Tag Archives: GRE

MBA Application Trends in 2014-2015

How many schools are applicants applying to? How important are MBA rankings? Should you consider submitting GRE scores rather than the GMAT? These are just a few of the questions we here at Stacy Blackman …

How many schools are applicants applying to? How important are MBA rankings? Should you consider submitting GRE scores rather than the GMAT? These are just a few of the questions we here at Stacy Blackman Consulting attempted to find out with our MBA application trends survey, conducted online in April.

Poets & Quants picked up the story this week, and shared the main data points with their readers. Based on the responses of 675 participants who intend to apply to business school in the 2014-2015 admissions cycle, the survey showed an uptick in the number of applicants planning to apply to five schools this year. More than 25% plan to do so, up from 22.9% who aimed for five schools in 2013.

This increase reflects the growing awareness among applicants of the ultra-competitive nature of b-school admissions, but also, an understanding that there are more than just a handful of terrific schools out there. Just a few years ago, highly competitive applicants wouldn’t go for an MBA unless they could get into Harvard, Stanford or Wharton. Now, applicants are interested in applying to a range of schools.

In fact, the list has become a lot longer and broader, with applicants adopting a more open attitude about where to study and adding schools such as UCLA Anderson, UT McCombs School of Business, and UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School into the mix, in addition to the power trio. MBA admissions have become increasingly competitive at the elite level, and applicants now realize that an MBA from a highly selective school offers all of the benefits and a similar return on investment as a degree from a very top brand.

This year’s survey showed that once again, applicants place a lot of weight on the value of rankings, with almost 70% of respondents saying rankings are extremely important, and less than 1% saying they weren’t important. Meanwhile, the influence of school reputation on an applicant’s decision of where to attend dipped slightly, from 52.4% in 2013 to 50.87% this year.

Applicants are starting to place greater attention to the strength of a school’s job placement program—21.87% this year, versus 18.8% in 2013. Career advancement remains the most important reason for attending business school for 43.7% of survey participants, followed by the desire to change careers, which motivates 38.17% of MBA hopefuls.

Finally, our survey polled prospective students on their interest in submitting GRE scores with their b-school application. While the GMAT still reigns supreme as the exam of choice, GRE interest this year grew to 7.65%, up from 3.97% in 2013.

At this point I’m not pushing the GRE, and we typically tell clients that unless they have a hard time with the GMAT, or with testing in general, the GMAT is the better way to go. The schools are just more comfortable with the GMAT in general since it’s such a known entity.

I believe people can always derive great value from going to business school, but many factors affect the kinds of programs that best meet their needs. Applicants need to find the very best fit for their own game plan.

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3 Surprising Application Mistakes Prospective MBAs Make

This post originally appeared on Stacy’s “Strictly Business” MBA Blog on U.S.News.com When it comes to making mistakes on a business school application, there are many places where candidates can run afoul and ruin their …

This post originally appeared on Stacy’s “Strictly Business” MBA Blog on U.S.News.com

When it comes to making mistakes on a business school application, there are many places where candidates can run afoul and ruin their chances at admission.

The road to an MBA contains countless potential pitfalls, including writing the wrong school name or otherwise failing to proofread; having generic essays designed to impress rather than reveal; and choosing recommenders based on their titles, not your relationship with them.

However, there are also more process-oriented mistakes students commonly make – and ways to avoid them.

[Follow these tips to recover from a botched MBA interview.]

Reality Check: Unrealistic School Selection

With all of the hype around the top b-school brands, it’s no wonder most applicants dream of earning their MBA at Harvard University or Stanford University. The cold, hard truth, however, is that these schools admit a tiny fraction of applicants each cycle.

Harvard Business School admitted just 12 percent of applicants to the class of 2015, while Stanford offered a seat to a mere 8 percent. Programs like those at University of California—Berkeley Haas School of Business or MIT Sloan School of Management are only a tad less competitive, with acceptance rates of about 14 percent and 15 percent, respectively.

This doesn’t mean you should abandon all hope of attending one of the world’s best business schools, especially if your stats are strong and your extracurriculars and leadership examples varied. But, should you happen to fall in the camp of the other 85 percent of applicants – that is, the vast majority – then the subject of having appropriate back-up schools comes into play.

Not all programs are the same, so I suggest applicants do a lot of research as well as soul-searching prior to the school selection process. Being realistic about your profile and aligning yourself with programs that mesh with your particular academic and professional background is the surest recipe for success.

[Look beyond a top business school for your MBA.]

Reality Check: Scores Affect Selection

As we’ve talked about in this space before, preparing early and adequately for the entrance exam is critical. You can’t be stressing about studying for the GMAT or GRE when you should be focused on drafting compelling application essays or cultivating additional leadership opportunities.

