On The Record: Q&A with BC Alum Crystal Forde

Today we’re continuing our Q&A series with Bell Curves alumni who are currently pursuing or just recently finished their MBAs. Our last On the Record post was a Q&A with Goreleigh Willis. This time around Crystal Forde shares some of her insights and advice on the 1st year MBA experience.

Bell Curves fav Crystal Forde is currently in wonderful San Fransisco while doing a summer internship.

Crystal is currently an MBA candidate at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, where she is focusing on Health Sector Management and Strategy. At Fuqua she is a cabinet member of the Healthcare Club and a daytime MBA blogger, and has led a Global Academic Travel Experience Trip to India and co-chaired the Admitted Students Weekend. Prior to business school she spent five and a half years in various sales roles at Pfizer and AstraZeneca, where she had a strong track record of transforming territories by increasing market share and exceeding sales goals. Crystal holds a BBA in Marketing with Honors distinction from Oakwood University.

 

What’s the most surprising aspect of your first year in an MBA Program?

Taking the GMAT: Not So Radical

As anyone who has taken or prepared for the GMAT realizes, there is a finite amount of general knowledge that we must do our best to master. There are however countless manifestations of questions that test this knowledge and therefore exposure to lots of questions from each general topic is highly beneficial to our preparedness for the as-of-yet-unseen manifestation we will surely encounter come test day.

In algebra, the more we practice with manipulating equations, simultaneous equations and quadratics, for example, the more likely we will be to recognize when the given information is sufficient to solve for x or not. In a geometry question, we are more apt to be able to solve for the area of a triangular region within a mixed shape if we’ve trained ourselves to spot vertical angles, similar

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triangles, the diagonals of squares or whatever the case may be for the particular scenario. And on the list goes. We also know that certain topics are tested more often that others and thus, though all topics matter, spending more time on the higher frequency areas gives the most payoff come test day. The two key words here are knowledge and recognition. Those two components allow us to execute most effectively.

When I took my most recent official exam in June 2013 (click here to read Amphibious Assault, a post about my water-logged testing experience), one question caught my attention. The question caught my attention not because I got it right or wrong, but because I knew I wasn’t answering it as effectively as possible. This problem is a classic example of how the GMAT is not only a challenge to your knowledge but also about how well you recognize when the knowledge you have is being tested. The lesson for you here is that even someone like me, who has been teaching GMAT non-stop for 4 years and scores in the high-700s, will get stumped on the occasional problem. The key is to not let one problem prevent you from getting your best score, and to always use your knowledge AND recognition in concert!

SAT QOTD: Modifiers and Ray Allen

Since of course you’re doing the College Board QOTD every day, you should focus on learning as much as you can from doing those questions. Prepping for the SAT is not just about learning rules and facts, but it’s also about learning what the SAT likes and what the SAT tests. Knowing what the SAT will test most frequently will give you an edge and make you more efficient on the test.

The Question of the Day from June 14th, 2013 was a great example of a common rule the SAT loves to test: modifiers! If you understand modifier rules, you’ll easily be able to pick up 4 – 8 questions every test, and that could translate to 80 more points for your Writing score.

Amphibious Assault: A GMAT Testing Experience

Image by Robert S. Donovan on Flickr

Editor’s Note: Bell Curves periodically enlists our teachers to take the official GMAT to keep themselves sharp, help them better inform their students about current testing trends and procedures, and provide additional insight for materials development and instruction. Recently, one of our teachers did just that. Today’s post comes from Hany ElDiwany, one of our NYC-based instructors. Below, he provides some insights on overcoming different hurdles to make your GMAT test day experience a success. Keep an eye out for his next post discussing some keen insights gleaned from a particularly challenging Quant question he saw.

Friday, June 7th, 2013, the date I had scheduled for my GMAT exam, was an incredibly rainy day in New York City. Despite breaking down and finally buying one of those high quality umbrellas that don’t buckle and break after the first gust of wind (this after almost five years of living a predominantly pedestrian lifestyle and being exposed to the elements on a daily basis) , my shoes, socks and bottom of my pants were nonetheless thoroughly soaked by the time I reached the exam center in mid-town Manhattan. I guess sometimes rain just comes at you sideways and, well, maybe the can of leather waterproofer I used to spray my shoes was a lemon.

Getting Past Your GMAT Score

So you took the GMAT and are not happy with your score.

