We’ve been getting the same question from an increasing number of students: “Can I get an MBA through GMAT without work experience?”
The short answer is this: of course, you can!
However, that’s only the short answer. There’s a lot that goes into getting an MBA, it isn’t as simple as filling out a form and just signing up.
To get into an MBA program without work experience is not an easy task by any measure. MBA is a postgraduate program that is usually designed for people with a couple of years of full-time work experience. The idea is to use the students’ experience of the business world to help them understand concepts and learn skills that will help them get ahead.
So, you can probably see why a lack of work experience can be a problem here.
However, the top B-Schools around the world are constantly looking to attract the crème de la crème into their MBA programs. B-Schools know that your odds of scoring well on the GMAT are pretty high while you’re still within the system of studying and appearing for exams. The going only gets tougher once you start working full-time.
That is why some of them provide you with an option to secure your seat in advance and only start your studies after getting some work experience.
Check out what our founder and CEO, Arun Jagannathan, has to say about getting an MBA without work experience:
In this article, we will discuss the following questions:
- Can I get an MBA without work experience?
- What is Deferred Admission?
- Which top B-Schools offer MBA without work experience?
Hopefully, our answers will help you figure out what you need to do from this point on.
1. Can I get an MBA without work experience?
You already have the short answer to this deceptively simple question. Here’s the long version.
Whether you can get into your dream MBA program without work experience or not will depend on many factors.
One of these factors is whether or not your dream school offers an early admission option. Some of the world’s leading B-Schools including Harvard and Yale are beginning to enter the early admission market to scout and pick up the best talent there is.
The trend is to start offering guaranteed seats to those who show exceptional talent while they’re still in college.
But here’s the catch:
Even though you can secure admissions for MBA without work experience, you will still only start studying for your degree after you go out and get some experience working full-time.
Now, B-Schools around the world are aware of two things, most of all.
The first thing B-Schools know is that you have a good chance of getting a great GMAT score while you’re still within the education system. Once you get into full-time work, it becomes tougher and tougher still to get back into the routine of preparing for an exam and scoring well. Taking you in with exemplary GMAT scores serves the B-School well, shoring up its average GMAT score.
So, obviously, B-Schools have a vested interest in giving you a chance to score your best, which is when you’re in college.
Secondly, B-Schools also know that rushing you into the MBA classroom without letting you get some exposure to ‘real-world’ business environments will take away from your learning experience.
The solution to providing for both these things is a program every school runs under a different name. That’s what we discuss in the next section.
2. What is Deferred Admission?
To put it simply, this is one of the many programs that allow you to get an MBA without work experience.
Offering early or deferred admissions is fast catching on as a trend among the world’s leading B-Schools. A number of leading schools offer programs allowing college students to get admitted into MBA without work experience. Each school has its own program structure, expectations, and admission criteria for its version of this program. Every school also has its own name for the program.
What the program essentially comes down to in most cases is this:
You take your GMAT in the last or second-last undergrad year and apply immediately via designated programs. Those who are selected are offered admission into the MBA batch that will commence a couple of years later.
If you accept the admission offer, you’re assigned a mentor. The mentor then guides you to improve your MBA profile.
Wondering what’s the point of improving your profile after getting admitted?
Here’s how it will help you:
Building your MBA profile is not only meant to impress B-Schools. It is also meant to help you prepare yourself mentally for the rigors of being in a B-School.
Don’t underestimate how rigorous life at a B-School can get. You’re expected to be a part of a number of activities, manage your projects and assignments, and still keep up with your studies simultaneously.
This is what your mentor prepares you to do so that it helps you make the best of your MBA experience.
To sum it up, deferred admission is when a B-School guarantees you a seat on its MBA program while allowing you a couple of years to finish your graduation and get some work experience first.
Now that you know what you can expect from these kinds of programs, let’s delve into discussing the options at your disposal as far as MBA without work experience is concerned.
3. Which top B-Schools offer MBA without work experience?
There are many leading B-Schools in the world that offer you the option to get admitted into MBA without work experience. Here, we’ll discuss programs from three of the most sought-after schools among our students.
