Articles published in May 2013

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Catch up on some business school news and tips with a few of this week’s top stories:

MBA Salary Expectations: Sober Reckoning or Wishful Thinking? (Bloomberg Businessweek)

New research suggests that business school applicants have ratcheted back their post-MBA salary expectations, but in the U.S. and elsewhere they may still be wildly optimistic.

Here are some highlights of Warren Buffett’s interview with Levo League, a networking and career advice site.

Harvard Business Review reached out to some of their favorite writers, asking them: What do graduates really need to know about the world of work?

10 Business Schools With the Most Full-Time Applicants (U.S. News Education)

Of the top schools, all except Stanford University and UCLA saw a drop in full-time applicants.

Here are some tips from Triangle business school leaders. While they are directed at the graduating class, they could certainly apply to anyone out there looking for a job.

Did we miss your favorite article from the week? Let us know what you have been reading in the comments below or tweet @ManhattanGMAT

We’ve invited mbaMission to share their Business School Essays Analyses as they’re released for the 2013-2014 application season. Here is their analysis for Stanford Graduate School of Business.

The Stanford Graduate School of Business (GSB) is apparently content with its essay questions, because it has made no changes to them or to the allowed word count this season. Having made slight tweaks to its prompts in recent years, the GSB’s MBA admissions committee seems to have found an approach that elicits the information it wants.

With respect to word count, Stanford is unique in that it asks you to limit yourself to 1,600 words total but allows you to determine how you would like to distribute them among the various questions. Stanford does offer some guidance”recommending 750 words for Essay 1, 450 words for Essay 2 and 400 words for Essay 3”but you can take the school at its word (small pun intended!) and use a different distribution if you feel that you can better reveal yourself through, for example, a 650-word Essay 1 and 500-word Essay 3.

Stanford’s admissions committee offers some great advice on how to write its application essays here://www.gsb.stanford.edu/mba/admission/dir_essays-p.html. We feel that the committee’s most important guidance is the following:

Because we want to discover who you are, resist the urge to package yourself in order to come across in a way you think Stanford wants. Such attempts simply blur our understanding of who you are and what you can accomplish. We want to hear your genuine voice throughout the essays that you write and this is the time to think carefully about your values, your passions, your hopes and dreams.

In truth, this is good advice not just for Stanford’s essays, but for all business schools’ essays. Rather than trying to portray yourself as something in particular (which you may or may not in fact be), focus on showcasing who you actually are and give the admissions committee the information and picture of you it needs to make its decision. Stanford is not interested in classifying its applicants as certain types but in discovering individuals and what they have to offer.  And now, on to the essays

Essay 1: What matters most to you, and why?

When candidates ask us, What should I write for what matters most to me?, we offer a pretty simple tip”start brainstorming for this essay by asking yourself that very question: What matters most to me? This might seem like obvious advice, of course, but many applicants get flustered by the question, often believing that an actual right answer exists that they must identify, and never pause to actually consider their sincere responses, which are typically the most compelling.

So, we advise that you brainstorm in depth and push yourself to explore the psychological and philosophical motivations behind your goals and achievements”behind who you are today. We cannot emphasize this enough: do not make a snap decision about the content of this essay. Once you have identified what you believe is an appropriate theme, discuss your idea(s) with those with whom you are closest and whose input you respect. Doing so can help validate deeply personal and authentic themes, leading to an essay that truly stands out.

mbaMission’s B-School Chart of the Week: How Much Does B-School Boost Your Salary

Note: This post comes from our friends at mbaMission.

A question that might keep prospective MBAs up at night is what they can expect in the way of a return on their business school investment. One way to assuage those fears is to size up your current salary against what business schools report as their graduates’ post-MBA incomes. At one of Bloomberg Businessweek‘s top-ten MBA programs, at least, the payoff looks enticing”with an average income boost of 33%“83% (excluding signing and performance bonuses, which can drive compensation even higher).

In recent years, economic turmoil has pushed percentile incomes”namely the 1% and the 99%”to the fore of the public imagination. Highlighting the impact of the MBA, we thought taking a look at the median graduate’s pre-MBA and post-MBA percentile incomes, illustrated in the graph below, might be interesting.

Although most MBAs will fall short of the 1% straight out of business school, the typical MBA from one of these top-ten schools can expect to leap into the top quintile in society with their first post-graduation position, earning more than 83 out of 100 others. With a degree in hand (and with plenty of hard work, of course), the median 29-year-old MBA will climb the income pyramid to join the 16.8%.

