argument essay, all we need is tucked away within the prompt itself. Sure, we have to do some detective work to sniff it out, but it is comforting to know it’s there and that we definitely have developed the skill to find it.
OK, so what about the other question: Is there a sure-fire way to churn out a top-scoring essay no matter what the given argument is? You bet. Quite simply, you’ll open by restating the conclusion and evidence in your own words. Then, you’ll identify at least two flawed assumptions and explain why they are flawed—one assumption per paragraph. After that, you’ll talk about how the argument could be strengthened (here, you can just feed off of what you said was wrong with it), then you’ll wrap up with a conclusion. That’s it.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, your GMAT essay is going to be scored by one human and one computer. I suggest reading my previous post titled “GMAT essays: Computers score your work, and they are really good at it” to learn more about those computers. But just in case you’re running short on time, I’ll give you the gist…
When that human grader gets to your essay—you know, the one you toiled over for half an hour—what do you think that human had been doing right before your essay popped up on their screen? Grading essays. And what do you think that human is going to do after they finish with your essay? Grading essays. And how much time do you think they will devote to evaluating your little essay baby that you worked so hard to compose? Under two minutes, even as little as one. So, then, what is that human trying to do? Emulate a machine.
The aforementioned structure of an Analysis of an Argument might seem bland and formulaic, but you need to appreciate that you are writing for a machine and someone trying their darndest to act like one. Feed the machine and you will be rewarded.
Do you have more questions about the argument essay or the test change? Post them in the comments and we’ll tackle them one at a time.
August 22, 2012
That video clearly demonstrates the “primacy of doing.” Shinya Kimura gives us an amazing example of the power of experiential learning. Plus, it’s just one of the coolest videos I’ve seen…Now let’s talk about how that relates to business school.
In a previous post, I examined a recent article by Warren G. Bennis that dug up some old mud for both another throw and a fresh reassessment of the dirt and water. Mr. Bennis promised to follow-up on examples of positive movement away from his primary critique of management education: too much focus on faculty research and not near enough on practical, useful, applicable education.
So who is doing it right? Several examples abound, but Bennis starts with the top of the hill: Harvard Business School.
Harvard Business School Dean, Nitin Nohria, is lauded for the rapidity and significance of the changes he has made to the HBS curriculum over the last two years while simultaneously upholding and nurturing the long-standing culture of the hallowed institution. Among his initiatives, Nohria has implemented what he calls Field Immersion Experiences for Leadership Development (FIELD). The thrust of FIELD is to narrow and bridge the gap between ‘knowing’ and ‘doing’—in other words, translate theory into practice.
Experiential learning is at the core of FIELD and is a pedagogical tool I have written about several times before. To Warren Bennis, the opportunity for MBA students to create a business then lead and manage it is precisely the type of opportunity so profoundly missing in management education. I could not agree more. With no reservations, I applaud HBS’s FIELD curriculum and hope the school’s role as a darling of media attention will inspire deans across the world to make certain their business students have similar requirements in the slog to an MBA degree.
In the end, education must be relevant. It must lay the foundation for lifelong learning in that those educated must be able to continuously augment knowledge forever-after they leave the gilded halls of academia. As I get older and as my long history as a formal student grows more temporally distant, it is this quality I hold most dear and is one I concurrently find so difficult to personify. Being inquisitive and staying abreast of current events is not enough. Education is about deconstruction, study of component parts, and reconstruction. Then, you must do it again and again to things you think you already know while at once taking on new and daunting material.
I can liken this experience to GMAT study (of course!). Simply reminding yourself of the properties of a triangle or a quadratic equation is simply not enough. A student must deconstruct the test and study what it is made of. Then, through application and practice, she reconstructs the test with a deeper understanding of what it really is. This process continues, cyclically, all the way to Test Day. After her GMAT course ends and her formal instruction is relegated to email exchanges between her and her instructor, the onus of learning is born solely by her alone. If the course has been successful and the resources are present for her to utilize, she can carry on her education and reach heights beyond her best days in class.
The experience of doing is what crystallizes knowing. We cannot have one without the other.