My Journey to ISB

Now when I have decided that I will be joining ISB (Indian School of Business) in April, I thought of writing the whole story down. I want to share my story of why I applied to ISB again and again and why was an MBA so important to me. Ok, I know "An MBA is just a means to an end and not an end in itself". It's just that with each passing year, my aspirations changed and what started as a necessity without reason became a reason for my career progression.

How it all began

In my final year of engineering I decided to write the Common Admision Test (CAT) for admission to IIMs (Indian Institute of Management). I pursued engineering from a well recognised college and for some random reason wanted a brand for my MBA too. So IIMs were the obvious choice. Little did I know the significance of an MBA and just wanted to follow the herd going into the Goldmans, Lehmans and McKinseys. But anyhow, I just did not want "some" job. I wrote CAT and secured a decent enough percentile, that was good enough to satisfy MDI but my verbal was not good enough for any of the IIMs. I sat for MDI interview and cleared it. Then the IIM bug hit me again and decided that if I ever do an MBA, it will be from a top school.

I joined one of the largest IT Services firm in India. I excelled at work and at the same time, religiously wrote CAT every year. CAT for me became a routine, like a festival that "has" to be celebrated every year. Every time I was stuck with 98 something percentile, not good enough for IIMs. Man! High population has its own effects.

2 years passed. It was November again and I screwed up CAT. Again. Then I looked at ISB as an "option". Ok, I have some idea what I want to do with my life and an MBA was utterly necessary. ISB's R2 deadline was due Jan 15 and I had one month to prepare. This preparation included writing GMAT and the essays. Tough task. But I decided to give it a shot. It was pure gamble with my career. In fact, I should give this warning to my readers "Don't try this at home!!!" I wrote my GMAT in a month's time on Jan 5 2005 and secured a 710. In another 10 days ISB app was in. I received an interview call, screwed it up and the result was an obvious Ding.

The Second Attempt

The first attempt was an eye opener. I realized that there is something that I lack and that something was professional maturity. I would only gain that with proper experience. I decided to take additional responsibilities at work, looked at the bigger picture always and thus gained some good recognition.

But still, there was something missing. I needed something different now and decided to make a move to another company that would provide me with a completely different exposure. I joined a product firm in a dvision that was formed after that giant acquired a startup. This was something unique. I always looked for opportunities to contribute towards a change in my organisation that I work for. This helped me in two ways. Excellent recognition, fast promotion and greater responsibilities were one. At the same time, I strengthened my application for an MBA.

Till the year before this I was religiously writing CAT. The CAT festival was celebrated every year.

Then came sanity and I wrote another ISB application. In R2. Same story again. Interview followed by a Ding. This was a setback. I was pretty sure this time but something went wrong.

My Confidence

By this time, I had started doubting my abilities. Maybe I am not an MBA material at all. Let's excel at what I have. But it was temporary. I kept telling myself that I am strong and I have to get into my target industry (why MBA). M/B/B (Guess) became my dream and I firmly believed that I am an MBA material. In 2006-2007 I strengthened my application. I spent a lot of time on introspection and assigned "Why?" to everything that I had done in life till then. This helped me a lot.

I wrote the admission test for Mensa and cleared it.
I started this blog and focused on improving my writing skills. (Ok maybe I'm not too god now also but you should have seen how I wrote 3 years ago)
I got a substantial international work experience.
I made significant positive changes at my work place.
I wrote GMAT again. (You may ask why again after a 710. I had some reasons)

I was back on my feet again.

The Third Attempt

Should have been my last attempt. I wanted to leave no stone unturned. I wrote GMAT again. I worked harder on my essays and was ready.

Of course, it was a different time and I was admitted. I had achieved what I wanted to and am now prepared to begin another journey. Although I felt a sense of achievement, I knew it was not and is a new beginning in my professional life.

The ISB admit means a new beginning. It means that I am capable. It means that I am part of a group from whom I have a lot to learn from. It means I am in.

Tuck did not like me

Before the 20th of December, I was eagerly awaiting Tuck's decision. Although the hope was only 5% since I was not even called for interview, a positive side of my heart expected a positive result. On hearing that Tuck has a history of admitting some internationals without an interview, I was hoping for the best. There were a lot of positives I could think of: I applied in EA round (showing that I was ready very soon), I traveled to Delhi to attend Tuck Reception (I am working in Hyderabad) and my application was my personal best at that time. I so much wanted to join Tuck.

But all in vain.

I got a ding. Without an interview. Was my application that bad that they didn't even call me to have a chat?

I checked my result on Saturday morning (IST). Before this result, I was hopeful of joining Tuck. Having an admit from ISB, I wanted that "international" experience and therefore, was more inclined towards joining Tuck. But then ISB it was. I was destined to join ISB.

Now I am not sure whether I should apply to any more US schools or not. When I got my ISB admit, I had nearly completed my Tepper application. But I stopped after my result. There are many factors that are pushing me towards ISB and away from US Schools. Some of them being the high cost of a US MBA compared to ISB's and lesser number of jobs in US for internationals in these times. Still thinking.

Maybe by this year end I'll put in another app. Maybe not. Am very confused.

Admitted to ISB

I guess it is stale news now. I am admitted to the Indian School of Business Class of 2010 and I am really very happy and excited about it.

The evening of 20th Nov

I didn't go to office. I was not sure but I just did not want to work on that day. I wanted to take some time off to work on Tepper essays and decided that Thursday to be that day. After my not so good ISB interview performance (according to me), I was not very hopeful of a positive result from ISB. But still, this optimistic heart hoped for a 2% chance of something positive. On top of that, I was third time applicant. So that created more anxiety. My history goes like this:

Attempt 1 - 2.5 years of work-ex - Waitlisted -> Ding
Attempt 2 - 4.5 years of work-ex - Ding
Attempt 3 - 5.5 years of work-ex, GMAT 710 -> 730 - ???

By evening, I grew tense and tired of pressing the refresh on my inbox. So by around 8:30 pm I decided to take a break and go out to have some snacks. I thought anyways ISB sends an SMS, so I'll receive one even if I am out. At 9:15, I got calls from 2 of my friends whose results were negative. ISB was not sending SMS, only email. That was bad. I gathered my group and rushed back. That was the worst 10 minutes of that day. On the way, one of my friends tried to access gmail from his GPRS phone. He said it had never worked before but let's give it a shot. And voila, it worked. While I was driving, he opened the holy mail and read, "Congratulations! You have been offered..." I couldn't hear after that.

I was happy. I was excited. I started crying with joy. That was the first time I cried with joy and believe me, the feeling is unexplainable. My efforts have finally worked out. When you try hard for something and you don't get it, you mark that as unachievable (or hard to achieve). And when you finally get it, you feel like a winner. You start believing in yourself again. You regain your lost confidence and you are a man again. That's what I was, a confident man that night.

Congratulations to all folks who have made it to ISB and all the best to all R2 folks.

Soft Skills are hard to attain

Well, not for everyone. But if you see yourself entering the business world sometime sooner, this is one skills that will be very critical and is the hardest to attain. Now what are soft skills about:

  • Speaking confidently in front of a crowd
  • Command over a language
  • Maintaining the correct body language
  • Presenting yourself effectively
  • Effective communication skills
  • Speaking precisely and concisely
This is just a list that I made casually while thinking of what I need to develop to be truly successful.

Expectations from an MBA

Experts have commented time and again that an MBA is not for academic oriented people. An MBA is not for someone who wants to attain a "degree". Of course, you gain a lot of hard skills during your course of an MBA, you gain better understanding of disciplines like finance, marketing, operations, etc.

