B-Schools Say GRE Option Attracts More Non-Traditional MBA Applicants

Kaplan Test Prep’s 2016 business school admissions officers survey finds that 92 percent accept the GRE as an alternative to the GMAT, giving aspiring MBAs more flexibility than ever in deciding which exam to take …

Kaplan Test Prep’s 2016 business school admissions officers survey finds that 92 percent accept the GRE as an alternative to the GMAT, giving aspiring MBAs more flexibility than ever in deciding which exam to take to get in.

This all-time high percentage in Kaplan’s annual survey represents a huge jump from its 2009 survey — the first year Kaplan asked the question — when only 24 percent of business schools said they accepted GRE scores.

But despite increased acceptance of the GRE among business schools, there’s a point of consideration for MBA applicants who are considering this option: The GMAT might still give applicants an edge at some schools. Twenty-six percent of admissions officer say those who submit a GMAT score have an admissions advantage over those who submit a GRE score.

Only 2 percent say GRE takers have the advantage; the remaining 73 percent say neither exam taker has the advantage, essentially unchanged from Kaplan’s 2015 survey.

Business schools have contended that accepting the GRE as an alternative to the GMAT — long the only accepted admissions exam –widens the pool of applicants beyond students from ‘traditional’ MBA backgrounds like finance, banking or consulting.

Kaplan survey data supports this notion and finds that schools have been successful in this effort, with 61 percent saying offering the GRE option has resulted in the enrollment of more students from nontraditional backgrounds. The GRE has not, however, significantly contributed to business schools enrolling more female students (25 percent), students of color (24 percent), or low income students (16 percent).

It’s important to note, unrelated to the GRE, that the percentage of female students at top business schools has increased over the past several years and there are other efforts underway to increase the number of students of color; and the GRE alone isn’t the only reason business schools have enrolled more students from non-traditional MBA backgrounds.

“One reason acceptance of the GRE continues to grow seems to be because it generally broadens the application pool to include prospective students who might bring a different set of experiences and skills to business school and the business world, which is important as the economy continues to diversify. It’s also possible that business schools that don’t offer the GRE option may lose excellent prospective students to schools that do,” said Brian Carlidge, executive director of pre-business and pre-graduate programs, Kaplan Test Prep.

“We continue to stress to students to understand that some schools are still reluctant to give both tests equal cachet, even though they accept both exams. Our advice is to gather intel and ask admissions officers if their program has preference for one exam over the other.”

*The survey was conducted between August 2016 and October 2016 of admissions officers at 224 business schools in the United States. Among the 224 business schools are 18 of the top 50, as ranked by U.S. News & World Report.

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Using an MBA to Change Careers

These days, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who stays with one company or even one industry throughout his or her entire professional life. If you’re looking for the fast track to gain the …

These days, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who stays with one company or even one industry throughout his or her entire professional life. If you’re looking for the fast track to gain the skills and network to launch your career in a new direction, a popular way to do so is through an MBA program. In fact, by some estimates, two-thirds or more of graduating MBAs use the degree as a means of switching careers.


While students often set their sights on a job in finance or consulting, the skills typically strengthened during business school—leadership, intellectual creativity, analysis and critical thinking, cross-cultural awareness, communication, even greater IT mastery—will serve you well as you find your way toward your ultimate career goal.

So-called career switchers look upon the degree as a way to expand international job opportunities, develop the right connections for future employment, and establish the potential for long-term income and financial stability. I personally went to business school because I wanted to transition from finance to marketing.  While I did achieve this, I also found that the MBA experience in and of itself opened up my mind to an array of new possibilities. I ended up in a career with a marketing focus, but it unfolded in a way I never would have considered pre-MBA.

Since application season is in full swing, I have a few words of advice for those applying to an MBA program now or in the near future. Business school demands a huge investment of your time, energy and finances, so make an airtight case to the admissions committee for why you want to go into this new field. Show that you know what the industry requires, the challenges you expect to face, and convey all previous experiences that demonstrate you have the transferable skills to make this switch.

One former SBC client, Sheila, worked as a real estate attorney focused on commercial transactions when she decided that she found working with the financial details more interesting than the legal intricacies. She passed the first level of the Certified Financial Analyst exam, but had a very limited understanding of other areas of business management. Though the CFA program is a tremendous resource, she had enough experience to know that she needed to develop the skills best provided by earning an MBA. Going to business school became the next logical step toward Sheila’s objective of working in real estate banking at a Wall Street firm.

