Jan 30, 2011

Make the most of your GMAT score

GMAT is, no doubt, one of the most important aspects of your MBA application package. For many, preparing for the test can also be one of the most stressing part of the entire application. So keep these pointers in mind when you think about GMAT test and your score:

1. How is my GMAT score used by the business schools?
GMAT is used as one of the screening tool by the business schools and hence, should be taken seriously by the MBA applicants. Unlike your work experience and educational background, it is one of the few parts of your application that is completely under your control. Considering that MBA coursework can be a challenging and vigorous workload for many, GMAT score, along with educational background, is used as an indicator for an applicant's analytical skills.

2. Is my GMAT score useless once I get admission to an MBA program?
No. Many of the recruiting companies during internship and full time recruitment look at your GMAT score along with your performance at the school. It is especially true for consulting companies and Investment Banking companies. These job functions require very high analytical skills as a skill set in their recruits and will be closely watching your GMAT score along with your performance /GPA in the MBA coursework. Hence, if you are targeting any of these industries, it will be helpful if you can have a stellar GMAT score to put on your school's resume.

3. How old can my GMAT score be?
GMAT score is valid for five years and hence, you can use a GMAT score that is taken within the past five years at the time of your application submission. You might have heard of the rumour at many places that it is required to have GMAT taken only during the last three years, but we found no substance to it. Check out your target school's admissions page and you will that they consider GMAT scores from the previous five years.

4. What GMAT score should I target?
Ideally, 800. Practically, to the best of your abilities. If you have your target business schools in your mind, try to be on the higher side of their 80% range. Business school reports statistics to outside world and many publications do consider average GMAT score of a school as a ranking parameter. Hence, it gets difficult for the school to give admissions to majority of people who have poor GMAT score but are excellent otherwise. While a low GMAT score does not mean that you can not get admission to a top school with high average GMAT score, it does mean that you are ranked low in one of the important decision factors of the school. Also, check out your demographics. If you are an Indian IT applicant where most of the applicants have 730+ score and you have a GMAT of 620 and applying to the same school, you are at a disadvantage.

5. Should I take classes to prepare for GMAT?
If you are the kind of person who finds it difficult to have the discipline to study regularly for GMAT or is busy with work or for any other reason, a good class preparation can help you by making you stick you to a schedule. However, if you have the required motivation and don't need outside help, there is no need to take classes to prepare for the GMAT.

6. How much time it takes to prepare for the GMAT?
Depends on how much time you can give it. We know of people who scored a 760 with just two weeks of people and those who scored 500 even after four months of preparation. On an average, around two months should be sufficient, however, it depends on how good YOU feel that will decide what is the right time to prepare for the GMAT.

7. When should I  give the GMAT test?
You should take your GMAT score atleast 3-4 months before you application deadline. Most of the applicants who have yet to take GMAT think that GMAT prep is the hardest part of the application. You can not be more wrong. GMAT is just the starting point and your resume/essays/reco and rest of the application that require many many more hours than the GMAT prep. Giving GMAT ~4 months before the applications deadline also give you the time to retake it if you are not happy with your first attempt.

8. Should I retake the GMAT test if I am not happy with my score?
It is definitely recommended that you retake the GMAT, atleast once , if you are not happy with your first score. For many applicants, the first time is particularly tricky because of nerves and anxiety and you are definitely more relaxed the second time after having seen and experienced the atmosphere of the testing center. Moreover, don't forget that all the schools take your highest test score so there is nothing to lose in retaking the test, other than maybe the test fee.

9. Should I cancel my score if I am not too happy with how the test is going?
No, you are not going to get anything by cancelling the score. As business schools take only the highest test scores, there is nothing to lose to check out your final score. There might just be some surprise. Even if not, the test scores will help you realize where you are strong and where you may need to work more for your retake, if necessary

10. How to start preparing for GMAT?
Before starting your own preparation for GMAT, it is always good to know what approach other test takers took to crack the GMAT. Read out about those who just finished their GMAT test to know what worked and what did not and create your own personalized approach. There are many forums on the web that offer excellent platform to not just read about the approach taken by test takers but also help you prepare for GMAT test through various sections where you can post questions or answer questions posted by others. Few of these forums are PagalGuy , Urch  and beat the GMAT.

