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

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