B-school Facilitated Test Prep

More and more business schools – whether undergraduate or graduate – are utilizing test preparation to help boost scores on graduate admissions exams like the GMAT and GRE. In the case of graduate schools, more often than not the target market is their likely applicant pool. It’s similar for undergraduate institutions as well, though in the case of undergrads it’s also about bolstering the school’s reputation regardless of whether undergrads ultimately apply to and attend a graduate program at their institution.

Graduate programs direct involvement in providing access to test preparation has grown so much that recently, GMAC (the company that produces the GMAT) held a panel discussion at its annual industry conference in Chicago to discuss this very phenomenon. Three very different programs and three very test preparation methods made up the panel and offered insight into how they provided preparation. In reviewing the discussion, we found that it might be pertinent to point out the differences between the three programs as an example of how varied test preparation offerings could be.

Struggling with GMAT (or GRE) Verbal? Read!

For all prospective GMAT examinees struggling with the Verbal section:  Read!

Reading a quality periodical is one way to beef up your verbal score and maybe even have some interesting things to talk about during an interview.  Jargon filled articles with complex sentences and foreign ideas are very similar to GMAT Reading Comp passages, Critical Reading Prompts, and Sentence Correction problems.  Think about it this way: when you exercise,  varying your workout gives you the most bang for your buck as it stimulates different muscle groups and systems in the body.  This same principle can be applied to studying for the GMAT.  Look outside of traditional test materials to push yourself to that next level.

Integrated Reasoning: 2-month Anniversary Update

On June 5th the new Integrated Reasoning (IR) section debuted on the GMAT, to much consternation and hang-wringing among prospective business school applicants. A couple months on there are a couple points to mention as we look back at the IR.

Initial Integrated Reasoning Percentiles

The scores for the Integrated Reasoning have been known since April, but in order for percentiles to be generated GMAC needed to wait for actual test results. After a few weeks they had given enough to compile and release the first data. From the 6,229 test-takers, GMAC found that the averages score was a 4 on the 1 to 8 scale, corresponding to the 46th percentile.

A top score of 8 would be the 94%, meaning that 6% of all test-takers score an 8. For a complete view of the percentiles, see the graphic (from GMAC), below.

Score Select for GRE Starts Next Week

ETS informed the world in April 2012 that ScoreSelect was going to become available in July, and that option is just around the corner.

ScoreSelect allows test-takers greater flexibility in deciding what scores to send to schools. The move is part of ETS’ ongoing push for a more test-taker friendly platform, and will provide test-takers with the comfort and security of knowing that a non-representive score doesn’t ever have to make it to admissions offices at schools. This relief should allow more test-takers to go in feeling confident and put their best foot forward come test day.

The ScoreSelect option is available both on test day and afterwards. Here are the particulars for test-takers, straight from ETS:

Understanding Your GMAT Practice Scores

With Round 1 application deadlines for many schools just a scant 3 months away, many people are revving up their preparation. One big component of the application process is the test score (GMAT or GRE) that most schools require, and a big part of any preparation are practice tests. In a later post we’re going to discuss how practice test scores influence when we should take the GMAT, but today we’re going to take a look at how practice tests (or an official score you’re not happy with) should inform your preparation decisions.

Before we get into discussing practice test scores, we should take a moment to clarify a few important considerations about practice tests themselves:

Game Changer? Harvard Changing Admission Application

Beginning this fall the Harvard Business School application will reflect its most significant changes since 2003. Long a source of anxiety and many sleepless nights, the HBS application as recently as last year required applicants to submit four different essays that totaled up to 2000 words. Starting for the class of 2015, the number of essays will be halved, with the word limit capped at 400 per essay.

Not only will they be fewer in number and shorter in word requirements, the essays will also be more straightforward. The two essay prompts slated for this fall are

  • Tell us something you’ve done well.
  • Tell us something you wish you had done better.

The HBS application process will also involve another wrinkle. For those who succeed in making it past the first cut, and thereby required (or given the chance) to sit for an interview, an additional post-interview essay will be required. The wrinkle? Well, the essay will be due within 24 hours of the interview, and should address something the applicant wished she or he had said during the interview. This essay will also be capped at 400 words.

6pm GMAT Test Time? Say What?

It’s the end of the GMAT as we know it! It’s the end of the GMAT as we know it (And I feel fine)!

We are down to the last two weeks of the GMAT B.I. (Before Integrated Reasoning) and people are scrambling to get their official test done before the switch on June 5th.

We’ve written frequently in this space about how people shouldn’t rush their prep just to avoid IR (i.e. you should not rush to take the test before the IR section gets added in June if you are going to get a lower score on the sections that matter – Quant and Verbal). That being said, there are a number of folks who have been prepping to take their test in the next couple weeks and are ready to do so.

I have a couple such tutoring students, and I found it interesting when one of them told me that her upcoming GMAT was scheduled for 6 o’clock. As in 6 o’clock PM. 1800 hours. Say what? Starting a GMAT at 6pm means ending your GMAT around 10pm. Not good times, but unavoidable it seems given the high volume of test-takers rushing to take test before the change to NextGen GMAT.

Another student taking the test before the change said he had a 4pm test appointment, which is better than 6pm, but certainly outside the ideal testing time for most people. It got me thinking that it might be beneficial to share some tips with people about how best to gear up for their official tests. People with particularly unorthodox testing times like 4pm and (gasp) 6pm should pay particular attention to numbers 1 and 3 below.