If your undergraduate degree or work experience falls into the non-traditional category, make sure you clearly convey your long-term career goals within your application and essays, and explain in detail how you arrived at the conclusion that an MBA would help you further your professional aspirations. Know that the elite business schools welcome applicants from the humanities, but, unlike their business major peers, these candidates will need to prove to the admissions committee that their relatively minimal academic experience in quantitative subjects won’t be a hindrance once they hit those core courses.

Your GMAT or GRE score is the first and most obvious piece of the puzzle that indicates your ability to handle MBA-level course work, so allow yourself plenty of time to study for the exam. According to the Graduate Management Admission Council, which administers the GMAT, the average amount of study needed to achieve a score between 600 and 690 is 92 hours, and getting above that brass ring score of 700 is 102 hours. If you find your score has settled at the lower end of the spectrum, find other ways to demonstrate your quantitative competence, such as taking a college-level calculus class with a score of a B-plus or better.

Once you’re in b-school, opportunities abound to try out that new industry through coursework, student groups, internships, or networking with alumni. Self-reflection and exploration are key components of the MBA experience, giving students a chance to sample various fields and functions without making any firm commitments.

Embarking on a new career path with a freshly-minted MBA tucked under your arm isn’t just about new knowledge acquired in the classroom. It’s about leveraging your existing experience with enhanced skills, and even more so, it’s about making the most of personal relationships. All of the people, classes, activities, etc. in an MBA program catapult you into a whole new sphere, and you may come out with completely new ideas which help facilitate career change in ways you would not have thought of before. For me, this is the best part and the real opportunity business school provides.

The article originally appeared as a guest post for our partners at MBA Insight

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Ask the AdCom: Opportunities to Study Abroad

Hey everybody! We’re back with another installment of “Ask the AdCom,” where we share a wide range of tips and advice from admissions team members from a dozen top business schools. Since AdCom members are human, too, we …

Hey everybody! We’re back with another installment of “Ask the AdCom,” where we share a wide range of tips and advice from admissions team members from a dozen top business schools. Since AdCom members are human, too, we know our readers will enjoy seeing  a different side of what makes these guys tick.

This fun space is not really about the application process but more about real-life topics, like what’s a good book to readbest place to study, where you can find a killer meal near campus, and all the fun stuff happening at b-school that creates those lifelong, cherished memories for MBA students.

We hope you become inspired, too!

MBA study abroad options

Today’s Question is: What study abroad options can MBA program students explore?

Alex Lawrence, Assistant Dean of MBA Admissions at UCLA Anderson School of Management, points to The Global Immersion Program includes classes at UCLA Anderson and one week immersion in-country for a blend of classroom lectures, guest speakers, panel discussions, company visits and cultural activities.

Morgan Bernstein, Executive Director of Full-Time MBA Admissions  at Berkeley-Haas School of Business, says: Berkeley MBA students may embark on an international exchange program in the fall semester of their second year. International exchange programs are offered at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, IESE Business School, Universidad de Navarra, Barcelona, L’Ecole des Hautes Etudes Commerciales (HEC), Jouy-en-Josas, and London Business School.

Students can also do an exchange with Columbia Business School in New York. Students interested in international exposure without the semester exchange often participate in International Business Development (IBD), our global consulting course that sends student teams all over the world to complete a three-week consulting project.

Judi Byers, Executive Director of Admissions and Financial Aid  at Cornell’s Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management, asked students to share their experience with Johnson’s study abroad options:

  • Sydney Chernish, MBA ’16: We have programs where students can attend schools across the world. For shorter periods, there are opportunities to attend two week international treks to receive elective credit.
  • Najeen Riazi, MBA ’17: There is incredible diversity of study abroad programs.  I participated in programs in South Africa/Zanzibar and Israel and both were life-changing.
  • Daniel Greenhaw, MBA ’16: Yes – either semester abroad or week long excursions known as Johnson Treks.

Virginie Fougea, Associate Director of Admissions at INSEAD, says: In addition to our three campuses (Abu Dhabi, Fontainebleau & Singapore), we have alliances and partnerships with Kellogg, Wharton, SAIS John Hopkins and CEIBS in the US and China.

Shari Hubert, Associate Dean of MBA Admissions at Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business, says: We have semester exchange programs with ESADE, HEC, and BiMBA at Peking University. We also require all MBAs to complete the Global Business Experience course, which asks them to consult for a company abroad then travel to that company to present their recommendations to executives.

