MBA application process overview

1) GMAT

GMAT (Graduate Management Admission test) is an essential pre-requisite for an MBA application though some colleges accept GRE (Graduate Record Examination) scores as well. This is a standardized test that measures the applicant’s aptitude and judges their ability to perform in an MBA program. This is done by testing their verbal, quantitative and analytical writing skills. Scores are valid up to a period of five years from the date of taking the exam. The exam can be taken up multiple times with a gap of minimum 31 days and not more than five attempts are permitted in a year. The fee for this exam is U.S. $250.

GMAT Basics:

The GMAT is a computer adaptive test which means that that there is no question
paper available at a glance nor do any two candidates answer the same set of questions. Only one question can be viewed at a time. Answers once given cannot be modified. Again you need to answer a question in order to move on to the next one. The question generated depends upon whether the earlier answer provided was correct or not. For correct solutions, the level of difficulty of the subsequent questions goes on increasing which also corresponds to a higher score. On the other hand, incorrect responses would mean an easier question following it.

The first section: analytical writing assessment comprises of two 30-minute essays based on analysis of an argument and analysis of an issue. Candidates are given scores on a scale of 0-6, 6 being the highest possible score.

After this first section, an optional five-minute break is allotted to candidates before moving on to the next section. The second section tests the quantitative skills and comprises of 37 multiple choice questions under the following two categories:

1) Problem solving: This tests the candidate’s capacity to solve various problems in mathematics, algebra and geometry.

2) Data sufficiency: This evaluates the candidate’s ability to assess the sufficiency of the data provided to be able to answer a particular question. The candidate has to decide from the options provided as to how much information is needed to find a solution for a given problem.

The time allotted for this section is 75 minutes.

After another optional break, there is the verbal section comprising of 41 multiple choice questions that come under three categories: sentence correction, critical reasoning, and reading comprehension. Questions are based on passages on any topic and the time for answering is 75 minutes.
The total time taken for the GMAT comes close to four hours. Of these three sections, the maximum score that can be obtained in the quantitative and verbal sections is 800. The score for the analytical section is given separately and not included in this.

GMAT scheduling:

The GMAT can be taken by the candidates according to their convenience and level of preparation. However they should keep a note of the college application deadlines and accordingly plan for it in advance. The candidate needs to have a list of their five top-choice schools ready whenever they decide to take the GMAT. The GMAT scores would be forwarded to these schools free of cost. For every additional school where the score needs to be sent, the candidate will have to shell out $28 per school.

The process of forwarding the official GMAT scores to the B-schools may take up to a month’s time so candidates need to keep enough buffer and accordingly schedule the GMAT date so that the scores reach the colleges before the deadlines.

After the GMAT is taken, if the candidate feels that their performance was not up to the mark, they have the option of canceling their score. But once they’ve viewed their scores, they cannot cancel them. However either ways, the official GMAT score sent to the colleges will show the canceled score or the score obtained. Candidates who wish to retake the test can do so after a gap of 31 days. In case of multiple attempts at the GMAT, the last three scores would be sent to the B-schools and as is the general practice, the highest one would be taken into consideration.

TOEFL score

TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) is usually a requirement for testing the candidate’s proficiency in English language for students coming from non-native English speaking countries. The scores are valid for a two-year period. The test lasts for four hours and comprises of four sections to measure the candidate’s ability to understand and use English as an academic medium.

MBA admissions essays

Essays can be an effective means of potraying a certain image about the candidate to the admissions committee. The candidate needs to maximise the potential of this opportunity so that the admissions committee is convinced that they deserve to get in.

Writing a good essay needs patience and a lot of introspection. The candidate needs to delve into the past and prepare a list of all the achievements and success stories. These might be career-related instances wherein the candidates may have demonstrated exceptional skills and shown an amazing flair and successfully completed a certain project or assignment or maybe his role in a certain project may have made a substantial contribution to its success. On some occasions, the candidates may have exhibited excellent soft-skills by taking charge in the most difficult of situations and managed to maximise the output by fantastic team-management and delivered projects within deadlines. Even if the candidates may not have had opportunity to manage an entire team, they should ponder and note down any smaller incidents which are likely to make a difference in their essays. The candidates may also have to their credit any not-for-profit work experience or involvement for some social cause or community service which is also worth mentioning.

The candidate can use these past accomplishments in the storyline and try to prove how they would continue to grow and excel in the future as well, in professional, social and personal life.

Career decisions and advancement:

The candidates need to discuss about the various organisations they worked with, their role in each job and also whether job-hopping opportunities worked to their advantage or not. They might also point out whether within the same job, they had switched roles, maybe from a technical person to a project management role or from doing due diligence to a position in investment banking. All this would speak about the candidates’ capabilities and their potential to be a leader in their field. The future plans and career objectives also need to be mentioned and the role an MBA would play in helping you achieve the same also need to be outlined.

Resume/CV

The resume needs to be well-written, well-presented, well-organised and precise giving details of academic qualification and work experience. The admission committee would be interested in checking out the candidate’s career progress in the following areas: role-diversification, salary-rise over the years, capacity to handle work, size of projects handled or ability to manage a team. The time spent with each employer also needs to be indicated. There could also be a section with information about additional skills, hobbies, meritorious accomplishments or awards received.

Transcripts

A transcript is an official document giving details of the various subjects and the marks obtained in the same throughout the duration of the course or courses attended by the candidate in their undergraduate college or any other institution attended.

Letter of recommendation

Recommendations provide a third party perspective on the candidate’s personality, skills and abilities. The person chosen may be one who has worked with the candidates in a supervisory role and is in a position to provide a personalised feedback rather than someone in the top management like a CEO or a CFO who hardly has any idea about the candidate. Again going in for a variety of recommenders, maybe one manager or supervisor each from two different workplaces and one from a client who has worked in close association with the candidate would serve the purpose. It would also be advisable to provide each recommender with some bullet points on which they might wish to elaborate. That would not just make the task easier for the recommender but would also give a structure to the recommendations and provide an all-round insight into the candidate’s personality, abilities, skills and the different roles he successfully managed during his career.

Application fee

This can range from free to $250 depending on the school.

MBA admissions interview (if invited)

B-schools admissions interviews could be face-to-face or over the phone. Many of the colleges send their admissions team to various cities for interviewing candidates.

The dress code for the interview should be formal, avoiding the use of bright colours or fancy designs. A dark-coloured suit for men and skirts or pants for women with a white or light coloured shirt would be good.

The body language also contributes in making an impression before the interviewer. The candidates need to be confident, whether it’s a firm handshake or about maintaining eye contact with the interviewer. The candidate needs to practice answering commonly asked questions or have a mock interview session so that the relevant answers are ready rather than having to search for answers on the resume or essays. Again getting feedback from someone helps in knowing one’s shortcomings and possible scope for improvement.

A few general questions which the candidates may use for practice:
• A walk through the resume and any probable questions regarding a change in role or job
• Current role and responsibilities
• Why an MBA?
• Why that particular school?
• Short-term, long-term goals
• Strengths or weaknesses
• Any extracurricular activities, involvement for social or community cause
• What if they don’t get in?
• Which other colleges have they applied to?

The candidate may also be given a chance to ask any question they have to the interviewer. This opportunity needs to be made use of to ask questions related to the MBA program showing the candidate’s genuine interest into the details related to it.