But there is much more to an MBA. Your expectations should go beyond the hard skills that you attain. Look out for other sources of learning. Capitalize on the diverse peer group that you have. Interact with people from various backgrounds, learn how to connect and build relationships (professional). Prepare yourself for the future.

An MBA has a bigger role in preparing you for such a role in terms of soft skills. Most B-schools have a course called "Management Communication". It has all the elements of a presentation (or that is what I think): effective business writing, presentation skills, communicating effectively one-to-one or to a crowd. It is not easy to stand in front of a crowd and make them believe in your ideas, your vision.

Tuck on ManComm

ManComm as "Management Communication" is known in B-school parlance is one of the favourite subjects of Tuck students. While going through the latest blog entry on the Tuck Admissions blog: Hard skills are easy, soft skills are hard, I can imagine myself using the MBA as a perfect platform to develop on my verbal and non-verbal presentation skills. Tuck's close-knit atmosphere plays a big role here through open and direct feedbacks. Walking up in front of the class and speak on a topic you have just been give for 2 minutes requires courage (at least for me). But I really appreciate the minute details pointed out with respect to the body language, voice modulation, etc. The feedback is essential.

Stanford's Management Communication Program (MCP)

Stanford GSB has a different method of enhancing soft skills. They have around 60 communication workshops held throughout the year. The workshops range from Effective Listening to Delivering Bad News, from Impromptu Speaking to Voice Workout. The conciseness of the topics itself tells you how each and every minute details needs to be worked on.

I just used these two examples to show how B-schools place a lot of emphasis on developing communication skills.

In contrast, most one-year programs do not have such an intensive focus on enhancing one's soft skills. As far as I understand, this must be because of the following reasons:

  • Less Time. Since the course span is just a year, these skills can be picked up by students as they move along.
  • Different demography. Well, not exactly. But usually one-year programs are designed for professionals who want a quick MBA and return to business. So B-schools also expect incoming students to ready to take on management positions and thus focus only on hard skills.
So I agree with Will from Tuck:

Hard skills are easy, soft skills are hard.

Business School Research - A note about "fit"

While researching B-schools, the big question that every applicant has to answer is about "fit":

- Whether the B-school fits into your career aspirations
- Whether you fit into that B-school's culture - This is important because if you research thoroughly, you'll find out that you cannot fit-in every B-school. For example, you may feel comfortable if the class size is small and you can get individual attention. If that is the case, apply to a school which sells on a close-knit community. Harvard is not for you.

So as you understand, "fit" is a give and take thing between the school and you. There are multiple sub-variables also involved in the above mentioned broad classification:

B-school fit into your plan

You might want to consider:
- Location of the school - That will ultimately also lead to the most probable location of post-MBA career. If you do not like New York, don't apply to Stern or Columbia for example.
- Top Hirers - You should have a specific target industry or employer in mind while applying. Go to a place that favours the industry you are targeting. It can be for any reason: location of the school, course structure, anything. You may want to prefer west coast schools if you want to work in Tech industry post MBA, for example. A look at the top 3/4 hirers gives you an idea.
- Class Size
- Faculty:Student Ratio
- Extra curricular activities in the B-school
- Are you the one who prefer a big brand name?

Do you fit into the B-school culture

- You may want to have a look at the demographics to understand this.
- Have a look at the Professional clubs at the B-school. Do you see yourself participating actively in some of them?
- Find and talk to alumni. They are really helpful provided you have done preliminary research and come up with intelligent questions to ask.
- Find out about life outside the classroom. Do you see yourself really engaging in these activities?

While reading randomly on the internet, I found this spreadsheet very helpful.

This person has compiled all the parameters from BusinessWeek into one spreadsheet. The criteria that was chosen was:

  • Demographics
  • Diversity
  • GMAT
  • Work Experience
  • Age
  • Faculty
  • Class Size
  • Joint Programs
  • Alumni
  • Salary
  • Cost

Knock Knock Tuck Tuck

It seems Tuck adcom take their own sweet time in going through the applications. I am jealous of applicants who are in the US and have initiated the interviews themselves. It seems like eternity since I submitted my application on 14-Oct for EA deadline.

Well, if they take time, it is actually good in one way. The final pool would comprise of handpicked people and if, I am one of them, I will have an awesome mix of classmates. It seems a couple of applicants have heard from adcom and are done with the adcom-initiated interviews, I am still waiting to hear from them.

Phone interview vs F2F interview

I would rather go in for a face to face interview with some adcom panel member or a local alum. Face to face interview gives you a chance to present yourself completely and not just your voice. If you are a pleasant personality, a slight error in your voice modulation is ignored. Whereas, in a telephonic interview, you have to make sure that your voice modulation is appropriate so as not to give wrong signals.

In addition, in a face to face interview, you get to guage what the interviewer is thinking or how he/she has taken your response. If everything is going well, you will get a feel of it and the interview is more of a conversation. I am not much of a phone person. I would rather meet and talk.

Random rambling, while awaiting Tuck adcom.

Are there many people who are awaiting adcom to initiate an interview?

My ISB Interview Experience - 2008 - Part Deux

I was happy. I was excited. I got the much awaited interview call from ISB. This was my third interview with ISB and I am not ashamed of this fact. I have never failed. To me, all unsuccessful ventures were termed as "learning experiences" and not failures. But it was the third time and that got me highly nervous during the interview.

Anyway, it was 8-Nov 2:50 pm. My interview was scheduled for 3:20 pm. I reached the venue just to find the whole floor deserted. All the rooms around were empty. "Did I read the correct date?" Yes it was. Then I rushed to the Admissions Office just to find out that the interview venues had been shifted to the Executive Housing (EH) because of Belgium's King's visit. I found out that had I come through the main entrace, there was a security personnel guiding you to the new venue. I was already on campus so I did not use the main entrance. Anyways, I was late and I had to run now for my interview. Gosh, it was so hot that day. By the time I reached EH, I was sweating. Thanks to the sun and the suit, I was feeling so fresh now. I got the 100 words essay on the word "fathom"; with one hand I was wiping my sweat and trying to write with second calmly. I was blacked out. Where was I? Did I prepare for this interview? What answers did I prepare? What do I have to say? What's happening?

At around 3:40 I was called in. There were three people: an adcom senior person (M), a lady from the adcom, Jayshree (F) and a current student (S). I just sat down with the essay sheet in my hand. I expected them to ask for it but they didn't, immediately.

[[ I am writing each and everything that happened in the interview including the answers I gave. I know I am out of the race but I want to help R2 applicants and other readers of my blog. ]]

F: So you are applying for the third time. What happened the last two times?
Me: Well, the forst time was in 2005, and I was waitlisted after the interview.
F: Oh.. (asking another panelist) Was there a waitlist policy?
F: (To me) So why weren't you selected?
Me: The feedback that I received...
F: No. Not the feedback. What do you think were the reasons? How did the interview go?
Me: Ma'am I believe the interview went great. I think I wasn't prepared for an MBA at that point of time. I had 2.5 years of work-experience.
F: Ok, What happened the second time?
Me: Last time I applied in 2007. In fact, I was interview earlier this year.
F: So you were called for an interview again?
Me: (C'mon, I'm not that bad) Yes Ma'am. The intervew went great again. I got the feedback that I needed to show more energy and enthusiasm during the interview. Based on that and based on the discussions that I had with current students and alums, I think I was not able to present myself effectively.