John Roeder, Assistant Dean Graduate Admissions  at SMU Cox School of Business, says: While we have traditional Study Abroad programs, all students will go abroad to either Asia, South America or Europe as a part of the Global Leadership Program at Cox at the end of their first year.

As one of the first leading business schools to mandate global immersion for our students, the Cox School has built deep and extensive relationships with the leaders of today’s greatest international companies. As a result, students don’t just tour countries and visit headquarter locations; you hear and learn from the C-level executives who lead their global organizations on a daily basis.

Allison Jamison, Admissions Director at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, says: In addition to our Global Academic Travel Experience (GATE) courses, where students study an area of the world for a term and then go to visit, we offer more than 30 international exchange partners from Denmark, to China, to South Africa, to Argentina, and more.

Isser Gallogly, Assistant Dean of MBA Admissions at NYU Stern School of Business, says: Yes, including our popular 1-2 week in-country, intensive courses called Doing Business in… (DBis) to explore how business is conducted in other countries in Central America, South America, Europe, Africa and Asia & Pacific.

Kelly R. Wilson, Executive Director of Admissions at CMU Tepper School of Business, says: Transitional Economies Study Abroad in EU is an option for those looking for a formal exchange program. Global Treks also play a role internationally.

Melissa Fogerty, Director of Admissions at Yale School of Management, says: Global engagement is a daily occurrence at Yale SOM…Our curriculum not only incorporates global perspectives into course work and cases but also requires significant global experience and includes a unique class on working in global virtual teams.

Yale SOM was the first major MBA program to require students to study abroad, with the introduction of our International Experience trips in 2006. Students now choose from a menu of Global Studies options, which include leveraging the Global Network for Advanced Management through Global Network Weeks and Courses, semester-long study abroad, International Experience trips, and real-world consulting experience with mission-driven entrepreneurs in the Global Social Entrepreneurship elective. Students also participate in an innovative Global Virtual Teams course, in which they partnered this year with Global Network peers at EGADE Business School in Mexico and HEC Paris in France on a virtual operations management project.


Get your passport ready, because it seems international travel is all but guaranteed when you pursue an MBA degree at one of the top b-schools anywhere in the world!  Look out for the #AskAdCom in our social media channels, and we’ll see you again next week when we check in to Ask the AdCom about the entrepreneurship resources available at their programs.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

On behalf of the entire team here at Stacy Blackman Consulting, today we’d like to wish our U.S.-based followers and clients a lovely Thanksgiving and a joyous holiday season. In this time of gratitude, we …


On behalf of the entire team here at Stacy Blackman Consulting, today we’d like to wish our U.S.-based followers and clients a lovely Thanksgiving and a joyous holiday season.

In this time of gratitude, we give enormous thanks for our 15 amazing years in the MBA admissions consulting business, and for you, our loyal blog readers. We appreciate your confidence in our work and are grateful that you’ve chosen us as a trusted resource to help you achieve your MBA goals.

Warmest wishes,

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Tips to Help You Ace Every B-School Interview Format

Whether you’ve already received an interview invitation or are hoping to get an invite over the next few weeks, you want to make sure you’re prepared to do your best when the big day arrives. …

Whether you’ve already received an interview invitation or are hoping to get an invite over the next few weeks, you want to make sure you’re prepared to do your best when the big day arrives. As you might suspect, the admissions interview is the place to convey your talent, drive and personality in a way no written application can match.

Businesswomen shaking hands

By knowing what to expect, you’ll be able to relax and focus your energies on dazzling the interviewer with your professional skills and strengths. But remember, he or she also wants to get a feel for you as a person, to find out how you’d fit in with the school’s unique culture, and how you would contribute as a student if admitted.

Applicants should begin their interview prep by learning their application and resume backward and forward in order to crystallize those professional goals and motivations. Ask yourself these key questions:

  • Can I clearly articulate my career plan and future goals?
  • What is my motivation to obtain an MBA?
  • How do I plan to use my MBA in my career?
  • What do I really want from my MBA experience?
  • Why is X business school the right place for me?
  • What can I bring to this MBA community?
  • Where do I see myself in 5, 10 or 15 years?

Here are three common questions that come up during the one-on-one MBA interview, with some advice on how to respond succinctly and with substance:

1. Tell me about yourself.
My first piece of advice: don’t go on and on. Quickly summarize the highlights of your college years and then move on to your professional career. Explain why you took the roles you did, what your main responsibilities were, and what you enjoyed or took away from each position. If you’ve stayed at the same company for several years, you could talk about how your responsibilities have increased over time.

