April 25, 2013
Last summer, the GMAT made the most major change to its format in 15 years by replacing one of the essays with the Integrated Reasoning (IR) section. Since then, GMAT test-takers have been wondering how IR impacts their b-school applications. As it turns out, business schools are wondering exactly the same thing.
In the IR section of the GMAT, test-takers evaluate data in graphs, spreadsheets, and charts, similar to the materials they will eventually see in business school. In theory, IR can better assess students’ ability to perform the tasks expected of them in business school and the work world. Nearly a year after the inclusion of IR, the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), who administers the GMAT, and business schools nationwide are taking the first steps to determine what role IR should play in the admissions process.
Bloomberg Businessweek recently reported that business schools across the country are actively assessing the significance of IR performance on students’ eventual success in business school. While IR isn’t currently being given much weight in the admissions process, largely because many applicants took the GMAT before the test change and therefore do not have IR scores, business schools are analyzing IR data to get a better understanding of the role it will eventually play in admissions. Dan Poston, of the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business, states, “We want to see how it [IR] plays out…We want to see how predictive it is of student’s success at school.”
GMAC has released some key data on the IR section, based upon results of the more than 123,000 test-takers who have taken the GMAT since IR was added to the test. GMAC reports that the distribution of scores is normal and without bias against any subgroup of test-takers. In short, these results suggest that IR has the potential to be a valid predictor of student success in b-school.
In addition to analyzing data from GMAC, some schools are directly studying the connection between IR and student performance. For instance, at Vanderbilt University’s Owen Graduate School of Management, a group of 60 second-year students will complete the IR portion of the GMAT. Their IR scores will then be compared to their success in core courses in order to determine whether IR performance positively correlates with b-school performance.
The obvious question for GMAT test-takers is how they should approach IR in order to put together the best application package possible. While IR may not play a major role in the admissions process for the next few years, a solid IR score can only help applicants. As Dawna Clarke of Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business notes, “IR will help prospective students more than it will hurt them…If you are not ‘quant strong,’ but you have strong IR skills, then this test will help you shine.”
February 22, 2013
Just read an article titled ‘Is the MBA Relevant for Entrepreneurs?’ This is an interesting topic for me for a couple of reasons. First, I completed my MBA with dual concentrations in Entrepreneurship and Finance. The latter was a result of happenstance more than an actual interest in finance. I inadvertently satisfied the requirements for the concentration and find it almost comedic that I ended up with one. The former, however, was a target from the start.
Pursuing entrepreneurship as an academic discipline is an interesting undertaking and there are many out there who believe the mettle entrepreneurship requires cannot be learned, or, at the very least, it cannot be taught. It is this notion that strikes another chord with me. Coming from an undergraduate background in fine arts, I’ve run across the you-are-either-born-with-it-or-you-aren’t idea many times before.
I am among the group that holds entrepreneurship (and artistic endeavor for that matter) can be both taught and learned. I have been on both sides of this coin—i.e., the learning and the teaching—although I must admit that my hands-on foray into the world of entrepreneurship did result in, well, figuring out a way not to do it. Nonetheless, I maintain that success as an entrepreneur is much more a product of skills than personality traits. I will accept that certain folks have characteristics that lend themselves well to pursuing entrepreneurial ventures, but anyone with the desire to push forward a viable idea can do so. Entrepreneurial education just helps to make sure the execution is more likely to result in a sustainable business that is as strong as it can be.
Interestingly, entrepreneurship as an MBA concentration has grown by leaps and bounds over the past several decades. Many MBA aspirants have targeted business school as an opportunity to shore up knowledge, skill, and a network in order to pursue the dream of starting, sustaining, and perhaps even ultimately exiting one or more businesses. Academia has responded in kind. Not only will you find e-ship as a concentration at countless b-schools, but you will also find professors at universities who have dedicated their research lives to the activity, entrepreneurship centers housed within the walls of these universities that aim to support and nurture entrepreneurs and their ventures, and several annual b-school rankings, both graduate and undergraduate, centered around e’neurship that are highly competitive.