Truth is, the school selection process will be greatly influenced by your GMAT score. While each year we hear of that miracle case where someone gets into Harvard with a 550, it’s likely that person’s profile was so extraordinary in every other way that it offset the low score.

It would be foolhardy to believe you too have a decent chance simply because a handful of people out of 10,000 applicants made it in with a score nearly 100 points below the median.

Use your GMAT or GRE score as a barometer to determine a comfortable range of schools to target. If you do decide to go for the “reach school” as well despite a middling test score, make sure you incorporate the fact that you have a low score into your overall strategy.

Reality Check: You’re Not Ready for B-School – Yet

A huge mistake, and one that’s more common that you’d think, is applying to business school before you are really ready. It is true MBA programs are skewing younger these days, accepting applicants with five or fewer years of work experience rather than the typical seven of the past, but that just means candidates need to be even more amazing in less time.

Ask yourself if you have had enough life experiences to provide an interesting perspective to a class. Will your potential recommenders act as champions for your cause, or is your relationship with a supervisor still new and untested? Can you devote time to improving your test score in order to expand your portfolio of program options? Would taking another year to strengthen your profile make more sense and yield better results?

Making 100 percent sure that an MBA is the right step at this time is a crucial part of the soul-searching I mentioned above, and once you can answer in the affirmative, you can embark on the challenging but rewarding journey toward an MBA.

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The Basics of Applying to B-School

The Financial Times published an article this week with advice on how to apply for an MBA program, and I contributed a few of my own tips to the piece. For one, I always advise …

The Financial Times published an article this week with advice on how to apply for an MBA program, and I contributed a few of my own tips to the piece. For one, I always advise students to apply to a range of schools, some of which you could consider “sure things”, and one or two “reach” schools.

Much of your list can be determined as you progress through the process. As you become more invested in going to business school, and your story solidifies, you made decide to add additional schools. Once you clarify your goals, you may consider schools that you had never looked at in the past. Similarly, this process may cause you to drop schools.

The FT article has a lot of useful insight regarding the essay component of the MBA application, particularly in light of the dramatic shift that has taken place in this area during the current application cycle.

Several top schools slashed the number of required essays and/or word count, and Harvard Business School made huge headlines when it announced it would only have one essay prompt, and it would be optional. Admissions director David Simpson of London Business School says that applicants have fewer chances to impress, so “What they do write has to be absolutely perfect.”

If you’re just getting started in your MBA application journey and would like to know more about how much time you’ll need to devote to the GMAT or GRE, interview techniques, choosing recommenders or what mistakes to avoid, please check out this great overview article.

You may also be interested in:

The Do’s and Don’ts of Applying to Business School

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The GMAT and Hard Work

Guest post by our friends at Magoosh President Theodore Roosevelt, a scholar and adventurer, said, “Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth …

Guest post by our friends at Magoosh

President Theodore Roosevelt, a scholar and adventurer, said, “Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.”  At least some of the folks pursuing an MBA have something of this vision: a quest to do deeply satisfying hard work in the world.  In one way or another, the MBA is a “prize” for most of the people pursuing it.

For some people at the initial stages, the GMAT stands as a kind of obstacle in the path to this prize.  Perhaps some students even think: “If I could only dispense with this hindrance, then I could move on to the good stuff!”  The GMAT, though, is not an arbitrary barrier.  Instead, the challenges posed by the GMAT are reflections of some of the challenges you will face in the business world.

How hard the GMAT is depends in part on your perspective.  On the GMAT, you have to do math in a relatively tight time frame, if you make a mistake under pressure, you will get the question wrong.  In the business world, there may be moments when you may have to do calculations about budgetary issues, perhaps even under pressure, if you make a mistake there, it could cost the company big money.

On the GMAT, you have to sift through tricky arguments, looking for the words and phrases that make a big difference in the logic.  As an executive, on multiple occasions, you will be presented with potential sales, partnerships, deals, or other opportunities: some will truly be beneficial in a win-win way, but others will be by ruthless people trying to rob you blind, and you will have to discern what is best for your company and its long-term health.

In each of these examples, the ultimate downside for the first is the possibility of bombing this test that, after all, you can take again, whereas the direst negative outcomes in the latter cases can involve tremendous personal, legal, and financial liabilities.   The challenges of the GMAT are small potatoes compared to the potential challenges of the world to which the GMAT gains you access.

Students invest a great deal of importance in GMAT score percentiles, perhaps in part because all grades and assessments carry such existential import for folks.  Think about this chain of connection: elite GMAT scores often lead to one of the best B-schools, which often leads to landing a coveted management position – that is, a position that entails a tremendous amount of both responsibility and risk.

By all means, reach for the most you can achieve, but understand that whatever is challenging about the GMAT typically leads to more significant challenges down the road.

Some folks coming from more academic pursuits have already taken a GRE and understandably might be interested in GRE to GMAT score conversion.  I would caution, though, those students who seek out the GRE because they want something less challenging than the GMAT.

