Recently, I was talking with one of my mentors at work, and he was telling me about his MBA experience. He graduated from a Big Ten school with a degree in “liberal arts”. Yes, his focus was so broad, he studied what some entire undergrad institutions are called. After graduating, he started working for a local manufacturing firm, but was surprised when he knew so little compared to his peers about business. With that in mind, he targeted graduate business school.
Like many unprepared applicants then (and today), he applied based on the rankings. He told me “I looked at US News, or whomever was ranking schools then, and applied to the top 6: Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, Kellogg, MIT and whatever else there was”. He got into 5 out of the 6, with HBS being his only ding. Now, you must be saying, this guy must be of of those candidates, with the perfect GMAT, excellent work experience, perfect GPA, and tons of connections. He was none of those. How did he do it?
Well to be frank, things were a lot less competitive back then. Schools didn’t field thousands of applications every year. Most people viewed having a bachelors degree (in anything) as a sign of being well educated. Master’s degrees were close to unheard of. This topic came to mind this week, as GMAC updated their percentiles for the GMAT. As you expect, the Quant levels increased, and the Verbal levels decreased – still lots of non-native english speakers taking the test, it would seem. In 2006, my Q45 was representative of the 78th percentile. It is currently the 66th percentile. Keep in mind, the test’s raw scores haven’t changed. A Q45 today is a Q45 in 2006, is a Q45 in 1995, meaning that the ability shown in a Q45 today is the same as the ability for a Q45 historically.
So.. in 2006, a Q45 meant you were almost 1/2 of the famed 80/80 rule. Today? I’m worried that I’ll be listed as “low quant”, even though my scoring on the quant portion shows a quant ability equal to a person in the 78th percentile in 2006. Certainly the coursework hasn’t changed at this rate – finance class in ’06 is still finance class today. Does that mean that our society is valuing quant that much more in the past 7 years? I’m not so sure..Beyond the GMAT, just look at the arms race that has popped up for admissions consultants. As a veteran of the GMAT forums, I can say, the forums didn’t used to be as filled with consultants lending advice, and ultimately pitching their services. Make no doubt, every aspect of the MBA process has become intensified. My advice? Plan accordingly.