11. Should I take GRE instead?
Not a bad idea! Many of the top business schools such as Stanford, Harvard, Wharton and Columbia has started considering GRE scores for the admissions towards their MBA program. If they are your schools of choice, you can surely think about GRE. Also, since business schools do not publish statistics such as average GRE scores, schools may be more inclined to take a risk with a lower GRE score than a lower GMAT score. However, there are still not a lot of business schools that consider GRE score and hence, your decision to take GRE or GMAT should depend a lot on what schools you want to apply.

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Jan 29, 2011

Interested in Chicago Booth's MBA program? Listen to its Admissions Director

Recently, BB's BusinessWeek spoke to Chicago Booth's Admission Director Kurt Ahlm and MBA student Lauren Polo about strategies to land a spot in Booth's MBA Program. Read the full article here.

Few important take-outs:

1. Know yourself and have a strategy to convey that sense of self to the adcom : This is something a lot of admissions director have been saying for a long time. All the applicants applying to the top schools need to understand that there are two parts - Having a story and conveying the story strategically. While most students do have the first part in their application, it is the second part that is missing. It does not matter if you are a superstar if you can not convey to the adcom that you are indeed one.

2. Clear vision of the goals : Enough said! If you don't know why you want to do MBA, then you should not do one. MBA in itself should not be a goal.

3. Round 3 is competitive : More so for internationals just for the fact that there are very limited seats remaining in Round 3, most of the international students are already in there through the first two rounds and that there is just not much time to complete the visa formalities that further discourages adcom to admit many internationals. Go figure!

4. Am I too old or too young for a Booth MBA : If you can convince the adcom why is this the right time for you to pursue your MBA, there you go!

Business School Rankings - Which one to look at?

During the last decade, many firms and publications have started analyzing the business schools across the world and as a result, business school rankings have mushroomed all over the place. MBA aspirants give particular importance to these b school rankings and their decision to apply to a school and attend a business school can sometime be substantially influenced by these rankings. This is especially true for international candidates who rarely get the opportunity to do the campus visits and know the school first hand and hence, outside perception of these business schools is the usually the main input their decision making.

Few of the most prominent rankings are published by Business Week, US News, Financial Times, Forbes , Economist and Wall Street Journal. With so many rankings to choose from, and with multiple instances of a substantial variance in the ranking of the same school in different rankings, interpreting the ranking numbers is not easy. Should you watch them closely? Should you just leave them out of decision making? The answer is yes, you should use them but intelligently.

Limitations of B school rankings
The best way to understand these B school ranking is to first understand the limitations of these ranking. so let's look at them -

1. Each B school ranking publication has specific criteria against which it measures all the schools. These criteria vary from publication to publication. Hence, the eventual ranking of a school in a particular publication is a reflection of how good that particular school fits those set of criterias defined by that publication. It is NOT a very accurate indicator of how good a school is. Rankings are created to generate excitement and sell magazines, and they indeed do a great job.

2. The ranking involves data collection through surveys and many other points. Hence, just like with any statistical evaluation, the result will be objective in nature and the ranking models will not completely incorporate the subjective part of MBA education in a business school. For e.g. While the ranking may tell you that the school has good recruitment relationship, excellent faculty and world class brand based on certain criteria but it will not tell how HAPPY, a very subjective thing that may have a different definition for different individuals, a student is in the same B school.

3. Ranking do not measure what YOU want out of your business education,  they rank what they seems fit to rank a business school on.

4. Ranking is based on the survey results coming from B school students and these students, knowing that their action can influence the school's ranking, can very well talk more positive about their respective schools. Although advanced statistical techniques can be and is used to elimiate this behavior to certain extent, it is impossible to completely eliminate it.

5. Overall ranking mostly hides the strength of a particular school in a specific functional area. For e.g. one of the top enterpreneurship course is available at one of the schools which is not ranked in even top30 range of most of these publication's ranking.

Overview of the major rankings
Having seen the limitations, let's see what the six major publications care about and uses as a criteria set to evaluate business schools against :

1. Business Week
It was the first publication to do a ranking. They issued their first in 1986 and focused on MBA students and corporate recruiters. 45% of the ranking is based on graduating students' survey responses. The recruiter poll accounts for 45% of the ranking and, since 2002, the remaining 10% is based on an intellectual capital rating from tallying journal articles and books published by faculty.

2. US News

It started in 1987 and ranks all MBA programs accredited by the AACSB. Rankings are based on 4 measurements: The deans and directors ratings account for 25%; the ratings from the recruiter survey account for another 15%. Placement success accounts for 35% and student selectivity accounts for the remaining 25%.

