Monthly Archives: March 2011

How to Think About the GMAT’s Integrated Reasoning Section

The GMAT’s new Integrated Reasoning section (coming in June, 2012) will go beyond the traditional “pick one of these five answer choices” format. It will ask test takers to assess information in a variety of formats, synthesize the information given, and draw conclusions from the information given. Sounds like the test just got that much harder, right?

Not really. I you have prepared properly, then you should need very little preparation for the new Integrated Reasoning section beyond what you’ve already studied. Answering these new questions will require the same higher-order thinking skills that the GMAT already tests; it just tests them in a new way, taking advantage of the computer-based format for the first time in the test’s history.

By the way, some applicants hear “mini case study” and assume that the questions call for “anything goes” answers. Don’t assume that you’re going to be asked to write a short argument or devise a strategy for the company in the question setup. These new Integrated Reasoning questions certainly will be more open-ended in that you may be asked to select which statements are true given a set of data, and one, two, or even all five statements could possibly be true. In this case, you won’t be tasked with simply converging on THE right answer each time. However, there STILL will be a correct way and an incorrect way to answer a question. You just may need to be more creative in how you get there.

Again, if you have studied for the GMAT properly, this will be a piece of cake. In many ways, replacing an AWA question with the new Integrated Reasoning section actually removes ambiguity from the test, since it replaces a long-form, written response (graded by a computer) with questions with clear-cut right and wrong responses. And, the best part is… This is exactly the type of stuff you’ll be asked to do in many MBA job interviews. So, you may as well get good at it now!

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2012 U.S. News MBA Rankings

Recently U.S. News & Word Report released its annual business school rankings for 2012. While it’s easy for applicants to get too caught up in the rankings and obsess over every little change in the rankings, ignoring the rankings as you research business schools would be silly. Yes, you should pay attention to the rankings, but using them as any more than a useful starting point can only lead to trouble.

Still, it’s human nature: When someone ranks something — anything — we can’t help but take notice and pick apart the rankings at least a little. Without further ado, here’s a look at the top 20 U.S. programs as defined by U.S. News. Each school’s previous rankings follows in parentheses:

2012 Business School Rankings from U.S. News

1. Stanford (1)
2. Harvard (1)
3. MIT (Sloan) (3)
3. U. of Pennsylvania (Wharton) (5)
5. Northwestern (Kellogg) (4)
5. U. of Chicago (Booth) (5)
7. Dartmouth (Tuck) (7)
7. UC Berkeley (Haas) (7)
9. Columbia (9)
10. NYU (Stern) (9)
10. Yale (11)
12. Duke (Fuqua) (14)
13. U. of Virginia (Darden) (13)
14. UCLA (Anderson) (15)
14. U. of Michigan (Ross) (12)
16. Cornell (Johnson) (18)
17. U. of Texas (McCombs) (16)
18. Carnegie Mellon (Tepper) (16)
19. U. of North Carolina (Kenan-Flagler) (21)
20. Washington U. in St. Louis (Olin) (19)

What Changed This Year?
The big headline is that Stanford edged out HBS to take sole possession of the top spot this year, gaining an advantage in most of the categories that U.S. News measures, including acceptance rate, average GMAT score, recruiter assessment scores, and undergraduate GPAs. All of these differences are quite small, however. After that, Wharton jumped two spots from #5 to #3, pushing down Kellogg to a tie with fellow Chicago-based school Booth. Yale crept into the top ten, Fuqua made a nice jump from #14 to #12 (trading places with Ross), and Johnson also rose two spots, to #16. Rounding out the list, Kenan-Flagler administrators must be very happy, as that school climbed back into the top 20, and Olin managed to just hang on to “Top 20 status” (for whatever that’s worth), while Marshall just missed making the Top 20 again, landing at #21.

GMAT Scores Keep Rising
Just a few years ago, only several schools boasted average GMAT scores at or above 710. Now, the top 11 schools (and 12 of the top 15 programs) boast average scores of 710 or higher. We’ll use this opportunity to once again issue the advice that we always give to business school applicants: A great GMAT score won’t get you into business school, but a bad one will indeed keep you out. Keep that in mind, especially at this time of year, when you have months before you need to start working on your applications in earnest.

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Four Things That Make Harvard Business School Unique

Harvard Business School needs no introduction. No top business school attracts more applications (and enrolls more students) than Harvard. Still, we find that a surprising number if applicants don’t know enough about the school beyond its top-shelf name.

