8 Steps to write Effective MBA Essays

With so many applications to B-schools, there is no doubt that there might be many others with a profile similar to yours. Of course you might have unique experiences to show in your application, you would want to present it in way so that the admissions committee member reviewing your essay should not be bored. Considering that he's reading essays all day long, you want to capture his concentration when it comes to your application.

www.essaycom.com gives some tips which can make your essays effective and polish your application. Not to mention the fact that these are generic tips about the most commonly asked questions and seeing the application as a whole. All these points should be covered in the application. It is at your discretion to include what portion in each specify.

1. List your achievements. This is the first task in your homework. Make a list of your achievements however big or small they are. They may be prioritized later. I have felt that at times, while straightaway getting down to the essay, without proper homework, the low priority achievements get unnecessary highlight.

2. Classify your achievements. After the list of achievements is done, you can classify them in the following four broad categories:

3. Give importance to each category. Ensure that each category has something substantial to talk about you. This way your all-round abilities would come to the forefront. But if your abilities in area are not competitive enough, make sure to compensate with achievements in another area. For example, if your under-graduate score is low, you can compensate that by highlighting your GMAT score, or if you have taken any other course outside of the scheduled courses, do mention that.

4. Write the Career Progression Essay first. Almost all MBA schools expect this essay in their application. I remember for class of 2007 application, ISB had this essay. If this essay is present in the applicartion, make it a point to write this essay first. This would help you in your resume walk through and you can chalk down your professional achievements in a chronological manner, without leaving any significant event out. Who knows, you may get some ideas for other essays in the application.

5. Research the school you are applying. Find out if the courses offered are relevant to your aspirations or not. It would be better if you have the knowledge about the companies visiting the campus. It shows off in your application and improves your admit chances as it shows genuine interest in the school. Another aspect could be if there are some extra curricular initiatives taken by the school which match your interest, do not hesitate to highlight in the application, and use that as a platform to highlight your skills. The benefit would be two fold.

6. Answer "Why MBA?". Undoubtedly the most important question of the application. Do answer the question with proper homework and supplement it with your post MBA long term and short term plans.

7. Be specific. Do make it a point to stick to the question asked in the application and do not add extra information just for the sake of highlighting it. Make full use of the word limit provided and highlight yourself well within the constraints of the question asked.

8. Get your essays reviewed. There will be some aspects which you might not notice. A third person review would certainly help. Ask opinions about the coverage of the topic, how you are perceived as a third person. Do not get it reviewed by your friends or family as the opinion might be biased. Get hold of some alumni or an expert who knows the importance of the essay. Discuss the changes with him/her and include them if required in your own style.

ISB Application 2007-08 Essay Analysis

I would like to share my analysis of ISB's application essays for 2008 intake. This year ISB has come out with a surprise element of not including a direct "Why MBA?" question. Overall, I feel ISB has done a good job of presenting the applicants with questions asking about (a) the diversity factor, keeping in mind the number of "Indian/IT/Male" category applicants, (b) creativity and (c) your contribution and qualities as seen in your current workplace.

Update: The following is my analysis of ISB's essays for the application year 2007-08. Please refer to my analysis of the analysis of ISB's essays for application year 2008-09 for the latest.

1. The ISB culture stresses on a diverse mix of students; life at the ISB is a unique experience for the students. How will your candidature contribute to this culture at the ISB? (300 words max)

To approach this question, first identify which lot you belong to. Imagine yourself in a room full of people with a similar background to yours and you are asked to differentiate yourself from others. Come up with just 3-4 points and justify your uniqueness in that room. Those points can be about a unique experience, a hobby which you are very good at, a skill that you have acquired which you can share with others.

If this is difficult, just imagine yourself as part of the admission committee seeing just another application same as last 10 applications. You are looking for a "different" background or a different hobby or a unique experience. You do not want to have a class full of people from IT experience with 3-4 years of work experience and the same GMAT score, in which case no one has anything to learn from his/her peers. On diversity, I have written an article on how important and how you can build on it to contribute to a group.

Coming back to the essay, once you have identified your differentiating factors, focus on how those would be a significant contribution to ISB and let it be understood that this is a profile which is rare. Restrain yourself from focusing on your contributions at your workplace. You might have been the no.1 performer but you were supposed to work hard in your job. Secondly, keep those achievements for essay 3.

