Articles published in June 2014

To Keep or To Cancel Your GMAT Score—That Is the Question

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cancel-gmat-scoreHave you heard? GMAC® just announced that, as of 27 June, we’ll be allowed to decide whether to keep or cancel our scores after we find out how we did. Exciting news!

What just changed?
I’ll summarize the details, but you can also read the full press release yourself here: Score Preview Added to GMAT.

Here’s what will happen when you get in there. You’ll take the test and, when you’re done, you’ll be shown your scores for everything but the essay. You will then have 2 minutes to decide whether to accept your scores.

You must actively accept them; if you do nothing, the scores will be canceled.

If you do cancel, you will then have 60 days to decide whether to reinstate the scores—for a fee of USD100. (Also, if you cancel, the schools will still see that you sat for the exam, as always.)

Okay, so what is the significance of this new feature?
Technically, this new feature shouldn’t really change anything because business schools really do use only your highest score. It’s hard, though, to remember that while the clock is ticking. The single biggest value here is peace of mind.

Of course you don’t want to become ill or have a panic attack or mess up your timing so badly that you don’t finish a section of the test. If any of those things happen, though, then you can cancel your score. (Just as you could before, actually—though you wouldn’t have known your score when making the decision.)

The overall message is the same as always: if you don’t hit your goal score, you can always take the test again, so just do your best and see what happens.

Know what you’re going to do before you get in there
2 minutes to decide? That just ADDS stress!

It could, yes, but you will already have decided what you’re going to do if faced with various scenarios.

Scenario #1: Goal score 720. Actual score 670.

Do NOT cancel this score. Sure, it’s below your goal, but it’s still a good score—and you don’t know for sure that you’ll hit 720 next time. In fact, some students score lower on their second test. Do not lose this score.

Scenario #2: Goal score 650. Actual score 450.

Most people will want to cancel this score. Several of my fellow teachers argued that we should tell everyone not to cancel anything, since the schools really do take the highest score. Still, realistically, I think most people will want to cancel a score 200 points below their goal. (But you really could leave it—the schools won’t care!)

Where does the line flip? How far below your goal score do you need to be in order to consider canceling?

I’ve been polling my colleagues since the news was announced yesterday afternoon and, while opinions vary, we all agree that anyone within 100 points of their goal score should definitely keep that score.

I’d go a little further. I think you should keep (or consider keeping) the score if you’re within 150 points of your goal. If you score 600+, keep the score even if your goal is 750.

Scenario #3: First official test Q 61st percentile, V 93rd percentile. Second official test, Q 76th percentile, V 84th percentile.

Even though the Verbal score went down on the second test, the Quant score went from a not-very-competitive score to one that is acceptable to all schools, so keep that score! This is true even if your overall score went down.

I canceled but now I’m thinking I should reinstate the score…
Come and talk to us on the forums. We can help you plan what to do before you get in there and we can also advise you after the fact. Post in the General Strategy folder in the Ask An Instructor section of the forums.

In sum
Definitely keep the score if you are within 100 points of your goal. Strongly consider keeping the score if you are within 150 points. (Pick a specific cut-off point for yourself before test day.) If you are more than 150 points below a reasonable* goal, then go ahead and cancel the score.

*Anything above 750 is not a reasonable goal, unless your real goal is not business school but teaching for us. 🙂

Studying for the GMAT? Take a free GMAT practice exam, or sign up for a free GMAT preview class, running all the time near you, or online. And, be sure to find us on FacebookGoogle+, LinkedIn, and follow us on Twitter!

Score Preview Added to Graduate Management Admission Test

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unnamedBeginning Friday, June 27th, 2014, prospective business students taking the Graduate Management Admission Test® will now be able to preview their unofficial scores before deciding whether to report or cancel them, the Graduate Management Admission Council® states. The score reporting feature will be available at all 600 test centers around the world that administer the GMAT exam.

“We are pleased to offer this feature as part of our efforts to make preparing for and taking the GMAT exam easier,” said Ashok Sarathy, GMAC vice president, product management. “The new score reporting feature gives test takers more certainty and control in the testing process and in how their scores are reported to schools.”

GMAT takers will be given the option of reporting or canceling their scores immediately after taking the test before leaving the test center.