F: Ok.. So tell me. What are your career goals?
Me: I want to open my own network integration firm 5-6 years down the line. I have had good amount of exposure in telecom business ranging from telecom software services to product development. But before that...
F: To open your own firm.. (Me: oh please let me complete) why do you need an MBA?
Me: Ma'am before starting my venture, I want to gain experience in the business developement area of a high-tech firm. Once I feel I have gained sufficient exposure I will take the plunge. An MBA will provide me with the required knowledge and I will build a sound network, that will help me again when I start on my own.

S: So what if you don't get selected? Will you never achieve your goal?
Me: Of course I will. I will find ways to get into sales or business development in my organisation. But that will take more time. An MBA will facili...
F: No we are not asking why an MBA will help. Anyway, why are you so desperate about doing an MBA?
Me: I am not desperate about doing an MBA. (I was totally blacked out by this point. Somebody, please get me out of here) I have a specific plan in mind and I am working towards it.

M: So when you said high-tech firms, what are the firms that you are looking at?
Me: Well, high-tech firms not only include telecom firms but other networking firms too. Like Cisco, BT, for example that offer BD roles in ISB.
M: Ok. Why you only chose network integration business? Isn't there too much competition there?
Me: I agree there is. But over the years I have gained competence understanding the technology and I think I will do well. As far as competition is concerned there are firms like X, Y, etc that serve GSM or 3G networks. I want to enter into 4G equipments and thus would target only a small segment at first.

S: What is your goal? MBA or ISB?
Me: (I think they had already made up that third time means two times failure. Let him go) Sir I think it's neither. Opening my own firm is my goal and MBA is just a means to achieve that.
F: There are so many technocrats these days that venture into entrepreneurship without an MBA and are successful. So why do you want an MBA?
Me: (didn't I already tell that?) blurted out the same thing.

F: Okay, your application says you organized an event in college... (Specfics about that incident)
Me: (Smiling) Well, that was one interesting event. (Told them in detail)
F: Tell me one thing. When I moved from "Why MBA" to extra curriculars I saw a big smile of relief on your face. Were you not feeling comfortable during that time?
Me: I agree I did smile (I was smiling then too) but that was not a smile of relief. I was just reminded of that event and thus smiled.

Some more extra curricular discussion.

S: I see you are a Mensa member. What is Mensa and what prompted you to join it?
Me: Answered in detail.
S: Ok. solve this puzzle for me.
Me: (Took some time. Halfway through I hought of giving up too. but finally managed to solve it)

F: I'll give you a simpler problem now. Tell me how many paper cups would be consumed in ISB per day.
Me: (Good. estimation question. I was more confident now) I was solving and as the usual tips say, I was trying to think aloud. I was calculating weekly numbers. She stopped me twice correcting "Just give me the daily numbers"
Me: Sorry ma'am I was just trying to think aloud.

I got so confused by that time by interruptions that I mixed up some weekly and daily numbers and gave the answer as 3000. I think it is huge and I deviated a lot.

F: Ok. Thanks a lot.
Me: (What?? That's it? No "Do you want to tell something else?" No "Do you have any questions for us?")

If that's it, then that's it. I got it up, thanked everyone and left. The interview lasted around 30 minutes and I did not get a good feeling after that. Went for a swim later and washed away the worries.

I ruined it and it took me 2 days to get over it. In the meantime I met Ashwanth who had come over for interview the next day. Ashwanth, I think you have a good chance. All the best.

I am off to my other apps now.

ISB Interview Invite and Other Updates

It has been more than 3 weeks since I updated my blog. I have been rather extremely busy at work. I traveled to Germany for around 10 days for customer meetings. I must say it was an immense learning experience in terms of exposure to real customer expectations management and product release planning. Anyway, this visit and loads of work is my excuse to submitting only one application in R1 (Tuck), in addition to ISB. Yeah, I know I am bad at planning, time management, etc. But now I am targeting at least 3 other schools in R2.

ISB Interview Invite

I received in invitation to interview with the ISB Adcom on 8th November at 15:20 hours. Last weekend, I met a couple of friends and acquaintances who had come to ISB for interview. It was good to get me into the feel of the interview and help me get into the interview mode. Well, there are some advantages of staying on ISB campus.

Anyway, I am off to preparing for ISB interview. This being my third ISB interview, I want to overprepare and leave no stone unturned. Let's see what happens. All the best to others who are yet to interview and to those who have already interviewed.

MBA Admission Inspiration from Indian Idol

I was watching Indian Idol and working on my essays parallely, when I got these ideas. For people who do not know, Indian Idol is the Indian version of the popular American Idol. There is tremendous competition and the participants are from all parts of India, urban and rural areas, in addition to the international participants, mainly from Europe. The judges are curt, sarcastic and encouraging.

I just took the judges as the admissions committee of a B-school and the participants as MBA hopefuls, the applicants, the prospectives, us, me. The situation, maybe not entirely, but very similar to mine and, of course, there are lessons to learn from any form of competition.

1. Determination and Focus

If you try to observe what is common among all shortlisted participants, you will notice that everybody is talented. But more importantly, all are highly motivated and determined individulas. It is not enough to be talented, it is all the more important to come forward and make yourself noticed. Indian Idol is a good platform that they used. Now when they have entered the competition, everybody is determined to practice and distinguish themselves and move forward.

If you realize that you are an MBA material, rather a top-10 material, all you need is determination and focus. What you need is directly told to you by the adcom: a decent GMAT score, a progressive track record, a leadership experience, team skills and all these included in good essays. So it is pretty straightforward: identify your potential and work hard on your essays. There is nothing stopping anyone from getting into a top 10 MBA program provided you work hard and give it your best shot.

There are also some participants returning to the program after being rejected in previous seasons. But this time, they have practiced, they have more fire and they know what not to do. If you are not selected in an MBA program, there is no reason to get disheartened. As I said, if you have realized your true potential, there is nothing to stop you. You just have to work on your mistakes, come back again as a reapplicant with full force. Don't let the fire die within you. Improve yourself and come back next time, but make sure you do not leave focus

2. No Strings attached.

Participants come from varied backgrounds. Some have to support their family, many do not have proper training. in fact, there are some people who are from areas where they don't even have proper supply of electricity, let alone training.But they have that much required spark, they are self-motivated, they have realized their talent. And that is what is required to follow your passion.

If you are determined to get into a top MBA program, just don't lose that spark. If you are following the advices of MBA students, you must have heard a lot of times that many companies look for "spikes" in your resume. Those spikes are the areas in which you excel, and to succeed in something you need passion. There are no excuses to follow your passion. If there are excuses, you were not passionate at the first place.

3. Identify your true potential

You must have noticed that there are awful singers sometimes. They don't realize that they cannot sing and make a fool of themselves on TV. Judges are also very light in those case. They mock them and people think they are rude. But I think that they feel that when these guys themselves are making a fool of themselves, they need to realize that they cannot sing. These people should not get false hopes. Before taking a big step, you need to realize what you can do, and then take the plunge.

In a similar way, if you are preparing your B-school application, focus on your true potential and highlight that. Don't gt disheartened by a bad GMAT score. GMAT score is not everything. And everyone has something special in himself/herself. It is just a matter of identifying your spark. I know it is difficult, introspection is an uphill task, but dude, there is immense competition out there. And everyone is trying very hard. at least keep pace.

4. Don't fake it

"That guy from my college just got an admit from Wharton. He was very active in community service activities. I should write the same and that will fill the gap." This is a common thought, at least I used to think that way when I started researching on this process a couple of years ago.

