The M.B.A. and the English Major


If you think you’re going to pursue an M.B.A. before you head out into the working world and if you’re trying to decide between an undergraduate business degree and a more traditional arts and sciences program, consider this: according to Barron’s, English majors as a group do substantially better on the Graduate Management Admissions Test than business majors do*.

The GMAT is divided into three parts: one section covers quantitative (math) skills, one covers reading comprehension, and one (the “Analytical Writing Assessment”) requires two brief essays.  You don’t need much in the way of quantitative skills to know that this means that two thirds of the test is focused on skills that can be developed through the systematic and progressive study of literature.  Students who major in English at the University of Scranton do a lot of reading and writing, and they are expected to write and speak with clarity and focus, and to use textual evidence in support of their arguments.   Because of their training and experience in these areas, our students may be better able to respond with confidence and competence when they are asked to write the analytical essays or to deal with the reading comprehension questions on the GMAT.

Of course, the reading, writing, and thinking skills we teach in our department have applications that extend well beyond the world of standardized tests.   If you hope someday to run your own company, or to contribute in a substantial way to the running of someone else’s company, you will need to possess highly developed analytical and rhetorical skills.  (Of course, you’ll also need a solid foundation in math, business, and economic theory.)  Most executives spend their careers working with complicated combinations of data and texts, sometimes in discrete, self-contained units, but more often as part of a larger and even more complicated combination of information and interpretations. In most cases, their long-term success depends upon their ability to synthesize, prioritize, and explain what they know to both subordinates and superiors. 

Obviously, you don’t need to major in English (or, for that matter, in business) to do well on the GMAT or to get into a good M.B.A. program. No academic major can guarantee the success of any one individual. We can, however, improve your chances of succeeding in the field of your choice by helping you to develop the skill set you will need both to get into a good graduate program and to make your way in the real world. 

*Source: Eugene Jaffe & Stephen Hilbert, Barron’s GMAT (14th ed., 2006).

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