May 20, 2013
One’s level of Emotional Intelligence (EI), sometimes referred to and measured as an Emotional Quotient (EQ), not to be confused with one’s Intelligence Quotient (IQ), is gaining more and more importance in the minds of psychologists, sociologists, human resource professionals, and, now, business school admissions officers – at least at Yale anyway. The Yale School of Management will begin testing its 2013 MBA cohort on their ability to both manage and understand emotions, according to a recent article. The testing is being initiated with the expressed intention of one day including such EI evaluations in the admissions process at the school. From the article:
“It is our goal to more closely tie the Leadership Development Program and admissions process together,” writes Bruce DelMonico, assistant dean and director of admissions, in an e-mail. “We feel it would be a natural complement to the more quantitative elements of the admissions process (test scores, previous academic performance) and would help us gain a fuller sense of our students’ leadership abilities, but we are still evaluating the best way to integrate it into future admissions cycles.”
Interestingly, according to the Wall Street Journal, Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business has been using a 206-item online questionnaire for the last three years it calls the Personal Characteristics Inventory to further assess its applicants. As per the WSJ article, applicants are bifurcated into “recommended” and “not recommended” categories. Being placed in one category or the other does not ensure acceptance or declination, respectively. In fact, the senior associate director of MBA admissions at Mendoza claims the inventory is used primarily to “identify diamonds in the rough.”
Yale and Notre Dame are not alone. Dartmouth and MIT’s b-schools have and continue to incorporate some aspect of EQ testing in candidate and/or student assessment and the University of Ottowa have studied the EQ of their med school applicants. Yet, a leading theorist on Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman, cautions that business school may well be interpreting EI inappropriately if they are selecting for it. Since EQ can be increased over time, experience, and training, “It should be the task of the business school itself to help people develop strength in emotional intelligence,” says Goleman in the WSJ article.
Misperceived or not, EQ metrics appear to be gaining ground in the b-school admissions process. If you are interested in learning more about your emotional intelligence quotient, tests abound. And, may this be a warning: caffeine has been called the “silent killer of emotional intelligence.” So, if it’s Yale you want, perhaps consider cutting java out of your life.
April 29, 2013
From The Free Dictionary:
a. Able to express oneself readily and effortlessly
b. Flowing effortlessly; polished
2. Flowing or moving smoothly; graceful
3. Flowing or capable of flowing; fluid
When I teach people how to beat the GMAT a common refrain of mine during class #1 goes something like this:
“It is not enough to study content. It’s not enough to study methods and strategies. It’s not enough to merely understand how to get the right answer to a GMAT question. If you truly want to dominate this test, which is entirely possible for you to do, then you must attain GMAT fluency. You must be fluent in all aspects of the GMAT: content, methodology, strategy, timing, what the GMAT is, what the GMAT is built to test, why you have to take it, what the scores communicate, the levels and types of stress it cultivates, etc., etc., etc. Fluency is the key.”
In Kaplan GMAT courses, we begin our conversation about the Quant and Verbal sections of the test by discussing what we call the GMAT’s four Core Competencies. These core skills are what the GMAT is designed to test and every single question you will face on test day will leverage each of these competencies in some way. A particular problem solving question, for example, may lean heavily on critical thinking and pattern recognition, and less so on paraphrasing and attention to the right detail. The next one, though, might be built almost entirely around one tucked away, camouflaged detail that most test takers brush right by on their way to getting the right answer to the wrong question—a common GMAT mistake. However, the other three central competencies will still lurk within this question and the test will reward those who exercise those skills.
The point of this conversation about what skills the GMAT cares most about, despite my best efforts to make it intriguing, is very often lost on many. I try my best to describe that the GMAT is a definable thing and it belongs in a particular box and that the walls of this box are created by these core competencies. I try my best… but, despite my effort, I watch so many who are new to the game inherit only the most superficial appreciation of these concepts. I move on because there is always so much to do in a Kaplan class, always so much to cover, and I must trust that at some point on their trip down Preparation Road each will, in turn, have their own “a-ha moment” and perhaps revisit the big ideas again. (Admittedly, I help ensure these revelations by consistently tracking the competencies throughout the course.)