For a common man, a novice singer, some people are good singers. But they get rejected by the judges. The judges are trained ears. They are highly experienced who know when you get out of tone. Similarly, the adcom is highly experienced and they can catch the fake the second you start talking about something that you have written just for the sake of it.

You got to realize that everyone is unique and there is no formula that can get you through. Even if such a formula does exist, it'll be to represent yourself the way you are. Just look deep inside yourself and you'll see a star. The difference between an admit and a reject is just that, the ability to look inside oneself and thus differentiate from the crowd.

The MBA Tour

I visited the MBA Tour in Hyderabad, India on Wednesday. It started at 4:30 pm but I could only reach by 7:30 pm, as I was stuck in an office meetings. I missed most of the Alumni Panel Discussions, but the fair just started at 7:30 pm.

Anyway, I won't say I benefited a lot from the fair in terms of knowing about schools. The schools I am applying to did not participate. I had not heard the names of many schools even. But nevertheless, I thought of visiting the stalls. The popular names visiting were Stern, Cornell, Duke, Georgetown in the US, and then there were others like RSM Erasmus, Queens Canada, HEC Paris, SDA Bocconi among the internationals. Not many alumni members participated but the ones that did were quite impressive.

Impressive Alum
I was particularly impressed by the Rotterdam School's (RSM) alum. He was a quite senior person in the business development of Satyam. First, his was quite an impressive personality, and the person was talking sense and not BS which can be found on any B-school's website. Second, he believed in what he was saying and thus sounded quite confident. He had a very strong pitch for RSM sounded committed for the school.

The usefulness of MBA Fairs
Others worth talking to were Cornell and Stern's representatives. I did came to know quite a bit about the school after talking to them. The one thing that is worth taking from MBA Tours is getting a feel of the school by talking to its alums and admissions staff. For international applicants who cannot visit the school personally must make sure that they visit these fairs and get the feel of the schools they are planning to apply to.

If you are sure where you are applying and are also sure of the fit to the school, these events are a way to show your love to the school. If you have applied, you can talk to the admission staff and talk about your application. If you are yet to apply, you can use this opportunity to resolve any queries that you have about the school. This will certainly help in answering the "Why this school" question.

What I did not like
There was very less participation from the top-tier schools. I know they do not need to market themselves in India, but at least they should participate just to show their support towards the applicants. Anyway, since the maximum international applicants are from India, I'm sure they are earning a lot from India in terms of application fee. This should be their chance to give back. ;)

On a serious note, prospectives visiting these events should also be well prepared in terms of what they ask the admissions staff. Visiting these fairs and just to gain some airtime, people ask questions like "My GMAT is so-and-so.. should I apply?" Come on guys, show a little professionalism, do some homework. Another category of questions that I guess shows no homework on the applciants' part is "What is your average GMAT score?". The best conversation I overheard:

Applicant: "I am an IT Applicant"
School Staff: smiling. "I guess everybody here works in IT"

A: What is the average GMAT in your school for people from IT background?
SS: I guess all engineers want some formula to calculate their chances of admission based on your background, GMAT, etc. But believe me there is none.

And then the general advice follows.

Anyway, overall it was a good experience for me. But I still wish my dream schools should have participated.

The Love of Tuck - A look at Tuck essays

I have submitted just one application till now and there are at least 3 more to go for R1. I say "at least" because I'm too busy at work, there's a visit to the client site scheduled for the last week of October. So practically, I have very less time. I just want to squeeze in as much I can, not compromising on the quality of the essays.

I am targetting the following, at least:

Tuck (EA 15th Oct)
Darden (28th Oct)
Haas (4 Nov)
LBS R1 (14th Oct).

I have removed INSEAD from the list since I will apply to INSEAD for the Jan 2010 cycle. I want the internship and I am no superman. The essays are progressing very very slowly. I am getting only 1-2 hours daily at max to work on my apps. One thing I have learnt during this process. I am bad at time management. I know some people are good. Awesome Soni!!! Keep it up. As of now, I have completed rough drafts of Tuck Essays 1 and 2, written bullets for Tuck essay 4 and just now it struck me what to write for essay 3.

1. Why is an MBA a critical next step toward your short- and long-term career goals? Why is Tuck the best MBA program for you?

This one was pretty straightforward. A typical career goals essay where I am following this format -> What I have done so far -> Where I want to be -> Why Tuck. The funny thing is, the more I read and research about Tuck, the more I fall in love with that place. I have never visited the place, but I have already started imagining what it would be like in Hanover. Being in a close-knit community where the alumni is so attached to the school and concerned about the people, where the faculty and the staff is so approachable, would be awesome. I just learnt that within 5 minutes of walking distance, there is a canoeing club where you can rent a canoe for just $5. Isn't it great!!!

2. Tuck defines leadership as “inspiring others to strive and enabling them to accomplish great things.” We believe great things and great leadership can be accomplished in pursuit of business and societal goals. Describe a time when you exercised such leadership. Discuss the challenges you faced and the results you achieved. What characteristics helped you to be effective, and what areas do you feel you need to develop in order to be a better leader?

Wow!!! A bg question. But again, straightforward for me. I just picked up an example from work where I did have an impact on my team and myself. But my concern here is that example is more than 3 years old. I have chosen that situation because it is very impactful and the circumstances were difficult. I hope it will not be perceived as too old and leave an impression on the adcom that there is no significant leadership experence in my life within the last 3 years???

3. Discuss the most difficult constructive criticism or feedback you have received. How did you address it? What have you learned from it?

This was where I was stuck thinking for the past one week. I just wrote down everything I could remember from my personal life to professional where I have received feedbacks. Of course, there were many instances of the same. But picking the one that left an impact on me to a large extent was a difficult one. I wanted to pick an example where it had an effect on my personality and to which I could relate my current being. In addition, I wanted to pick a feedback on which I have developed a lot and that weakness of mine, or the area of improvement has been long taken care of. So that example had to be old.

I wrote down my current area of work, what I do and how I do. Then I thought "was I the same 3-4 years ago?" If I were in the same situation or role a couple of years back, had I performed with the same level of confidence? No. Then what changed me? What was that "moment of truth"? This approach of thinking helped me and I was very well able to think of one such situation.

4. Tuck seeks candidates of various backgrounds who can bring new perspectives to our community. How will your unique personal history, values, and/or life experiences contribute to the culture at Tuck?

Of course, differentiate yourself. This application thing is like I am writing a personal diary. But I do appreciate the process. The more I introspect, the more I know myself, and the more I know what to improve in me.

My advice for everyone: Even if you do not want to do an MBA. Just apply to a B-school. Think of the business you are in from a larger perspective and write down a couple of B-schools' application essays. It is an excellent introspection excercise and it will bring out a lot from within, that you will appreciate.

Well, I should get back to my essays. Rough drafts are not reviewed. Only first drafts are. My personal deadline for Tuck essays: 2 days for the first drafts.

ISB Application Submitted

I hope I can justify my long break from blogging. I was too much into the ISB App. And finally when it is submitted, I am feeling a sigh a relief.

The fact that I am staying on the ISB campus has certainly helped me. Having interacted with so many people here, I developed very good relations. So there were a lot of people to review my essays and provide valuable comments, beyond pointing out cosmetic errors. Anyway, the night of 14th September (15th being the deadline) was very long. On 13th, I thought my essays are near completion and I made 14th afternoon as my target. But on 14th morning, my final reviewer gave solid comments that required me change my 1st essay completely.

