Could you tell us about your profile?
I work as a software developer with Juniper Networks in Bangalore and have a work experience of 3.5 years in the telecom industry.
How did you know about CrackVerbal?
Once I had decided on preparing for the GMAT, I was on the look-out for some good coaching centers in Bangalore. I figured that I needed help on the verbal section of the GMAT. One of my friends at that time suggested I come to the ‘Verbal Experts’ for GMAT coaching and that was how I joined CrackVerbal.
Tell us about your GMAT journey!
Well, before I wrote the GMAT, I had taken the CAT and got a 93%ile but unfortunately did not get a call from any of the IIMs. To be honest, I had no idea about the GMAT until then. It was only in March 2014 that I discovered a career path through the GMAT. I gave the first mock test and scored a 610. Quant was easy, however, I found trouble with the verbal section on the GMAT and that was when I joined CrackVerbal.
One very important section on the GMAT is on Reading comprehension where most students struggle. The strategy and techniques taught at CrackVerbal helped me to a great extent and in just two weeks I gave another mock test and scored a 690! That was a huge jump. I knew I was making progress as I had my basics in place, thanks to CrackVerbal.
All I needed to do now was to practice a little more. My performance had increased and I was scoring between a 750 – 770 range in my mock tests. I was quite satisfied by my mock results and so decided to take the GMAT in July 2014. I scored a 750 on the actual GMAT test!
Why did you choose to do an MBA?
I wanted to have a mix of technical and managerial knowledge. After 3.5 years of core experience in technology, I wanted to experience the different managerial roles and have a much broader profile. Also, right from my college days, I dreamed of doing an MBA. I was just waiting to clock the relevant work experience so that I could do my MBA from a top B-school.
So which B-schools have you applied to?
I started my research on B-schools only after my GMAT test. I applied and was being interviewed by 3 US B-schools:
1.Kelley School of Business
3.University of Maryland
I successfully converted my interview to the University of Maryland. My GMAT score definitely worked to my advantage and gave me an extra edge.
How did CrackVerbal help you through your MBA applications?
I worked with CrackVerbal for my applications to Kelly School of Business. The Admissions consultants at CrackVerbal worked very closely with me. They helped me delve deep into my reasons for doing an MBA, my short term goals, my personality, professional achievements, and my overall expectations. This initial brainstorming helped me discover my interest in politics, social research and also gave me some thought direction for writing my essays.
I was able to give a definite structure to my essays and also CrackVerbal puts every candidate in touch with an external consultant who is an alumnus of the concerned B-school. In this way, you also understand the expectations of the B-school when they evaluate your profile.
Though I worked with CrackVerbal only for one B-school, the guidance and strategy that was shared helped me incorporate the same into my other essays as well. I had a great experience working with CrackVerbal for both my GMAT and my MBA applications and I strongly recommend all my readers to work with a consultant on your application!
How was your overall experience with CrackVerbal?
I would recommend CrackVerbal to all MBA aspirants who want to achieve excellence when it comes to their verbal skills. The classes at CrackVerbal establish the perfect balance towards fun and learning. Their course is designed in a very nice way. They provide feedback over forums and also have a dedicated support team to answer all your queries. The forum will particularly interest you since it has a lot of ongoing discussions and debriefs that will inspire you.
I feel CrackVerbal is the perfect place for whoever wants to get into an awesome B-School!
Any strategy and tips that you would like to share with our readers?
I would strongly recommend all my fellow GMAT aspirants to refer and practice questions only from the Official guide. Also, the strategy to get a great score on the GMAT is to be able to identify and eliminate the wrong options. Spend enough time and practice on understanding the concepts tested on the GMAT test. You have only 1 minute to solve a question, hence a good knowledge of concept is necessary.
A score of 750 on the GMAT requires a little more than just finding the right answer. You need to analyze and eliminate the wrong options quickly. The analysis is the key to crack a score of 750 and above! Also, if you join CrackVerbal, their books and resources are sufficient to refer (along with OG material, of course!). They have great content and the faculty at CrackVerbal are very approachable. They are the best study partners to work with!
Could you tell us a bit about yourself?
I’m a mechanical engineer by qualification. I worked in the industry for about three years before I joined a start-up called Sports Paddock in sports management in Bangalore. I have a total work experience of 4.5 years.