Finally, you can end the essay with a focus on how you would in turn be benefited from the diversity at ISB and how you will complement the batch of ISB.

2. A million dollars or knighthood: what would you choose and why? (300 words max)

This question has come up as a surprise question by ISB and has put many candidates in a state of obfuscation.

The key to approach this question is to first understand both the situations presented and weigh the consequences in both. The next step would be to choose one option and justify your selection.

If it is knighthood, it will come with a lifelong honor in the "kingdom". You have all the respect and honor by the people world over. Basically it is a symbolic representation of esteem, honor and repute. Here maybe you can talk about why would you take it and what will you do to keep up to the honor. And most importantly, why would you prefer "honor above money".

On the other hand, a million dollars can change your life. You can have a luxurious life and have the backing to pursue your dream which you had always wanted to. You have the option to pursue your hobby. Or maybe you can now start your own business. Here, what the ISB admissions committee is looking for is your attitude and your approach.

Whatever you opt for, you need to display maturity in your justification and do justice to your choice. Consider it a perfect essay to let yourself out and show your creativity.

Summarizing the analysis, just be yourself and choose the one that matters to you the most.

3. You have a new manager who has just joined your organisation. As a part of the handover, the outgoing manager is describing each person reporting to him. How do you think the outgoing manager will describe you to the incoming manager? (300 words max)

You have the chance to talk about your professional traits and your professional achievements as seen by your manager. Just put yourself in your manager's shoes and praise yourself. Wow! what an essay!

This essay gives you a chance to speak about your leadership abilities and how god a team player you are. Supplement your qualities with appropriate examples. There is a thin line between bragging and praising, do not cross it. Being humble will help but obviously do not hide exceptional achievements, if any.

Since it is the current manager, focus more on achievements or examples from the current workplace. If you want to include achievements at previous employer, just mention in a line or two about the previous experience which you have brought to the present employer. Just limit the information from your previous employer that could have been used by your current employer to hire you.

Just focus on 2-3 qualities, supplement with examples and do justice to the 300 words limit.

4. (Optional) Please provide additional information, if any, that will significantly affect the consideration of your application to the ISB. Please do not repeat information which has already been stated elsewhere in the application. You may use this to clarify any breaks in education/work, inform about any other item which you think has not been covered elsewhere etc. (300 words max)

Not only ISB, but all business schools provide an optional essay to give the candidates an opportunity to present information which might further strengthen the application and help the AdCom know you better. It is strictly not advisable to write it just for the sake of it, and providing the AdCom with repetitive information.

If there are any major shortfalls in the application/resume, like low undergrad grades, low GMAT score, etc. you can use this essay to justify that. You might be doing a part-time job to support your education and thus the low grades, obviously supplemented with a good GMAT score. If there is gap in education, could be justified by explaining how that time was utilized.

Another instance could be if you have had a significant contribution outside of work which cannot be included in the essays. this is the perfect place to cover that.

Cracked GMAT at 46 (730, Q51, V37)

This is an amazing story of a 46 year old who has cracked GMAT with a score of 730 - Q51, V37. Some of us attribute our long separation with academics as an excuse for a low score. But this guy has proved that nothing is impossible once you decide it. An amazing success story to read:

During March end 2007, there was a huge professional disappointment for me and I was kind of down with this debacle and for about 2-3 weeks I was unable to decide about my future course of action. It is during this phase that I came to know about IIM-A PGPX program and did some search on internet and found that before IIM-A, IIM-C is also available, provided I take GMAT before 25th May (last date for IIM-C).

My first impulse was to go for GMAT before 25th May 2007 so that I can apply to IIM-C as well but later on I decided against it (On hindsight, a wise decision) and asked for July dates (IIM-A last date is 10th Aug.). However as I have huge experience and at 46, I was not sure whether IIMs will consider my application favorably. I wrote a mail to IIM-A and asked them about my chances at 46 and was really surprised to receive their response within one day, saying that my huge experience (25+) will be advantageous for executive MBA. IIM-Also gave me a target GMAT score, based on my experience.

With this information in hand I got really motivated and started frequenting PagalGuy GMAT section. Since last two and half months I have been a parasite on these threads, soaking all information provided by others without posting anything ( I am really sorry for this).