Possibly, what makes it a difficult sell initially is that the GMAT will never test whether someone knows what the four core competencies are or what aspects of a particular question pertain to which. Similarly, it is hard for some to remember the names of the Critical Reasoning or Reading Comprehension question types. After all, that terminology will never actually be tested. Yet, the ability to spot and accurately identify these question types is monumentally crucial to test day success. How a question ought to be approached and answered is inextricably tied to its type. Nonetheless, it is a common occurrence in my line of work to engage a seasoned GMAT prep student in conversation over a troublesome question and during that discussion I inquire as to the type of question we are talking about. Promptly, I am then met with a coy smile followed by, “I dunno… assumption? Inference?”
It is not that the student can’t understand the difference between an assumption question vs. an inference question. It is not even that they can’t articulate that difference if really pressed. The problem is that understanding is not enough. This knowledge must be at the very front of your mind. It must flow out of you so effortlessly it is as if you aren’t really even thinking at all—you are just doing.
Fluency is the key. It is difficult to acquire, though entirely possible, and it must be continuously worked in order to maintain once achieved. We most often use and think of fluency in regard to language—of which all of us are fluent in at least one. So, to stick with this line of thinking, I ask you:
Can you speak GMAT? Can you speak it fluently?
April 19, 2013
Time: 1:00pm EDT
Why: To learn how to find the right fit for business school.
mbaMission is a highly respected business school admissions consulting firm. Kaplan GMAT initiated a relationship with the organization’s founder and president, Jeremy Shinewald, in 2010 for our Road to Business School events and we have worked closely with this outstanding company ever since.
We are very excited to spread the word about an upcoming Twitter event mbaMission is hosting next week on Wednesday, April 24th. Please, do yourself a favor and set aside the time to attend this event!
Be sure to follow @mbaMission and the #mbachat hashtag. All attendees will have the opportunity to submit admissions questions they might have and get expert advice from Mr. Shinewald himself. This is an outstanding opportunity and we hope to see you there!
March 21, 2013
Integrated Reasoning (IR) hit the GMAT in June 2012. Here we are, nearing the end of March 2013. Schools have been receiving IR scores from applicants for the last nine months. I have been teaching the section for that long, as well. Amazingly, Kaplan’s first blog post about Integrated Reasoning was nearly three years ago on June 25, 2010, and my first of many posts involving IR was published on Halloween 2011 (although I first mentioned it in September of that same year). All this to acknowledge the notable history the IR section has already accrued and to tee us up for a little “where are they now” segment.
In September 2012, I wrote a blog post titled “Does my Integrated Reasoning score matter?” At the time, IR had been actively battling GMAT test takers for three months. On the minds of nearly all test-takers-in-training was the potential influence over an admissions decision that this new and difficult section would hold. Unsurprisingly, this concern remains quite potent. So, let’s talk it out.
A colleague of mine, Jenny Lynch, recently referred to a Bloomberg Businessweek article to discuss the evolution of how university admissions offices are utilizing IR scores—or, more accurately, learning how to utilize IR scores. These offices are focused on obtaining data, both university derived as well as data coming from GMAC. The goal is to establish IR as a valid predictor of academic performance in business school. Once this is done, schools can appropriately weight and consider IR scores within the totality of a student’s application package.
While the Bloomberg article maintains a tone suggesting imminent impact, a sober read tracks right along with the expectations we‘ve previously laid out and confirmed through research. In short, admissions committee members remain undecided on the future importance of IR scores. However, what these folks have decided is that, at present, IR scores are not important.