What motivated you to do an MBA?
I knew after I worked in the industry that I wanted to be on the business side. I want to do an MBA to get a better perspective of business and learn subjects that I absolutely have no experience in.
How did you go about with your GMAT Prep?
My approach was pretty methodical. I took a month of classes and prepared for 3 months after that. I would practice every day, even if it was for a short duration. I always made it a point to do something every day so that I didn’t lose momentum. I was able to meet my targets as to when I should write the exam. I stuck to official material and practice tests. Verbal was a piece of cake for me. I felt I needed a lot more practice in Quant since Data sufficiency was the hardest for me.
How was the day of the exam?
The last 2-3 weeks before the exam, I didn’t learn anything new. I concentrated on practicing what I already knew. I never put myself under too much pressure. I planned for the test day by going a day earlier to get used to the environment and made sure I took enough food, so that I could focus on the exam. I took the test and scored a 730.
What B-schools did you have in mind?
My initial idea was to study in the US. I applied to 8 schools in the US and as a fallback option, I applied to ISB. I needed a scholarship, but I realized I was too late into the game and wasn’t going to get aid. So I took up the ISB admit.
How did u go about with your applications?
When I spoke to a few people, I understood that I had to start thinking about what to write in my essays even before the GMAT test. I took about 2-3 weeks to do brainstorming upfront so that it’s easier. I looked at sample question templates for different B-schools. Most of them followed a common pattern, so I listed down important pointers.
Once the application season started, it was easier since I could go back to refer to the document.
How was your interview experience?
I think my stories were compelling; coming from an engineering background to an entrepreneurship role.
I was roasted for 45- 50 minutes during the interview. But that was probably a tactic. The panel had 2 people with extreme responses. I let them take my case and didn’t respond negatively so that probably worked in my favor.
How was your experience with CrackVerbal?
It was really good. My essays needed fine-tuning and CrackVerbal helped me refine my essays and bring out the essence of the story so that the reader understands. I could call them up anytime to clear my doubts. I probably wouldn’t have landed an admit to ISB if it weren’t for CrackVerbal.
Do you have any words of wisdom for other MBA aspirants out there?
What works for me might not work for you, but these are my GMAT mantras:
Spend some time understanding your strengths. There is no point of practicing something if you know you’re already good at it. Focus on your weak areas, identify your errors and correct it. That is the right way to go about it. I think what most people miss out on is analyzing the practice tests. Try to understand the pattern using various tools.
Don’t waste time on exam day understanding the difficulty level of the questions. Think of some strategies upfront. If you’re stuck on a question, don’t spend more than 2 minutes on it. If you linger, you would lose much more than you would lose on that one question.
Try to keep your brain fresh on test day. I’ve had the personal experience of watching people who were well-prepared but forgot their passport on test day. Use some technique to relax.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
After my graduation in 2013, I’ve been working with EMC for the past 2 years. I played a functional role as a Technological Consultant for big data units.
What motivated you to pursue an MBA?
MBA was always on my mind, even while I was pursuing my graduation. Even though, I got the required technological knowledge during graduation, I could visualize myself as a person who not only does the job of a coder. I saw myself involved in various other aspects of business like marketing or business analysis. Even though I didn’t have much exposure, when I entered the corporate world, I was able to see other people doing these job roles and that was what motivated me. I decided to give my GMAT in 2014.
How was your whole GMAT experience?
Verbal was the most difficult for me. Quant was easy as I came from an engineering background. I got a 710 on the GMAT. The day of the exam was really good because I prepared well and gave mock tests prior to the exam. That matters a lot. If you prepare yourself well, you know what you’re up against. I reached the exam hall quite early just to familiarize myself with the whole place. The process was pretty smooth since I had a good place to concentrate and I ended up with a 710 on the GMAT.
What were the B-Schools you applied to?
I had applied to Oxford SAID Business School, University of Illinois, ISB and Tepper Business School. I got interview calls from the first 3 schools and bagged admits from University of Illinois and ISB. The whole experience was great because of the exposure I had while applying to all these different schools. It’s always better to apply to schools that are a good fit for you. And the school in turn should feel that too. The mutual fit ultimately helps.
What made you stand out in you essays?