Whether an MBA is relevant for you and your entrepreneurial goals is something each individual must answer for themselves. In fact, honest introspection is precisely what admissions committees want most from applicants (read this recent Forbes article on that very idea). However, it is going to be very difficult to construct an argument about anything inherently irrelevant about utilizing an MBA education in order to help advance your career goals, whatever they may be.
Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance of drawback, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative, there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and endless plans: The moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves, too.
All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would come his way.
Whatever you can do or dream you can begin it! Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.”
– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
When I was a college English teacher, I regularly warned my students about the dangers of plagiarizing their assignments. In addition to pointing out that plagiarism is simply unethical, I made it clear that plagiarists would be punished, through a failing grade on an assignment, expulsion from class, or even academic probation. Nevertheless, every semester I would catch at least a few students who either missed my warnings or chose to ignore them.
Today, some business school applicants take the same risks, ignoring schools’ warnings about plagiarism and submitting plagiarized essays, despite the steep penalties should they be caught. A recent article in U.S. News and World Report reports that both Penn State’s Smeal College of Business and UCLA’s Anderson School of Management recently rejected over 60 applicants due to plagiarized material. Additionally, Northeastern University’s D’Amore-McKim School of Business has identified 50 cases of potential plagiarism, which are currently being investigated.
In today’s digital world, plagiarism is easier than ever–students can easily buy or copy essays from the comfort of their own bedrooms–but plagiarism is also more easily detected. Penn State, UCLA, and Northeastern are among the more than 100 colleges and universities that use Turnitin, software that checks for original work and flags potential plagiarism. Turnitin compares papers to other student papers within its database, public web pages, and commercial pages from books, newspapers, and journals, making the task of identifying plagiarized essays much simpler for admissions officials.
In short, plagiarism might be easy, but it’s not worth the risk. So, now that you’ve reaffirmed your aversion to plagiarism, what can you do to put together a solid MBA application essay? Here are few tips:
- Start thinking about your essays sooner rather than later. The earlier you start brainstorming and writing your essays, the more time you’ll have for revision and improvement.
- Be specific about who you are, why you want to go to business school, and what your goals are. The best way to stand out is to demonstrate your passion for your career interests and goals. Check out last week’s blog “Add Depth to MBA Application Essays by Owning Your Goals” for suggestions for making your essays more specific.
- Get feedback. Have a variety of people read your essays. Get feedback from friends, family members, AND co-workers so you can revise your essays from several different perspectives. You don’t need to go overboard–commentary from too many people can become overwhelming–but the insights of several different people will help you perfect your essay.
- Most importantly, be true to yourself. Business school is a big investment, and as much as you want schools to accept you, you also want to select a program that is right for you. Putting your true self forward in your essays will help to ensure that the programs you are accepted to will be good fits for you and your goals.
February 19, 2013
How many self-assessment tools for personal development are out there? Let me Google that for you … Well, I don’t know about you, but the ocean certainly seems red with more than 4.7 million search query results.
If you are looking for such a tool or wondering about any that are particularly relevant to meeting your academic and career goals, let me focus your search by directing you to GMAC’s ReflectTM. Developed by GMAC in partnership with Hogan Assessments, Reflect offers clients a unique report and subsequent action plan, including resources, that are presented from a business perspective using business language.
After purchasing the tool for $99.99, customers take approximately 45 minutes to answer more than 500 dichotomous questions (i.e., true/false, yes/no) and immediately receive quantified ranking across ten different competencies. From operational thinking to strategic vision, from resilience to interpersonal intuition, each of the competencies are presented alongside details, actions, and benchmarks. For the next three years, participants can work to complete prescribed actions, utilize embedded resources to do so, and track their personal developmental progress.
Perhaps the most noteworthy aspect of Reflect is the action-oriented focus coupled with resources with which individuals can complete those actions. After all, there is little value in reading a descriptive assessment report without any prescriptive information that allows you to strive toward betterment. This notion is precisely what underpins Kaplan’s Smart ReportsTM technology.
