Conrad Chua, Judge Business School
The easy answer would be that I want my students to have both a high GMAT and the right personality but, as a Head of Admissions, I don’t always have the luxury of easy choices. If presented with a choice of someone with a low GMAT and the right personality or a candidate with a high GMAT but the wrong personality fit, I would almost always choose the former.
This is not to say that GMAT is irrelevant. An MBA is an academically rigorous degree and we have to be confident that anyone we admit to the programme will be able to handle the intense intellectual pace. This is why we scrutinise their undergraduate degrees and their GMAT scores. For GMAT we do not just look at the total score but also the breakdown between verbal and quantitative scores.
But I believe that within certain bounds, a low GMAT can be addressed. Some candidates might suffer from a poor verbal score because English is not their first language. We would make attending our pre-sessional English course as a pre-requisite to enrolment. Those whose quantitative scores are low could take online courses before the commencement of the MBA.
How do we assess a personality?
However, a poor personality fit is almost impossible to address especially as the MBA is a post-experience degree where students are in their late 20s or early 30s. This begs the question what is a good personality fit and how do we assess that.
What is a good personality fit will be linked to the school’s values and ethos. And while some schools might have a description of their values on their website or school building, I encourage candidates to speak to school staff, alumni and current students and make your own judgements based on what they say and what they do, about what exactly is that school’s set of values.
So for example, at the University of Cambridge Judge Business School, collaborative leadership is a core value and so we want to see evidence of that in an applicant’s essays, recommendations and interview. We look for people who are willing to contribute to the learning of the entire MBA cohort as this will enrich other students’ learning experience but also we feel that this is a strong indicator of a Cambridge MBA’s future success.
Just as important as who we accept into the programme is the question of who we reject. Again, personality fit is important, especially in our programme where we want a collaborative culture. This culture can be torn apart if we admitted someone who is intent on benefiting from others and not contributing anything.
About Conrad Chua, Head of MBA Admissions and Careers at Cambridge Judge Business School
Conrad has a team that handles marketing, admissions and careers for the MBA programme and has been at the school since 2009. He has prior experience working in the public sector in Singapore and in the recruitment industry in London. Conrad studied at Stanford for his undergraduate degrees in Electrical Engineering and Economics, and a Sloan Masters from London Business School.