Tuesday, January 31, 2012

GMAT Letdown DOES NOT end your MBA Dream

Recently, I received an email from a reader, asking me what is a satisfactory GMAT score. QS Top MBA published a timely article entitled "The GMAT Letdown" and answered along that same line as I did to my reader. I am sure you too have these question in mind. Read them and perhaps it will give you some comfort in your GMAT preparation.

Look at any business school admission requirements and you will find these components as part of your application package: (1) reasonable or satisfactory GMAT score, (2) undergraduate degree, (3) English language proficiency TOEFL or IELTS, (4) minimum 2 or 3 years working experience and curiculum vitae, (5) admission essays and (6) letters of reference or recommendation. I examine each of them.

Reasonable or satisfactory GMAT score
You will notice that most business schools will start there is no minimum score and yet will not state what is the score they want you to have. While GMAT score is a standardised measure of your quantitative and reasoning abilities (and yes, GMAT can be tough for some of us), many have been able to beat the GMAT. It takes a lot of practices and some right guidance to ace GMAT. While some score above 700 but that does not mean a business school will admit them. This shows that GMAT is one but not the only selection criteria. So then, what GMAT score could be reasonable? The hint is in the current class profile. Take a look at the class profile. It will tell you the average score of the class, and perhaps a range too. You will notice that the business school admits some with lower GMAT score and some with high GMAT score but most of them would fall within the average. This will be a good guide on what GMAT score to aim for. Of course, always safer to aim higher.

Undergraduate degree
The undergraduate degree is usually of little weightage other than to say that you have graduated. Some matured students without undergraduate degree do get admitted. Watch out for this requirement though. Some business schools insist you to have a 3- or 4-year degree depending which country you are from.

English proficiency
Most of not all MBAs are in English. Assignments and discussions are in English. The English proficiency requirement ensures that you are able to articulate your views, both orally and in writing. Those who did their degree in English or from countries where English is the native or first language could be exempted from this requirement. I did my degree in Australia; thus, did not require an English proficiency test.

Working experience
Here, most business schools state 2 or 3 years working experience but again the class profile will tell you the average and range of working experience of their candidates. Some business schools prefer to have students with more working experience especially managerial experience. There is no hard and fast rule. You need to research more about the school and their program. Talk to the admissions officers.

Your CV should cover 3 areas: Education, Experience and Extra-curricular. While the first 2 Es are clear, applicants often undercapitalise the Extra-curricular part. Your activities outside work demonstrate your involvement in other voluntary work as well as leadership and team-work.

Admission essays
Often, applicants do not pay much attention to this area especially when they have scored high on GMAT. I have spoken to some of the admissions officers during the MBA fairs in Kuala Lumpur and all of them told me to focus on admission essays. So, I share with you this advice from them.

Take a look at the admission essay questions. The admission essays is one of the ways the admissions committee get to know you without you being present. How? From your answers and how you answer. The questions focus on YOU, YOU and YOU. It is about you and all about you from different angles. They ask you to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses, your leadership in dealing with a problem or stressful situation, your leadership outside work, etc. All these questions are meant to weed out different aspects of yourself and for you to reflect on them. In fact, this part is the toughest of all. I have advised many people to really take a good look at the questions and do some soul-searching. You can't run away. If you succeed in this part, you have projected yourself and ready to embark on the MBA journey. Oh, one more this. If you are selected for a face-to-face interview either with 1 or 2 alumni or the admission committee, the same questions will be asked.

Letters of reference or recommendation
Generally, 2 referees are required - usually from your supervisor or peer. The referees will be sent a list of questions about you - mainly aiming at gettting a third party perspective about yourself. So, do not choose just anyone. Choose someone whom can talk about your, some schools required that one referee should be your immediate supervisor. Do not choose relatives or someone who could not vouch your work or curricular activities.

Bear in mind, referees also carry weight. If you referee is an alumni of the school you want to attend, then you could stand a good chance of admission as business schools like recommendations from one of their own.

So, you can now see that GMAT is only one part of the admission requirements. The lack of GMAT can be compensated by other areas. Nonetheless, I do wish you to do your very best in GMAT. It takes a lot of effort. We in GMAT Malaysia has for the last 4 years shared various tips and guidance to make your GMAT a less painful one. I hope we have succeeded to some extent. The rest is up to you.

Good luck in your GMAT and MBA dream!

Jimmy Low

Choosing MBA Concentration

Sometime last year, I wrote about whether To Specialise or Not to Specialise. My advice, then and still is, is look for an MBA that will bring you to where you want. If there is a concentration that you want, then go for the best school in that area. Of course it would be nice to have the top 10 schools as your choice but if it does not give you what you want or can afford, then using concentration is a good selection criteria.