- Harvard 2+2 – Harvard Business School
- Yale Silver Scholars – Yale School of Management
- Young Leaders Program & Early Entry Option – Indian School of Business
Easily the most popular deferred admission program by a wide margin is the HBS 2+2 program.
The ‘2+2’ stands for two years of full-time work experience followed by two years as a part of the HBS MBA program.
To be eligible for admission via this program, you must not have any full-time work experience. You can apply if you’re in the last year of your undergraduate or postgraduate degree, as long as you have no full-time work experience.
Students of STEM and humanities backgrounds are especially encouraged to apply for the HBS 2+2 program.
However, students from all backgrounds are welcome to apply.
The application process for this program is the same as that of the HBS MBA program. The differences are that it has less than half the application fee and only one deadline as opposed to the multiple rounds that MBA applicants get.
The Silver Scholars program at Yale was started as early as 2001. It is a three-year MBA program rather than the average two-year MBA that Yale offers.
Just like it is with Harvard’s 2+2, you will only be eligible for the Yale Silver Scholars program if you are a student in the final year of your under- or post-graduate program. Having no previous work experience is also a prerequisite for admission under the Silver Scholars program.
The first year of this program involves classroom studies, the second is spent completing a year-long, full-time internship, and in the third year, you return to the classroom to complete the program with electives of your choice.
Applications for the Silver Scholars program are accepted through the MBA application process itself.
However, we strongly recommend that you keep an eye out for special instructions to Silver Scholar applicants on how to navigate through the application process. If you aren’t careful, your eligibility could be compromised due to simple technical errors.
While the YLP is the Indian School of Business’ deferred admission program that’s inspired by Harvard’s 2+2, the EEO is a rather unique proposition from ISB.
The YLP works along the lines of the 2+2 and Silver Scholars programs, except for a few differences. One of these differences is that YLP has a separate application process from the process for MBA applications, with very specific and pointed YLP application essay questions.
On the other hand, the EEO is a program meant for people with less than 24 months of work experience. As opposed to deferred admissions programs designed for students with no work experience, EEO is designed specifically for people who have experience but not enough for an MBA.
In effect, the ISB EEO lets you defer your admission till you can complete at least 24 months of full-time work experience.
At the end of the YLP, you join ISB’s flagship Postgraduate Program (PGP), whereas with EEO, accepting admission signs you up directly for the PGP.
Having spoken about the most prominent programs from B-Schools allowing you to take admission into MBA without work experience, we must mention that there’s an important bifurcation when it comes to selecting B-Schools for you.
It all comes down to figuring out whether you want to look at B-Schools within India or consider B-Schools abroad.
In either case, it’ll probably help you to know that many Indian B-Schools accept GMAT scores. And if you’re considering studying abroad, you have yet another option in the form of the GRE. Consider the pros and cons of GMAT vs. GRE before you decide which test to take.
Our final piece of advice to you in this blog is that you should try to keep in mind that an MBA is a huge decision, and money is not the only thing you’ll need to invest in it. An MBA will impact the entire future trajectory of your life. So, make sure that you consider all your options carefully before choosing to get your MBA without work experience.
ESR – The acronym ESR stands for ‘Enhanced Score Report’. The ESR is a report which gives an in-depth analysis of a test taker’s performance on the GMAT. However, the ESR is not an alternative to the official score which a student receives on completion of the test. It can be used in conjunction with the official score report to obtain valuable insights into the performance of the aspirant.
The ESR is not generated automatically, like the official score report. A student has to subscribe for the ESR separately, by paying a prescribed fee, which is not included in the GMAT examination fee.
A student who wishes to subscribe to the ESR can do so by paying an additional fee of $30, over and above the $250 which he/she would have paid for taking up the GMAT.
In monetary terms, we feel that this is slightly unfair on the student who has already paid a substantial amount to take up the GMAT; we feel that the ESR should have been made a part of the official score report, so that the student could reap the benefits of the test fee that he/she has paid. However, since this is something which is neither under your control not ours, let us focus on the more important question which is –
Should you take the GMAT Enhanced Score Report (ESR)?
The answer is – YES.