No doubt, Integrated Reasoning is here to stay and no doubt the score it generates will slowly gain traction at admissions offices. However, there is still over four years of valid GMAT score reports that will not contain an IR record. Additionally, the GRE is and will continue to be an accepted admissions exam in lieu of the GMAT at business schools. The GRE has both a Quant and Verbal section as well as an essay portion just as the GMAT does. However, there is nothing like IR on the GRE.
Inarguably, the GMAT is the preeminent business school admissions exam. It communicates a level of focus and dedication to securing a graduate management degree that the GRE will never be able to replicate. Integrated Reasoning strengthens the GMAT’s already powerful position. Students must take IR seriously and prepare diligently. A strong IR score can only help. A weak one could very well damage an application, especially as time marches forward.
It is vital, though, to not artificially inflate or otherwise place this new section above its deserved position. The result will lead to increased stress levels and, therefore, a correlated decrease in overall performance. While IR has the potential to communicate valuable information, it is very unlikely it will become the make-or-break message some might passively suggest. Further, one thing is absolutely certain: no matter how institutions decide to weight IR scores, the 200-800 point total score will always be the most crucial aspect of a GMAT score report.
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.”
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 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.
February 12, 2013
Many business school candidates struggle to define their long-term goals in their application essays. Although short-term goals should be relatively specific, long-term goals can be broad and ambitious. Regardless of what your short- and long-term goals actually are, what is most important is presenting a clear “cause and effect” relationship between them. The MBA admissions committee will be confused by a long-term goal that lacks grounding. Still, you should not interpret this to mean that you need to choose one industry and state that you will stay in it for your entire career. You can present any career path that excites you—again, as long as you also demonstrate a logical path to achieving your goals.
For example, many MBA candidates discuss having ambitions in management consulting. Could an individual with such aspirations justify any of the following long-term goals?
A) Climbing the ladder and becoming a partner in a consulting firm
B) Launching a boutique consulting firm
C) Leaving consulting to manage a nonprofit
D) Leaving consulting to buy a failing manufacturing firm and forge a “turnaround”
E) Entering the management ranks of a major corporation
The answer is yes! This candidate could justify any of these long-term goals (and many others), as long as he/she connects them to experiences gained via his/her career as a consultant. With regard to your goals, you need not feel constrained—you just need to emphasize and illustrate that your goals are logical, achievable and ambitious.
February 5, 2013
When MBA admissions officers read your application, they want feel inspired by your personal statement; they want to feel that you have a strong sense of purpose and that you will aggressively work toward your goals. So, you need to ensure that you are not presenting generic or shallow goals. Although this problem is not industry specific, it occurs most often with candidates who will to pursue careers in investment banking or consulting but do not have a true understanding of what these positions actually entail.
For example, a candidate cannot merely state,
“In the short term, when I graduate from Wharton, I want to become an investment banking associate. After three years, I will be promoted to vice president, and then in the long term, I will become a managing director.”
This hypothetical candidate does not express any passion for his/her proposed course, does not show any understanding of the demands of the positions and does not explain the value he could bring to the firm. We suggest that to avoid these kinds of shortcomings, you conduct this simple test when writing your personal statement: if you can easily substitute another job title into your career goals (“In the short term, when I graduate from Wharton, I want to become a consultant. After three years, I will be promoted to vice president and then in the long term, I will become a managing director.”), you know you have a serious problem on your hands and need to put more work into your essay.
To effectively convey your goals, you need to own your goals. This means personalizing them, determining and presenting why you expect to be a success in the proposed position and explaining why an opportunity exists for you to contribute. For example, a former forestry engineer could make a strong argument for joining an environmental impact consulting firm (Note: This candidate would still need to explain why he/she would want to join one.); similarly, a financial analyst in the corporate finance department at Yahoo! could connect his/her goals to tech investment banking. Although the connection need not be so direct (especially for candidates seeking to change careers), relating your past experiences and/or your skills to your future path is still extremely important. This approach will add depth to your essay and ensure that the admissions committee takes you seriously.