Thursday, December 25, 2008


Q. What comes after GMAT and application essays?
A. Interviews!!

Some schools interview all applicants who apply while others screen through the application packages and invite applicants for an interview. All good schools interview admitted students though so if you are aiming for the top 100 schools you will probably have to face the ad com.

Getting an interview invite indicates that the school is interested enough in you for the ad com to invest time and money to interview you. That's great news!

An interview though isn't a make or break deal. Often times, a good interview isn't a guarantee that an admit will be forthcoming. Likewise, if your nerves were all over the place during the interview, don't lose hope! Most of the time, schools look at the entire application package and the competitiveness of the next intake before making a decision.

An MBA admissions interview is like any other job interview. You need to prepare for it and thankfully, the internet is a tome of information for those who are interested in big US and European schools. One very useful resource is ClearAdmit's blog. You can also surf through forums (PagalGuy and GMATClub are very supportive and active communities) and plow through every Google result.

Besides the online resources above, here are some of my observations and strategies:-

  • Prepare yourself for the interview by selecting a few 'experiences' that you have and weave a theme around those experience (e.g. led new team, leadership; restructured IT policies, conflict resolution; etc.)
  • Understand the school's culture. If the school is big on leadership, expect to have some questions. If it's internationalism or diversity, highlight any 'cross cultural' work you've done.
  • Read the school brochure, talk to their marketing people, hit every link on the school's website. The worse thing that you can do is to turn up for the interview and know zilch about the school.
  • Be clear on your goals and why you want to do the MBA now.
  • Prepare a short informal introduction of yourself
  • Be prepared to address any gaps in your application (low undergrad scores, frequent career change etc.)
  • Lastly, stay calm and tell yourself it's a conversation where both parties are mutually engaged.
Oh and if you do want to practice your interviews, you can approach any one of us. That's what GMAT Malaysia is for!

Happy holidays :)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Part 1: Tackling Quant Questions

Some members asked me what's "best" way to tackle GMAT quantitative questions. Well, I don't have the "best" answer but I have approached quant questions from different angles during my study and came out with one that suits me. You can give it a try and see if it suits you (always find an approach that you will be comfortable with).

In earlier blog, I wrote about "2-4-6" rule. I am sure someone might have invented this but let's say I gave it a name. Let's recap this rule: 2 minutes per quant question, 4 steps for "easy" question and 6 steps for "hard" question.

Now, we take this rule a few steps further. My approach to quant questions as follow:

1. When you read the stimulus and question stem, immediately take note of the topic(s) and sub-topic(s) you are being tested on. Yes, at times, especially "harder" questions, you are being tested on two or more topics or sub-topics. Therefore, your ability to syntisize the questions and pull them together helps a lot.

You might be asking what I do mean by "topic" or "sub-topic". GMAT Malaysia is using ManhattanGMAT Prep books as our guides; thus, you will find the structures in their books. As you study, you should build into yourself the principles and rules covered in each sub-topic.

2. Once you know what is being tested, immediately you should recall the principles and rules.

3. Now, apply those principles and rules to answer the question stem. Is it about Prime Factorisation? What do I need to know about prime numbers? What are prime numbers?

4. Most of time, the stimulus is in 2-3 sentences. Convert them into algebraic equation(s). This is what GMATters call "rephrasing".

5. Once you do this, you can see what the question is actually asking and at times, the answer just pops right in front of your face.

6. Look for the answer. At times, the answer is in another form e.g. in the form of inequalities. In this case, you think to know the rules of inequalities.

Okay, so much talk, show me the action. Here is one question from Official Guide (11th Edition):

PS Q26: If the quotient a/b is positive, which of the following must be true?

(A) a > 0
(B) b > 0
(C) ab > 0
(D) a-b > 0
(E) a+b > 0

This question is testing you on Positive/Negative Values and Divisibility but the answer choices are given in form of Inequalities.

When you rephrasing this question, value (a/b) being greater than 0. For a/b to be greater than 0, both a and b must be positive or negative. Either one cannot be negative, or the stimulus will not be true (in this case, the stimulus is a/b > 0).

Let's examine each answer choice.

(A) a > 0, but says nothing about b. Not determinable.
(B) b > 0, and like answer choice (A), says nothing about a. Not determinable.
(C) For a * b > 0, a and b must be positive or negative AND neither one can be negative. This is what we are looking for when we analyse the stimulus. Correct
(D) a - b > 0. If a is positive, then b must be smaller than a such that will still result in a - b as a positive number. Or, a can be negative and b can be negative such that the b is greater than a. Too many possibilities, not sure what values a and b could be. Not determinable.
(E) a + b > 0. If both a and b are positive, then this is correct. If a and b are negative, then this is incorrect. Or, either a or b is negative, then it dependable on which value is smaller negative value. Again, not determinable.

What I have done in analyzing and breaking down the stimulus is restating the stimulus into these two conditions:

i. For a/b to be greater than 0, both a and b must be positive or negative.
ii. Either one (a or b) cannot be negative, or the stimulus will not be true

And, answer choice (C) met these two conditions.

Get yourself into this regime and soon you will ace in both problem solving and data sufficiency questions.

Jimmy Low

Friday, December 19, 2008

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Feedback Welcomed

Sorry we don't have a proper guestbook. We appreciate any comments about this blog. Post them here.

Hope to hear from you.

Jimmy, Jin Keat and Soon Chern

Monday, December 8, 2008

3-Year Bachelor Degree Holders, Take Note!