Both tests are hard.  If someone has a particularly large vocabulary, it may be that the GRE would be a slightly more advantageous test for that person, but for most folks, the GMAT is the better test to take for business school, simply because it mirrors more closely what is challenging, what is hard, about business world.

In the movie A League of Their Own, player Dottie Hinson tells her manager that she doesn’t like baseball anymore because it became too hard.  Her manager, Jimmy Dugan, tells her, “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard… is what makes it great.”  If that’s your attitude, toward both the GMAT and the business world, then, like Teddy, you can embrace the challenges with relish.

This post was written by Mike McGarry, resident GMAT expert at Magoosh, a leader in GMAT prep. For more advice on taking the GMAT, check out Magoosh’s GMAT blog.

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Argument Analysis: Fallacies You Tell Yourself to Avoid Preparing for the GMAT

Guest post by our friends at Magoosh Blind to fallacies, we put off our applications to business school, wait to meet with professors or managers to ask for letters of recommendation, wait to write our …

Guest post by our friends at Magoosh

Blind to fallacies, we put off our applications to business school, wait to meet with professors or managers to ask for letters of recommendation, wait to write our application essays, and wait to start our preparations for the GMAT. And we craft elaborate reasons why we can wait, but never notice that our reasons are pockmarked with fallacies—the very fallacies that we should be preparing to identify and analyze on the GMAT.

How will you analyze arguments on the test if you can’t analyze them in your own arguments? Let’s first change ourselves by looking at four common reasons we tell ourselves to put off studying for the GMAT. And along the way, we might even find a little GMAT preparation as well. (See how I just turned this into an opportunity to not procrastinate?)

Argument: “I am writing all the time at work. I have to read reports, write reviews for our staff, and write proposals to clients, so my verbal skills are strong. I just need to freshen up on math, and I will be ready for the test, so no need to start preparing now.”

Fallacy: False Analogy

This is a classic false analogy—comparing two things that seem comparable, but actually are not. Yes, writing a proposal is writing. Reading reports counts as reading. But the GMAT tests a particular type of writing and a particular type of reading. Just because both are writing or reading doesn’t mean that they are analogous. You need the time to refine your latent reading and writing skills and calibrate them to the specific tasks on the GMAT. I know it’s tempting to compare what you do now with what you think you will need to do on the GMAT. But don’t believe the fallacy.

Argument: “I work on a team of people and one of them just received their GMAT scores, and she did really well. We have the same role at the company, and we both work at the same pace. She only spent a week preparing, so I won’t need that much time to prepare.”

Fallacy: False Cause

We are pattern recognition machines always looking for causal relationships in historical events, weather phenomenon, market fluctuations, stomach aches, etc. But things are not as they seem; Plato said as much in his allegory of the cave.

We miss the complexity in our world, simplify the whole system so we can understand it, and end up confusing causation and correlation in the end. So what might appear to be the cause of a peer’s success—a week of preparation and their pace of work—might not actually be what matters. Many other things, like taking the test multiple times, taking classes in the past year, or reading voraciously, were probably as important.

Most likely, there are numerous things that lead to a peer’s success that we can never know. We can’t expect to replicate another person’s success by following the steps we think mattered, not to mention that we also fall into our previous false analogy fallacy when we do so.

Argument: “I am a naturally strong test taker. I always crammed for tests in college and I did fine. I had a 3.8 GPA. I don’t need to spend a whole lot of time preparing.”

Fallacy: Appeal to Nature

What is nature and what is nurture is not entirely clear. For all we know, we might be simplifying—false cause fallacy—the whole process of becoming who we are, and missing the numerous aspects of the world that go into shaping our abilities. Further, popular culture loves this idea of a natural talent, the naturally gifted athlete, musician, or scientist.

But this is incredibly misleading. Natural talent may really just be a tendency or inclination that nudges a person in one direction and another person in another direction. After that, the individuals have to work at it. Tolstoy didn’t naturally write compelling, epic novels; he worked tirelessly to make them that way. Michael Phelps has the frame and build of a great swimmer; but it was his hard work and intense dedication to swimming that led him to become the most decorated Olympian ever.

There is nothing natural about success. It only comes from hard work and dedication. The same is true for test taking. What was once seemingly “natural” might in truth be a skill that needs to be practiced and worked at to ward off atrophy.

Argument: “I scored in the 98th percentile in the SAT math section. I looked at a GMAT score calculator and it looks like there are a lot of possible scores in the 90th percentile, more than the SAT. I don’t think I’m too rusty so I’ll spend a month preparing for the GMAT, maybe a little less. I have a lot that I am doing already anyway.”

