However, knowing how to avoid some of the most common pitfalls during the application process could put you ahead of the game.
“The top one mistake is failing to size up the competition,” says Andrew Mitchell director of pre-business programs at Kaplan Test Prep.
Some MBA applicants will have very demanding jobs and be very engaged in their career – one of reasons why they make a good candidate for business school. But failing to free up substantial amount of time to prepare an MBA application could be damaging.
“Some applicants fail to dedicate time to their application and think that their work experience will speak for itself. That isn’t necessarily true.
"To counter that, a good move would be to do your research on what it’ll take to make your application competitive,” Mitchell advises.
Preparing for business school admission tests, such as the internationally accepted Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT), is an important first move in staying ahead of the competition.
Dana Jinaru moderator at Beat the GMAT, an online resource into the MBA admissions test, says that unlike other elements of the MBA application, the GMAT is 100% under the applicant’s control.
“You cannot change the quality of your work experience or your college GPA, but by following the right study plan, you will be able to reach your target GMAT score.”
Jinaru advises setting aside one-and-a-half to two hours a day, and more on the weekend, to prepare for the exam.
“Familiarize yourself with the basics of the test: structure, types of questions, directions, time limits, scoring, etc. All these elements are important in helping you understand the logic behind the GMAT.”
The next step is to take a practice test.
“Carefully examine your results to understand your strengths and weaknesses, and then develop a strategy that addresses your weak spots,” she advises.
However when it comes to sitting the GMAT, some candidates make the mistake of investing too much time on the first ten questions, with the view that the computer adaptive testing algorithm uses these initial ten to estimate their ability.
“The reality is that every question counts. In fact, it can hurt your ability to finish the test," says GMAC’s director of marketing, Jane Delbene.
“It’s very important to pace yourself. Completing the test is one key to a better score. If you are stumped by a question, give it your best guess and move on. The penalty is severe if you don’t finish the test,” she adds.
Trying to estimate the difficulty level of the test questions could be to the detriment of securing a good score. Many candidates make the mistake of thinking that an easier question is an indication that they had answered the previous question incorrectly.
However this is not necessarily true. The computer adaptive system selects a specific number of questions from each category.
“Let’s say the test calls for your next question to be a relatively hard problem-solving question involving arithmetic operations. If arithmetic-based questions of this difficulty have all been administered, then you might be given an easier item,” Delbene explains.
“It takes special skill to correctly estimate the difficulty level of test questions – most people get it wrong. Don’t waste valuable time during the test trying to figure it out,” she stresses.
Impressing the business school admission officer with a refined and compelling pitch during an MBA admissions interview will bring candidates a step closer to bagging a place at their desired business school, but this may require a lot of practice.
“Speaking about yourself is a lot different from writing, so it’s probably a good idea to practice this out loud,” says Rose Martinelli, associate dean for student recruitment and admissions at University of Chicago Booth School of Business.
“What is really helpful for candidates is to sit down with friends or colleagues and discuss their path, plans and dreams. Really get into a mock interview experience. The more you interview, the better you become,” he adds.