2. Why do you want to go School X?
If you haven’t discussed your short- and long-term career goals yet, you could begin your response by briefly explaining what you’re hoping to do after graduation. Then you can state the specific skills and knowledge you’ll need to be successful in the future—and how School X can help you fill those gaps.

3. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
The worst thing you could say in response to this question is “No.” Even if you’ve had an hour-long discussion that covered everything under the sun and you’re feeling confident about how things have gone, you still should take this opportunity to reiterate why you’re excited about the program and why you’d be an asset to the incoming class. And, of course, if there’s something specific about your candidacy that you feel could improve your odds and you haven’t been able to discuss it up to this point, now’s the time to do so.

Do You Play Nice with Others? The Group or Team-Based Interview
Business schools want to see how candidates interact with peers before anyone’s even admitted, which can be very telling. It’s not actually an interview, per se, because no questions will be asked of participants. Through observation of each member’s discussions and communication with the group, the admissions team hopes to glean deeper insight into each applicant’s teamwork and interpersonal skills.

Here’s what you don’t want to do during a group interview:

  • Dominate the conversation
  • Cut others off or dismiss someone’s idea entirely
  • Raise your voice
  • Roll your eyes, cross your arms, or display any other kind of negative body language
  • Take out your phone or any other electronic device
  • Here’s what you should try to accomplish:
  • Demonstrate you’ve done your research (if given a topic in advance)
  • Listen—truly listen—to the others in your group when they speak
  • Seize any opportunities to either build upon or refer to someone else’s point
  • Put the group’s goal ahead of trying to get airtime
  • Offer to summarize if the conversation has reached a point where the group would benefit from a quick recap

As many MBA applicants are born leaders who are used to taking charge, you’ll need to be conscious of the fact that you might be surrounded by lots of Type A personalities and adjust your style accordingly. However, if you tend to be on the shy side, don’t let others intimidate you. If no one’s given you the chance to get a word in, you’re going to have to find an appropriate way to join the conversation before it’s too late.

Ready for Your Close-Up? Prepping for the Video Interview
In an era where MBA applicants often come across as overly packaged and polished, an increasing number of MBA programs have started using online video-interview platforms in order to get a better sense of your personality. They’ve seen what you have going for you on paper; a video interview can help them judge whether or not the “real you” matches the impression you’ve built through your other materials. Here are some video-interview tips:

  • Prepare (and practice) succinct responses for all of the typical MBA-related questions: Why Program X, Why an MBA overall, Why now, What are your career goals, Summarize your career to date, and so on.
  • Then add some “fun” questions and responses into the mix: Review the last book you read/movie you saw/TV show you watched; What’s your favorite song and why; Where’s the best place you’ve gone on vacation, et cetera
  • Record yourself answering these questions. Have a trusted friend review your responses and tell you how you’re coming off. Tweak your style accordingly.

When the big moment arrives and it’s time for the real thing, remember that no one is trying to trick you into embarrassing yourself. It’s just another opportunity for you to show what an asset you’ll be to an MBA program. So if you experience technical glitches such as a frozen feed or dropped audio, remember that maintaining your poise and keeping your frustration in check will further help you make a positive impression on your interviewer. Also, dress in appropriate business attire from head to toe. If you need to stand up for any reason during the interview and have nothing but boxers on, rest assured that is an impression the interviewer won’t soon forget.

Mind Your Manners
Finally, don’t forget to send your interviewer a thank-you note or email no later than the following day. Some admission committees need to make accept and denial decisions very quickly, so you shouldn’t let more than 24 hours go by before you send your message. If you interviewed in the morning, send it before the business day is over. If your talk was in the late afternoon or evening, get your email out first thing the next morning.

A word of caution: a thank-you note is not the place to try and sell yourself any further or write another mini-essay. The point is to show that you’re excited about and thankful for the opportunity to be considered for a spot in Program X.

It may sound cliché, but remember to just be yourself, and pay attention to first impressions. The evaluation process of your fit with the program actually starts before you sit down with your interviewer, so you want to make sure that every interaction you have, including with the office staff, is courteous and further adds to a positive impression of your candidacy. If you can show you’re prepared to work well with a team, know exactly how an MBA will benefit your career, and why X school is the best fit for you, you may soon find yourself on the positive side of the highly competitive MBA interview and application process.

This article, written by SBC consultant Sherry Holland, originally appeared on Poets & Quants

Image by Flickr user: CNJ’s photostream (CC BY-NC 2.0) 

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