Guest Posts

Guest Post by Varsity Tutors: How to improve your score on the GMAT [or any test]

VTAny friends studying for a standardized test these days?  Then this guest by my friends at Varsity Tutors could be for you. Whether you’re studying for the LSAT, GMAT, GRE or the SAT, these general tips may be helpful on your second attempt.  More importantly,  they reinforce the idea of just how much #EducationMatters.

See below for the article.

How to Improve Your GMAT Score

“B-School applicant, you just finished a grueling four-hour test. What are you going to do now?”

“I’m going to…take it again!”

Well, that wasn’t the answer everyone was expecting. However, retaking the GMAT is a reality for many test-takers. Some simply feel they could have done better than they did, others need a certain target score to get into a particular school that they have not yet reached. In fact, students are often encouraged to initially sign up for two tests, hoping that a scheduled second test will take some pressure off of them the first time, ultimately leading to better scores.

If you have a solid reason to take the exam again, get the test date locked down as soon as you can. You have to wait 31 calendar days before retaking the GMAT, but in the interest of keeping your knowledge fresh, you shouldn’t schedule your retake too far after that time.

So, you’ve got a month or so before another test day, and you need a plan. It’s time to figure out what to do so that this extra effort expended will not go to waste.

1. Review your initial test day experience immediately.

As much as you probably don’t want to relive an experience that you possibly found about as fun as dental surgery, an immediate debrief is a necessary evil. As soon as possible, go back over your entire test day experience and take notes.

  • Remember your physical condition. If you were sleepy, felt hungry, or were uncomfortable in any other way, these circumstances could very well have messed up your score. Thankfully, they can all be fixed for your retake.
  • Remember conditions of the room. Things like temperature and noise can also affect you negatively, and you can be better prepared for them next time.
  • Remember your actual test-taking. Timing and concentration during long reading passages are examples of important concepts that should be always incorporated into your preparation. Did you have problems with these the first time?
  • Remember the test content. There may have been specific concepts, vocabulary, or problem types that were vague or unknown to you and that, to your dismay, popped up repeatedly. Jot them down so you can work on them, since it’s likely that they are important and you will see them again.

2.   Take a short break.

Once you’ve immediately recapped the day, it’s time to shake it off and move forward with the lessons you’ve learned. It’s important to give your mind a little bit of time off and put some distance between you and the first test.

3. Address your weaknesses.

When you analyze your test day experience, look at the items that you saw consistently and didn’t feel confident approaching. Hit those hard by doing drills and in-format questions until they are no longer a problem.

4. Shore up your strengths.

Don’t let the things that you are good at fall by the wayside. Instead, keep them fresh by continuing to work on them while simultaneously reviewing the more challenging material as well. And, in all question cases (but particularly when you’re trying to keep your good skills fresh), go over both correct and incorrect answer choices. You may have answered the question right, but was there a faster way to do it? Is there any lesson shown in the wrong answers that you could use regarding eliminating wrong answers in the future?

5. Work on time management.

Time management is a big problem for most test-takers, so don’t neglect it. You’ve got to improve how quickly you get correct answers and how much time to spend on questions before giving up on them or guessing. Once you have concepts down, complete timed problem sets and exercises as soon as possible.

6. Change it up.

The results of your first test were clearly subpar for you, so perhaps your method of test preparation needs to be changed. If you keep preparing the same way you did before, how will you ever increase your score? Einstein famously described insanity as performing the same task over and over and hoping for a different result. To avoid GMAT “insanity,” change the method somehow – get a GMAT tutor, use a different test prep book publisher, do a better job simulating the real test day experience when you do practice tests – really commit to working on the test everyday and not just sporadically. Shake up your learning and pump up your score!

It’s important to be very honest with yourself when analyzing your first test day experience. Only you can really know if you really were absolutely committed to the process and if you truly grasped what you kept saying you understood. Make some truthful assessments, change your preparation appropriately, approach test day with the confidence that comes from experience, and you’ll be well on your way to an improved score.

This post is written by Toby Blackwell. Toby is a GMAT tutor and contributing writer for Varsity Tutors. He graduated with honors and received his Bachelor’s degree from Harvard University.