Fallacy: Appeal to Tradition

We have no laurels to rest on. The only thing consistent is inconsistency; the only thing that doesn’t change is that things are constantly changing. Appeals to tradition often ignore this. What we did in high school or in undergrad is not going to help us today. The problems we faced then are not the same as the ones we face now. Circumstances change. We can’t expect to use solutions from the 1950s to solve the problems of today. We’ve already seen that legislation written in 2001 is out-of-date and insufficient in light of the technologies of 2013.

So although similar to the SAT in some respects, the GMAT is a very different test. We will see math questions on the GMAT that we have never seen before. And just because we found a plan on How to prepare for the GMAT in one month doesn’t mean that we will only need a month to hone our skills so that they are sharp on test day. A history of performing well and of cramming is just that—history. What matters for tomorrow is what you do today.

Takeaway

It may appear strange, but we can’t trust ourselves, especially our reasons and rationalizations. The fallacies that we have to diagnose on the GMAT exam are the same ones that make us procrastinate and put off our preparations. So instead of coming up with reasons not to start preparing, why not come up with reason to start now? At least this way, our logical fallacies are put to good use.

This post was written by Kevin Rocci, resident GMAT expert at Magoosh, a leader in GMAT prep. For more advice on taking the GMAT, check out Magoosh’s GMAT blog.

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Try These Fixes for a Low GMAT Score

This post originally appeared on Stacy’s “Strictly Business” MBA Blog on U.S.News.com A strong performance on the GMAT is a key component of the MBA application to most top business schools. But what can you …

This post originally appeared on Stacy’s “Strictly Business” MBA Blog on U.S.News.com

A strong performance on the GMAT is a key component of the MBA application to most top business schools. But what can you do if your score is not where you want or need it to be?

Any number of factors could have thrown off your game, from illness to test anxiety to insufficient preparation. The first step is to make peace with the fact that taking the test twice or even three times is completely normal. In fact, this dedication to improving your score is often interpreted by the admissions committee as a sign that you’ll do whatever it takes to prove you’re ready for business school.

If the issue is not being prepared enough, ramp up your studying, take a class or consider hiring a tutor who can help you streamline your efforts and teach you the best methods for answering the various question types. However, if you do find that your score hasn’t improved significantly despite two or more attempts, don’t beat yourself up over it. Your energy would be better spent taking a broader look at your entire application strategy.

While it’s natural to become hung up on achieving the highest score possible, or fixate on the average GMAT score reported by the schools, I urge test-challenged clients to focus instead on aligning their scores within the 80 percent range. Many schools list this information directly within their class profiles.

For example, the 80 percent range for the MBA class entering UC—Berkeley’s Haas School of Business in fall 2013 is 680-750. At Columbia Business School, the MBA class entering in 2012 had an 80 percent range of 680-760, and University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School lists the 80 percent range as 690-760 for the class of 2015.

Targeting these numbers at the lower end, rather than at the out-of-reach average, may keep your application viable. However, if you’re 50 points away, it’s time to rethink your selected programs and consider adding options in the top 20 or 30. You can still leave the highest-ranked options on the table, but these have officially become what we call “reach” schools.

When a client is really dissatisfied with their GMAT score, sometimes the best option is to think way out of the box. Jamie came to us with rock-solid work experience, a lengthy history of international exposure and interests and stellar extracurricular activities.

Unfortunately, she couldn’t get her GMAT score to cooperate. Her highest score was a 600, and to make matters worse, her quantitative percentile hovered around 40, which was about half of the target score at Harvard Business School, Jamie’s first-choice program.

Although we’ve seen schools take risks on very strong clients who happened to have a low GMAT score, we decided Jamie should take the GRE and see how the two scores stacked up.

In the end, her overall performance with the GRE was actually lower. But interestingly, her score was balanced toward a much stronger performance in the quant section, which made a compelling argument for submitting the GRE instead of the GMAT.

This tactic proved successful. An ecstatic Jamie was admitted to Harvard, and didn’t give a second thought to the three back-up schools she had added to her list.

The GMAT score foretells how well one would do in the core academic courses of an MBA program, but isn’t a predictor of success throughout the entire b-school experience. This is why most schools have a holistic approach to considering each application.

It’s entirely possible to offset a low GMAT score with a proven track record in a quantitative job, a high GPA from a respected undergraduate school and compelling extracurricular or leadership activities. Put your energies toward boosting your candidacy in the areas of your application you can control, namely the essays, extracurriculars and, to some extent, the recommendation letters, where your recommenders can highlight your quantitative skills.

Although you may feel tempted to use the optional essay to explain a low test score, try to resist, as this will likely come across as making excuses rather than providing additional information.

In the end, your exceptional accomplishments will likely shine through despite some academic challenges. The admissions process is a complex one, so after you’ve done the best you can on the GMAT, it’s time to focus on developing your personal brand by packaging your goals, passions, work experience and “why business school, why now” into a compelling case for your admission.

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