3. Forbes

It began publishing a ranking of MBA programs in 2000 based on return on investment. Forbes calculate ROI by looking at alum compensation five years after graduation minus the tuition and the forgone salary during school. They survey graduates five years after graduation.

4. The Financial Times

It has surveyed graduates three years after graduation and gathered data directly from the schools since 2000. The FT ranks schools based on three factors; performance of the MBA program accounts for 55%. Diversity accounts for 25%. The research rating accounts for 20%.

5. The Wall Street Journal

This ranking, first published in 2001, is based on surveys of corporate recruiters. The ranking components for all schools measured include three equally weighted elements: perception of the school and its students (20 attributes), intended future supportive behavior toward that school, and a measure of mass appeal based on how many indicated that they recruit at the school.

6. Economist Intelligence

This branch of the Economist organization has published a book on business schools, "Which MBA?" since 1988. Their online ranking began in 2002. They collect data from the schools, current students and recent graduates. The ranking measures career opportunities for graduates (35%), the quality of the educational experience (35%), increases in salary pre and post MBA (20%), and the potential value of the alumni network (10%).
Souce: Accepted.com

How to look at the rankings?

Use the ranking only for the initial research on the schools. Rankings from different publications can be used as a sanity check to do the reputation check. However, don't get fixated on the absolute rank of the school but observe the range in which most of the publications have put a particular school to understand where it stands. If, for e.g., Chicago Booth is ranked #1 in Business Week and #6 in US News but Wharton is ranked #3 in Business Week but #1 in US News, it just means that both these schools are top tier schools and are in about top - 10 range. It does not mean that Chicago is better than Wharton or vice versa, because the definition of "better" will depend on what YOU consider better.

Look at the criteria of the various pulication's ranking and compare that with your own set of requirements from a business school education. This comparison will help you to understand which ranking should mean the most to YOU out of all the available rankings. However, it still does not mean that the ranking should be your sole criteria for selecting a school. None of these rankings can replace your own research about the school through campus visits, interaction with current students and alumni, and rather be used only as a starting point.

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How to select the right MBA Consultant?

Selecting the right MBA admissions consultant is a critical decision during your business school application process, one that can sway your career and life in one way or the other. It can also be pretty expensive. Good MBA consultants work with you more as friends, candidly highlighting the strengths in your profile while addressing the concerns from your background. They bring their knowledge, expertise, experience and perspective about the admissions process to help you present your candidacy to the adcom of your target business schools in the best possible light. On the other hand, a bad MBA consultant cannot just waste your time and money but also takes away the core of your efforts - to get the admission to the school of your choice.

Ask Questions-

A search on on MBA admissions consultants will probably bring more than tens of thousands of results. While many aspirants are instantly attracted to the most visible consultants, thinking that the skill to generate hourly blogs, tweets and 'insider secrets' handbooks correlates to their success in the admissions process. Other candidates get attracted to smaller MBA consultants that offer editing et al but lack the experience and knowledge to add a real value to your applications. Many consultants boast about their tenure in this industry. Experience can be helpful but not a guaranteed success indicator. To play a devil's advocate, ask yourself - Who can be a better advisor? One who is in the industry for a very long time but out of B school for years or the one who graduated few years back and has worked in the admissions committee of his/her school and thus, is better aware of the admissions process? Do not get fooled by the advertisements. Ask some tough questions (look at the sidebar) before signing that fat check. Just because a consultant is all over B school forums, twitter, internet advertisements, publishes "how to" books, or charges a premium, doesn't make him/her the best in the business. Do not to forget that many may charge exorbitant fee, often less for the actual service and more for supporting the visibility they generate through their marketing efforts!

Substance over Make-up -

Do not use MBA consultants who offer editing the essays at a rate that looks amazingly attractive compared to some other good consultants. Think for a moment about what the Adcom members of all the top business schools are screaming out loud : Content, Content, and Content. While a good language structure and choice of words helps, essays without substance have absolutely no value, even if Shakespeare writes them. You need an advisor who not only get the language and structure right, but package your application's core message and maximize the impact of that message. If you come across someone who claims to edit your essays, without knowing your goals and without asking for your resume, it should immediately raise a red flag.

Fee: Expense or Investment?

The fees of a good MBA consultant will naturally be more than that of a bad one. It is for the same reason why you have to BUY your Bose headphones while you get a generic one for free at many airlines - QUALITY. Keep the big picture in mind. Don't forget that you will probably be spending more than $130K AND around two years of your life in the MBA school. Hence, it is critical that you get into the best school you could possibly get into. This is not the best place for bargain hunting. Quality matters here. Go for a good consultant, even if that means spending a bit more. As far as the cost is concerned, the payback on the fee of a good consultant will break even, even before you graduate (just compare the average internship salary of a tier 1 school v/s a tier 2 one) ! Start thinking like an MBA now.