Heart of Darkness — A Holistic Guide To GMAT Scoring

Once upon a time, in an America of long, long ago and far, far away, corporate executives often spent their careers with one employer, with little threat of termination, and then a fixed benefit pension.  Think of the client company guys on Mad Men.  And the living was easy.  Let me point out that even though I’m old and cranky, this was way before my time—my father was one of the last to get away with it.  Anyway, back then there were still books about how to succeed in business.  You know, books——-primitive information delivery systems that people used during their time off the butter churn.  One of these books was called The Peter Principle.  The Peter Principle suggested that executives were promoted until they reached their level of incompetence; once they achieved a position beyond their abilities, they would stagnate there for the rest of their careers.  As fascinating and amusing as this is, why should you care?  Because, in essence, that’s how the GMAT is scored.

The GMAT computer is searching for the difficulty level at which the test taker is about 50% accurate.  The test taker’s level of incompetence.  Simply put, to achieve whatever score you want, don’t screw up very many questions below that level and run 50/50 at that level.  The questions harder than your percentile goal don’t matter.  Many test takers sabotage their scores by rising to the bait and overinvesting in difficult questions, while too glibly dispensing with easier ones.  This is backwards.  The hard ones don’t matter, the easy ones matter.  If you don’t answer the easy ones correctly, the computer will peg your level of incompetence there and not let you near the harder ones.  Understand the Peter Principle.

Actually, folks do understand the Peter Principle.  At the first class, students intellectually understand what I say—that whether a test taker scores 540 or 740, that test taker will miss more than a third of the questions.  However, when students take a CAT, they strive for 80 or 90% accuracy and lock themselves in death spirals with top level questions, and that ruins their scores.  Why do people do so?  Because people, after years of living under the high school/college rubric of 90% accuracy, cannot emotionally accept the scoring system.  Furthermore, folks, at least subliminally, want to demonstrate their brilliance by nailing the hard ones.  But you can’t win any game if you ignore how it’s scored!  Not Monopoly, not Scrabble, and not the GMAT.

Time for an attitude adjustment.  In life, most people find it relatively easy to excuse failures caused by circumstances beyond their control.  Far more galling are disasters that are entirely one’s own fault.  I think I broke a toe last Sunday, and I resent it—since the only cause was that I’m a clumsy dumb ass.  Try to feel the way that you feel about your performance in life when you evaluate your performance on a CAT.  When you review it, suffer most when you say, Of course that answer is correct and the one I picked is insane.  Those are the mistakes that are unforgiveable.  Because those are the questions that you have to get right.  Not the ones that you don’t know how to do.  Don’t cut yourself slack for silly mistakes.  Think of it as a sport—you’d never give a coach these lame excuses:

Test taker: I knew how to do it.

Coach CAT:  You lost.

Test taker: I could have done it.

Coach CAT:  You lost.

Test taker: It was a stupid mistake.

Coach CAT:  You lost.

What?  You never played sports?  Oh.  I see.  Well. . .there’s a great old movie in which Jimmy Stewart is flying a third rate passenger plane across the North African desert and has to crash land during a sand storm.  He writes in the flight log that the radio had broken, so he received no warning and the engine air filters hadn’t been cleaned, so he didn’t have a chance.  Then he violently crosses it all out and writes, Cause of crash: pilot error.  That’s how you have to feel about the questions that you should have gotten right.  Don’t cut yourself slack.

GMAT Challenge Problem Showdown: May 27, 2013

We invite you to test your GMAT knowledge for a chance to win! Each week, we will post a new Challenge Problem for you to attempt. If you submit the correct answer, you will be entered into that week’s drawing for a free Manhattan GMAT Prep item. Tell your friends to get out their scrap paper and start solving!
Here is this week’s problem:

In the trapezoid above, with sides a, b, c, and 1, what is the value of ac ?

(1) a + c = b

(2) ac = 1

Free GMAT Events This Week: May 27- June 2

Here are the free GMAT events we’re holding this week. All times are local unless otherwise specified.

5/29/13– Chicago, IL– Free Trial Class – 9:00PM- 12:00AM (EDT)

5/30/13– Online  – Free Trial Class – 9:00PM- 12:00AM (EDT)

5/30/13– Washington, D.C. – Free Trial Class-  6:30PM-9:30PM

6/2/13– Online – Free Trial Class – 7:30PM- 10:30PM (EDT)

6/2/13– Online –Online GMAT Preview– 1:00PM-2:30PM (EDT)

Looking for more free events? Check out our Free Events Listings Page.