In my recent MBA application experience, I was notified that I was not qualified to apply by virtue of my Australian 3-year bachelor's degree; nevermind that I have 12 years working experience on my back. In fact, some of the US schools require you to complete 4 years of study which they equate to their US 4-year degree.

Many Malaysians completed our twinning (2+1, 1+2) or distance learning/external program (3+0) from Australian, New Zealand or British universities. The Australian and New Zealand bachelor's degree are typically a 3-year study. To do a 4th year, you must do the Honors Year which is by invitation of the faculty. British bachelor's degree are 3-year study with honors.

After this experience, I hope MBA aspirants will take note of their undergraduate degree and particular attention to the admission requirements especially where the international undergraduate degree is concerned.

I have complied a list of Top 10 International and Top 10 US Business Schools based on FT 2008 MBA Ranking:

Business Schools that Accept International 3-Year Bachelor's Degree:
University of Pennsylvania: Wharton [1]
Columbia Business School (case-by-case basis) [2]
Stanford Graduate School of Business (UK bachelor's degree with honors [3])
Northwestern University: Kellogg School of Management [4]
Dartmouth College: Tuck School of Business [5]
New York University: Stern School of Business [8]
Yale School of Management (case-by-case basis) [9]
University of Cambridge: Judge Business School [11]

Business Schools that Do Not Accept International 3-Year Bachelor's Degree:
University of Michigan: Ross School of Business [6]
University of Chicago: Chicago Graduate School of Business [7]

Harvard and MIT do not specify the years of study for your non-US bachelor's degree but they demand excellent academic performance. Please check with the respective admission office.

For other business schools, please write to the Admission Office or check their Frequently Asked Questions. Do not be caught off guard when you are about to submit or finding out after you have submitted.

Best of luck!

Jimmy Low

[3] For Australia/New Zealand bachelor's degree, please write to Stanford Admission Office
[6] Although FAQs stated India 3-year bachelor's degree, UK, Australia, New Zealand and Asia 3-year bachelor's degrees do not qualify for admission to Ross MBA/GMBA.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

A Great Tool for Self-Awareness!

Hi Everyone,
I had taken the test before I started my MBA program. In fact, the business school arranged it for MBA students. The test had given me an in depth and accurate evaluation.

Personally I think it is worthwhile. It might serve as a good reference for you before deciding which major you want to do for your MBA.

Visit the site and check it out.

They charge USD95.00 for the service.

I hope this tool helps.

All the best to everyone.

Note: If you are interested of the report. You can request to have a glance of mine.

Ewe Chean

GMAT Malaysia Turns One!

Happy Birthday GMAT Malaysia! We turned ONE on 8th December.

I hope this Support Group has been helpful in lending you our GMAT support.

Jimmy Low

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Applications are Expensive!

So you have picked out your schools, aced your GMAT, condensed twenty odd years of your life into three essays and picked two referees who will fill those recommendation forms with praises.

Now its time to part with some cold hard cash :)

Most MBA applications have an application fee and they are not exactly cheap. If you are applying to a few schools the numbers quickly add up.

Here's how much I paid:-

School A €200 = MYR920
School B USD128 = MYR465
School C USD80 = MYR292

You'll also need to factor in postage and the odd international calls to international schools.

I've used both PosLaju International and FedEx. I think I'll just stick with FedEx in the future as the PosLaju tracking system is useless. FedEx also collects packages so you don't need to go to a drop off center.

For a 3 working day document delivery to Europe/Asia it cost me almost 90 ringgit EACH.

In total, I think I spent almost MYR1.9k just for the applications. This excludes the GMAT preparation materials and test!!

If you are wincing, think about how much you'll be spending for tuition, living expenses and foregone salaries..... :)

p/s There are schools that don't charge application fees. Cambridge's Judge Business School practices a zero application fee policy.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Giving Back What I Received

At the recent GMAT Malaysia Open Day, I shared with those present why Soon Chern, Jin Keat and I organised the Open Day. I always believe in the philosophy of sharing, particularly when it comes to knowledge.

Exactly one year ago, 5 people gathered at the other Starbucks Uptown and Soon Chern, who completed his GMAT, shared with us his experiences. One year later, 2 more guys completed their GMAT - Jin Keat and myself. The wealth of knowledge and experiences from 3 people can be harnessed and shared with others who want to embark on the same journey. While others have paved the road for us, we too should pave the road for others who will follow us. I hope that this coming group will, in a year's time, pave the same road for those who seek their help.

In my earlier blog, A Learning Experience, I shared how teaching others what you learnt can improve your understanding greatly. Stephen R. Covey, in his 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, talked about Habit 6 - Synergize; the whole is greater than the sum of parts. Putting 3 or more heads together in our case, we can learnt from each others' successes as well as failures. Combined with Habit 4 - Think Win Win and Habit 5 - Seek First to Understand Then Be Understood, we create a whole new experience and culture that will attract others.

At my company's leadership symposium last year, I asked our Chairman what was his "biggest" failure as a leader. It took him a while to answer but what he said after that had a huge impact on me. He said, "Jimmy, if I could turn back the clock and be at your age again, I would make the next leader a better leader than myself. We always think about developing ourselves and not the person who is going to take over from us." He went on sharing how he wish he has invested more time in training his managers throughout his career. What he said on that fateful September day continues to linger in my head. I will always cherish his wisdom.

During high school days, I pasted a poster on my room wall that read:

Practice Without Theory is Meaningless,
Theory Without Practice is Blind,
Application Comes from Theory AND Practice.

I wish you all the best in your future endeavour.

Jimmy Low