Effective June 2018, GMAC has brought in some changes into the ESR report, which will let you extract more data than ever before, on your performance in the GMAT. Therefore, it is worth paying the additional $30 for the ESR, since it allows you to extract a lot of useful information about your performance in the GMAT, both at the macro and micro levels.
For someone who was not satisfied with his/her performance in the GMAT and wants to better it by taking the test again, the new ESR is just what the doctor ordered.
The ESR is now more informative than ever and interpreting it in detail will provide you answers to most of your questions on your performance, which otherwise would be mere surmises/predictions.
How to Interpret & analyze a GMAT Enhanced Score Report (ESR)
Let us look at the different parameters about which the ESR can provide you information:
1. Overall score and percentile
2. Time management – overall
3. Section wise scores
b. Time management
c. Difficulty level
d. Sub section scores
1. Overall Score and percentile:
This parameter measures your performance in terms of your final score and the relevant percentiles, which you obtained in the four sections viz., IR, QA, VA and AWA. Essentially, the difference between the ESR and the official score report is that, the official score report only provides your scores in the VA and the QA sections.
The overall score of 650, corresponds to the 73rd percentile, which means that this student has scored more than 73 percent of the students who have taken the GMAT, in the past 3 years. Similarly, the IR score of 6 corresponds to the 70th percentile, the Verbal score of 31 corresponds to the 61st percentile and the Quant score of 48 corresponds to the 67th percentile.
To give you a perspective, an overall score between 740 to 750 corresponds to the 99th percentile; a score of 51 in Verbal corresponds to the 99th percentile and a score of 51 in Quant corresponds to the 97th percentile.
2. Time Management – Overall:
This statistic talks about, the mean time per question, taken by the student to answer questions in the respective sections.
For example, the sample ESR under consideration tells us that the student took
- an average of 2 minutes 43 seconds to answer a question in the IR section;
- an average of 1 minute 48 seconds in the Verbal section;
- and an average of 1 minute 57 seconds in the Quant section.
This should not be mistaken to be the time taken by the student to answer every question, since the data talks about the AVERAGE time per question.
To offer a perspective, the average time per question in the different sections of the GMAT is as follows:
- An average of 2 minutes 30 seconds per question in the IR section
- An average of 1 minute 48 seconds per question in the Verbal section
- An average of 2 minutes per question in the Verbal section
On comparing the ESR and the ideal times, it may be observed very clearly that the time management could have been better in the IR and the quant sections.
3. Section Wise Performance:
Here, the student can view his performance in the individual sections and perform a granular analysis of his performance, which will in turn help him/her to improve on his/her weak areas (this is especially relevant for aspirants who want to re-take the test in a shorter timeframe.)
Let us have a look at the scores from the IR section:
The IR section has a total of 12 questions which have to be answered in 30 minutes. Out of the 12 questions, some are experimental questions.
From the above statistic, we can do some quick calculations and arrive at the breakup of the experimental and the non-experimental questions.
The percentage 67 percent can be applied only on numbers which are multiples of 3, because, 67% represents (2/3). Therefore, out of 12 questions, either 3 or 6 or 9 can be experimental questions. Since the score of the student is 6 and he has not answered all of his questions correct, we can conclude that the total number of non-experimental questions are 9 in number. Therefore, there were 3 experimental questions out of 12, in the IR section.
From this statistic, the student has clearly spent almost half a minute more on all the questions which he/she has answered incorrectly. This has done two things:
- It has increased the average time taken per question by almost quarter of a minute (~ 15 seconds)
- Had the student managed this time to improve his/her accuracy, he/she would have almost the same time for the last few questions which would have had a positive impact on the accuracy.
The new ESR provides lot more information than ever before, about the performance of the student in the Verbal and Quant sections. This is the strongest reason why we recommend the investment on the ESR, especially for test takers who are bordering on the 700 range and want to improve their scores in their next attempt.
Let us have a look at a sample and put together, the pieces of the puzzle:
The student’s score of 31 corresponds to the 61st percentile which means that the student has fared better than 61 percent of the people who took up the GMAT in the last 3 years.
The GMAT is a computer adaptive test – this means that the computer continuously adapts to your level of competence and delivers questions which will test you appropriately. Hence, the difficulty level of a particular question depends on how many questions the student has answered right till that point, and not only on the previous question.
