Separating Fact from Hysteria in MBA Admissions

They say hysteria sells. And it sure does, or at least it did, back in the 1980s, when Def Leppard’s Hysteria went on to sell more than 20 million copies worldwide after its release in 1987. The name “Hysteria” was inspired by the surge in media coverage caused by drummer Rick Allen’s Dec. 31 1984 car accident. While Allen’s accident was devastating (he would rebound to drum on Hysteria, and is still with the band today, despite only having one arm) the worldwide “hysteria” caused by his accident dwarfed the event itself, to the band’s bemusement.

In the world of GMAT prep and MBA admissions, there have been similar developments where the story has become bigger than the news itself. Here are four examples:

When ETS started making an aggressive push to challenge the GMAT with the GRE as a legitimate alternative for business school admissions, media outlets took notice. When HBS, Stanford, MIT Sloan (and later Wharton) announced that they would start accepting the GRE or the GMAT, hysteria broke out. As we’ve said before, if you’re serious about business school and earning an MBA has been your plan all along, there’s still no good reason to choose the GRE over the GMAT. These schools’ decisions to accept the GRE is to try to attract more non-traditional applicants, not to give you a chance to take an “easier” test (as some believe the GRE to be).

Background Checks by Business Schools
Early last decade, Wharton and a few other top MBA programs began using Kroll and similar firms to perform spot background checks on admitted applicants. Hysteria kicked in when applicants started worrying, “I put down that I do 10-15 hours of volunteer work per month, but what if they learn its’ more like 5-10 hours??” While there are been some well-documented cases of business schools rescinding admissions upon learning of inaccuracies in applicants’ backgrounds, these have been few and far between. And, schools are far more worried about catching true whoppers (e.g., saying you were a VP at a company when you were only and associate, or falsifying your salary) than trying to catch you on a technicality. If you’re not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about.

The Introduction of Bold-Faced Critical Reasoning GMAT Questions
A few years ago, the GMAT corner of cyberspace lit up with hysteria -– the GMAT had a brand new, never-before-seen type of Critical Reasoning problem that was inciting terror among unsuspecting examinees. The question? A Critical Reasoning paragraph with one or two sentences highlighted in boldface type, and the question stem: “The sentences in boldface play which of the following roles?” Calls flooded into test preparation offices and GMAT-themed forums stacked up questions regarding the recommended approaches for such problems. The best approach? Relax -– these questions are just like those “Method of Reasoning” types that ask you to describe the author’s reasoning. The main difference was just some boldfaced type -– which in some ways was even an advantage for the examinee, who was better able to prioritize his reading by focusing on the portions that the GMAT specifically highlighted.

The Scoretop Scandal
When GMAC shut down a web site that sold real, live GMAT questions, this was the biggest news the normally sleeping test prep industry had seen in years. While Scoretop was indeed up to no good, and everyone in the industry (including Veritas Prep) cheered when GMAC shut it down, the impact on MBA applicants and students was actually far smaller than originally expected. Of the 6,000 test takers probed for alleged violations, only 84 were eventually sanctioned. Again, lots of hysteria, and plenty of justice served, but for those who were playing by the rules all along, the scandal proved nothing more than an interesting read in the Summer of 2008.

The lesson? Don’t get caught up in the hysteria. Stick to your strategy, do the right thing, and you’ll be fine. For more MBA admissions advice, give us a call at (800) 925-7737 and speak with an admissions expert today. And, be sure to subscribe to this blog and follow us on Twitter!