  1. Practice (Test) like it’s the Game – Your full-length practice tests should mirror your official test in every way possible: focus, intensity, start time, and components (meaning do the essays, even if you don’t want to). Your goal is both to increase your stamina and prepare your mind/body to be “on” at the same time you have to “on” for the real thing. The later your test is in the day, the more important this is, as people (even late-risers like me) are less fresh and sharp as the day goes on. 6pm, for example, is really pushing the limit of people’s endurance.
  2. Don’t Go Overboard – Practice tests are designed to be evaluative and help you hone your pacing and test management. They’re also designed to increase your test stamina. Doing a test every day isn’t a surefire way to get there. You need time to review, and time to recharge. For every person who says “I did a full-length test every day for two weeks and got a 700,” there’s a dozen people for whom that will not work as a strategy (not least of all because that 700-scorer was probably already ready to score 700). Find your happy medium for practice tests that will allow you enough time to increase your stamina AND give you time to thoroughly review your mistakes and hone skills.
  3. Seek Balance – Don’t disrupt your normal routines too much. We are creatures of habit, and if you all of a sudden stay up really late for a couple nights so you can sleep in later for your noon (or 4pm) test time, your body will NOT be pleased. Same goes for amending your diet or exercise routines. Find the balance between preparing for your test time and maintaining your normal life rhythms.
  4. Avoid Last-minute Practice Tests – Taking a practice test a day or two before your official tends to offer the potential of far more negative consequences than positive. GMAT Preparation is a marathon, not a sprint. Squeezing in that last-minute practice test is going to do very little for your chances on the real thing, largely because you have very little time to learn from and assimilate any insights from it. Conversely, a poor result a day or two before the test can really affect your confidence, and (again) leaves you with little time to redress that blow. Additionally, a 3.5-4 hour GMAT practice test is no joke. It drains you (or should if you’re doing it right). Recovering from that takes time, in the same way that recovering from a marathon session at the gym might for your body.
  5. Don’t Limit Your Prep to Practice Tests – You can do effective practice in small doses as well. In fact, some of the most effective practice comes in smaller doses, largely because you can more easily learn from those sets and then turn around to apply that learning on another set. Regardless of whether you’re doing a lot or a little prep, try to start around the same time you’re going to be taking the real thing (largely because of the reasoning outlined in number 1).
  6. Relax  - The final 24 hours before your test should largely be a stress-free affair. You’ve prepped. You’ve learned what you’re going to learn and have improved as much as you’re going to improve. Frantically running through a bunch of problems the night before (for a morning test) or day of (for afternoon/evening tests) is a recipe for disaster. It taxes you and drives your stress levels way up. You want to go into the test cool, calm, collected, and rested. Period.

For all those taking the test in the next couple weeks, good luck! May the GMAT be permanently in your rear-view when you’re done!

On the Record: Q&A with BC Alumnus Denitresse Burns

We thought that many of you battling through the business school application process might benefit from some thoughts and insights from others who went through the experience. To that end, we started On the Record: Q&A with BC Alums. Last time around we spoke with Lauren Sickles, and before that we got insights from Gabe Perez, Rhomaro Powell and Radina Russell. This time, we’ve asked Denitresse Burns to provide her take on some interesting business school questions.

Denitresse is a 2009 graduate of the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth.  Currently, she’s a part of John Deere’s Strategic Management Program (a leadership rotational program).  Her rotations have included:

1.       Economics: As a Project Manager, she supported the Chief Economist, looking at global economic and policy trends to understand their impact to their business and customers.

2.       Social Media:  As John Deere’s first Social Media Manager, she launched the social media program at John Deere from the ground up, growing the base to over 500k and designing and implementing the internal processes to support the channels.

3.       Strategic Planning:  As Strategic Ambition Coordinator, she manages the strategic planning efforts for one of the largest global platforms in John Deere’s agricultural division.

Why did you go to business school?
I decided to go to business school for a number of reasons. Some rational… some, well, not so much.  In undergrad, when I finally declared a major in International Finance, I knew I would also pursue my MBA (someday).  In my mind, the two simply went hand in hand.  When a mentor left my firm to attend Stern, I was reminded of item #8 on my “Deni Do List.”  Three years later I found myself doing well in my career but completely uninterested and as a result, uninspired.  At that point, I knew I was ready for a complete career change and that a MBA would give me the latitude to make that transition.

Graduate Management Education Events & Deadlines

Though it may seem like the “off season” in the world of GME, there’s actually quite a bit going on as people and schools gear up for a big fall of 2012. Check out some of these events to get face time with school reps, valuable application information, or test preparation advice.

April 26th

INSEAD MBA Master Class & Info Session in New York City
“The Essence of Leadership” – Discuss the psychological foundations of leadership, and what makes leaders emerge, appeal to followers, and on occasion derail. We shall also touch upon how leadership can be developed. More info.

April 27th, May 10th & 11th 

Northeastern University Evening MBA Coffee Chat
Gives prospective students the opportunity to meet one-on-one with an Admissions Officer in an informal setting. More info.


April 28th & May 9th

Northeastern University Information Sessions
Learn all about Northeastern’s MBA and MS programs, meet with admissions staff, and hear from an alumni panel. More info.

On the Record: Q&A with BC Alumna Lauren Sickles

We thought that many of you battling through the business school application process might benefit from some thoughts and insights from others who went through the experience. To that end, we started On the Record: Q&A with BC Alums. Last time around we spoke with Gabe Perez, and before that we got insights from Rhomaro Powell and Radina Russell. This time, we’ve tapped Lauren Sickles to provide her take on some interesting business school questions.

Lauren graduated from Columbia Business School and now doubles as a financial services professional and entrepreneur.

 

Why did you go to business school?

In college, I attended a mentoring event organized by the women’s group at Stanford GSB.  I was extremely impressed by the background and the quality of both the students and the alumnae.  It opened my eyes to the types of career opportunities available to business school students.  After attending that event, it wasn’t a matter of “if” I would go to business school, but “when”.

How has business school impacted your career?

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