Monday, November 30, 2009

Interview Season

By now, you should receive an email or call for Admission interview, if you have submitted your MBA application. What should you do next?

Review. Reread your application forms (I hope you have printed or PDFed a copy before you click the "Submit" button, application essays and resume(s). It is important you know what you have written to each school. Typically, each candidate would submit 2-3 applications to his/her "favorite" business schools and receive calls/emails for personal interview around the same time. When that happens, you don't want to be caught off guard saying things that were meant for School A to School B.

Rehearse. Now, talk to your mentor or recommender and ask him/her to do a mock interview with you. It is good that you have someone experienced in conducting interviews or have attended business school to ask you some of the typical questions. Each school has their unique set of questions but most of them should cover the followings:

a. Tell me/us about yourself.
b. Tell me/us about your career progression.
c. What did you choose our school and/or our MBA instead of doing in your own country?
d. Why Country X?
e. Why do you need an International MBA?
f. Share with me/us your international working experiences.
g. Why did you choose to do your undergraduate in this school and/or country?
h. If you are not admitted, what would you do?

The above list is not exhaustive. I am sure my fellow GMATers and readers can share more. For some schools, you are thrown more challenging questions or even do a 5- or 10-minute presentation.

Receptive. As a potential business graduate, you must be aware of the events around you - in your country and more so, around the world. Thus, you must read well and able to articulate your opinions/ideas. What are the common themes these days? Global warming, corporate social responsibility and sustainability, financial crisis, corporate ethics, etc. Some schools are strong in a particular area; so, expect some questions that are aligned with the school's current focus.

Now, the final question in most applicants' mind is: Should I do a telephone/video conferencing interview or visit the school? Depends on your budget and your confidence. If you really want to get into that school and have confidence of getting in (after all, you have been called for interview; those not necessary the interview means a likely acceptance), please make that small "investment". Show your sincerity and eagerness. Demonstrate to the Admissions Committee that you have what it takes and a worthy candidate. It is hard to sell yourself to the Admissions Committee over the phone. Body language and your voice play a part in projecting your enthusiasm. It's easier to convince the other party when you meet face-to-face. The same goes for interview with a local alumni.

I wish you all the best in your MBA admission.

Jimmy Low

Creating A Resume That Sells

Here's an interesting article I would like to share with you.
WSJ: How to Fix Your Resume

For my MBA application resume, I narrowed to one-page and covered 3 broad areas in the following manner:

Education. List your undergraduate university, city and country, and the graduation year. Put down the degree conferred and your major. If you received honours or distinction, highlight them. Do include any academic awards or scholarship you received.

How far back do you want to list? Well, it depends on your working experience. If you just graduated, you may want to show your A-levels or its equivalent and your undergraduate degree.

Employment. This part should be your main focus. Spend most of your time here in perfecting it. List down, in reverse chronological order, your working experiences - company name, industry, location (especially important if you work in multi-national companies and work outside your home country) and the period of each employment.

List, in bullet points, your quantifiable achievements. DO NOT list your job descriptions or responsibilities. It is your professional achievements that the AdComm/headhunter/HR is looking for.

Extra-curricular. You should be an all-rounder person. Thus, demonstrate your involvements in out-of-work activities such as in non-governmental organisations, clubs or societies, projects, etc. Don't underestimate the power of volunteerism. This shows your involvement in the larger community besides work. Also, your involvements in clubs and/or NGOs tell your reader more about yourself - leadership qualities, entrepreneurial skills, teamwork, working with people from different countries and cultures, etc.

There is so much to write about yourself. Turn your resume into a marketing and advertising tool for yourself. Get yourself noticed.

Happy Reading! Please share your thoughts on this topic.

Jimmy Low

Friday, November 27, 2009


I've spent the past several months helping others edit their essays for several schools. It's a fairly tedious process that involves you writing some stuff and sending it to me, me reading it and leaving red marks all over before sending it back to you - repeated maybe 15 - 20 times.

To make it easier for you to write an essays, let's go through the basic requirements of a good essay.

1. You need, inspiration - lots and lots of it. There are several ways you can get it, but the best way is to get some whiskey and start drinking. Actually, drink on the night that you're planning to write your essay. While you're sober, start jotting down little stories that would look like the following the next morning

Rescued a village - dug waterholes - ate Mcdonald's
Top of class - biggest geek in class - had no friends

and so on... actually, when you feel guilty the next day, you'll probably rewrite everything. But yes, write down little anecdotes of your life. Compile maybe 20 - 30 stories for various situations, this is your story bank.

2. Look at the essay questions and look at your story bank, mix and match till you feel it's pretty good. Then start to write the story with sufficient detail, the trick is too much detail and it's boring and long, too little details and it'll be boring and superficial - you need just enough detail to get the reader's attention while enough to explain what happened. It's not easy, so you'll probably have to do it for quite a while.

At this point, you can start to stretch your stories a little bit. You work in credit sales? Rewrite it to say that you were the top sales person in personal loans. You get the idea, a little bit of exaggaration is ok.