Read the full details in our latest blog post on this, To Keep or To Cancel Your GMAT Score? — That is the question!

mbaMission: Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Sloan) Essay Analysis, 2014–2015

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We’ve invited mbaMission to share their Business School Essays Analyses as they’re released for the 2014-2015 application season. Here is their analysis for Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Sloan).

The MIT Sloan School of Management bucks conventionality this admissions season and has added to the word count for its application essays—moving from a maximum of 1,000 words to 1,250. The school’s first essay question remains the same as last year’s, but its second essay prompt presents an interesting challenge in that the admissions committee asks you to do exactly what it does not want you to do in reality: write your own recommendation letter. At least in this case, the school is allowing you to do so in the light of day. Thankfully, perhaps, Sloan has dropped its befuddling optional essay, which had invited applicants to share any additional information in any format. Candidates will be content to see clearer directives in the program’s essay questions. As always, our analysis follows…

MIT SloanEssay 1:  The mission of the MIT Sloan School of Management is to develop principled, innovative leaders who improve the world and to generate ideas that advance management practice. Discuss how you will contribute toward advancing the mission based on examples from your past work and activities. (500 words or fewer)
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mbaMission: University of Michigan (Ross) Essay Analysis, 2014–2015

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We’ve invited mbaMission to share their Business School Essays Analyses as they’re released for the 2014-2015 application season. Here is their analysis for University of Michigan (Ross). 

The Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan has refashioned its essay questions, going “smaller” with its requirements, as have several other schools this application season. Ross’s broadly worded essay prompts give you ample breadth—if not an overabundance of words—in which to tell your story. As always, think carefully about what you want to say and the impression you want to make before you start writing, because more opportunity lurks here than you might realize at first.

Michigan RossEssay 1: What are you most proud of professionally and why? What did you learn from that experience? (400 words)
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mbaMission: University of Pennsylvania (Wharton) Essay Analysis, 2014–2015

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We’ve invited mbaMission to share their Business School Essays Analyses as they’re released for the 2014-2015 application season. Here is their analysis for University of Pennsylvania (Wharton).  

The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania has decreased its number of application essays to just two this year and is giving candidates a whopping 900 words with which to distinguish themselves. We surmise that the influx of application essays can be overwhelming for the school’s overworked admissions officers, who find them somewhat deadening over time. So, by cutting back the program’s application requirements, they are able to stay sharp and still get what they need from you as an applicant. While this change may be helpful on the school’s end, the limitations make your job much harder. Wharton gives you a mostly boilerplate personal statement and a rather Harvard Business School–esque “discuss what you want” style prompt—seemingly not a lot of latitude with which to make an impression, but the key word here is “seemingly.” The smart applicant will make use of Essay 2 in particular to stand out from the pack. Our analysis follows…

WhartonThis year we require one essay, with a second being optional.  For the second optional essay, we recommend that you to use your best judgment and focus your energy on highlighting new information that we are unable to ascertain from other sections of the application.
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mbaMission: Columbia Business School Essay Analysis, 2014–2015

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We’ve invited mbaMission to share their Business School Essays Analyses as they’re released for the 2014-2015 application season. Here is their analysis for Columbia Business School. 

For the second year in a row, Columbia Business School (CBS) has kicked off the MBA application season. During an online event with mbaMission, Manhattan Prep and Poets & Quants, CBS’s director of admissions, Christina Shelby, told the audience that the school has added urgency in releasing its questions, because it has to meet the needs of its January-entry (known as J-Term) applicants, whose application deadlines come much sooner (October 8, 2014, versus April 15, 2015). Whatever its rationale for the “early” application release, CBS is basically staying the course with its essay questions, though it has again reduced the allowable character count in its “Twitter-like” goal statement; from 200 characters two years ago, it was cut to 100 last year and now stands at a mere 75. Our analysis follows…

Columbia Business SchoolShort Answer Question: What is your immediate post-MBA professional goal? (75 characters maximum)
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mbaMission: Stanford Graduate School of Business Essay Analysis, 2014–2015

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We’ve invited mbaMission to share their Business School Essays Analyses as they’re released for the 2014-2015 application season. Here is their analysis for Stanford Graduate School of Business. 

