Tips to Tackle ISB’s Application Essays for 2013-14

Last updated on June 14th, 2013

Reading Time: 6 minutes

This is the analysis of ISB’s 2013 Essays. For an in-depth analysis of ISB’s 2014 Essays, please go to this link: ISB Essay Analysis


ISB has come out with their application essays for 2013 and there are a few changes from last year. The video essay has been dropped and an ‘additional information’ essay that was compulsory last year has now been made optional.


But ISB applicants should be happier with the new essay questions as these are more specific and state the expectations of the Admission Committee more clearly.


Essay 1: Attitude, skills and knowledge differentiate people. Elaborate with two examples on how you would differentiate yourself. (300 words max)




This is a variant of last year’s essay and indicates that ISB’s focus is still on understanding what makes a candidate stand apart from others.


cool-green-tickReflect on what defines you and sets you apart. Your attitude could be defined by a personal quality, a belief or a life philosophy.  Knowledge and skills could be an outcome of the perspective or experience you have gained.  If you hit a roadblock here, you can talk to people who know you well in different spheres of life, to identify what makes you different. For instance:

I come from a family of self-made businessmen, none of whom have studied beyond the 10th grade. As the first engineer in such a family, I have 2 unique qualities – the risk appetite and drive of an entrepreneur, and the discipline and focus that comes with higher education.

Having worked in operations, delivery and sales roles in 2 different industries (aviation and manufacturing) over the past 4 years, I bring extensive domain knowledge and cross-functional perspective to the table.

The second, and perhaps trickier, part is citing 2 examples to substantiate your answer. A good way to tackle this is to straddle the past and the future. You can cite a previous situation in which you effectively demonstrated the attitude/skills/knowledge you’re talking about, and also explain how you’re going to do this in future – at ISB.


What NOT to do:


crossDo not focus ONLY on your achievements in this essay – there is another question that asks you to do this. This question requires you to talk about the qualities/traits that you bring to the table.


crossDo not write what you think the AdCom wants to hear, unless this is what truly differentiates you.  Often, candidates tend to talk about the same old traits as everyone else. For instance, ‘analytical skills’ or ‘teamwork’. Instead, try to say something different and memorable about yourself.

Essay 2: How does the ISB PGP tie-in with your career goals? (300 words max)



Now this is a standard ‘hygiene’ B-school application essay if ever there was one! Instead of asking you to describe your career goals according to a timeline (3 years, 5 years etc), the AdCom wants to know the more important aspect – how do you think the ISB PGP will help you achieve your career goals?

cool-green-tickBegin by stating your career goals, both immediately after graduating from ISB, and 5 years from then.

cool-green-tickTalk about what you need to achieve these goals – what is the competency gap you are facing currently?

cool-green-tickSpecify how ISB’s PGP can help you. Mention courses, programs and clubs at ISB that you want to be part of. What else can ISB give you – career services? Strong alumni network? Brand name?

What NOT to do:

crossDo not give a generic answer like this: “With its eminent faculty, global reputation and world-class infrastructure, ISB is the best choice for me” Remember, the question is about the ISB PGP.

crossDo not be vague about your goals. For instance,  I am looking at a career in general management.

crossAvoid goals on either end of the spectrum: either ridiculously unachievable or painfully low-hanging! For instance,  ‘CEO of Apple in 5 years’ to ‘Project Manager in an IT company’ 🙂

Essay 3: Pick the most significant achievement (professional or personal) you have had and elaborate on the key learning you took away from it. (300 words max)



Read this question carefully once again – it is NOT asking you to SIMPLY DESCRIBE your biggest achievement.

cool-green-tickUse the Situation-Action-Result (SAR) framework: Begin by describing the problem/challenge itself, then talk about what action you took and finally, close with what the outcome was. In the last section, your focus should be on your learning/takeaway from the incident. How did your perspective change? Did you realize something new? How did you change after the event?

What NOT to do:

crossDo not merely list the rewards and accolades you won for whatever steps you took – that is not the focus of this essay. This can be mentioned elsewhere in the application.

crossDo not shy away from citing a personal achievement: Unfortunately, many Indians tend to favor professional achievements over personal ones. Do remember that your objective is to craft an application that creates an impact on the AdCom and makes them want to meet you and learn more about you. Often, personal stories can be more inspiring and remarkable than professional ones – a colleague or a person in a similar company may have a similar professional achievement, but nobody else can share your personal success story! 🙂

Essay 4 (Optional): Please provide additional information, if any that will significantly affect the consideration of your application to the ISB. (300 words max)



This was a compulsory essay until last year, but has now become optional.

cool-green-tickUse this essay to explain any part of your profile that you think may raise questions. For example, a gap in your studies or work experience, poor academics etc.

My resume shows a gap of 1 year between my graduation and my first job. I graduated in June 2008, right during the global financial crisis. Most companies had put a freeze on hiring, and despite being academically proficient, I was unable to find a job. But I did not want to waste this time and enrolled in an Oracle certification course at NIIT. By the time I joined Wipro in July 2009, I had completed this, as well as a beginner’s course in conversational French.

What NOT to do:

crossDo not repeat information you have already mentioned elsewhere in your application – in your resume, essays etc. This is not only boring, but also tiresome for the reader. 🙂

Apart from these, ISB has 2 separate essays for re-applicants and scholarship aspirants. As you may have realized by now, the first step in crafting your essays is always thinking and reflecting. And contrary to what many candidates think, preparing for the GMAT and planning their MBA application are not necessarily sequential events. So go ahead, take an occasional break from your GMAT prep and put on your thinking cap! 🙂

Wondering if you can get into ISB? Let us help you!

Get your Profile Evaluated!