One question frequently heard at information sessions related to MBA admissions is: "How hard is it to get MBA in Japan?" The tough parts of the MBA program are commonly thought to be the admissions exam and the coursework; here, I'd like to focus on the degree of difficulty of the admissions exam. First, in many cases, the MBA admissions exam is divided into a written exam and a separate interview. For Western business schools, a score on a standardized test known at the GMAT is also required. Since this score is frequently used as a criterion for application, the GMAT's degree of difficulty is an important factor to take into consideration. A couple of additional, lesser-known factors that influence admission are the personal history and essay you will submit to the business school at the time of application.
Of these factors, business schools attach great importance to your personal history and essay. Why is that? Well, an MBA program is a place where business leaders are cultivated. In order to conduct the vigorous, in-depth discussions the case-study method demands, real-world experience that provides deep insights and sound judgment through debate concerning unfamiliar situations is prized over the amount of specialized knowledge a candidate possesses. Furthermore, the activities and accomplishments that can be expected of an applicant after graduation influence a business school's evaluation of that candidate's merit, so the examiner reads the personal histories and essays submitted very carefully.
Naturally, personal histories and essays alone do not determine whether a candidate is admitted—but your interview will be based on the content of these documents, which will be submitted beforehand. Therefore, the degree of difficulty in being admitted to an MBA program hinges greatly on your ability to appeal to the interviewer (instructor) during this interview.
The interview will take place the day of your examination. As with the interview process companies use when hiring, multiple interviewers (instructors) will determine whether you are compatible with the business school's human resource development objectives within a 15-to-20-minute period. First, the instructors will ask about any doubtful areas or potential causes for concern found in their review of your submitted documentation, as well as confirm basic information such as your motivations for obtaining an MBA. The interviewers will also be interested in the attitude you present during the interview: how you react to unexpected questions, how you will contribute to case-study debates, and how you will demonstrate leadership in class.
In other words, business schools that ask simple questions related to knowledge—explain this article in today's Nihon Keizai Shimbun; explain this model in financial theory—will clearly only be interested in their students acquisition of knowledge. That is a pity. An MBA program is not the place to increase one's stores of specialized knowledge; it is a place to cultivate the attitude of a business leader.
Frequent Questions in a MBA interview:
- What does an MBA mean to you?
- Why do you want to earn an MBA degree?
- Why now?
- How can you contribute to class discussions?
- What is your post-MBA career plan?
- What are the management skills in which you need improvement?
- What do you want to accomplish in your company at present?