Welcome back to part two of our six part series which explains the roadmap for Admission into an MBA program. In the previous post, we got an Overview of the eight steps involved in the MBA application process namely, GMAT, School Research, Resume, Storyline, Recommendations, Essays, Miscellaneous, Interview. Today, we will do a deep-dive into two of those categories i.e. GMAT and School Research.
The GMAT is a test administered by GMAC which stands for The Graduate Management Advisory Council. This test is often dreaded owing to the effort it takes in preparation but regardless, one does not have a choice other than to take the test (sometimes more than once or twice).
The test costs $250.00 and the scores are valid for 5 years from when you take the test so the good thing is there’s a large enough window that should you choose not to apply immediately, you can still get the GMAT out of the way fairly early on in the process.
It consists of three sections i.e. Math, Verbal and Analytical Writing sections. The Math section contains 37 questions and you have 75 minutes to answer those questions. The Verbal section contains 41 questions and you get 75 minutes to complete this section. The Analytical Writing section entails answering two questions and you get 30 minutes to complete each question.
Kindly note that starting June 2012, there is going to be a change in the format of the GMAT. The new format would have an additional section by the name of Integrated Reasoning. The length of the exam will stay the same i.e. 3 hours 30 minutes (4 hours with breaks) as the Analytical Writing section will be streamlined from two essay questions into one essay questions.
Two things I would like to call out attention to. Firstly, for applicants based out of the U.S., the requirements for taking the GMAT are different in that they are required to produce their Passport at the test center in order to take the test. Secondly, GMAT date availability varies drastically based on your location, month you plan on taking it, cancelations and other extraneous factors outside your control. Hence, planning properly upfront can save you a lot of trouble down the line in case you absolutely need to take the GMAT by a specific date owing to the way your school application deadlines are setup. If unable to get dates, sometimes it helps to keep trying everyday as sometimes in case of cancelations, dates open up immediately before the test date.
The amount of time that you should expect to spend preparing for the GMAT would vary depending on your commitments, test-taking abilities and expectations. Typically, you can expect to spend 1-3 months
This may sound pretty straightforward in that one can just go to the school’s website and a few forums and get all the information needed. That being said, I cannot stress enough the importance of going above and beyond what the average applicant would do. Follow these easy steps to set apart your understanding of the school and to get noticed:
1. Visit the school
2. Talk to current students and alumni
3. Attend events and connect with the school’s representatives
Just doing these simple things will make a phenomenal difference in your understanding of the school and believe me or not, it will make a difference in your level of excitement towards the school. It will demonstrate a strong commitment to the AdCom. Most importantly, it will give you a better sense for fit. When you visit schools, you are likely to feel like you belong in one school, you are likely to fall in love. Alternatively, you may know right off the bat that a school is not right for you. It may be a good fit on paper but reality may be different. You need to understand the culture of the school and gauge for yourself if it’s a good fit for you or not. Hence, I cannot stress these points enough.
The good news is that this activity can happen in conjunction with some of the other items such as Resume Review, Storyline and Miscellaneous Tasks. In fact, talking to people would give you a great opportunity to have a sounding board for your storyline. As you tell more and more people, you will be able to articulate it better, they will point out the loopholes (believe me you would rather have the loopholes pointed at this stage than having the AdCom being incredulous while reading your application).
I highly recommend allocating a minimum of 3 months for this fairly early on in the application process. The sooner you do this, the easier it will be for you to know the schools you will apply to. The reason for setting aside such a seemingly long time period is that this activity is highly dependent on other people’s schedule and also events organized by schools are dependent on their internal planning. So, check out the schedule of events for different schools on their websites. For example, if you stay in Chicago, IL and wish to get to know HBS better, you would go to the appropriate location on the HBS website and look for events in your neighborhood. In addition, schools often allow you to save your preferences so they can inform you of events in your area as and when they are scheduled. For our specific example, HBS has an Introduce Yourself page wherein you could store your settings into a VIP page and then get emails about future events. In addition, some organizations such as The MBA Tour organize MBA fairs that are attended by multiple schools hence making your task of school outreach slightly easier. The website contains information about upcoming events based on your geographic location be it in United States, Asia, India, Europe or anywhere else.
To sum it up, we learnt today about two steps as part of the MBA application process namely, GMAT and School Research. In the next post, we will talk about your Resume and your Storyline. While this may seem overwhelming, sit back, relax and enjoy the ride. Step by step, we will help you achieve your objective of attending your dream school and will help you Crack The MBA.