First and foremost, you should not be feeling depressed by your score, even if that score is not what you wanted or what you expected. The GMAT is often difficult to do well on. Take the next few days to assess what you did to prepare, whether you did as much as you could or should have, and how you could have done more to ensure you have the score you wanted. Assess whether the course you took or tutor you worked with was really in line with your learning style and whether you should have recognized that earlier and done something to make the course or tutoring more effective. Finally, stop beating yourself up if you did not get what you wanted or expected. It often takes a couple stabs at the test before you settle down enough to achieve your best score. To provide you some perspective, the arithmetic mean (a little GMAT speak for you) score is 544 and 78% of test takers score below 650, according to the Graduate Management Admission Council.

On the Record: Q&A with BC Alumni Goreleigh Willis

Last year we posted several Q&As with former Bell Curves students (Lauren Sickles, Gabe Perez, Rhomaro Powell, Denitresse Burns, and Radina Russell) in which they shared their experiences in business school and how it benefited their careers. The insights were well-received, so we decided to conduct a few more with a slightly different focus. This time around we were interested in hearing from MBAs that recently completed their first year.

For our first offering in this installment, Goreleigh Willis shares his experiences and insights.

Prior to pursuing his MBA at Cornell University’s Johnson School, Goreleigh was an Associate with the Private Bank at J.P. Morgan in New York City. For five years, he worked with families to manage their wealth, as a Banker Analyst, and more recently as a Trust Officer. Previously, he spent four years in management consulting within the firm. At Johnson, Goreleigh is a Vice President of the Old Ezra Finance Club. He is also the Vice President of Alumni Affairs for the Black Graduate Business Association and a Vice President of the Johnson Soccer Club. Goreleigh will be an investment banking Associate at Lazard this summer.

Goreleigh holds a B.A. in Economics and Political Science with Honors distinction from Swarthmore College.

What was the most surprising aspect of your first year in an MBA Program?
The most surprising thing for me was the pace of Johnson. Many of the core courses are 8 weeks long, so there is no time to fall behind.  Even though I heard from the second year students beforehand, it was still a challenge to balance academic work with recruiting. Efficient time management is crucial!

Mind Bumps: Proceed With Caution

The human brain is a miraculous organ. Neurons and synapses firing  so quickly, processing so much in the tiniest fractions of a second that even the most powerful of computers still have not matched its complex computing capability (even if IBM’s Watson can kick the best human butt at chess and Jeopardy). Together with your experience, your brain can be a powerful tool to avoid traps and tricks on the GMAT. That is, if you let it.

I tutor and teach and counsel hundreds of GMAT test-takers every year. And I’m consistently amazed by how often students ignore “warning signs” their brains are frantically trying to flag. I call these warning signs “mind bumps.” A mind bump occurs whenever you read something that, at first or second glance, strikes you as strange, odd, or nonsensical. Given that they’re almost always rooted in reading (just reading, not Reading Comprehension per se), these mind bumps are ubiquitous on the GMAT, occurring with enough regularity on both the Quant and Verbal that they should be used as a valuable tool to improve your score.

Test Prep: A few tricks to beat the test?

I’m always stunned by the lack of clarity that people have about what test prep is and what test prep isn’t. Many people seem to believe that test preparation involves sprinkling pixie dust on a test-taker and waiting for the score to soar to new heights. Think about how often you’ve heard of “tricks” to “beat the test.” Now don’t get me wrong, I know it’s largely the test preparation industry that sold the nation this bill of goods (thanks Joe Bloggs), but the impact of this thinking is being compounded by the current atmosphere in education of over-testing, misuse of testing, and over-reliance on test results. This post will clarify “once and for all” what test prep is and what it isn’t. I hope after this post that I’ll never again hear the phrase “just a few tricks” combined with “get me a great score.”

“I just need a few tricks to boost my score.”

ACT vs SAT: The Amazing Race

ACT is to SAT as Wedges is to Fries

In our continuing ACT vs SAT series (if you’ve not been following you might want to click this link and check out the others), we break down the difference in pacing on the two tests. We’ll help you make sense of pacing and timing on the SAT versus the ACT. You’ve probably already read or heard that the ACT is a faster test than the SAT, and we’re here to give that a little more context and help you figure out what that means to you.

 

Timing

When people say “The ACT is a faster test” what they really mean is that the ACT overall allots less time per question.  

GMAT Tip: Advanced Sentence Correction Strategy

Some of the more difficult Sentence Correction questions for test-takers are those that have a lot words in the underlined portion, which can create confusion and indecisiveness. The difficulty can be compounded when the underlined portion doesn’t seem to have any obvious errors but nevertheless “sounds” bad. SC questions that have these characteristics can, however, be better managed with the right approach. Let’s take a look at an example and then outline how to tackle it:

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