Armed with all information and many free tests (downloaded from net, after getting links from PagalGuy I started my GMAT prep around April 25th. Asked my friend in Delhi to buy OG11 and Princeton review and courier them to me.

My first priority was to find out where I stand as far as GMAT is concerned and to find my weakness ( I have already appeared for CAT twice 2005/2006).

I gave Princeton Review test 1 0n 27th April 2007 with a score of 680 (Q51, V 33)

On detailed analysis I found that my main weakness was sentence correction and I had to brush-up Probability and Permutation and Combination. With this information, I took a printout of OG10 VA section (free download from Net) and started practice on same. I had OG10 (only VA) , OG11, OG11 (VA) and SC1000 and Princeton Review. The material was enough and I decided to do at least 25 sentence corrections everyday along with going thro’ the basic explanation of different types of error tested in GMAT. As far as sentence correction is concerned, this strategy continued till the test day on July 10th. Slowly my accuracy was improving from 55-60% to about 85%.

In between I gave many tests as follows:

Kaplan (Free test and not the dreaded CD tests) 1st May 2007, 700 (Q47, V38 )

GMAC paper test 14, 6th May, 700 (Q51, V36)
GMAC paper test 25, 8th May, 710 (Q50, V39)
GMAC paper test 28, 11th May, 720 (Q51, V38)
GMAC paper test 31, 21st May, 710 (Q51, V36)
GMAC paper test 37, 26th May, 700 (Q50, V37)
GMAC paper test 42, 2nd June, 730 (Q50, V41)
GMAC paper test 48, 5th June, 720 (Q50, V40)
GMAC paper test 52, 10th June, 720 (Q51, V36)
GMAC paper test 55, 23rd June, 710 (Q50, V36)

Even though these are paper test but to simulate the actual test condition, I did not print out them but was reading them from screen and marking my answers on paper.

In addition I also took some more test as follows:-

Princeton Review test 2, 7th June, 720 (Q51, V39)
Power Prep 1, 19th June, 760 (Q51, V41)
Power Prep 2, 27th June, 770 (Q51, V47)

I knew that my Power prep scores were inflated because many question were same as my practice material and not only I remembered few answers but also I saved some time which was utilized to give more time to other difficult Qs.

With above practice, I went for my final GMAT on 10th July with the hope that I will be able to score about 690 but I think I was lucky to come out with a score of 730 (Q51, V 37).

In actual GMAT, I think the questions were a bit tough as far as VA in concerned but I have no reason to complain.

GMAT Verbal Tip: Accept the Effect

Article Source - http://www.dailywritingtips.com/accept-the-effect/


These words give writers trouble since the two can be both a noun and a verb, although affect is typically verb and effect, noun. Normally, you will use affect to denote influence. For example:

If I play music will it affect your studying?

Affect used as a noun means “emotion.”

On the other hand, effect, which is more commonly used as a noun, relates to the consequence or result.

The effects of the drug have long since worn off.

As a verb, it means to cause or to accomplish:

The tornado effected a change in our plan.


Another couple of closely related words which mean different things are accept and except. Accept will refer to receiving or approval of something.

I accept your apology.

Except refers to an exclusion, as in, not including.

I took all those classes except math.

Because they sound so similar, these words often become interchanged when we write but meaning two different things, they can really botch a sentence’s meaning!

GMAT Quant - 7 top traps to avoid

Since the time Pearson has taken over as the Official GMAT test taker from ETS, I have heard plenty of reviews that the level of difficulty of Quant section has increased. It used to be a cakewalk if you have graduated high school with decent scores. And guess what, the OG, 11th edition was published before this move. So in that too you won't get "tougher" questions to practice.

Got hold of some real good GMAT Quant tips, so sharing the post with everyone in need.

Quant strategies

Here are a few strategies that helped me (they were borne out of many tips the members here have given over a period of time). Math whizzes may not find them helpful, for people like us - who go from low 600s to 700s might find them useful. Like how these prep companies give names to specific strategies, I too have given each technique/trap a name so you can identify them. Hopefully some people will find this helpful.

Some generic Quant points

1. It is possible, even with 9-11 mistakes, to get 48-49 in Quant. So don't freak out because you think you got 3 questions wrong. The test is adaptive - i.e. every question does not carry equal weight. It does appear, however, that early questions do determine how your test will progress.