I spent the whole day on the 1st essay itself and getting that reviewed twice again by other friends here. But at the end, I was satisfied. The new essay had come out very well and was a true reflection of who I am. I learnt a lot of things with respect to essay writing. I was highlighting a lot of aspects of my personality, but I was not highlighting my best. When people probe you, that brings out the best in you and that is what you have to focus on in your application essays.

I was awake till 6 am on 15th and slept only after I had made the final payment. There were a lot of things to do. The word limit specified by ISB (300) was too stringent. And guess what, you are not even allowed 301 words. So I guess it is strict and it involves a lot of word play, reframing of sentences, etc. At times, you feel the essence or the meaning is lost if you forcefully eat up words. So it is advisable that you complete your drafts long before the deadline and try to reframe the sentences in a logical manner so as to not lose the meaning. Believe me, it is possible.

Monday was a bad day since I showed up at office only at 3pm. It took me two days to get bac to my normal schedule. Now too much of procrastination and break from essays, I have to get back to another set. Now let's see what I have:

Tuck (EA 15th Oct)
INSEAD (R1 1st Oct)
Darden (28th Oct)
Haas (4 Nov)

Well, it's a pretty difficult target considering I have a lot going on at work and a few work related visits are also planned in October that will not allow me to give my 100% to essay writing during that time. But then, I have no other choice but to squeeze out every minute and put into essay writing. You do not procrastinate over important decisions in life. Let's get to Tuck, I love that school.

ISB Application 2008-09 Essay Analysis

It is application season again and ISB is out with its essays again. Well, it has been quite some time now. I was just thinking about those essays and thought of analyzing what an applicant is expected to write. Basically, ISB must have some purpose behind giving out those topics. We should analyze that. This year's competiton is going to be tough and there are multiple reasons.

1. ISB has been ranked 20th in the FT Global MBA rankings. That made sure ISB gets enough media coverage and international popularity.
2. ISB has been growing at an exponential pace. With its awesome faculty and impressive placement numbers, ISB sure will make it big time in the international B-school community.

I wrote the analysis of last year's essay topics too. ISB sure does come out with a unique essay each time that stumps the applicants and the applicants who are writing multiple apps must write at least one essay that is unique to ISB. (At least, I am stumped!!!). Last year it was "million dollars or knighthood" dilemma. This year it the "Zumba river" ethical dilemma essay. Let's see what this year's essays have in store:

1. Please give three reasons why ISB should admit you into the class of 2010. These reasons should ideally differentiate you from your competition. (300 words max)

This essay is similar to last year's essay 1 that clearly asked about your diversity factor. Most of the B-schools today focus on peer learning. Of course, in today's times, a business graduate needs to be aware of the functioning of different industries, needs to have an open mind, develop a global adaptability and be responsive of different cultures. To achieve this, a B-school should ensure that it has the right mix of students that learn from each other well. This calls for a diverse batch:

a. diverse in terms of nationality:the FT rankings will attract applicants from different countries. the current batch has 4% of international students (international passport holders). For a global school, there is a long way to go.
b. diverse in terms of industry: As is a fact, there are a lot of engineers and consultants applying to a lot of B-schools. While discussing a case, you expect a different opinion from your peer group. For example, while sitting in the entrepreneurship class, you may want to hear the legal implications from a lawyer, you may want to learn how to approach a VC from someone who has already done so. Just imagine the amount of practical learning you get.
c. miscellaneous: There are other ways to differentiate yourself. Maybe through your work-experience, your contributions outside of your work, your extra-curricular achievements. It can be anything.

Just think of ways how you can differentiate yourself from people of your background and how that will contribute to the student body. Breeze!

2. You are contesting the election to be the President of the ISB Student Body. Write a speech you will deliver to the student body on why they should elect you as the President? (300 words max)

This is a typical and an atypical essay. It is a typical leadership essay where you have prepare a manifesto and do a sales pitch for yourself. But what does ISB have to do with that?

This is an opportunity to present yourself as a leader. You need not be in a leading position at your workplace. Just identify the qualities of a good leader: taking initiatives, thinking out of the box, looking at the bigger picture, etc. Just reflect back on your work-life and bring out examples where you have shown such traits. These examples help identify people with natural leadership bent of mind. The examples may not be necessarily of the workplace. You may want to show how active you are outside of your workplace and taken initiatives in community activities too. This is the place to show just that.

Coming to the second part. Keep in mind that this is about ISB's Student Body president. So obviously you need to know about ISB and what contributions you will make at ISB. Of course, there are always things to be done for improvement at any place. So do your research. Find out what are the responsibilities of the ISB Student body and what is the role and scope of the president. Connect with ISB and think of how ou can contribute were you the president.

3. CASE : You have been appointed to head the team to build a dam across the River Zumba. Success in this project is critical for your company and would earn you a promotion. Failure would mean that your company would be bankrupt and will take along with it, its investors and its employees. Building a dam across the river would result in deforestation of a portion of the rainforests and would mean relocation of the tribals and destabilization of wild life at Zumba. There is resistance from environmental groups against your project. You are meeting the head of the resistance movement in one hour wherein you would have to explain your decision. Describe what you would do and why? (You will be evaluated on the creativity and practicality of your solution). (300 words max)

An Awesome Essay!!! I loved it.

A very practical situation. A similar ethical dilemma can be faced in any industry at many situations. You are presented with two positions: one is profitable for your company and the other for mankind and environment. On the first look, it looks like a dilemma. But if you think deeply and passionately for one stance, you can convince anyone why our position is stronger.

You are expected to come out with a practical and creative solution to come out of the situation and be a winner. As always, you have to show what qualities you have and be a convincing and effective leader in this situation.


The above is just my personal interpretation of the ISB essays. I request all my readers to provide more inputs if there is any other aspect that can be thought of or if I have been wrong in my thought process. All the best to all ISB applicants.

B-school preliminary shortlist

Gmat Done. Yes, a long time ago now. Now, if I look back 730 is not a bad score. The thumb rule, I have learnt, is that your GMAT score should be above the average of the schools where you are applying. And 730 is above average to all the schools I am applying to. No worries.

Now the next step was to shortlist the schools. Last week, I had been so busy that I did not get time to research schools at all. So the weekend was deicated to prepare a preliminary list, at least. Well, at first I shortlisted around 14 schools. That is a big number and I guess impractical too. So I understood I had a lot of work to do.

My situation

It is a do or die situation for me. I am 28 and it is just the right age for me to do an MBA. I am at such a juncture in my career that if I do an MBA right now, it would be ideal. I do like my job, rather the industry I am in. I want to rise in high-tech industry but not in the job function I am in, that is engineering. So the more I stay here, the more stagnant I will become since I do not aspire to grow in this function. An MBA right now just seems right.

Where do I want to be

I would definitely like to work in the US for some time. In addition, the exposure you get in US is not comparable to any school in India. From family or stability perspective, staying in India is logical, but I want to think long term. My family, wife are understanding, so I can afford to move to US for some time. Now coming to the job function. I have made a tentative plan of where I want to be. Keeping this factor in mind, I prepared my tentative list.

I want the best

Now coming to the shortlisting.

Outside of US:

Duke - Fuqua
UCLA - Anderson
UCB - Haas
CMU - Tepper
Emory - Goizueta
Michigan - Ross

Now that is a big list I know. And I have less time, considering I am in the office for 10 hours every weekday.

My thought process

I think I'll start writing the most common and long essays first. The benefit will be I will just have to tweak the common essays (like career goals) for every application and reduce my efforts. Based on my progress, I'll see which schools I can eliminate. I also have to divide the schools into R1 and R2. I guess 50% distribution would be just fine, keeping at least one top 10 in R1 and one in R2. As the application progresses, your writing improves, you think of stronger points and you will know how to write better, and impactfully.

