Monthly Archives: December 2012

2012 in Review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

19,000 people fit into the new Barclays Center to see Jay-Z perform. This blog was viewed about 69,000 times in 2012. If it were a concert at the Barclays Center, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it!

Click here to see the complete report.

Should You Get a Business School Recommendation from an Old College Professor?

Unless your target business school specifically asks for a recommendation from a college professor, before you go ahead and reach out to that old professor from your past, read the rest of this article! Even if you are one of the few students that had a great relationship with a professor, worked individually with them throughout your college years (versus just taking a class or two) and still keep in touch, while congratulations on this accomplishment, it STILL isn’t the right thing to do.

The average applicant to a full-time MBA program is in his or her mid- to late-twenties, meaning college was at least 5-7 years ago, if not longer. While most MBA programs only accept two or three recommendations, submitting a recommendation from academia suggests that you can’t find two (or three) people from your workplace to provide a recommendation for you. If you are just graduating and haven’t had any work experience yet (hence considering the academic recommendation), you may want to consider whether schools will think you are too young or inexperienced.

Further, most professors are unable to answer many questions on the recommendation form (and a lot of “not applicable” response won’t make you look great, either) as most of their knowledge of you will be from a classroom setting versus a workplace setting.

If you are having trouble finding recommendation writers — or don’t want your current manager to know that you’re applying to business school — consider some other potential writers like a client that you have worked extensively for, an indirect manager or team lead, a former supervisor/manager, your boss’s boss (as long as they still know your work well enough) or a manager at a non-profit organization you have volunteered for consistently for a few years.

For more business school admissions advice, take a look at our book, Your MBA Game Plan, now in its 3rd edition. And, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

How the GMAT CAT Works

The Quantitative and Verbal sections of the GMAT both consist of multiple-choice questions that are presented as a computer-adaptive test (CAT). The CAT is designed to dynamically produce exam questions based on your performance on previous questions. These questions, which range in difficulty from low to high, are pulled from a question bank. The result is a unique exam for nearly every test-taker.

The CAT begins by providing a question of moderate difficulty. About half of test takers are expected to get the question correct, and half are expected to get it wrong. If you get the question correct, then a more difficult question is supplied. If you get the question wrong, then an easier question is supplied. By the end of the test, the CAT finds your score based on the number of correct answers given to questions at different levels of difficulty.

As you might imagine, there is a sophisticated algorithm underlying this process, involving knowing how thousands of other test-takers have done on each of the problems you answered. The algorithm decides the appropriate level of difficulty for your next question, the value of that question, and eventually your score. Because your questions are generated based on previous responses, you may not skip a question and return to it, as is possible on some other standardized tests.

Over the years, many myths have come and gone come with regard to how the exam’s adaptive engine works. Perhaps the most pervasive one is the idea that, because the first few questions can cause a wide swing in the whether you receive harder or easier questions (based on whether you get them right or wrong), these questions are by far the most important ones in determining your final score. Many test-takers therefore spend far too much time on these questions, trying to ensure that they get every one right so that the computer puts them in the “smart” bucket, ensuring they will get a higher overall score at the end of the test.

The reality is that the GMAT holds so many data points on every one of the questions you will see that by the end of the test it will know your true level of ability, whether or not you get an early easy question wrong or an early hard question right. It’s also flexible enough to account for “false negatives” and “false positives” (getting a question wrong when you really should have gotten it right, given your ability level, or vice versa). The people behind the test know, for example, that even if you make a pure guess, there’s a 20% chance that you will get a question right. They therefore know that every question helps in determining your final score, but that every question itself may be “wrong” in making that determination. So, they designed the scoring algorithm to stay flexible enough to withhold judgment on your true level until you’ve been presented with every question on the test.

Therefore, you are far more likely to impact your own score by finishing the exam or not. Spend too much time on these first 10 questions and you may risk running out of time at the end of the section. No matter how well you did on the first 10 questions, not answering every question can knock your score down significantly. (The people at GMAC have stated as much publicly.) So, don’t fool yourself into spending precious extra minutes on the first 10 questions… Instead, you should worry about finishing the test on time!

For more business school admissions advice, take a look at our book, Your MBA Game Plan, now in its 3rd edition. And, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

Applicant and Administrator Feedback on Wharton Team Discussions

Wharton Admissions Director Ankur Kumar recently provided an update on how Wharton’s team-based discussions went during Round 1. It sounds as though the experience has been positive so far, both for Wharton and for applicants. We still have a lot of questions about this as a means if evaluating candidates, but it’s interesting to study the early impressions from applicants and administrators alike.

The feedback we have been hearing from students is that the discussions haven’t turned out to be the shark tanks — with applicants elbowing each other for air time — that some had feared. If anything, applicants have erred on the side of being a little too friendly, with some going out of their way to show how courteous they can be. Many applicants have reported seeing this “unnatural graciousness” in effect.

According to Kumar on the Wharton Admissions Blog:

It was wonderful to observe our candidates connecting with one other – both inside and outside of the team based discussion. We saw you exchange contact information for future business endeavors, continue to discuss the question posed to your team far after the exercise came to a close, and we noticed a few groups that headed out for celebratory dinner or drinks after the interview was complete. The most heartwarming part for us was to see how much you invested in and supported one other; waiting for everyone in your group to be done, high fiving each other, laughing together, this is the true hallmark of Wharton’s culture of collaboration and something we look forward to your bringing to the program.

Wow, sounds like fun! Even the most collaborative MBA classrooms normally don’t have all of the back-patting described here, although we know that the stakes are much higher with these admissions discussions than they are in a typical business school classroom on any given day. Our take is that some candidates are indeed overdoing it, and going out of their way to show that they’re not jerks or sharks. Whether or not this helps them get into Wharton is still to be determined.

At the same time, we have heard that some applicants definitely felt a need to speak up, lest they be drowned out. This is fairly normal — this same pressure exists in the business school classroom, especially at case study-based schools such as Harvard and Darden — but this is the sort of thing that we’re sure Wharton wants to downplay as much as possible.

While we may still sound skeptical, we definitely laud Wharton for taking such a big risk in the admissions process. They, along with other schools that have significantly cut down their essays in some cases, are advancing the state of the art in the MBA admissions process. We’re reserving judgment, however, until we can better measure how performance in these discussions correlates with admissions success.

For more business school admissions advice, take a look at our book, Your MBA Game Plan, now in its 3rd edition. And, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!