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Thursday, August 8th, 2013 Business School, Education, Guest Posts 1 Comment

Guest Post: Finding Employment In Any Economy

Finding a job in any economy can be a daunting task, let alone now, when the economy has been declining and people have been holding onto their current jobs longer than in recent history.  In business school, the job search process has always taken up a significant portion of the MBA experience as students invest dozens of hours, if not significantly more, to ensure they get a job they are happy with. But what about those who haven’t found their dream jobs yet? And what about everyone that’s not currently enrolled in MBA programs? Well, no matter which group you belong to, this guest post, by Mark Davies (from onlinemastersdegree)  may be helpful to you in your search.

It’s that time of the year again, where people are beginning to look for jobs. First year MBA students met lots of employers over the past few months and are gearing up to officially begin recruiting in January. First year law students are doing the same, where they’re starting to send cover letters and resumes to firms they want to interview for over the next few weeks. Meanwhile, many of those who are not currently enrolled in graduate programs are also continuing their job searches. The new year begins in just a few weeks, so for them, now is crunch time, as many companies do a large portion of hiring in January and February, at the beginning of the new year.

Since finding job opportunities is on the forefront of a lot of people’s minds, I thought it might be a good time to publish an article on finding employment.  The article below was written by a guest writer named Mark Davies, who approached me a couple of weeks ago about contributing an entry to the site. His website is focused on online education, but he’s also interested in a wide range of topics such as finding employment.

Given the relevance of the content, I thought it’d be a great chance to post the piece written by Mark here on my site.

See below for the article and below that for Mark’s contact information.

5 Tips to Find Employment in Any Economic Climate (Written by Mark Davies)

Education, employment and financial stability are all intrinsically linked together; each one depends in some way on the other, and that’s why we expend effort in gaining a quality education so that we’re able to find a job that leads to financial stability. The key to success in life is to hold a job that you like and which pays reasonably well – money is not the only thing in life, but it does make life a lot easier and more convenient. So finding and holding a job is essential, in any economic climate. And if you’re looking for ways to do this, read on:

1. Be confident in your abilities: Jobs come to those who radiate confidence without coming across as over-confident. The best thing to do to impress employers is to play on your strengths and tone down your weaknesses. So if you’re shy and reticent but an excellent programmer, then apply for a coding job that does not require you to interact with too many people. When you’re skilled at your job and confident about your abilities, you find that jobs are more readily available.

2. Keep up to date with the changing face of your profession: Change is inevitable in every aspect of life, so it’s inevitable that your profession goes through various phases based on environmental, societal and other extraneous changes. If you’re hoping to stay current and relevant and job-worthy in any economic climate, you must adapt to the changing face of your profession. If technology is the answer, then make an effort to learn how to use it at your job instead of eschewing it in favor of doing things the old-fashioned way because you’re frightened of change or don’t know how to handle technology.

3. Continue to hone your skills: On the job skills are very important when you’re hoping to avoid a lay off or find a job at any point of time. It’s good if you’ve proven yourself and have a track record that speaks for itself about your effectiveness on the job; however, it’s not great if you rest on your laurels and forget that continuously honing your skills is important to stay relevant in the changing job market.

4. Settle for a lower pay packet: While this is not a strategy that is recommended at all times, it’s wise to settle for a lower salary when all other aspects of the job are satisfactory and when the job market is not very forthcoming. Salary can be negotiated and raised at a later date, but a ready job, one that you like and which suits your convenience, may not be available at all times.

5. Never discount the power of networking: As much as possible, avoid making enemies on or off the job in your profession – every single person you meet could help you out when you need a job in times of financial difficulty. When your network is solid and strong, you have a support system to rely on during hard times.

* This guest post is contributed by Mark Davies, he writes on the topic of Masters Degree Online.  He welcomes your comments at his email id: markdavies247<@>gmail<.>com.

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010 Business School, Guest Posts 4 Comments

Guest Post: Writing A Cover Letter, “Avoiding Biz Buzzwords: When in Doubt, Strike it Out” by Alvina Lopez

Writing a cover letter can be a daunting task. In law school, cover letters often take a back seat to other parts of an application given the perception that firms are more interested in your academic performance than anything else. So students often don’t invest the time to put their best work forward which can be detrimental to a job search. In business school, a good cover letter can often make the difference between a job interview and a “ding” email.  So students spend a lot of time crafting their stories, sometimes at the expense of writing cover letters effectively.  My view is that in this economy, cover letters for any job can be critical, and that time and strategy can both play an important role in the final product.