Now let's see. I want to ask my readers. What is your shortlisting strategy? Am I going wrong somewhere?


It has been five days, and I am still not convinced whether to be happy for a good percentile score and think that I am still not able to cross that mental "Indian" barrier of 750. I scored a 730 on my GMAT. If I were from . . . Genovia (Yes, there is a country named Genovia) or if I had been working closely with the PM to get the nuclear deal done, I would have applied to HBS with 730. Clean sweep.

But alas! I hail from India, and of course, by chance, I am an engineer, not in IT though. 730 is a crime man!!! Below 750, you are a piece of crap. Anyway, surprisingly people have been congratulating me for my "great" score.

But then, there are positives. This is my second attempt at GMAT. My previous attempt was 3 years ago when I scored a 710. There are some valid reasons I retook the GMAT. I did show an improvement here. 20 points up. This Thursday, I came back from the test centre and was analyzing my performance/improvement. Since it is a fact that overall GMAT scores are on a rise, my 710, 3 years ago would have been a 680 today. So it is a considerable improvement. I am writing a debrief on my GMAT prep. There are a lot of things that GMAT prep teaches you. Discipline is one of them.

So all in all, it was good. No use thinking "If I could have...". Now I am free. All set to attack the apps.

Thanks to Adekku, Starwalker and Goneguru for their wishes for my exam. A late thanks though. Was busy partying after my GMAT. ;)

The GMAT-II Day Tomorrow

Well, I have 25 hours left from now when I will write my GMAT (Thursday 5:30 PM IST). The situation this weekend was bad. I decided to write another Manhattan Test on Saturday and I scored 660. I was drowned. I was doomed. I was shocked. But then I convinced myself by thinking that it's the Manhattan tests and they are considered difficult. But my brain did not accept this defeat. My target was well above 700 and I cannot settle for less than that in a practice test, and that too just 4 days before the actual test.

I let it go.

I waited for 4 hours. Had dinner, watched some time and decided to write another practice test. Challenge Manhattan head-on. It was 11 pm and I started my practice test. And phew, this time, with a little more concentration, I managed 700 (93%ile). I was satisfied. I could sleep. This weekend was good.

The next I decided to give the final practice shot. And write the GMAT-Prep 2. I was in a jolly mood. Well, come on, it's the "easy" GMAT. "Just yesterday I challenged Manhattan and won". Be casual - was the mood. AND THAT KILLED ME. I scored a 650 on GMAT Prep - 2.

Man!!!! This was a test where mostly everyone scored near their actual GMAT score. My dreams were shattered at that moment and I was feeling low. "I don't mind a 680,or a 690. But with a previous 710, a 680 would be bad... very bad." Anyhow, I let it go and forgot about GMAT the rest of the day.

Monday came and I picked up my books and my notes. Went over all the SC notes from Manhattan SC guide. Other pointers that I had written down. Practiced the last 20 CR's from OG, and I thought I am ready for another challenge.

GMAT - 1 day to go. I woke up early. I decided to go to office a little late and go for a date wth another Manhattan test. This time, I decided to be serious, no jokes. And I scored a 730, a morale booster I sincerely needed. Now I'm not taking another practice test to risk my motivation. I am just sitting idle. Tomorrow is the day and I have to maintain my cool. My RC accuracy is under control. OG Practice did the trick.

Well, let's see how it goes.

How Do I Improve my Reading Comprehension

I really suck at Reading Comprehension section of the GMAT. After compiling all the tests and practice questions that I have done, my average accuracy for RC comes to 50-60% which is very bad. My CR and SC accuracy is close to 80% and I'm confident that with a little practice, I can stretch those. But I am clueless about RC and I really hate that section.

Friends, readers, please help me. I'm really worried now that my GMAT date is approaching... 17th July. And I cannot stay with an accuracy as pathetic as 60%.

Is practice the only way out?
Aren't there any tricks or strategies like there are in SC and CR sections?

Any suggestions or comments are most welcome.

The Magic Book of Sentence Correction

I might be over exaggerating, but I saw a dramatic improvement in my Sentence Correction accuracy after using Manhattan SC Guide.

After reading a lot of appreciation for the book in a lot of blogs, I went ahead and bought the book. I liked the approach they followed to tackle each and every type of SC problem. Frankly speaking, I am really bad at memorizing grammar rules. This explained my weak accuracy at SC (close to 60%). I wanted someone to tell me: Look! Here a phrase is separated by a comma, look for the misplaced modifier. Eureka!!!

Simplistic yet Impactful Approach

In my opinion, the best way to tackle GMAT Grammar is to approach it as pure logic. Forget language, tell me the rule. Manhattan SC guide does exactly that. I will give you an example. I think you will agree. The most probable rule where we are stumped is when a combination of tenses appears on the test. Couple it with the IF clause, the test taker is doomed. In this book, they have simplified it to an extent that they have made a table mapping the IF clause with the THEN clause, presenting cases for all the tenses. I went ahead and memorized it and I did see a difference.

Practice Questions

They do not have any SC question to practice. Rather, for each category of problems, they have basic questions to identify the error and correct it. Practicing these helps you identify the type of problem that can appear and what the remedy is. But I really wished they had some practice SC questions in the book.

Deadly Combination

If you plan to buy Manhattan SC Guide, take my word and buy it along with the Official Guide, 11th ed. With each category's chapter, they have identified questions frm the OG to practice. So you study a type each day, and practice 10-20 questions related to that type, obviously the questions ranging from easy to difficult. By picking up one category every day, I was able to finish the OG's SC section in nearly a week's time, with, guess what, 85% accuracy. I hope it stays that way.

Bonus Tests

Guess what!!! You buy the book and you get 6 Practice Online tests for free. Not a bad deal for $17.

Well, believe me, I am not being paid my Manhattan for this, although it looks like a sales pitch. I am really amazed by my performance improvement after going through the book and I really wanted to share this experience with you all. Really, if you are worried about Sentence Correction, go ahead and buy these two books:
Now the next section to tackle is the Reading Comprehension. I really suck at that. Thanks to Neo2000, I learnt that the average GMAT for us Indians is 730!!! Phew!!! I don't want RC to screw my score.

Manhattan GMAT CAT Test Review

This weekend, I wrote my first diagnostic full length GMAT practice CAT. While arbit browsing I landed up on Manhattan GMAT site where I learned about their free full length practice test. I had heard good review about the Manhattan material so thought of giving it a shot. Well, first my scores:

Overall: 660 (86 percentile)
Verbal: 32 (67 percentile... too bad)
Quant: 49 (90 percentile)

The review:

1. Quant more difficult than the actual GMAT. I found the quant section to be more difficult than the actual GMAT. I am usually pretty confident in the quant section but this time I was stumped. I spent nearly 4 minutes on some questions. Well, one of the reasons might have been that I am picking up this material after a long time. But in any case, while reviewing my mistakes, I took note of all the strategies which were good and those that I am supposed to remember. I am maintaining a doc that has all those "tricks" that I should take care of while solving specific questions. I think it was a good experience, since if you practice with a difficult set, you prepare yourself better for the worst.

2. An actual CAT for practice is mandatory. A lot of material is available online for practice. But your performance in those tests is not truly reflective of what your G-Day performance will be. So for practice, I feel you should go for an online test that closely simulates the actual CAT. For the ignorant souls, the GMAT CAT, or the Computer Adaptive Test, as the name suggests is adaptive to the user's responses.