There’s a big mental block attached to MBA applications when you think you’re an average Indian IT professional and it would be difficult to get into Top B-schools. When I went through the application process, I got interview calls from 3 colleges. Getting an interview call means you’re above average. Being from a good college, having enough work experience, and marketing yourself appropriately will surely help you stand out, even if you’re an IT guy/girl. It worked for me.
How was the whole ISB Interview experience?
I’ve heard that ISB interviews are usually stressful, but I felt quite the opposite. I don’t know if it was the way in which I answered the interview questions or the way I maneuvered easily through technological questions. Either ways, it helped me tackle the interview. I think it becomes stressful when the interviewer is not able to connect the dots between your whole story or they’re not able to understand your career goal. But if you’re sure that this is your vision, you can convince the Adcom better. If you’ve been honest and presented all the right information in your application, there’s nothing to worry about.
How did CrackVerbal’s role in your whole journey?
As soon as the application process started, things spanned out very well and I had better clarity towards my goals for my application. I knew I was going in the right direction. The brainstorming sessions with CrackVerbal were critical in the whole application process.
Do you have any words of wisdom to give to MBA Aspirants?
Don’t get bogged down by the fact that you’re an IT male or female. Just believe in yourself and make sure you’re doing an MBA for the right purposes. Don’t do it just for the sake of doing it. Your MBA should get you to a particular place. Your goal should be aligned to the goal of the B-school. If you’re looking for a career in Technology consulting, ISB is a good school to apply to. Believe in everything you do, convince the school about your vision and you will meet your aspirations in time.
Could you tell us a bit about yourself?
I did my graduation in Chemical Engineering from SRM University in Chennai. Soon after that, I worked in sales and then moved to marketing. I have a total of 6 years of work experience and the domains that I worked on were mostly automation systems and aerospace.
What motivated you for an MBA?
Well, there were two things. After engineering, I immediately jumped into sales, because even while I was in college, I knew that manufacturing was not my thing. My inclination was always towards something else.
When I was working, I understood that if I have to change jobs, the industry isn’t just looking for someone with experience, but also for someone who has a degree from a premier institute. I didn’t have a degree in marketing, and I realized I needed that in order to make faster progress.
Secondly, like most people, I felt like my education was incomplete if I didn’t have a Masters degree. I wanted to do it from a place that was not just about the brand and environment but from a place that would give something back to me.
How did you go about with your GMAT Prep?
I started preparing in 2012. I was struggling with work so I took time and practiced each sub-section of the Verbal section for one month. I just prepared from the OG for 6 months. I used to get 620 and 640 in my mock tests. I understood that there was a lot I needed to do. Work picked up and I got distracted but I kept in touch with CrackVerbal and in 2014, I was back.
I actually prepared well in 2014. I took a friend along so that I had company to prepare together and we both ended up getting the same scores in Verbal and Quant and an overall 700.
I had actually given two attempts. The first time I felt like I was well prepared, but only got a 650. I revised my Verbal section since that was where I felt I needed improvement and after a week or two, got a 720 on my mock, and finally got a 700 on the actual test. And I decided to go ahead with that score!
What was the difference between both the attempts?
I realized that when it comes to the GMAT, it is more about patterns than knowledge.
When you’re preparing for different tests, you miss the pattern that the real test has. That was the difference between my 650 and my 700.
What were the B-schools you had in mind?
Some essays I wrote on my own, and some I took CrackVerbal’s help for. I applied to NUS, Memphis, Berkley, Cambridge, ISB and IIM-B and got admits from Memphis, IIM-B, and ISB.
How was your experience with CrackVerbal?
I consider myself as one of the oldest students of CrackVerbal. I was constantly in touch with them. Although it took years to get my GMAT prep and exam done, I got constant guidance and motivation from CrackVerbal. CrackVerbal classes helped me get my grammar right. I referred this book called Manhattan which had clear explanations for Sentence Correction.
When you’ve done a lot of good work and you’ve gone out of your way to do something extraordinary, but you don’t showcase that properly, you lose out on a lot. Even though I worked on my first few essays by myself, it was only when I worked on my NUS application with Arun that I understood how to put forth in a way that it’s understandable for the reader.
Everyone’s making sure to do their best and it’s very important to have a guide at this point to mentor you and that’s what I got out of CrackVerbal. I had the best guidance which best showcased my work.