2. I've noticed, through my multiple GMATPrep tests, that even if you get more wrong in the end, you can still maintain a high score.

3. To go from Q(49) to Q(50) or Q(51) is going to be hard - if you have time constraints for studying (like I did), and you aren't a math whiz (which I'm not), then you need to understand what your trade-offs are - i.e. what topics you are willing to relax on and guess in the test. I basically studied enough to solve simple problems in permutations and combinations, and told myself - "if it looks hard and I can't think of a way to solve it in 30seconds, I'm going to use my 'good-looking-number' strategy (which I'll cover here) and just move on.

4. If you spend over 4 minutes on a question, you certainly are excited about digging your own grave, or you're probably an adrenalin junkie who loves to jump off a cliff without a parachute.

5. With practice, you'll realize that the real time saver in Quant is actually DS and not PS.

GMAT Quant

Is not actually very hard in itself, but when you combine the time pressure, the tricks in the question and the wording - it becomes very important that you have practiced many standard questions types, many times over - because when you see a question, you don't want to be thinking "hmmm...which of my 34 cool strategies might work for this?", you want to be going straight into solving it.

7 Trap identifiers

Many GMAT questions have subtle traps in them - but thankfully, you can categorize many of them - they have a pattern. I've tried to identify 6 of them. So look out for these! At the end of the day, if even 1 of these helped you get 2 questions right bumping you from 660 to 680, it's still good, right?

Each strategy/trap identifier is not a stand-alone, a GMATQuestion might require you to employ more than one at a time. They are listed in no particular order of importance.

These tips can help if you are forced to guess, but want to make an intelligent guess, or if you want to shorten your path to solution (or salvation)

1. The Lone Wolf

A lone wolf question almost always has a free standing number(or numbers), and a more complex looking equation as the other option. For e.g.

"On a loan, evil necromonger charges X% interest in the first year, and Y% interest in the second. If he loaned Rhyme 20,000$ in 2006, how much Rhyme pay by interest in 2008?"

A) X = 10
B) (X + Y + XY/100) = 100

You can almost be certain, that in such questions, your equations to the stem will reduce to a form that looks like (B), so (A) is actually redundant. Be careful of lone wolves because they will bite you in the posterior if you choose (C).

If you notice a lone wolf question, and you have no clue on how to solve the problem, choose (B) (or whichever is the complex equation).

*as a side note, a wolf, contrary to the popular belief, is a very social mammal and is not at all a loner.

2. The Spy Girl

In a typical movie, an unsuspecting man may be enchanted by a hot looking woman, who comes on to him easily. He sleeps with her only to be stabbed in the moring, and all his nuclear secrets stolen. That's what a spy girl question does - it looks real simple, and if you fall for it - you've had it.

Consider this

if the membership of the drama club and music club are combined, what % of the combined membership will be male?

(1) of the 16 members of the drama club 15 are male
(2) of the 20 members of the music club, 10 are male

On the outset, it's very simple. (C) should tell us, right? wrong! DS is picky. This is an overlapping sets question, so you need to consider if some belong to both clubs - and that would lead to (E).

When you get spy girl questions, take a few seconds to re-read the question, looking for holes and any tricky stem ends. Many GMAT sentence tricks are at the end of the question stem. Spy girl questions are often in DS, and typically masquerade as word translations.

3. Twin trouble
Some DS questions have 2 choices that both reduce to the same form! When you see 2 similar looking/structurally similar answer choices, quickly scan them to see if they reduce to a common form. For e.g.

"Question: blah blah blah..."
A) 2x+3y = 10
B) 3.2x+4.8y = 16

Cool! 2 simultaneous equations with 2 unknowns - so should be (C), right? wrong. If you multiply (A) by 1.6, you get (B). They're useless. In general, twin trouble questions end up with (E) as the answer (E is the best choice if you do not know how to solve the problem. If you do know, then if either A or B works - then D would be the answer)

4. C of pain
GMAT questions love to put two choices that seem to give a nice answer when combined. If you get (C) as the answer, unless you're absolutely sure of your approach, look closely at A or B again. Consider your equations to see if they can be solved with only A or B before confirming C. There are certainly more A, B, D choices in GMAT than C. If you are absolutely stumped by the question and you want to guess, this approach might help.