In the words of Princeton Review:

The Computer Adaptive Test always begins by giving you a medium question. If you get it right, the computer gives you a slightly harder question. If you get it wrong, the computer gives you a slightly easier question, and so on.
3. The Verbal Section closely represents the actual GMAT. I was highly impressed with the Verbal section of Manhattan. It had a fine balance of the right mix of questions with varied difficulty level. Although I did not perform that well, as I expected, I feel it gave me a closely accurate idea of where I stand and which section I should focus on.

4. The optional sectional or per question time limit. This was an amazing and a new feature that I found really helpful, especially for practice. Before each section starts, the test asks you to set the time for each section. Although the real test has a sectional limit of 75 minutes for Quant and Verbal each, here we can set the time depending on how you want to practice. You can also set per question time limit. Let's say you want to target 2 minutes per question for Quant section (37 questions and 75 minutes). So if you are targeting to improve your speed, feel free to set the per question time. A third option is also available to make it without any time limit.

So it depends, what your focus is and at what stage your preparation is. If you want to practice accuracy, forget the time, just go ahead with the test questions. If you want to practice speed, set your target time.

Overall, I feel taking the full length test was good for me as it tested my stamina too. Man, I had never sat for this long, especially for a test in a long time. Believe me, you need this stamina for the actual day to get your brain running till the last question. In addition, this test helped me analyze my weak areas and was an eye opener for me. Just a month and half more to go... phew.

Online resources for GMAT prep

As I mentioned in my earlier post, I started my GMAT verbal prep with Princeton Review's Grammar Smart. I spent 4 days on it and got the mathematics of grammar cleared. Yes, I call GMAT grammar as mathematics, or more specifically logic, since there are standard rules for the same. If you take care of all the rules, you don't have to worry about GMAT verbal, especially the Sentence Correction section, that many people fear. There is no need to remember, or even learn what is a pronoun, a subjunctive clause, etc. You get all the rules stated in a simple logic manner. I jumped directly to Sentence Correction since last time this was my weakest area. Beginning next week, I'll start attacking other sections with equal attention to each.

Sometimes while in office, when I get some free time, I feel like spending some time on practicing quant or some random questions just to keep my practice live. At that time, some online resources come in hand and in my opinion, are the best. There are other well-compiled resources too that focus on GMAT Preparation strategy and other tips. Not in any particular order:

1. Gmat prep strategy: Clear Admit Wiki I have always been a fan of ClearAdmit. I am even following their blog on a regular basis through their feed. Well, their wiki is another source of awesome user-generated, or rather contributed content. The above particular page showcases GMAT experiences of some people. Some of them have written an excellent debrief about GMAT prep. People have shared tips on how to use the reference material and their strategies to study for GMAT. After reading a lot people's experiences, I am intrigued that is Manhattan SC guide really that helpful? Maybe I should go ahead and buy.

PS: I still don't why I am not featured in their Fridays from the Frontline series... ClearAdmit, are you listening?

2. Gmatclub Forums. Here you will find a very proactive community of people contributing heavily towards Gmat Preparation. Although as of now I am using it to take part in discussions involving GMAT questions, I'll later use it for my B-school research too. There's a lot of info in there. As of now I'll primarily use it for:
a. Gmat Prep strategy. There are forums dedicated to GMAT Strategy discussions. There are a lot of similar forums you will find on the internet. But the one thing that attracts me to Gmatclub forums is that they are strictly no non-sense. People are experienced and contribute a lot of value.
b. Gmat Verbal and Math Prep - As I mentioned earlier, threads are dedicated to Verbal and Quant preparation. You do get questions to practice , but since these are interactive forums you gain a lot from the discussions and learn new tips from forum members.

3. Beat the GMAT. It's again a collection of advices and a forum for GMAT and B-school admission related discussions. Just a different pool of people. It says it is a collaborative effort of ManhattanGMAT and StacyBlackman Consulting. Both of them are established brand names now.

4. Test Magic Forums. Excellent GMAT Forums. Gmat Club forums focus mostly on GMAT preparation, usually discussing one question per thread, the test magic forums are more generalized. They relate around other discussions involving GMAT, tips and advices, etc. Go check out.

Weekend is here. Time to spend 6 hours per day on GMAT. Over to the books.

4 Reasons Why I Decided to write GMAT again

After a lot of introspection, I decided to write GMAT again. I have registered for the test and have given myself 2.5 months for preparation. I feel that should be sufficient given that I have already written GMAT once. Since I HAVE to do an MBA this year, I do not want to leave any stone unturned and want to be well prepared.

It is not that I have a very low GMAT score for now that I have decided to take a shot again. I had scored a decent 710, well above average of many top schools. There a couple of reasons for doing so:

1. Too old GMAT score. My current GMAT score is more than 3 years old. Many friends have told me that if it is still valid (GMAT score is valid for 5 years), why do I need to write it again. My argument is, GMAT is indicative of an applicant's academic abilities. A decent score 3 years ago does not indicate the person's current abilities. So this might turn off B-schools. A fresh score would be an accurate reflection.

2. Compensate for average acads. My undergraduate acads are nice but not the kind I would boast of. To compensate for that I need a good enough GMAT score that I won't have to explain.

3. Skewed score. My previous score is a little, ok ok, a lot skewed where I score 51 in quant and early thirties in verbal. I'm not sure how B-school adcoms perceive it. But I personally am not happy with it. So this is an attempt to level the scores.

4. Want to be above the average, all things being equal. I am, from a not-so-typical IT background (read Indian/IT/male). I have a lot of things to differentiate myself, but on the GMAT front, I am well below my sample space. Most of the candidates whom I'll be compared to would have scored more than me. I want to be in the upper half. In the worst case, if they have to choose between person X and me, all other things being equal (I know, I know...), they should choose me based on a higher GMAT score.

Am I over confident? I don't think so, I just explained the reasons for me to take another shot at GMAT.

Where do I start
1. The first test of GMAT Prep, the software provided by, to assess my current standing. I heard quant has become tougher after Pearson has taken over GMAT administration. Let's see.
2. Book, to start with, I'll go with Princeton Review's Grammar Smart. I really liked that book, that it helped me clear my concepts and was an immense help in the Sentence Correction Section. Basically, the approach that was followed in that book, made Sentence Correcction feel like mathematics. there are pre-defined rules, you just have to follow those.
3. Then I'll think of picking other books, like Prince Review, Kaplan or OG - The Official Guide to GMAT.

A note for my readers:
I am very keen on buying the OG for GMAT Verbal. I am looking for reviews on htat book if someone has used it. Is it worth spending money on? Or if there is any other recommendation for verbal specifically, please do recommend, I'll be grateful.

Why was I not selected at ISB

So I am at ISB finally. I always wanted to come here and I have, but not as a student. My wife is a current ISB student and I moved to the campus along with her. Well, both of us applied together and wished both would study together, but it did not happen. But anyways, I have not been wasting time. It was not much of an inconvenience moving here as I was already working in Hyderabad, so just moved out of the house to the ISB provided studio apartment. Anyhow before I get my feedback from ISB, I contemplated what could I have done better to improve my chances of admission here. Rather, what I should have avoided that might have ruined my chances. As I list the reasons, these also specify the lessons I learnt and should be followed by every re-applicant:

Photo by better not bitter

  • Apply in R1. I should have applied in R1. If I am a re-applicant, I genuinely show my interest in the program only if I apply early.
  • Grab every opportunity to sell yourself, show more passion. I should have been more focussed on selling myself during the interview. For example, when the interviewer asked the last question, "Is there anything else you want to add?", he was literally giving me an option to sell myself and talk about anything I liked. But that was a blackout time, I could not think of anything and moved on. When I was out of the interview room, I could count at least 10 things that I could have said. So guys, now you know how to be better prepared. :)
  • Show more maturity and a better fit. As I am a re-applicant, I was supposed to write an additional essay that talks about what has changed since I last applied. A lot was changed. It is two years since I last applied. And you know what I wrote... I mentioned the facts, I talked about the new job, new location, the purpose of my job change, and all. But I never told them what I learnt in these two years, how and if I am more mature now, what perspective have I gained. These are the things that would define me and that's what a B-school wants to know.