Interestingly, the Reflect project was originally began under the auspices of creating a soft-skills assessment for admissions committees at business schools to use when making admissions decisions. It was thought that such an assessment would be a useful complement to the hard skills assessment of competencies the GMAT quantifies. As the product development team moved forward, it became apparent that “soft-skills are coachable and not appropriate for high-stakes testing,” said Andy Martelli, VP of GMAC product development, as paraphrased here. During a product preview event in held last year in Chicago, Mr. Martelli went onto explain that the target customers of Reflect were business school students interested in identifying strengths and weaknesses in order to zero-in on specific behaviors they can work to modify during the time spent pursuing and professionally implementing an advanced degree in management.
If you have used Reflect, please give us your feedback below!
February 14, 2013
Business school candidates are often asked to share examples of a variety of experiences with MBA admissions committees for their MBA applications. We always encourage applicants to truly reflect on their lives and consider all potential stories—academic, professional, community, extracurricular, athletic, international, personal and more. However, questions inevitably arise: “Can I use stories from high school and college?” “Can I use a story from four years ago?” ”How far in the past is too far in the past?” Although no definitive rule exists, with the exception of questions that specifically ask about personal history or family background, schools generally want to learn about the mature you—the individual you are today. So we ask, “How long have you been the you that you are today?”
When considering experiences that occurred long ago, ask yourself, “Would this impress an MBA admissions committee today?” If you ran a few successful bake sales six years ago when you were in college, this clearly would not stand the test of time and impress strangers today. However, if, while you were still a student, you started a small business that grew and was ultimately sold to a local firm when you graduated, you would have a story to tell that would likely impress an admissions committee.
Inevitably, judgment is always involved in these decisions. Nonetheless, we offer this simple test as a starting point to help you decide which stories to share.
January 22, 2013
Welcome to 2013! For current b-school applicants, January marks the beginning of the end of the application period. For those applying next year, January is the perfect time to get started on the process. If getting your MBA is one of your New Year’s resolutions, here are some tips to help you get started on achieving your goal.
• Start prepping for the GMAT: While many b-school applicants leave their GMAT prep for the fall, winter and spring are actually a better time to start your prep. Starting your GMAT prep now gives you plenty of time to master the material on the test. Doing well on the GMAT requires more time than many test takers realize: top scorers on the GMAT spend over 100 hours studying for the test, which generally requires a solid two to three months of preparation time. Beginning your prep in winter or spring gives you that time, as well as a “cushion” during which you can retake the test if you want to. Start investigating the GMAT by taking a free practice test (you can find upcoming Kaplan practice tests at kaptest.com) and visiting the testmakers’ website, mba.com, for additional information about test format, scoring, and preparation. The added benefit of starting your GMAT prep now? The sooner you get the GMAT out of the way, the sooner you can focus on putting together the rest of your application package.
• Research schools: There are a lot of MBA programs out there, and sifting through all the information about them can be overwhelming. Do you want to stay close to home or travel to a new city, state, or country? Are you interested in a full-time or part-time program? Where do you see yourself working after you finish your MBA? What sector are you interested in working in? These are key questions to ask yourself, and the answers will help you determine what schools you might be interested in. Start narrowing down your selections now so that you’re ready once schools open their applications in the summer and fall. Great places to start are the rankings in US New and World Report, Businessweek, and Financial Times. These lists will provide you with information about schools’ available programs, average GPA and GMAT scores, admission rate, and tuition. Also, blogs such as Poets & Quants will often feature posts that provide more detailed information about individual schools as well as comparisons of different programs.
• Think about why you want an MBA: While every school’s essays are different (and most schools change their essays somewhat year to year), virtually every program will ask you why you want an MBA now and what you want to do with it in the future. This is a crucial question for you to think about, and not just for your application: your answer to this question will help you determine what really matters to you about getting an MBA, which will help you narrow down your school choices. Think about what kind of work you enjoy doing–fincance? marketing? entrepreneurship? nonprofit?–and how an MBA will fit into that picture in the future. As you ponder this question, you may even find that a traditional MBA is not what you want; you may find yourself more interested in an international or executive MBA, or possibly a Master’s of accounting, supply chain management, or public policy, to name just a few MBA alternatives.