Therefore, answering the first few questions right, sets the tone for you to achieve a higher plateau for your scores. But, unfortunately, the contrary is also true. If you answer your first set of questions wrong, then you are pulling your score down.
In the above statistic, it is very clear that the student has a higher proportion of wrong answers in the first quarter and hence his overall score has never risen up to where it could have been, if it was the other way round.
Now, this is one statistic that is going to give you a lot of insights into the Verbal section. First, let us try to understand the total number of non-experimental questions:
In the first quarter, the student has answered 25% of the questions incorrect. 25% is represented by ¼. Hence, the total number of questions on which this percentage can be applied has to be a multiple of 4 i.e. 4 or 8 or 12 and so on.
The Verbal section has 36 questions. As the graph itself says, each section in the graph represents approximately one quarter of the questions which means to say that each section represents 9 questions.
So, the number of non-experimental questions in this quarter is 8.
The percentage value of 43% is represented by 3/7. Hence, the number of non-experimental questions in the second section should have been 7. 29% represents 2/7, so the number of non-experimental questions should have been 7. In the fourth section, 50% represents ½; so the number on which the 50% can be applied should be an even number and naturally, it should be 8 non-experimental questions in the last section.
When we compare the current breakup of experimental and non-experimental questions in the GMAT, with the previous version, the comparison looks like the one shown below:
So, we can summarise that a total of 5 experimental questions have been taken off the test and also that there has been no change in the number of non-experimental questions.
A careful observation of the above statistic reveals the fact that the accuracy rate has been severely compromised in the last section, because the student has rushed through the questions, probably in an effort to complete in time or has just panicked.
The student has consistently maintained an average time of around 1 minute 45 seconds in all the other sections except CR, where he/she has taken almost 15 seconds more. This points towards a situation where the student was probably over-analysing the questions, especially given the nature of the topic.
What are the newest features of the new GMAT Enhanced Score Report?
This is a new feature which has been added to the ESR to let the student identify his rankings, if he/she were to be ranked solely based on the sub-sections. Comparing the performance of the student and the respective times taken by the student per question in the sub-sections, it is a fairly straight-forward conclusion that Critical Reasoning is a problem area for the student, where a drastic improvement is needed.
This is another new feature that has been introduced – measurement of performance in the three fundamental areas on which the GMAT tests a student – CR, RC and SC. Again, clearly, the student has not given his/her best performance in the CR section, with the best strike rate being 50%.
In addition, this statistic also tells us about how the student performed in the different subsections under each fundamental skill, which is exactly what a student looks forward to, from a report of this caliber – agreed, this feature could have been introduced much earlier so that more students could have benefitted from it, but, as they say, ‘Better late than never’.
In the quant section, the ESR provides data about the overall performance in the section and also based on fundamental skills like Arithmetic, Algebra, Geometry etc., similar to the Verbal section.
The above score of 48 corresponds to the 67th percentile and hence this student has scored more than 67 percent of the students who have taken the test. It is pertinent to note, here, that the Quant section is quite demanding in terms of accuracy; this is to say that a decrease of even 1 point in the score brings your percentile down by several points.
Similar to the performance of this student in the Verbal section, the first and the second quarters show a trend where the student has answered more questions incorrect and hence this has had an impact on where his score settles down at. We can also observe that, in the third quarter, the student has made some amends by improving his accuracy, as can be seen in the following statistic.
We can do a similar analysis of the number of non-experimental questions in each quarter of the Quant section. By now, you will be familiar with the interpretation of the percentage values and using them to calculate the number of questions on which the said percentage is applied.
In all the four quarters, the percentages represent a fraction with a denominator of 7. Hence, the number of non-experimental questions in all the four quarters is 7. The total number of questions in the GMAT, as per the revised pattern, has reduced from 37 to 31. These 31 questions can be broken up into approximately four equal quarters in the following way:
Hence, except the last quarter, we can see that there was one experimental question in each of the other quarters. So the reduction in the number of question in the entire section has happened by way of reduction in the number of experimental questions from 9 to 3.