Want a 750+? Think Your Way Through This Challenge Problem!

A few months ago, I wrote a couple of articles targeted toward those students looking for a super-high score (one for quant, one for verbal). I challenged students to answer those questions in much less time than we typically average on test questions.

Well, I’m back with another one in the series. This problem is a bit different though: it’s from our Challenge Problem archive, a question bank consisting of what we call 800+ level problems. (Some might qualify as 750+ but most are harder than anything you’ll ever see on the real test.)

Do you need to be able to answer a question like this in order to score 750+? Absolutely not. (In fact, after my colleague Ron Purewal submitted this question, I tested it out on several of my fellow instructors, all of whom have scored 760+ on the test. Not everyone answered correctly.) Mostly, I’m offering this to stretch your brains, drive you a little crazy, and make one important point (see my second takeaway at the end).

If, however, quant is your strength and you’re hoping to score 51 in that section”you can certainly score 51 without getting this one right, but if you do get this one right in 2 minutes, then you know you’re ready for the quant section.

One more tidbit before we dive in. I chose this question because it is SO very hard. As of right now (as I’m typing this), 254 people have tried this problem and 44 have answered it correctly.

Do a little math here. What percentage of people answered the question correctly?

17%. Random guess position is 20%. Wow.

GMAT Challenge Problem Showdown: May 20, 2013

We invite you to test your GMAT knowledge for a chance to win! Each week, we will post a new Challenge Problem for you to attempt. If you submit the correct answer, you will be entered into that week’s drawing for a free Manhattan GMAT Prep item. Tell your friends to get out their scrap paper and start solving!
Here is this week’s problem:

The octagon in the diagram above is regular: all of its sides are of equal length, and all of its angles are of equal measure. If the octagon’s perimeter is 8 inches, and every other vertex of the octagon is connected to create a square as shown above, what is the area of the square?

Another Way to Solve Data Sufficiency Value Problems, The Goldilocks Method, & Finding a Number That’s Just Right

One of the hardest parts about becoming an instructor with Manhattan GMAT was relearning how to solve GMAT questions. That sounds absurd, considering I had already scored a 780 on the GMAT when I applied to become an instructor, but it’s true. During the interview process, I went through online and in-person classroom simulations with 99th percentile instructors playing students, testing my ability to explain a question using algebra instead of plugging numbers or using a rate chart instead of adding rates. Over the years, I’ve found that many of our instructors felt the same way: overwhelmed by how hard it is to go along with someone else’s preferred method without skipping a beat. Ultimately, I realized that teaching the GMAT is a hundred times harder than taking the GMAT because every question has several valid ways of being solved.

Which leads to the problem of what solution is the BEST solution. Any student who has worked with me over the years has heard me say the following- I don’t care what method you use to solve a problem. But I do care that you get great at that method. It’s the reason why the Official Guide has an explanation for each quant problem and Manhattan has an OG Companion with different explanations, along with online video explanations that will sometimes differ from either of those methods. With so many different ways of solving a question, it’s important to not get bogged down finding the best way to solve a problem, but instead focus on finding the fastest way from start to submit.

So with that said, over the next few months, I’d like to share a few methods that I personally use when solving a few different types of GMAT questions. Some of these methods might click for you, and I hope you practice them. Some of them won’t and I hope you stick with a method that works better for you. So without further ado- let’s take a look at a fairly straightforward GMATPrep problem and think about how you would attack this question:

A sum of $200,000 from a certain estate was divided among a spouse and three children. How much of the estate did the youngest child receive? (1) The spouse received 1/2 of the sum from the estate, and the oldest child received 1/4 of the remainder. (2) Each of the two younger children received$12,500 more than the oldest child and \$62,500 less than the spouse.

The first two things that I notice about this problem is that it is a word problem, giving us a real-world scenario, and a value Data Sufficiency question, asking us to find a single value for the amount that the youngest child received. And if I wanted to set this up algebraically, I could assign variables (s = spouse, x, y, z = oldest, middle, youngest child), write out several equations (s + x + y + z = 200,000. (1) s = 1/2*200,000; x = 1/4 * (1/2*200,000); y + z = 75,000. (2) y = z; z = x + 12,500; z = s âˆ’ 62,500), and eventually solve for z using Statement 2: the correct answer is (B). Different students at different levels of comfort with Data Sufficiency will be able to stop at different points after realizing that there either will or will not be a single variable in the equation that they’ve set up.