The Stanford Graduate School of Business (GSB) became the second top MBA program to release its essay questions this year, and the school follows a trend in application essays—“less is more.” Stanford has dropped its third essay question this season and stuck with two standbys, which we can summarize as “What matters most to you?” and “Why us?” The GSB’s choice to maintain its “Why us?” question is an interesting one, considering how selective the program is (the Princeton Review ranks it number one for Toughest to Get Into). Maybe one reason the school is so strong is that it still focuses on fit and does not take its desirability for granted (?).

Another big change in the Stanford application this year is that the number of recommendations required has dropped from three to two, leaving the candidate to make the vexing choice between a professional recommender or a peer for that second recommendation. Our guess is that most people will choose the far more straightforward professional recommendation option, because candidates who do so can be more confident that they have made the “right” choice of recommenders.

Stanford Graduate School of BusinessEssay 1: “What matters most to you and why?” (750 words)
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mbaMission: Harvard Business School Essay Analysis, 2014–2015

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We’ve invited mbaMission to share their Business School Essays Analyses as they’re released for the 2014-2015 application season. Here is their analysis for Harvard Business School. 

Last year, Harvard Business School (HBS) took a new approach to its application essay questions, moving from multiple queries to one very open-ended prompt with no clear word limit. This year, HBS Director of Admissions and Financial Aid Dee Leopold seems to have surprised even herself, judging from a recent blog post, by announcing that the school will be keeping its questions… err, question… exactly the same.

With the benefit of a year of HBS acceptances under our belt using this specific question, we can at least offer some confident guidance on word limits, an issue that really perplexed last year’s candidates. Last season, we had many successful applicants to HBS, some of whom used as few as 750 words while others used as many as 1,250.  In general, we encouraged our clients to stick with 1,000 or fewer, but certain candidates who had plenty to say used more, expressed themselves well and ultimately succeeded. Although Leopold notes that the essay is actually optional, we report—and this will likely come as no shock to applicants—that we had no clients audacious enough to completely forgo submitting an essay. Every single one of our successful candidates did so, as expected.

Here is our analysis of tHarvard Business Schoolhe sole HBS essay question and the accompanying post-interview assessment…
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mbaMission: Dartmouth College (Tuck) Essay Analysis, 2014–2015

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We’ve invited mbaMission to share their Business School Essays Analyses as they’re released for the 2014-2015 application season. Here is their analysis for Dartmouth College (Tuck). 

Following what seems to be an emerging trend this season, the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College has decreased the number of required applications essays this year from (an already fairly minimal) three to just two 500-word submissions, one of which is a classic career statement, while the other asks candidates to share and reflect on a significant leadership experience. Having just 1,000 words with which to convey meaningful elements of their profile means that applicants will need to be especially judicious in choosing their messages and particularly efficient in their writing to get the most impact from these two rather circumscribed essays. As always, we recommend a thorough brainstorming session before you put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) so that your messages are clear, complete and fully on topic.

Please respond fully but concisely to the following essay questions. There are no right or wrong answers. We encourage applicants to limit the length of their responses to 500 words for each essay. Please double-space your responses.

Dartmouth Tuck School of Business1. Why is an MBA a critical next step toward your short- and long-term career goals? Why is Tuck the best MBA fit for you and your goals and why are you the best fit for Tuck?
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mbaMission: New York University (Stern) Essay Analysis, 2014–2015

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We’ve invited mbaMission to share their Business School Essays Analyses as they’re released for the 2014-2015 application season. Here is their analysis for New York University (Stern). 

New York University’s (NYU’s) Stern School of Business must be happy with the essay responses they received from applicants last admissions season, because the school has made no changes to its essay questions for this year. Stern maintains its standard career essay prompt and again gives candidates two completely different options for the second essay, one that is professional in nature and another that is personal. Many applicants will likely be daunted by the “personal expression” option, because the significant latitude it offers can lead to uncertainty—as in, “Am I doing this right?” We suggest that rather than worrying about which format to choose, you first consider what you want to say as an applicant. Who are you? What do you want the Stern admissions committee to know about you? Once you can answer those questions, determine which option better allows you to showcase your message and your strengths.
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