Posts tagged ‘international competition’

November 18, 2014

American M.B.A. applicants suffering from weak math skills

by Grace

Weaker math skills are creating problems for America’s M.B.A. applicants.

New waves of Indians and Chinese are taking America’s business-school entrance exam, and that’s causing a big problem for America’s prospective M.B.A.s.

Why? The foreign students are much better at the test.

Asia-Pacific students have shown a mastery of the quantitative portion of the four-part Graduate Management Admission Test. That has skewed mean test scores upward, and vexed U.S. students, whose results are looking increasingly poor in comparison. In response, admissions officers at U.S. schools are seeking new ways of measurement, to make U.S. students look better.


The GMAT, administered by the Graduate Management Admission Council, is typically required to apply to M.B.A. programs, along with undergraduate transcripts, essay responses and letters of recommendation. Students at top programs like Harvard Business School and Stanford Graduate School of Business have mean GMAT rankings around the 96th percentile.

Of the test’s four sections—writing, integrated reasoning, quantitative and verbal—admissions officers view results from the quantitative section as a key predictor of business school success.

One solution is to create lower standards for American students.

To address those concerns, GMAC in September introduced a benchmarking tool that allows admissions officers to compare applicants against their own cohort, filtering scores and percentile rankings by world region, country, gender and college grade-point average.


Lindsay Gellman, “On B-School Test, Americans Fail to Measure Up”, Wall Street Journal, Nov. 5, 2014.

July 15, 2011

Study like a Singaporean

by Grace

Warning to lazy American college students – foreign students  can be dangerous to your grade point average.

Lackadaisical American students are often surprised by smart, hard-working foreign students earning the top grades in the classrooms of U.S. universities.  I was reminded of this recently when a young man attending a top university groused about the Singaporean students in his economics class who had bent the grading curve way up.  Although disappointed by his own lackluster grade, he made it clear that studying as hard as the Singaporeans was not part of his future plans.  Since it was never part of his past habits either, he found it almost unimaginable to believe he needed to work that hard now.

It should be noted that according to his description their study habits were terrifically intense, endured with no signs of enjoyment.  But that was only his impression.  Perhaps these students were having the time of their lives, enjoying every bit of the effort required to earn the top grades in their class.

Where does this motivation to work so hard come from?  These students are the cream of the crop from an educational system known for its rigor, so it’s safe to say they are accustomed to intense academic work.  Adding to this is the pressure from having to maintain a 3.8 GPA or risk being sent home after losing a scholarship, which appears to be the case for many Singaporean students who receive government or private scholarships to attend U.S. colleges.

Meanwhile, the typical American student at this university accepts the occasional B or even C with more equanimity.  American scholarship recipients rarely have to maintain GPAs higher than 3.2 or so, and parents (raising my hand) are unlikely to yank a kid out of college for a mediocre grade.

Are we Americans too indulgent with our children?  Or are we doing the right thing in allowing them plenty of chances to fail without ruining their future school or career opportunities?  Are some other countries stifling creativity by unreasonably high academic expectations?

I don’t have the answers to these questions, but I do think American students have something to learn from the disciplined work habits of their Singaporean classmates.

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