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The Globe's biweekly business-school news roundup.

Global applicants to graduate business schools are increasingly as diverse as the program offerings, according to a new study of those taking the Graduate Management Admission Test.

Last year, women made up a record 43 per cent worldwide of those taking the standardized entrance test for graduate business and management programs, up from 39 per cent in 2008, according to the Graduate Management Admission Council that administers the exam. In Canada the figure was a record 39 per cent, up from 37 per cent in 2008, but they account for the majority of GMAT users in China, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam and Russia.

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Fuelled by demand from Asia and Europe, 47 per cent of test-takers last year were 25 or under, compared to 38 per cent in 2008. The youth demand comes as schools boost offerings of specialty master's programs (such as finance, accounting and global business), which account for 29 per cent of GMAT score reports worldwide, compared to 17 per cent in 2008.

"Test takers today have an increasing number of study opportunities with quality schools emerging all across the world, and more types of graduate level programs to consider," Alex Chisholm, GMAC director of statistical analysis, stated in a press release. "Test takers sent scores to a record 5,281 programs in 2012, up 21 per cent from 2008, reflecting growing interest in a variety of programs and study destinations."

As before, Canada is the third most popular destination for sending test scores, slightly increasing its market share to 4.1 per cent in 2012, compared to 3.3 per cent in 2008. But the United States remains the overwhelming country of choice, with a 75.8-per-cent market share last year, down slightly from 81.1 per cent in 2008.

Foreign study popular

Fuelled by student demand, undergraduate study-abroad options are on the rise at Canadian business schools.

At Queen's University School of Business, which has made exchanges a priority, 82 per cent of its current third-year commerce class is in the midst of, or has completed, a for-credit semester at a foreign business school. With Sweden's University of Gothenberg School of Business, Economics and Law and Yonsei University's School of Business in Seoul Korea added in January, Queen's now has 101 partner schools for undergraduates.

By comparison, 73 per cent of fourth-year bachelor of commerce students at the University of Victoria's Gustavson School of Business chose to spend a semester at a foreign counterpart last year, compared to 33 per cent a decade ago, according to the school.

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Meanwhile, the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management wants to raise the proportion of its students – 34 per cent of the third-year class in 2011-12 – who go overseas. Rotman has piloted a fourth-year course that includes an optional international component (including a trip to Turkey during reading week this year), according to a spokesman.

What's the appeal?

"Increasingly, people are looking for a globalized experience," says Jaril Valenciano, 20, a third-year student at Queen's who just arrived in Poland to study at Warsaw School of Economics this semester. The opportunity, he says, "allows students to be more three dimensional and appeal to recruiters."

In an e-mail from Poland this week, Mr. Valenciano offered some initial first impressions. "I underestimated the adjustment needed to be in a new country … very much in a good way, in terms of a learning experience."

Along with five others from Queen's, he lives in residence with students from several countries. "It's interesting that in the middle of all the country and cultural differences, there are outstanding similarities, as well," he notes, especially jokes and television shows.

Classes are surprisingly casual and conversational, he adds. When he spoke to a professor after class about an assignment, he was asked to go for coffee and later invited to a round of kick-boxing. "I would definitely not have had that relationship spring up as quickly as it did if I were in Canada," he notes.

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Such enthusiasm is familiar to Angela James, director of Queen's Centre for International Management, which negotiates agreements with foreign schools. "We find our students who return have so much more growth, self-reflection and maturity than when they left," she says. "It is a wonderful thing to give them in the degree before they go out in the work world."

Her school relies on returning students to share their experiences, through reports and participation in an annual student exchange fair where fourth-year students represent their host country. "That is the secret to our success: We allow our students to have a voice in the exchange," says Ms. James.

Brennan Foo, a third-year Queen's student who just returned from a semester at the National University of Singapore, says the experience has been "instrumental" in reshaping his career plans.

"I thought I had everything worked out," says the 20-year-old. "Now I am thinking of travelling more and maybe living abroad for several years."

"Going to Singapore last semester really opened my mind in terms of options of where I should be pursuing my professional endeavour and even where I should live in the future," says Mr. Foo, a budding entrepreneur.

He urges those considering a semester abroad to "keep an open mind and try new things," such as building tolerance for spicy food, and emphasizes the importance of a support network. "It is important to have friends and family to keep you grounded so you can get the most out of your experience," he says.

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