Monday, August 28, 2006

Implicit biases in MBA entrance exams

It is that time of the year when MBA hopefuls apply for various entrace exams - CAT, XAT, our own JMET, and god-alone-knows-what-else. I've got some pretty strong reservations against our system.

A lot of b-schools (SJMSOM included) prefer people with workex. A person with workex can apply a lot of concepts to what he/she had experienced before. However, the entrance exams are designed to be for freshers.

It takes a few months of preparation to face CAT if you are serious about MBA. If you are working, and you enjoy your work, and the work is good, and you are sincere in doing your work, how much effort can you put into preparing for CAT ? I assume that I meet all the above criteria, and I'll tell you the answer: Not much.

If the job pays well, your motivation to do MBA suffers too. A lot of my ex-colleagues really wanted to do MBA, but could never take the risk of loss of big income for 2 whole years. And as you put in more and more years in the industry, you become less and less inclined towards preparing for higher studies.

So, the best strategy is to rely on your strengths and pray. I could not crack CAT because I was not prepared for quant, and hence could not clear the section cut-offs. And that is why I cracked JMET. Because of lack of section cut-offs, my strategy was simple and executed perfectly - no preparation, relying only on my strengths: I maxed out the verbal and logical section in 1 hour, and spent the rest of the time with Data analysis and quant. It worked, and I got a good rank, good enough to get a call from SJMSOM.

So, in essence, to get into a b-school, all the soft skills and experience really don't matter. An MBA entrance exam is inherently biased against experienced people and against those who work hard. It is inherently biased towards hard skills and against soft skills.

Is this what we want ?

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