-if the 2 choices look very similar in structure, apply the 'twin trouble' tip - if it is a twin trouble, then E is the most likely answer. D comes next.

-if the choices look very different, go with the one that has a more complex looking wording or equation - and preferably does not allude to an addition.

-if you have absolutely no idea at all, and you must guess - choose D or E.

5. The Rambler
Ramblers are long worded, paragraph level questions. Ramblers have lot of BS in them - so scan the question, then come back to writing equations. Ramblers are not always hard - sometimes they're pretty simple distance/time questions (or work rate). Don't be intimidated by a rambler. For e.g.

"Jim ...blah blah..., he then stopped for 30 minutes to have lunch before proceeding..." simply means add 30mins to your time equation.

6. The Twister

Twisters are among the worst when it comes to tripping test takers (including me). They start innocuously, but what they ask for is subtly different from what your mind thinks you're being asked. Twisters occur usually at the end of a question in word translations, or at the beginning in number properties.

For e.g.
In 2006, Company X revenue grew 18% from 200,000$, company Y revenue grew 30% from 90,000$ - at the end of 2006, how much more would X earn than Y if X grew 20%"
If the question was a rambler, your mind would dim by the time you get to the end, and you'd furiously compute the new revenues, subtract the two and look at the answer. But wait, the X 18% is actually useless because the question twists in the end asking something else. Actual questions can be even more subtle than this - something like, instead of asking, "by how much did A exceed B", it might say "by how much did A exceed twice B"? Get the point? Read your question ends carefully.

In number properties, it's always good to map your mind to
-2, -1, -1/2, 0, 1/2, 1, 2 so you don't forget what you need to apply. Twisters occur at the beginning,

If it says number, instinctually many of us look at 1,2,3,4.. but "number" should immediately trigger -1, and -1/2,+1/2 in your sample sets. Always look carefully at the beginning (I know it sounds common sense, but common sense isn't always common...) and memorize the properties

number => -ve, + and - fractions, +ve, 0
+ve number => > 0, +ve fractions, and integers
integer => ...,-ve integer, 0, +ve integer
+ve integer => 1,2,...
-ve integer => -...,-2,-1,

It's common mistake to ignore zero in calculations, so be careful. For e.g.
if X not -ve and y is an integer less than -1/10, is xy to the left of 0 in the number line?

Well, if you consider 0 for X, then xy is on the 0 in number line...

7. The lucky twin (thanks to, and suggested by GMATT73)
The purpose of this problem is to exploit a weakness used by PVue: complimentary answer choices. Almost always in complimentary probability questions, there are a pair of "LUCKY TWINS" among the answer choices. If in doubt and pressed for time, choose a TWIN by logical deduction.

Let`s take a crack at this Project GMAT bad boy without making lengthy calculations.

Set S consists of numbers 2, 3, 6, 48, and 164. Number K is computed by multiplying one random number from set S by one of the first 10 non-negative integers, also selected at random. If Z=6^K, what is the probability that 678,463 is not a multiple of Z?

a. 10%
b. 25%
c. 50%
d. 90%
e. 100%


[added note by necromonger] - also watch out for complementary fractions and be careful. You might see numbers like
a) 1/2
b) 3/8

notice that 1-3/8 = 5/8 - these choices can trip you up if you haven't paid attention to the question carefully.

The good-looking-number (GLN) strategy
*Use this only when you are stumped in a PS question and you have no idea how to solve it, but you need to guess.

GLN's are simply numbers that are formed by some mathematical combination of numbers in the question. For e.g. if a rambler has number like '12.....3....9' and the choices are


what would you choose if you're in a real hurry? 4 = (12*3/9), the others-you can't get them by any straight manipulation. So 4 is a GLN.

GLN tips vary, their success rate is questionable. But in the absense of any clue, what have you got to lose?

closing points:
Don't be scare of quant. It is conquerable with some practice and employing some time-saving techniques. I'll be glad to answer any questions. Finally, choose the strategy that works for you - do not follow anything blindly because it worked for someone else!

finally, the obligatory:
*no animals were harmed in the making of these tips, and these strategies do not discriminate based on race, language, sex, creed, caste, tv viewing habits or choice of shirt colors.