It has been three weeks now since I moved to ISB as a 'spouse' and all this time, I have seen life at ISB more closely that made me more motivated to apply again. I always knew that I want to do an MBA, but I'm never applying passionately. This time, I'll apply to more than 1 school to improve my chances of doing an MBA. Since my score is more than 3 years old now, it makes more sense for me to retake GMAT. I have scheduled my GMAT for mid-June and now starting my preparation.

ISB Ding

I went into hibernation after giving my ISB interview, the only school I applied to. 3 days before the results were actually released, I attended the ISB R1 admits and R2 "hopefuls" meet here in Hyderabad. It was a great meet and I was excited to study with those guys once I get into ISB.

But alas, something else was in store for me and one fine morning, when I was early to office, I got an SMS saying that I was not accepted. It really came as a shock to me and for the next one hour I was feeling, hoping rather, that it is a mistake and cannot be true. I mean, everything was in place now. Last time I had applied with 2.5 years of work-ex and was waitlisted. I screwed up my interview last time. This year, I applied with close to 5 years of work-ex and far better essays. My interview was more mature. Considering all this, I had assumed that I will get through this time and had planned everything.

Anyways, now I have got used to the fact that I will not be doing an MBA this year. Right now, am focusing on my job and keeping myself updated on the news on global MBA front. It's time to do some introspection to figure out the reasons for my reject. That is, before I get a feedback from ISB.

Why is ISB ranked 20th in FT Global MBA

The recent news that ISB is ranked 20th worldwide in the FT Global MBA rankings has invited a lot of opinions, objections and praises. Although I personally feel that getting this ranking is definitely good for ISB as the first thing ISB needs to be acknowledged in the global arena is exposure, and rankings is a definite way to achieve it. I do have some points to talk in favour of and discussions on some of the doubts that people might have.

Understanding the criteria
Every ranking institution follow a different criteria to compile the rankings, a fact every individual must understand before deciding whether a B-school deserved the particular ranking or not. I am not concluding anything here, but merely going over the facts. By going through the FT methodology, we see that “Weighted salary (US$)” and “Salary percentage increase” contribute 40 per cent of the rank for each school. This data is collected for the last three years beginning with the batch of 2004.

ISB has beaten the league US-Schools
Well, it comes as a big surprise that ISB is ranked above league schools, he likes of Kellogg, Duke, Anderson, Darden. Again, if you consider the salary percentage increase, it is understandable since the salaries of the above schools are more or less constant over the years and since ISB is gaining more corporate exposure with each coming year, the salaries have been rising at a fast pace. To add to that, the dollar has fallen considerable last year and if you adjust the salaries to PPP, the increase would be a lot.

I am not undermining the potential that ISB has, but I am just stating my personal analysis to acknowledge the position ISB has achieved.

ISB still needs to catch up on student diversity in nationality. Then why?
I agree to the fact that as compared to all other schools, ISB scores the lowest in terms of diversity. International students form only 5% of the batch as per the data, which is too low. But come to think of it, how will international students get to know that a school called ISB exist if it is not in the rankings. You ask yourself, will you apply to a US school which is not even there in the rankings? I won't, even if I have heard a lot of good things through word of mouth. I would like to know where it stands as compared to other schools. So exposure is the first thing required by ISB to attract foreign students, and the first way to get exposure is the rankings.

Why not IIMs?
Again, I do not want to undermine the fact that on some parameters, the IIMs score much above ISB, like Alumni base to talk about. But here we are comparing apples and oranges. IIMs cater to a different set of candidates. It is a totally different debate and I plan to write a new article on this argument. Promise.

There certainly will be increase in the number of applications in the coming years, as if the current competition was not enough. :) No seriously, the rankings will attract more students and definitely more from foreign shores. Apart from that, I think this ranking is a major global reputation booster for ISB and would impact its placements in a positive manner.

My ISB Interview Experience - 2008

This post is coming nearly a month after my last one. I know the frequency had been very less and I so much want to be regular on my blog. Anyways, I had my ISB interview on the 23rd of January at the ISB Admissions Office, Hyderabad.

My "Profile" as people have the interpretation of the term:
GMAT 710
Close to 5 years of work-ex in IT Services and Telecom Product firm (Infosys and Qualcomm)
Decent Acads
Decent extra-currics
3 months international experience as a lead

My interview was scheduled at 2 pm and I reached there by 1:20 pm. Was interacting with other waiting applicants when I was given a paper for a write-up on "Finesse". Frankly speaking, I had no idea what the word exactly meant. I knew it is something related to putting perfection in your creation and built something around it. Took some 10 minutes to write and then continued chatting with other interviewees.

Was called in at around 2:10 pm. There were 3 interviewers in the panel. I do not recall the names of two of them (excuse me for the nervousness at the time, was finding it hard to concentrate). The guy who led me in was Joe, is one of the adCom members and I met him first in 2004 when I attended the the ISB Information Session in Bangalore.

Anyways, so here here goes the interview dialogue with P as the Panel member and N as me:

P: So you applied in 2006 too, did you get a feedback on why you were not selected? Were you interviewed?
N: Yes Sir, I was waitlisted after the interview. As per the feedback I received, I guess I was not able to convey my reasons for pursuing an MBA properly.

P: So would you tell the reason now?
N: Told the reason for an MBA and my backing work-ex.

P: So you were in Australia? What did you learn about the multi-cultural experience as you have written?
N: Told them about my experiences, the people I met and a little about the challenging project.

P: What was the challenge in the project and how did you face it?
N: complete description of the experience.

P: Okay, so what do you do apart from work? What are your passions?
N: Told them about my interests in painting, dancing, reading and the recently developed interest in blogging. Talked about blogging in detail, covering my blog and the current trends in blogging.

P: What do you write in your blog. Tell us about what you have written.
N: Gave them a description of the topics on which I write. In addition, I gave them a pointer on the most popular article on my blog which is the ISB application essays analysis.

The discussion became interesting from here when they asked me to share the analysis with them. We had a very healthy discussion on the latest essay topics and my views on them.

P: Okay, so what companies are you looking for post MBA?
N: Gave them a couple of names related to my field (telecom) where I would like to be in that can offer me the role I want.

P: What specific role are you looking for?
N: explained it.

P: I see you have learnt French. To what level do you know the language and why did you learn it?
N: Told them that I have completed it till Level I where I can have basic conversation in present tense, and my motivation behind learning it.

That was it. I asked a couple of questions on their courses which could help me in my entrepreneurial venture. Another question on the current status that ISB has applied for rankings and its future impact.

All in all, it was a very friendly discussion. No grilling involved. I am not sure what to make out of this. Just keeping my fingers crossed till 15th Feb.

My advice: you should know what you have written and have a convincing experience to back everything. Just be yourself and know your application well.