Taking these first steps towards your goal of an MBA now will ensure that you are ready once applications are available and will help make the application process much easier and less stressful. Addressing these topics well before the height of application season will give you more time and energy to focus on the rest of your application, and ultimately, the better you can focus next fall on putting together a solid application, the better your chances are of getting into the program of your choice.
December 13, 2012
Writing your own recommendation letters for your business school applications can seem like a blessing. Suddenly, you have the power to control an aspect of the application process that was previously beyond you. So, your downside risk in these letters is mitigated and your upside is infinite, right? Well, it does not quite work that way.
Admissions committees are not seeking blustery rave reviews, but are seeking recommendations that are detailed and personal, intimate and sincere. Can you really write about yourself with a dispassionate sincerity? And, even if you are a master of “dispassionate sincerity,” are you able to capture the subtleties that enable you to standout? For example, let’s say that among the many important things that you do, you also do something thoughtful, which you do not even perceive to be significant – you take new team members to lunch. While you regard “closing the big deal” as significant, others may appreciate and admire this small and impactful act, which forges team unity. Unfortunately, you may lack the objectivity necessary to ensure that this nice detail makes it into your letter.
This is but one simple example, but our point is that you probably will not know what is missing from your letter if you write it yourself. So, when you approach your supervisor for a recommendation, go in ready to push back a bit if they ask you to write your own letter. Some may be busy or lazy and others may think that they are doing you a favor by giving you control. Be prepared to impress upon your recommender that you can’t help yourself and that he/she can. After all, that is why you are approaching him or her in the first place!
WSJ got me reading, sure, but is it better to have an irritated reader than none at all? I suppose so. Admittedly, I am doing exactly the same thing both the Journal and the researchers at Northern Illinois University are doing: using Facebook in a shameless attempt to capture your attention. It worked on me and now it has worked on you. Maybe after you’re done here you can go read People or watch Fox News for some more pandering.
I’ve written before about the GMAT as a selection tool (here and here), and it is a conversation I have with all my students. It is important to understand why we have to take the GMAT and what the GMAT really is. The more you understand about the test, the more power you have over it (and the less it has over you). The basic idea is that the GMAT is built and validated to predict only one thing: your future academic performance in the first year of graduate school. That’s it. What the GMAT doesn’t predict is how smart you are or how successful you will be in your post-MBA career. Although, to that last point, some are sadly using it to do just that, which is what prompted this post.
The article is more of a snippet and it is formatted as a series of Facebook status updates (though I believe the irony of this is lost on them). An aside: the trend of online articles presented in sentences-as-paragraphs form is frustrating to me, and this one exemplifies the issue. Anyway, it did spark my memory of other invalid ways of predicting job performance so I figured I share it with you.
Scroll down to the third snippet in the stream of three and you’ll find some interesting statistics derived from GMAT data regarding the decreasing average age of MBA applicants. Of course, we can only conclude the MBA applicant is getting younger if we assume that those taking the GMAT are submitting b-school applications soon after taking the exam rather than waiting until closer to the end of the five-year test score expiration date.
Interestingly, 44% of GMAT test takers worldwide are 24 and younger, which is a 7% increase over five years. Speculation of a tough job market caused by a struggling US economy that is forcing undergraduates to apply to grad school earlier than planned is presented. We then learn that 77% of Chinese GMAT test takers are 24 and under—finally some hard numbers that don’t rely on assumptions!
I could not help but tenuously link the bit about Facebook and a younger MBA applicant pool, then land squarely on the side of grumpy-old-man cynicism. I respect people with drive and ambition and who recognize the value of graduate business education. However, solid time out of school including a muddy trudge through life before heading back to academia makes for a stronger applicant and a more meaningful grad school experience. My hope is that business schools continue to value highly years of work experience in their applicants and that they keep the number of 24-and-younger MBA degree seekers to a minimum in their admitted cohorts. Above all, I hope they don’t start using Facebook to predict academic performance. Let’s let the GMAT have that one, OK?