The right approach for applying to MBA abroad - TopMBA's Matt Symonds answers

Apurv, a journalist with pagalguy has been posting interviews with leading figures related to MBA, both Indian and International.

As Round One of various American and European schools approaches, we catch up with leading international expert on MBA admissions and the co-founder of QS World MBA Tour Matt Symonds and get his advice on selecting the right schools to apply, the ever-bothersome issue of whether to employ consultants for essays and more.

How do you see the popularity, utility and relevance of the MBA degree panning out in the next decade?

With the continued growth of the global economy, and accelerated economic development in most of Asia, the MBA has firmly established itself as the qualification of reference both for young professionals looking to accelerate their career progress and the companies that need to manage growth. Many of the lessons of the dot.com crash five years ago revolved around a lack of strong managerial experience and weak business plan analysis. By providing the fundamentals of management and analytical skills to complement an MBA graduate’s initial professional experience, the business school is able to develop the future business leaders that India will need to maintain its internal development and international expansion. Tata, Infosys and Mittal will be joined by other cutting-edge companies who are transforming the way that India does business, and the MBA is sure to have helped many of their managers to their current positions of seniority.

In November 2005 the McKinsey Global Institute identified what it calls China’s “looming talent shortage”. We might expect to see demand for business schools rise both for international graduates from Chinese MBA programs and for Chinese graduates from international programs. The report estimates that over the next 10 years the country will need 75,000 leaders who can work effectively in global environments, to match the global aspirations of many Chinese companies. I foresee the same talent shortage in India, and MBA graduates will be best placed to take advantage of this demand.

What should be one's strategy while short-listing a set of schools he or she wants to apply to?

I am a firm believer that an MBA is only worth pursuing if it will bring the candidate a sufficient level of professional advancement and personal development. Can it help them to boost their career opportunities, and open new areas of expertise and mobility? Will they come out of the program with greater confidence and self-awareness, focusing on their strengths to build an exciting career that is matched with self-fulfilment?

If a business school can deliver this then the MBA program is well worth considering. The candidate may also find that they are not just limited to a handful of schools that have long dominated the top of a b-school ranking. By researching the characteristics of the schools, finding out more about the student experience, and how students are achieving their personal and professional goals, they may well find a more diverse shortlist of MBA programs. Meeting with schools and finding out more about the MBA as a qualification is essential, hence the popularity of the QS World MBA Tour events in Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore and Hyderabad. The face-to-face discussions with admissions and alumni, as well as workshops on how to select the right school for you, provide a much clearer picture of matching your ambitions with the right school.

Successful MBA applicants, whether applying to schools locally, or in Europe and North America, need to demonstrate a level of familiarity not only with the MBA qualification - how it can help them to build on existing skills and experience, and the direction of their post-MBA career - but also with the personality and strengths of the school. What sets Chicago apart from Wharton? How does IMD differ from INSEAD? Some of these schools might look similar on paper, but they each have their own identity and approach to management development. Research is key.

Read the complete interview here

Matt Symonds is co-Founder of the QS World MBA Tour, and author of the bestselling book on applying to b-school, “Getting the MBA Admissions Edge”. An experienced public speaker in more than 40 countries, whether on TV, radio or public presentations, Matt is an authority on Graduate and Executive Management Education, and is passionate about helping individuals to realize their hopes and dreams.

ISB Essays, 2007-08 Application Year

The Application to ISB for 2008-09 batch is open. The essay topics for this year are quite uniquely structured I must say, although the purpose still remains the same. They are:

1. The ISB culture stresses on a diverse mix of students; life at the ISB is a unique experience for the students. How will your candidature contribute to this culture at the ISB? (300 words max)

A million dollars or knighthood: what would you choose and why? (300 words max)

You have a new manager who has just joined your organisation. As a part of the handover, the outgoing manager is describing each person reporting to him. How do you think the outgoing manager will describe you to the incoming manager? (300 words max)

4. (Optional)
Please provide additional information, if any, that will significantly affect the consideration of your application to the ISB. Please do not repeat information which has already been stated elsewhere in the application. You may use this to clarify any breaks in education/work, inform about any other item which you think has not been covered elsewhere etc. (300 words max)

I would like to have a healthy discussion with my readers as to what are the expectations of each essay and what we should and what we should not write in each essay.