3. Decide on whether your essay answers the question. Write it to answer the question. If it doesn't answer the question, then it's a lousy essay with an interesting story.

It'll probably take you a while to get used to this, do it a few times for your application. At some point you'll hit the zone and just be able to write flawlessly on why you need an MBA while talking about how you saved your company from going bankrupt...

Do you really need an MBA?

Usually around this time of the year, individuals around the world sit down and ponder, "What am I going to do next? What career do I want?" and to many, the MBA lightbulb goes off above their head.

So you there, that's reading this blog because you decided to google "MBA Malaysia" or "GMAT Malaysia", do you really need an MBA?

I used to think that getting an MBA would be great. As I've mentioned before, a top MBA gets you a fantastic job and the women just throw themselves at you at the mentioned of "Harvard MBA" (top ten MBAs only, if you're outside the top ten, you've got to work harder - a BMW is another 3-letter acronym that gets the ladies). But that aside, there's as clear distinct line between "want" and "need".

1. You need an MBA when your boss says "no way are you getting promoted unless you've got an MBA". Apparently in certain circles - investment banking, consulting, etc. this happens on a regular basis (I wouldn't know, I'm from manufacturing), however.... you want an MBA when you read about that Goldman Sachs associate earning more in 3 months then you (at CIMB) would earn in 2 years. But that's not because of an MBA, that's because he's at Goldman and you're only at CIMB, or worse yet, the self proclaimed Goldman of South East Asia - OSK Investment Bank. But chances are, you will need an MBA to get into Goldman.

2. You want an MBA because you think you'll be able to make that career change from non-descript typical IT geek consultant into super baller big swinging dick at hedge fund where your first year bonus wouldk be enough to pay for a Ferrari AND a penthouse. However, that's not really true, that's not going to happen either. Career change happens everyday, every where, without having an MBA. The MBA gives you the fundamental knowledge but it doesn't give you the transition - the transition is dependent on YOU. You need the MBA because of the knowledge that it'll give.... but the problem with that is that you can easily go out and buy all the books that are used for the MBA course and learn it on your own..

So in reality, you need the MBA for the brand name...

So that's about it.. you only need an MBA for the brand name and career opportunity, aside from that, you're lying to yourself if you said you needed it for anything else... and even then, for the career opportunity, it's dependent on you to make the opportunity. A loser with a Harvard MBA is still a loser, but a superstar without an MBA will still be a superstar one way or another. Which one are you?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Greater Benefits of GMAT

By now you would have heard a lot about GMAT. So, what's so great about GMAT besides it being the dreaded graduate test that everyone who wants to do MBA (or some MSc, MA even PhD. requires)?

Looking at the bigger picture of GMAT, it has taught me a few things:
a. From Verbal (Sentence Correction), I learnt about the 3Cs - Correct Grammar, Clarity and Conciseness. My business writing has definitely improved tremendously after learning the 3Cs. Subject-verb agreement, parallelism, idioms, modifiers, etc. are emphasized in Sentence Correction; things we take for granted when we write but how power when you apply them correctly.

b. In Quant (Problem Solving), I learn to be quick in deriving answers. Those days in school, we take many steps to arrive at an answer. In GMAT, you use approximation/estimates, 2- or 4-steps to solve a problem and analyse the question from the right angle.

c. In Quant (Data Sufficiency), your mathematics/algebra principles and foundations are strengthened through how you tackle a question. Besides rephrasing the question, you look for variables that are important to answer the question and throw out red-herrings.

I must say I am pleased with what I have achieved through GMAT. I hope you too, will benefit greatly from GMAT than it just being a preparatory test for your MBA/Masters.

Jimmy Low

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Aunty Agony Is Back ....

My, my .... it's questions season again. I know you all are excited to do your MBA and want to get in and out as soon as possible. But, my child, there's no easy way to success.

I got a couple of questions for you lots. Here are some of them:

Q: Can I take GMAT in 2 months? I want to apply for next intake.
A: Yes, you can if YOU have an excellent study strategy AND study everyday. And, I mean FULL-TIME study. No work, no play, no disturbances.

Realistically, 2 months will be a stretch for many of you. Mind you, this period is Round 2 for many business schools. The closing date is typically around end Dec/early Jan (check with the school(s) you're planning to apply to). You will miss this submission round if you have not started GMAT or ready to take GMAT anytime soon. And, to score well above 650 requires at least 6 months of hardcore, dedicated preparation, I kid you not. So, give yourself ample time to prepare for GMAT as well as good well-rounded essays.

You can't learn to fly a plane in two months, can you?

Q: I like to apply to the top schools, AND only the top schools. What are my chances?
A: Good chance if you have an excellent GMAT score, great story about yourself - both personal as well as professional achievements and leadership qualities that will make the Admissions Committee says, I WANT YOU.

