Today, I went back to Vlerick …

I maybe should have posted more about the life as a Vlerick alumni :-) Anyway, after … ooops! already 2 years, I went back to Vlerick, in its Leuven campus, in breakout room 006, with a suit (no tie) and for an interview. But this time I had the great honor to be a jury member for the MGM.

Vlerick Admissions test binder

I will not write about how to succeed in this type of test (I blogged about it before and other websites might do it better than myself). However it was interesting to see adaptations from Vlerick and the motivation of some students.

For Vlerick, a lot changed since I did my admission test in Vlerick. There is a new logo and branding, a new campus in Brussels, they reorganised the MBA program, ranking improved a bit, etc. But it was very nice to see and meet again familiar faces like Mathieu Luypaert and Marion Debruyne, to sit on chairs that prevents you from sleeping in breakout rooms – like before, to taste the (improved) food of the cafeteria, …

And, last but not least, independently of their success in this assessment, I was also impressed by the motivation of the students, the diversity of their backgrounds, their eagerness to join Vlerick. Well, for some of the students at least ;-) But if you feel the need to start/improve your business knowledge in Belgium, I would encourage you to consider joining Vlerick – and show your enthusiasm from the first to the last minute of the interview!

1st MBA exam: done!

I wrote “done!”. I didn’t write “passed!” :-)

The first exam of the year was in Financial Accounting, a course given by Prof. Dr. Filip Roodhooft. It was a no-surprise exam: 3 questions (all exercises, like previous years), calculator allowed (and not the one on your smartphone!), any books and notes you want allowed, 2.5 hours. Just as announced. The tip to succeed? It was also announced by Filip Roodhooft: do all “P” exercises in the reference book (Financial Accounting by W.T. Harrison, 8th edition). After the exam, Roberto confirmed all the questions were very, very similar to exercises in the book. A word to the wise …

If you take a MBA exam for the first time, the most difficult thing (IMHO) is not the volume of things to learn (anyway it’s an open book exam, remember?). I believe the most difficult thing for a first MBA exam is the management of time. At the beginning, I think all the 1st year students were very happy to sit in Auditorium -1.01. Classes are interesting. Professors always digress a little bit with impact or examples in the news. It’s all very easy. But I think some of us were surprised by the speed at which exams and papers arrive. On one side, it’s very handy to have an exam to take or a paper to submit 2 weeks after the end of one class. On the other hand, 2 weeks, it’s very short! Time management, it’s called. Time management, here I come!

So, what’s next? So far, we have:

  • A paper to submit (I/O Psychology) in a week,
  • An exam in three weeks (Economics), and
  • Another paper to submit (Corporate and Managerial Responsibility) in 5 weeks.

(And with this I don’t count intermediate papers 2nd year students have to submit too.)

Photo credit: Resistant by 96dpi on Flickr (CC-by-nc).

On-campus assessment

Entrance Ghent CampusSo you decided to do a MBA at Vlerick? Good! And you decided to take the on-campus assessment? Great! In this first post, I’ll try to give you the feeling of how it works, based on what happened in Ghent on April 12th, 2011 …

The on-campus assessment lasts one full day, either at the Ghent campus or the Leuven campus. There are four parts:

  1. an English test
  2. a logic test
  3. a motivational interview
  4. a cv interview

The order in which you will take the tests and interviews depends on your last name and the ones from the other participants. When Vlerick wrote that “The admission test will start at 08.00 am sharp and will end around 05.00 pm”, the test indeed starts at 8am. No welcome speech (we are not there for that, isn’t it?). No equivocation. Just plain efficiency :-)

I started with the English test. You enter the room, take your seat. Papers and a pencil are provided. My test was a text read by someone (a man) in a rather neutral tone and good English. The text was an article from The Economist about the merger of T-Mobile and At&T in the USA (people who took this test before told me they had a radio conversation about the Sarbanes–Oxley Act). The text is read only once. You can take notes. Your first assignment will be to summarize what you heard (my advice: do it in the more logical manner, not necessarily the way the information was presented in the article). Your second assignment will be to give your opinion on the article itself. I think it also helps to put some broader ideas about the environment in which the topic takes place. One last tip: use your time wisely.

Immediately after, I took the logical test. It is not a GMAT (it’s easier in fact, more focused). You sit in front of laptops (with Belgian AZERTY keyboards, this disturbed some people on that day) and answer multiple choice questions. These questions are about what is presented in charts or tables. Some answers are obvious (i.e. you just need to find the right cell), most questions require some calculation (a very tiny calculator is provided ; if you have fat fingers, you can use the tip of the pen – also provided).

During lunch, sandwiches and drinks are provided. It’s now time to really meet other people. What I liked was that it was very informal. You have – of course – people who consider themselves very important and look down their noses at you but most of other test takers are very friendly and relax. No business cards, no fluffy talks and a breeze of fresh air from students trying to enter other masters.

Now how the two interviews proceed will depend on your background, your curriculum vitae, the interviewers and probably many other factors. The “cv interview” is supposed to go through your cv (!): you might be asked to explain your career choices, what you did at some companies, how the MBA fits in your career plan, etc. During the motivational interview, interviewers will see your motivation (!): why a MBA, why now, why full-time/part-time, why at Vlerick, how the MBA fits in your career plan, how do you see yourself in the future, etc. As you can read, it seems there aren’t any rules. I guess there must be some because each jury member can’t interview all the candidates. I think that what works is to be yourself, to tell the truth but always get the positive side, always build a constructive conclusion from what you think might be negative.

How to prepare? Big question! My take is that you don’t need any preparation if you are already interested in business. That means you already know why you want to do an MBA, why at Vlerick, what are your career aspirations, what is happening in your business area, etc. That also means you already read the Financial Times, The Economist, CNN, Business Week, etc. (doesn’t mean you spend all your time on these media but you read some papers at least from time to time). You may prepare the distance assessment just for yourself: it already prepares you to answer some basic questions that will most probably be asked. One nice thing you can do is also find people who work in your current (or previous) company and who did Vlerick (“alumni”): offer them a coffee and discuss about why they did Vlerick, what they did to prepare, what questions they had, etc. During these interviews, I got interesting feedback like one who prepared the logical test by playing mind games at the Wii or another one who was asked which Disney character he was.

What to bring? Definitely something to read. You’ll need to wait for some time between the interviews, during lunch and before the results (if you wait for them at the end of the day). Otherwise bring your c.v., bring a pen and some sheets of paper.

What was the outcome?

successIf you are patient, the proclamation usually takes place during the evening, around 8PM (or 9PM in our case). If you are in, congrats! If you are out, you have a chance to see what went wrong or any other reason why they didn’t take you. I think this is a very good think to know why you failed. And I think Vlerick should also tell people who succeeded why they succeeded and more importantly what can be improved.

So personally I got it! :-) I was so happy I couldn’t believe it when they pronounced my name. I had to stop the car on the way back home to check my e-mails and get the written confirmation (oh, because they immediately send a confirmation by e-mail – that’s nice from them!).

Wow, this is a long post! I would finally thanks alumni I interviewed for their precious time and people I met on the assessment day for the interesting discussions. I hope to see you later again!

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