The Digit ‘7’

October 5, 2009

When I went for the GMAT two days back, there were eight people who entered the Pearson Vue center in Delhi, and I was one of them. I was assuming that the number would be a lot less, considering that R1 is already over, and R2 is a long way off. It appears that I’m not the only one to have postponed the GMAT and applications to R2. That would mean that forums like BeatTheGmat will continue to be buzzing with activity for at least a few of the coming months.

This post is about online forums, BeatTheGmat (BTG) in particular, and particularly about the posts at the I-Beat-The-GMAT (or equivalent) section in such forums. I have always faced a certain disquiet reading about the experiences of test takers who have scored 700 and above; not because I thought it to be personally unattainable, but because the sheer number of people who appear to score a 700 and above appeared to be a bit too large. In fact, very few posts, even today, on BTG actually talk of a sub-700 score. So, I began to wonder if a 700 and above score was normal, and if that was the way things are.

I am not aware of the percentage of test takers who get a 700 or more in GMAT in a particular year. Perhaps a reader of this blog with the figures can educate me on that. But if I were to believe to what is there on the forums, it would seem that the percentage would be pretty big. Almost as if, anything below a 700, and you’ve failed.

It took me a while to realise that a person receiving a sub-700 score would not write about it in forums. There are a few stories from sub-700 score receivers, and very inspirational ones, but for the most part they tend to stay off, striving till they have received a 700 and above score before they post their experiences. What this does, is it creates a false feeling that a 700 and above score is the norm, and that anything below it either does not exist or is totally unacceptable.

I think moderators need to address this issue, and bring about a parity in the scores posted on their forums. It will lessen a lot of heartbreak among test takers who have now come to believe that they have failed in their efforts if they have a sub-700 score. To be honest, even I thought the same, and it took me a lot of self reasoning to make myself understand and accept the fact that not everyone gets an 800 and similarly not everyone gets a 700 and above score.

[Disclaimer: I scored a 700.]


The MBA Tweet

September 22, 2009

The HBS Admissions Blog has an RSS feed. And that sounds so outdated. Forgive me, but I’m a recent Twitter convert who thinks that anything that preceded Twitter is obsolete, or at least, ought to be. My primary use of my Twitter account is not to rant about my GMAT preparations – it was the primary objective, but has since changed. Rather, it is to gather updates from several blogs, forums and alumni without having to go to each individual website. There are statistics floating around in the net-o-sphere on the ways people are putting Twitter to use; and access to news & information forms a pretty large chunk of what the people use Twitter for. I remember reading a nice article here showing that people are increasingly using Twitter as a “personal news-wire.” So, I’m not the only one who does it.

I’m, however, still not overtly fond of the way Twitter is as of now. I think the home page does not, in its present design, have the requisite space to take in a large amount of feeds, which creates a problem since I often cannot see all the updates without having to click on ‘more’. Imagine those who are following over a thousand. What a pile-up!

However as my numbers stand today (following approx 14), it is much less of an issue. Beat The GMAT, GMAT Club, Clear Admit, Stacy Blackman,, Grockit, Knewton, MBA Channel and a few HBS alumni provide me with a steady stream of updates on life in the GMAT and MBA Application arenas, and life, in general, at HBS. No more bookmarking individual sites. No more missing out on an important update/information.

I would love to see the HBS AdCom get itself a Twitter account as well, and shout its updates from there. I definitely do not want to have to open the page in the office (too risky) everyday to look for an update. There aren’t many in a week anyways, so most of the time, my efforts to finding an update is fruitless. Hope they are listening.

HBS & Travian

September 7, 2009

Finally, the pack is back at HBS, and the reports have just begun to trickle in. How glad I must be! It’s really the same ol’ things that surprises new admits — the diversity of students, the exuberance of the campus, the sushi of Spangler, the case discussions, student interactions etc. But perhaps the most blogged about topic happens to be the student diversity at HBS. The best and the brightest from across the world, carrying their own cultural baggage, gather there to be trained in the American way of doing business. The West Point of Capitalism, as someone put it mildly.

My mind harks back to the days, a few months ago, when I was still embroiled in a seemingly perpetual war between Romans, Teutons and Gauls in an online game by the name of Travian. As with any online game, the members came from diverse geographical and demographical environments. Some of them did not even know English well enough to communicate, but they were all there; fighting with each other, sending tributes and reinforcements, calling for help, and forming alliances.

What I hear from HBS students makes me think of Travian because there I found a similar vein of multi-culturalism woven into a common goal of wining the game. I remember coaxing an Iranian player to join our Alliance formed by an American member while brokering a peace deal between the Iranian player and a Caucasian player. Language barriers, local biases, political considerations, all played a part as each drama enfolded while I was in the game. Messages sent across were often unfathomable because they were not originating from a native English speaker. But we managed to understand who was saying what. Iranians reached out to Americans, Israelis sent troops to reinforce the Iranian’s borders, I received a barrage of messages part in Thai and part English. People, places, languages, ethnicity, politics, state propaganda: We were fighting more than just the war, we were also fighting existing perceptions, and prejudices.

I wonder if HBS is a Travian-like experience (minus of course the blood-shed). I wonder if the same excitement of brokering an understanding between people of divergent culture can be attained at HBS. I don’t know if I’ll ever make it there, but I think, I wonder, that I may have, just may have experienced the excitement shared by incoming new students at HBS at being subjected to this diverse population. And it felt great.