I am not putting you down. You may have a chance but remember, you are competing with the world's bests. So, who are the world's bests? Take a look at the top schools' class profiles. Read some of the current students' and alumnis' achievements and background. Benchmark yourself against them. If you're within an arms length, you could stand a chance.

But, for many of you, always be realistic. I would like to get into top schools but I only got as far as the kitchen top.

If you aim to apply to top schools, go ahead and do your best. But, do try the second tier schools that you feel you will also qualify to enter. These second tier schools should be those that you feel you can learn and contribute to; schools that you will always do well and gain significantly.

Always have options. Not every day is rosy and when this does not meet your expectations, do not be despaired.

Q: How many applications should I send?
A: I never believe in quantity except money (and British Sterling Pound, please). Submit one application to the school that you truly want to get into and you have 80% confidence of getting in. Else, pick max 3. Why 3? Well, 3 represents manageable number. Here are the reasons:

1. 3 applications for different tiers of school - top 10 and next 10. You can have all 3 applications for top 10, 1 for top 10 and 2 for next 10, etc. You decide on the combinations.

2. Each application requires you to submit online application form, 4-6 essays and an interview. Multiply this by 3, you have a lot to do and each process can really drain your energy.

3. Nothing is free. Some schools charges US$200-250 per application before they even consider you; others free application. Then, there is time factor in preparing your applications, resume, essays, and other documentations such as undergraduate transcripts, mock interviews, etc. coupled with GMAT preparation and actual tests. Unless you're cash rich (which I recommend you to buy some of my cookies), manage your resources and energy well.

Okay, that's all for now. Time for baking ......

Revised GMAT Optional Breaks Interval

I have been informed and confirmed by Word Ware Distributors, the local GMAT test centre, that the GMAT optional break interval has been revised from 10 minutes to 8 minutes. The two optional breaks are between AWA and Quant, and between Quant and Verbal.

The test centre has also implemented palm vein verification.

Jimmy Low

QS Top Universities Guide for Sale

Annually, QS produces the World University Rankings in collaboration with THE. This year, QS has produced the Top Universities Guide. This Guide provides useful information on the top 100 universities around the world, a profile of each university and its offering, how to select the best program and other information on fees, financing and scholarships. The Guide also gives a review on studying and living in some of the popular countries such as USA, UK, Japan, Korea, Singapore, Germany, France, etc. This is a must-have book as you plan your post-graduate program.

QS, through GMAT Malaysia, is selling the Top Universities Guide at RM70 per book. If you are interested in a copy, please contact me at I only have 20 copies (you can't get this elsewhere). I will also sell them at the soon-to-be-announced GMAT Malaysia Open Day.

Jimmy Low

QS World MBA Tour - 24 November 2009

This is my third year at the QS World MBA Tour in Kuala Lumpur. This year's response is more encouraging than those in my previous two visits, probably due to the location. In the past, the fair was held at Westin Hotel. This is the first time QS holds the fair at KL Convention Centre. Good location choice since KLCC is closer to the Twin Towers where a lot of MNCs are located. A ready pool of potential candidates who are looking to upgrade their career. Furthermore, KLCC is more accessible than Westin.

Even though I have been admitted to do my MBA next year, I still attend the fair mainly to get the latest updates from some of the schools to be shared at the next GMAT Malaysia Open Day and also to meet up with some "old" friends whom I only meet during the fair.

The crowd during the first hour of the Fair

No wonder JK choose Cheung Kong GSB *wink*

INSEAD Booth, always the popular booth

University of Michigan Ross Business School,
Global MBA Program Director

For the first time, GMAT Zone conducted a 30-minute workshop on the GMAT. This gives an opportunity for those planning to do MBA to get a glimpse of this "feared" test (GMAT Malaysia is here to support you if you have any queries on GMAT or MBA in general).

A couple of new schools appeared this year - Vlerick Leuven Gent (Belgium), The Open University (UK), Hong Kong University (Hong Kong), ESADE (Spain), Duke University Fuqua (USA). This is a good opportunity for prospective MBA students to learn more about the other schools and enlarge the students' options.

Well, I won't be in Malaysia in 2010. Hopefully, a representative from GMAT Malaysia will be there to give you a coverage.

Good luck in your GMAT and MBA applications!

Jimmy Low

Friday, November 13, 2009

Packaging Yourself for B-School: Resume Writing Tips

How do you sell yourself to someone or a group of people who is thousands of miles away to shortlist you for interview? It's in the resume (and application essays). Now, your professional resume should clearly say three things about you: Education, Employment and Extra-curriculum. Most business schools will ask for a one-page resume; others at max two. So how do you condense your five, ten, fifteen or twenty years of your adult life into one or two pages?

Here are some resume writing tips for your MBA application or even your next job. Click here.

Jimmy Low

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Improve Your Writing Skill

I found this great website and thought you would benefit from it too, especially for your AWA and Verbal. But, looking at a bigger picture, no harm fine-tuning your business writing skill too.

Click here.

Jimmy Low