A comparison of the breakup of the experimental and non-experimental questions in the present format and the superseded format is as shown below:
Analyzing the time management chart in conjunction with the one on accuracy, although the student has improved his/her accuracy in the second quarter, it has come at a cost since he/she has taken almost 3/4th of a minute more than the allotted 2 minutes per question. This has had a cascading effect on the time management in the subsequent quarters, where the student has probably realized his/her folly and tried to compensate. But, in doing so, he/she probably overdid it and has rushed through the last quarter, which has resulted in reduced accuracy, as discussed earlier.
This is an additional statistic that the new ESR provides which gives information about the mean time taken to solve a question, based on the different fundamental skills. Looking at the sample data, the student has taken marginally more time per question in the Algebra and geometry questions, which if they were more in number, could have affected the time management in that segment of the test.
The above statistic corroborates the conclusion that we drew from the sub-section timing statistic – the student has fared relatively well in Arithmetic, compared to Algebra which is reflected in the increased average time per question in Algebra. We can draw a similar inference on the performance of the student in the Data Sufficiency section, although, in this case, the increased time per question has translated to a better accuracy rate.
This is probably the most important piece of information, for someone who wants to identify grey areas in his/her performance and improve on them. Geometry and Algebra are clearly the areas where this student has to make rapid improvements if he/she wants to improve his/her score in quant and therefore, his/her overall score.
ESR for canceled GMAT score:
If you have reached this point in the Blog, it can mean two things – you are someone who really wanted to know whether it is worthwhile or not to invest on the ESR, which is something that should be relatively clear by now; or you are someone who is wondering if this blog also has information on whether an ESR is available for a test which was canceled by the aspirant.
If a test taker cancels his/her GMAT score, he/she can still use the same ESR authentication code to access his/her ESR. However, this will not be possible if his/her scores were revoked due to a policy violation.
Note that, there have been cases where the ESR authentication code was received by the test taker after 2 or 3 days (sometimes even more) from the test date. In case this does not happen on its own, a mail can be sent to GMAC following which the activation of the ESR authentication code should happen.
We hope that this clarifies the slight confusion which may have prevailed on this particular topic.
CrackVerbal Tip on time management in the Verbal and the Quant sections:
The time allotted for the Verbal section is 65 minutes. We recommend the following strategy to maximize your right answers, whilst not compromising on the timing:
|45 minutes left||10 questions completed|
|27 minutes left||20 questions completed|
|9 minutes left||30 questions completed|
|End of allotted time||36 questions completed|
Coming to the strategy for the Quant section, we recommend that you follow the following:
|45 minutes left||8 questions completed|
|27 minutes left||17 questions completed|
|9 minutes left||26 questions completed|
|End of allotted time||31 questions completed|
The Way Ahead:
The revised ESR report, in keeping with the revised GMAT, has become more student-friendly and allows you more elbow space to fine-tune your strategies, especially if you are planning to take the GMAT again.
Although it costs you an additional $30, we feel that it is still worth the money you pay for it, since it pays you back in terms of providing you with all the information you require to better your efforts. Additionally, if you are thinking of getting your ESR analysed by a mentor, it provides the mentor with enough inputs to be able to guide you towards your goal of a great score on the GMAT.
Giving GMAT and acing it, is just the first step on the long road towards the admission to a b-school. There is no guarantee that a great GMAT score (upwards of 750) will get you the final admit to a top b-school.
As the b-school themselves say, GMAT scores play a vital role in the selection of a candidate but are not so vital that a great score guarantees an admit by itself.
B-schools abroad only take students who they think will bring a lot to the class in terms of skill, experience and quality. 85 percent of the learning in an MBA program abroad is from your colleagues rather than from the professors.
Keeping this in mind, the schools want you to present an accurate portrait of yourself, helping them gauge who you are and what you will bring to the table.
It is for this reason; they have what they call, The Admission Essays.
Admission essays are the first round of the admission process, after you have taken the GMAT. Typically leading b-schools will ask you 3-5 questions on an assortment of questions that aim to bring out your real self. Questions may test you on different aspects of your personality and bring out your creativity and originality.
Here we give you some sample questions asked by b-schools in their essays and what they are looking for in an applicant based on their questions.