It’s that time of the year again, where students are really starting to think about applying to new jobs. In law school, OCI begins in August so students all around the country are gearing up for interviews and sending out final applications to law firms (click here for my recent post on OCI). In business school, MBAs all over the country are just getting started, so students are gearing up for coffee chats and other recruiting events, so cover letters are starting to come to the forefront of their minds.

Given that this is true, I thought it’d be a great time to talk about cover letters here on my website. And the good news is that I recently received an email from a writer, who wanted to write an article on how to write an effective cover letter. The article below was written by a guest writer named Alvina Lopez who approached me a couple of weeks ago about contributing an entry to the site. Her own website is focused on online education, but she’s interested in a wide range of topics and has put out a variety of articles already. Given the relevance of this one, I thought it’d be a great piece to post here on the site.

The premise of her article is that an effective cover letter explains the reasons you are interested in a job and a specific organization, and it also identifies your most relevant skills or experiences. But in the end, a lot of people overuse buzz words, don’t get personal enough, and miss the chance to show how they had impact.

See below for her article on cover letters.

———
Title: Avoiding Biz Buzzwords: When in Doubt, Strike it Out
Author: Alvina Lopez

So you’ve finished writing what you consider a solid cover letter and resume. You’ve painstakingly checked for grammar errors, you’ve made sure that all your accomplishments are highlighted accurately, and you can’t really think of anything else to make either better. But wait one minute–unfortunately, you can pretty much always make anything better, especially when it comes to something as important as your resume and cover letter.

One disease from which many job seekers suffer is buzzword/phrase overload. It’s only natural. After all, phrases like “strong [communication/leadership] skills” or “team player” convey positive qualities that employers are indeed looking for. The only problem is that hiring managers have seen these words so often that they virtually mean nothing now. So instead of using what are equivalent to horrendously cheesy pick-up lines in your resume and cover letter, why not go for something a little more individual? Here are some to avoid:

“Regarding a position”:

Many job seekers will begin their cover letters with “I would like to meet with you regarding a position with your company” or some such variant. What’s a suitable replacement? Spell out the position you’re seeking, and never say “your company”. Avoid vagueness as much as possible, especially in the first couple of sentences. If your opening paragraph is boring and cliche-ridden, then you’ve slowed yourself down before even starting.

“I am [passionate, hard-working, detail-oriented, etc.]”:

Using adjectives to describe yourself is almost always a bad idea. Adjectives in general are a bad idea, as they usually just take up space without really saying all that much. A good rule of thumb is to cross out every adjective you see and replace with a sentence that hinges on an action verb. It’s better to have your resume and cover letter answer the question, “What did you do?” and not “Who are you?” This is because what you’ve done is often a more effective, substantive manner of conveying the type of person you are. As the old platitude goes, “Show, don’t tell.”

“Responsibility”

Like “leadership”, responsibility is one of those Big Idea Nouns that have all but lost their meaning. Avoid like the plague, or use once tops. Like “leadership”, “responsibility” is best conveyed through tangible demonstration.

“Organizational skills”

While organizational skills are certainly an asset that every employer wants, every potential employee should be organized as a matter of course. If you have this quality listed, strike it out. Don’t even try to replace it either. That is, unless, you are applying for a secretarial position in which organizational ability is the position’s cornerstone.

There are legions more resume-speak phrases that will be sure to make hiring managers cringe. If you’re careful, you’ll be able to identify them easily, too. All you have to do is pour over and question every single word you’ve written. If a word or a phrase doesn’t specifically describe your work history, and how, precisely, you can convert this history into tangible benefit for the company, then it’s probably filler. Hiring managers aren’t reading resumes and cover letters for their own sake. They’re going through the stack to find a truly unique individual who can stand out and get the job done. You know you can get the job done. Now all you have to do is find a way to stand out and prove it.

By-line:

This guest post is contributed by Alvina Lopez, who writes on the topics Accredited Online Colleges.  She welcomes your comments at her email Id: alvina.lopez @gmail.com.

Monday, August 9th, 2010 Careers, Guest Posts 2 Comments

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Jeremy C Wilson is a JD-MBA alumni using his site to share information on education, the social enterprise revolution, entrepreneurship, and doing things differently. Feel free to send along questions or comments as you read.

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The contents of this blog are mine personally and do not reflect the views or position of Kellogg, Northwestern Law, the JD-MBA program, or any firm that I work for. I only offer my own perspective on all issues.
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