Sunday, March 13, 2011

Employers complain that business school grads lack writing skills

Like law schools, business schools are now under pressure from employers to improve the writing skills of their graduates.  From the Wall Street Journal:

While M.B.A. students' quantitative skills are prized by employers, their writing and presentation skills have been a perennial complaint. Employers and writing coaches say business-school graduates tend to ramble, use pretentious vocabulary or pen too-casual emails.

Meanwhile, the Graduate Management Admission Council, which administers the Graduate Management Admission Test, says average essay scores on the GMAT fell to 4.4 out of 6 in 2010, from 4.7 out of 6 in 2007.

. . . .

At employers' urging, many schools are taking steps to try to improve their students' writing. The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania plans to double its communication coursework to 12 classes starting in 2012. Last fall, all first-year students competed in a mandatory writing competition, which asked students to write short pieces in response to prompts. It will become a fixture in the new curriculum.

The University of Rochester's Simon Graduate School of Business hired two writing coaches last fall after employers complained about graduates' writing skills, says dean Mark Zupan.

And Northeastern University's College of Business Administration also ramped up its focus on writing instruction last fall: Many students' papers are now double-graded by the professor and the writing coach.

One of the interesting paradoxes of the internet age is that although today's students do more writing in their leisure time than any previous generation given the prevalence of social media, blogging, texting, etc., their writing test scores continue to decline (and here). Part of the reason is not so hard to understand; while students do a lot of informal writing, the amount of formal instruction they receive in school has both diminished and become less rigorous as assignments get shorter or are replaced altogether by multiple choice or standardized tests.  

It's also interesting that even in this tech-heavy economy, the ability to communicate effectively through the written word is still so highly prized by employers.

You can read the rest of the Wall Street Journal article here.


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