The quintessential Why MBA question
Almost all the b-schools want to know this. The questions may be direct or may acquire different avatars, but seeking the same truth, “WHY MBA”
Here are the different avatars of the question asked by different b-schools
1. Why MBA from X b-school?
2. What are your career aspirations? What do you need to learn at Stanford to achieve them? (Stanford)
3. (a) What choices have you made that led you to your current position?
(b) Why pursue an MBA at this point in your life?
(c) What is your career goal upon graduation from NYU Stern? What is your long-term career goal? (NYU Stern)
4. Describe your career goals. How will the Ross MBA help you to achieve your goals? (Ross Michigan)
5. Describe your vision for your career and your inspiration for pursuing this career path (Duke Fuqua)
6. What are your professional goals immediately after you receive your MBA? What are your long-term career aspirations? Why are you choosing to pursue an MBA and why now? (Yale)
7. Please give us a full description of your career since graduating from university. If you were to remain with your present employer, what would be your next step in terms of position? (INSEAD)
8. What is your career vision and why is this choice meaningful to you? (Harvard Business School)
This is the most important and the most frequently asked question by almost all b-schools. And it is this question that they want to separate wheat from the chaff.
B-schools, ask this question to understand your past and what made you to take this decision of pursuing an MBA. They want to weed out people who do an MBA, without knowing what to do with it. And believe us they know a serious candidate when they see an answer to this question,
This is the question that will allow you to show your personality and your thought process. This is the place where you display your lucidity and clarity of thought. Here is where you show the pains that you have taken and your hunger for the MBA.
You can show what homework you have done about the course, the b-school and your career in general. Don’t let this question be a tribute to yourself, but a eulogy about the school and how it will help you achieve your short term and long term goals.
Remember some basic facts while answering questions
Do not portray your aspiration to a Steve Jobs by day and Mother Teresa by night. Remember an MBA is not something that will guarantee future success and it depends on individual talents as much as the education.
The career aspirations must be high, but no so high that they sound ludicrous. You have to draw the line between realism and incredible, and stop at realism. (Also remember Steve Jobs never thought he will be what he is today. And in all probability he would not have written an essay as he is not an MBA).
Align your future goals to your current career:
Remember MBA abroad is an enhancement degree and not a degree in itself. So it makes better sense for you to align your future goals to your present career.
So it will make sense for you tell, ‘Right now I am a senior software engineer where I have noticed all these flaws in delivery. I want to do an MBA, get into a management role and correct it.”
This will give you a better chance than telling, “I am a PL/SQL expert and after doing my MBA, I want to be a marketing guru and sell soap.” In the latter, the admission committee reaction in all probability will be “Are you smoking bro?”
Do not save anything for the swim back:
This is a line from the movie ‘Gattacca’. Here the main protagonist and his brother play a game called ‘Chicken’ where they swim out to the sea and the first one who gives up and swims for the shore is the loser.
The brother always wins, because of his better stamina. However at a critical juncture in the movie, the protagonist challenges his brother and wins the contest. When asked how he did it, he simply says, “I never saved anything for the swim back.”
This might be the story of your MBA application essay. If you say, I want to start a mobile application company and with an MBA, I will also have a fall-back option, they will think that you are not confident of yourself. And they don’t like people who save something for the swim back.
What you should not do?
Do not feel sorry for yourself, If you think you have not done extraordinary things. No b-school expects you to be a Bill Gates when you apply there and quite frankly no one is. Remember, even the World’s youngest ‘Billionaire’ Mark Zuckerberg (Founder of Facebook) stole his idea.
So be proud of yourself and don’t lie to get that edge. And also know if you are honest you don’t have to remember anything.
Make it all about yourself:
If you fail to talk about the specifics of the program and the course and how that will help you, the schools on their part will consider you to be another self-obsessed narcissist who has applied for reasons other than genuine.
Set your mark at such a low level that you do not need an MBA:
If you state that, at the end of my MBA, all you want to be is the Manager of your project, which quite frankly does not need an MBA, you will get the dreaded ‘dunk’ mail. Set your goals sufficiently high but not as high as they deem it to be incredible.
If you’d like to share what works for you and what doesn’t, please leave a comment in the comment section below.
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