Better be Confused

August 25, 2009

As always, part of my morning routine includes a quick glance through a set of web-sites I read on MBA and GMAT. One of them happens to be the HBS Admissions Director’s Blog ( — a fairly comprehensive detail of what is expected of applicants, and a few important guidelines or advices.

This morning I found an update on the site after a month and four days on recommenders, and a part of the blog caught my attention:

“… in these unusual times, please don’t jeopardize your employment in order to secure a recommendation from a current employer. While we might wish that all bosses were enthusiastic and encouraging about business school for their emerging leaders, this is not a universal sentiment.”

Here’s why I felt it touching.

I have always been called “confused” by a section of people due to way I move about in live. And yet, with every jump I have only arrived at a better location and much further than where I had been before I made the leap. It struck me as odd that someone with experience would feel I was “confused” when I could plainly see that I was on the right track.

And then the truth struck me: I couldn’t expect many people to rejoice at my success. A few months back, in an attempt to initiate the application phase, I put up a Linkedin profile, and was left pleasantly surprised to see just how far I’ve gone since I first made a move and someone called me “confused.”

Most people think linear. Their career graph is also linear. They can’t imagine anyone doing anything that isn’t governed by a linear thought process. Anyone who thinks and acts non-linear is considered “confused”.

And nobody, barring a few exceptions, wants their best people to leave for business school. Every one of such people lost means a substantial jolt to the superior’s career. They’ve lost an engine of their growth. The lack of enthusiasm and encouragement “about business school for their emerging leaders” is therefore pretty much standard in the work place.

So, it’s nice to see that HBS understands and accepts this phenomenon.

The Summer Months

August 18, 2009

Before I’m too tired to even look at the flickering screen, I’d like to point out that HBS, by my reckoning, is a desolate little island these days. It has been so for the past few months; ever since the kids went away for their summer internships. The dorms must be empty, the classrooms empty, Spangler empty, Aldrich empty. I know one who’s in DC. I know it because she updates her blog weekly. This is also the time when one batch of HBS Grads has almost edged themselves out, and the next batch hasn’t quite moved in.

And that creates a problem for me.

Suddenly, all the juicy stuff leaking out of HBS has coagulated. Of all the blogs I follow, rarely has any been updated with any news of HBS. [Aside: Of course, there isn’t much news when the school is out.] And even the Harbus, the official mouth-piece of HBS, has been oddly silent. I can see the same group photograph, and the same write-ups still garnishing the front page that have been there since May 2009. Thankfully I have the archives to read. Correction: “had”. I’ve devoured them too by now.

So what’s the problem?

If you’re applying to a business school, you need to know everything, as in EVERYTHING, about the school before-hand — the culture, the happenings, the events, the schedule, the drunken parties, who is sleeping with whom, etc. In my case, I already have more than the requisite stash of information. I’m gathering the extras. I’m living the experience even before I’ve taken the GMAT. That might make me want to kill myself if I don’t eventually make it in, but on the other hand, also makes my decision more informed and my application more…to use an oft-repeated counsellor word “compelling.”

But now, it appears that the summer break is almost over, and the start of the new EC and the RC batches is close, very close. And I’m waiting, eagerly, to see what’s up.

The Chinese Trick

August 8, 2009

Oh Yes! I’m supposed to write something. I just read on about something the Chinese call a ‘JJ’ guide. This, essentially, is a digest of GMAT Quant question which various applicants have encountered in their actual GMAT. It follows the ‘someone-planted-a-tree-for-me-I’ll-plant-a-tree-for-someone’ — a very thoughtful gesture; very useful social co-operation, and an outright cheating mechanism. The debate was furious. Most posters denounced the ‘JJ’ and the original poster. The admin kicked him/her out of the forum, and warned that no copyright violation will be tolerated.

I posted the following:

“It’s very, very tough to prosecute a Chinese entity in China on a suit filed by a non-Chinese entity. The reason is that the Chinese government, whose job it is to prosecute, almost never agrees to whip one of it’s own to please a foreigner. As a lawyer dealing in foreign investment and foreign trade, I’m very wary of the Chinese when it comes to implementation of Chinese law. I remember a colleague talking about an international arbitration case involving a Chinese party and a foreign party. The arbitration award went in favour of the foreign party. Guess what the Chinese did? They just got up and walked away. They knew they would not be prosecuted in China. Of Course, it gets worse. No country can force China to adhere to international laws, or protocols. It’s too big, too powerful, and too important to be bullied. So I doubt if this ‘JJ’ thing will be closed upon international pressure. How about kneeling down and pleading to the Chinese administration to do MBA applicants a huge favour by outlawing the ‘JJ’. But why would they want to when it’s benefiting them?”

Yep, that’s what I’d want to know.

In Response:

July 7, 2009

This is in response to Sophie’s comment on my post “Getting what I paid for.”

In my opinion, the coaching did have an important impact on my preparations: It helped me maintain a certain momentum. Knowing that I would have to be in class every weekend answering questions and competing with fellow classmates meant that I would make sure I was well prepared through the week. I did find the momentum slacking significantly immediately after the end of coaching. With no weekend targets to keep up with, that was natural. It’s only now beginning to climb up.

Further, in addition to giving me a momentum, coaching also provided me with an immense moral support. Knowing that I had help, and knowing that I could get stuck somewhere and be cleared by the faculty was a great moral booster. So, while I still rue not learning the tips/tricks/short-cuts at coaching, it wasn’t a totally wasted affair.

Though it certainly was not the ‘complete package’ as I might have expected it to be at one point.