However, it also does not mean that you need to pay through your nose. Understand the market segments that various MBA consultants are catering to. For e.g. An average Indian aspirant may not be the real target customer of these expensive consultants who charges $7000+/applicant. It is a different matter that if you want to shell out that much, you become one. It is critical for these consultants to maintain a high visibility and hence, you will find them all over the internet such as on Business Week forum and on the websites that work just as storage boxes for essays and deadlines of various business schools so that aspirants stumble upon their websites, even if by chance.

It also does not mean that you have go to your local jack-of-all-trade consultants who may look very attractive because of low pricing when compared to $7000+ fees but hardly bring any value to your application (Read the section below to know why, with Indian market as an example). As we said earlier, ask tough questions. Put money where you feel you think you will get the maximum value.

Indian Applicants -

Stay away from so-called consultants who offer consulting for everything from CAT to MS to MBA for few reasons -

- Most of these consultants themselves are not the MBAs from any of the top international B schools to really understand the business school admissions process. They may have expertise in CAT or MS admissions but offer MBA admissions just to create another vertical in their business, without any expertise. If you hire these consultants, you will be just wasting your money.
- Most of these consultants are completely focused on CAT or GRE/MS candidates because that's where the volume is. Simple demand-supply concept. They don't have a separate specialized MBA process for business schools and for them a B school essay is no different than a MS's Statement Of Purpose.  They just try to form-fit your application to that of the MS admission's templates. Anyone who understands the business school admission well will know that this notion can not be more false!
- Essays are probably the most important part of B school admissions. If your consultant is ready to proofread/edit your essays without knowing your background and goals, it should immediately raise a red flag. A good consultant will talk to you, flush out your goals and stories, and then helps you present them in a manner that is not only effective but also logical and compliment other parts of your application.
- Most probably, you will not be working with the main consultant and will be assigned to someone who is actually no more than an admin staff! We have seen few applications from these consultants, and they left a lot to be desired. If you are one of those who used their services, you'd know first hand what are we talking about.
- They may be comparatively cheap, and for the reasons mentioned before. Ask yourself what is more important - Few thousand rupees or admission to the school of your choice?

We recommend that spend some money and use a consultant who himself/herself is a B school graduate and knows the B school admissions process inside out. Stay away from those who are willing to just edit essays because all they'll do is just change the structure a bit, rearrange the sentences, a nip here and a tuck there. What you need is not a flowery language for your essays, but the content that is supported by the right language to bring substance to your application and have the maximum impact. 

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Jan 27, 2011

Hello World - I'm born!

We at BizSchoolPrep are excited to finally start our own blog. This is 21st century and while journals, notebooks and diaries are still around, they are used more by the kids in the classrooms and as new year gifts than being used to record anything from accounting tables to those sweet and sad personal stories. In fact, many of the top business schools have offering the incoming class an iPad to be used during the classrooms! So our dear blog, we welcome you and ourself to this side of the virtual world. 

But who are we? Why are we blogging? What will we be blogging about? These are the questions that may have come into your mind. So let us start answering them, one at a time !

Who are we?
We are BizSchoolPrep, an MBA admissions consulting firm. We are a team of MBA consultants from some of the top B Schools and many of us have even served as the member of the admissions committee of these schools where we evaluated actual applications and interviewed candidates towards admission to the full time MBA program. We have successfully advised many candidates to get admissions to the MBA school of their choice. We are especially geared towards the MBA aspirants from outside USA countries and mainly from Indian subcontinent.

All you want to know about us, can be found at our website BizSchoolPrep.

Why are we blogging and what will we be blogging about?
While having a web presence through a website is good, even necessary in this electronic age, we found that it is not a very flexible manner to share our thoughts with the outside world about what we see in the MBA admissions world. This blog will be our place to discuss what is happening in the MBA admissions and share our perspectives about this side of the world with all of you. We will also share with you any interesting insights or facts that some other bloggers are penning. You’re probably at this site because you want to know what is happening in the MBA admissions world and that is exactly why we are blogging!

We'd love to hear from you and encourage you to leave the comments on the stuff we scribble here. Moreover, you can also write to us at blog @ bizschool (dot)(com)

We are excited !