Kelsey Sheehy of US News shared 5 tips on choosing MBA concentration. Read further here how you can narrow your choices. Kelsey echoed some of what I have shared earlier.

MBA is an investment - both in terms of foregone income during your study period (12 to 18 month, plus up to 6 months after graduation if you have not landed a job offer by then), MBA tuition and living expenses during that period. Like any investment, you want to make sure the next career will give you a lasting return, not just the fastest. It is possible as some of my classmates have found theirs. I am sure many other MBA graduates have found their pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. The search process takes time and talk to those who have gone through the process will give you some heads up as well as comfort what works and what does not. They are the living examples of what decisions that made that led them to where they are today. So, network and seek help.

Jimmy Low

Monday, January 30, 2012

Financial Times 2012 MBA Ranking

The 2012 ranking has been released. This year, the only Asian business school HKUST Business School occupied the Top 10 position. The other Asian business schools within Top 100 were: India Institute of Management Ahmedabad IIMA (11), Indian School of Business (20), Singapore's NUS School 0f Business (23), CEIBS (24), Chinese University of Hong Kong (28), Singapore's Nanyang Business School (34), University of Hong Kong (37), Peking University: Guanghua (54) and South Korea's Sungkyunkwan University: SKK GSB (66). South Korea's Kaist College of Business, positioned 99th in 2011 ranking, was out of this year's list.

Here are the top 10: (2011 ranking in parentheses)
1. Stanford University GSB (5)
2. Harvard Business School (3)
3. University of Pennsylvania: Wharton (1)
4. London School of Business (1)
5. Columbia Business School (7)
6. Insead (4)
7. MIT: Sloan (9)
8. IE Business School (8)
9. IESE Business School (9)
10. Hong Kong UST Business School (10)

The full list of top 100 MBA programs is available here.

Jimmy Low

GMATPrep Software for Download

Would you like to know how ready you are for the real GMAT test? MBA.com offers a trial software for you to download and test your GMAT. This software is available only for Windows-based PC, simulates the actual test environment. Thus, treat this test as a real test.

1. Allocate 3 hours for this test
2. Sit in a quiet room (no handphone or disturbances)
3. Only 5 sheets of overhead transparencies and one non-permanent black felt pen (Fine) (Faber-Castell or Stabilo)
4. No handphone, watch or calculator!

Register at MBA.com and download the software here.

Good luck!

Jimmy Low

Friday, January 27, 2012

Best Time to Take GMAT is .....

ESMT MBA director Nick Barniville believed that the best time to take GMAT is when you are still in the undergraduate. The GMAC statistics showed that Candidates (Men and Women) under 20 represented on average, 0.34% of total candidates of all ages. Of those 0.34%, 66% are Women, thus, Women under 20 effectively represented only 0.22% of all candidates. The largest GMAT candidates in any given year comes from age group 22-25 (38.3%), followed by age group 26-30 (30.3%) and age group above 30 (16.3%). Those who were in their final year of undergraduate studies, typically around age 20-21 represented only 14.5% (Source: GMAC Profile of GMAT Candidates 2006-2011). So is there a right age to take GMAT? Should you start as early as possible, bearing in mind minimum age for candidacy is 18?

I have received many questions in the last 4 years, seeking advice on GMAT. One of the questions I pose back is how many years of work experience does the person have. In this post, I share my view when you should start.

If you research the class profiles of various MBA programs, you will find that on average the candidates are around 29-33 for the European MBAs and 24-25 for the American MBAs. On paper, a general requirement is at least 2-3 years working experience, although some would have at least 4 years experience before doing MBA. In Asia, undergraduates complete their study around age 22-23. Most, if not all, would be eager to earn their first income and own their first car, house, etc. Building work experience, in my opinion, would be the first step. After all, you want to put into practice what you learned in undergraduate. MBAs are typically for those who have years of technical experience and would like to get into management or those with business background, would like to enhance their management knowledge and skills. So, doing MBA too soon defeats the purpose of leveraging on your MBA; it ends up a paper-chase, if that is the intention.

GMAT score is valid for 5 years from date of examination. While this is the case, typical GMAT candidates will apply within 12-24 months from their test and be admitted within 24 months. As the taking of GMAT is usually closely timed with their intention to do MBA, this gap between GMAT test and MBA admission could be close (perhaps GMAC or MBA admissions committees could validate this hypothesis). However, I do not discount the fact that there are "early birds" and have planned long-term what they want in life.

So, when is THE best time to take GMAT? My answer would be ... WHEN YOU ARE READY FOR MBA!

Jimmy Low

Monday, January 16, 2012

Gong Xi Fa Cai in this Year of Dragon 2012!

Wishing all our GMAT followers a
Prosperous Year of Dragon in 2012!

Jimmy, Cimdaa, JK