Before you apply to Harvard Business School, get acquainted with these four things that make it unique among top MBA programs:

Case Studies
HBS adopted Harvard Law School’s dialogue-oriented case method of teaching in 1924 to help students begin thinking like executives, and today, almost all HBS classes are taught using the case method. HBS created this teaching method to foster a dynamic learning environment that hews closer to real life activity than the typical academic assignments. From a skill standpoint, the case method gives Harvard grads increased capacity, perspective, and confidence for dealing with real business situations. HBS produces the majority of the cases they — and other schools — teach: The HBS faculty produces more than 80% of the case studies sold throughout the world. And, in line with Dean Nitin Nohria’s emphasis on this as the “global century,” at least 50% of the cases cover international companies and themes. The case method is central to Harvard Business School academics, and is discussed more extensively in the Academics section of this Annual Report.

Global Impact
Believe it or not, HBS’s international presence may be underrated. With research centers and offices in cities as diverse as Hong Kong, Tokyo, Mumbai, Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo, Paris, and, as of Spring 2010, Shanghai, Harvard Business School truly has a global footprint. With the Class of 2010, 34% of the school’s MBA students were from outside the United States, representing 73 different countries, and half the cases produced annually by the HBS faculty deal with international business issues. “Global impact” is a popular buzzword in business school circles these days, but few schools can rival HBS in this area of management education, and the emphasis is expected to only increase with the advent of Dean Nohria and his international network.

Original Faculty Research
HBS is also a nerve center of academic research, which can be both an advantage and a disadvantage to students. As with any other program — be it undergraduate, law, or medicine — there is a tradeoff when faculty spend a great deal of their time researching and publishing, as that means fewer hours are left for instruction and meeting with students. Of course, it also means that the curriculum is cutting-edge and relevant. HBS addresses the downside by limiting formal teaching responsibilities to as little as one semester-long class per year, ensuring that faculty can balance their workload between research and instruction without compromising either. HBS has a self-funded research budget of $70 million and annually produces over 30 books and more than 300 academic papers authored or co-authored by the school’s faculty.

Sections and Learning Teams
Like many graduate business programs, HBS makes a large class smaller and more manageable through the use of sections. Each Harvard Business School class features ten sections of about 90 students each — which means that 90 is the number of students in each course of the Required Curriculum (since a student goes through all the core courses together with his section). During orientation, new students are assigned to six- or seven-person learning teams composed of individuals from different sections and intentionally diverse backgrounds with whom they will work throughout their entire first year. These teams collaborate on graded projects in certain first-year courses, but they primarily serve as a resource for students to confer on cases.

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Teamwork Still Matters as You Write Your Essays

Teamwork matters. Business schools want teamwork-savvy students, and MBA admissions officers look for applicants who can work well with others. They want to see that you can get things done by working with others, rather than by working around them or in spite of them. Why, then, have essay questions that directly hit on teamwork mostly disappeared from business schools’ applications over the past decade? Why have many of them been replaced by diversity questions? Could this mean that teamwork suddenly doesn’t matter like it used to? Are business school going to revert back to the “every man for himself” reputation that has (rightly or wrongly) been assigned to them over the years?

No way. While most schools no longer directly as about teamwork in their essay prompts, you can be sure that they still care about this attribute a lot. They have just moved from asking about teamwork directly to looking for signs of a team-friendly attitude in your other essays and interview answers, as well as in your letters of recommendation. While they could ask you in an essay prompt, many have found that they get more useful answers via the interview process and your letters of recommendation.

While many applicants hear “teamwork” and think of warm fuzzies, it’s a much more involved concept than that. It requires a willingness to share successes and take accountability for failures. It also calls for a great deal of empathy and emotional intelligence, which admissions officers talk about almost endlessly these days. MIT Sloan’s essay attempts to get at that — an ability to “feel out” a situation and figure out how to work with someone, even when they may not want to help or your goals may not be aligned. While the word “team” doesn’t show up at all in this question, you can be sure that the core traits that make someone a good team player are still lurking underneath.

So, don’t doubt that teamwork is going away as a core attribute that admissions officers want to see; they’re just measuring it differently than they have in the past. Whether you communicate this ability via essays or letters of recommendation or any other medium, you absolutely must bring teamwork to the table in order to be successful in the MBA admissions process.

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