Do you have any pointers for other MBA aspirants out there?
I would say there are 100 factors that matter in while preparing for an MBA. It’s a different scenario for everyone. You’re lucky if everything falls into place. Keep trying to make it work. The advantage I had was that since I was in the same company for so many years, I knew the system well enough to plan my studies.
For GMAT, the pattern is really important.Understanding the pattern is a zone that you get in. If you don’t push hard enough, you won’t reach there. You have to be in that zone to write the GMAT. You might probably take a month to understand the pattern. Just the knowledge would not do. You will be able to time yourself well if you know the pattern. Leave the rest to hoping that everything else will fall into place.
Could you tell us a bit about yourself?
I have a total work experience of about 6 years. I worked for 5 years with Godrej as the Regional Manager and soon after that, I started my own company in the E-commerce sector.
What motivated you towards an MBA?
While working in Godrej, life was pretty good. I had got promoted out of turn and had settled down in life. There was nothing challenging that motivated me to work further. When I started my venture, I realized it’s really important to have a deep knowledge about the company or product that you’re managing because as an entrepreneur, people begin to judge you from every angle- your education, your background etc. I felt that an MBA from a premiere institute would stand out on my resume. I wanted to learn how people in this sector have that kind of confidence and connect to the outside world. As an entrepreneur, people begin to judge you from every angle- your education, your background etc. I felt that an MBA from a premiere institute would stand out on my resume.
How did you approach the GMAT? And what was your score?
The hardest thing on the GMAT was to have things in order. GMAT is a test where you can’t lose your focus. The approach towards developing yourself for the exam is very specific and I was able to keep a specific approach while preparing.
Since I’m an avid reader, I could manage with RC. I had a major problem with CR. I had signed up for Verbal classes with CrackVerbal and had specific CrackVerbal material that was provided to me- that helped.
On the GMAT, it’s not about 10 hours of preparation, it’s about 1 hour with quality focus and dedication.
How was the day of the exam?
Before going for the actual exam, I actually replicated it by giving mock exams. I gave these at the same time, wore the same clothes and the same bag and estimated the travel time it would take to reach the test center. I happened to score a 710 on prep 3, prep 4 and on the actual exam too.
Which B-schools did you apply to?
I applied to ISB, IIM-C, and NUS and bagged admits from ISB and IIM-C.
How did you go about with the Application process?
Since I wasn’t in touch with studies or writing long essays for more than 6 years, I needed someone to guide me. The deadlines were fast approaching and I had 3-4 months to prepare for the GMAT, application, and interviews. That’s when I decided to go to CrackVerbal. I targeted B-schools according to the profile they offered and followed a clear discipline to get the process done on time.
How was the interview experience? What were the questions asked?
The interview was a bit of both- easy and hard. I was interviewed by a Marketing professor who was quite easy going and an alumnus who was quite the opposite. He made sure to create a pressure situation during the interview to test my calm. They asked me about my start-up and asked me to explain my balance sheet. I was questioned on my previous role at Godrej and why I left such a good paying job to plunge into entrepreneurship. The whole interview revolved around questions about my risk- taking abilities, my personal background, what I wanted to be in the future, whether I wanted to go back to doing business and so on.
How was your experience with CrackVerbal?
When I started preparing for the GMAT, I wasn’t really sure on how I should approach the Verbal section. Being an engineer, Quant was easy for me. For Verbal, it’s not just about vocabulary or grammar, it’s all about logic and how you interpret passages. I felt I needed somebody who’s been in my shoes and could help me with Verbal. My brother told me about CrackVerbal after hearing about them from other resources. The first RC class I attended was a demo class. The way Arun teaches is quite different. He approached the subject in such a way that made realize that Verbal is achievable. When it came to applications, CrackVerbal helped me realize what I needed to portray in my essay, rather than just writing the essay for me. It was like more of a self-awakening thing. The approach by CrackVerbal was impressive. Their opinions truly mattered and they made sure I got everything done on time.
Do you have any advice for other MBA aspirants out there?
Everyone says the GMAT is hard and that you have to give a lot of attempts. I would say, create your own experience rather than relying on others words. It’s up to you how you approach the GMAT. Nothing is difficult if you have the right people to guide you and the right resources and the right approach. If you believe, you can achieve.
Can you tell us a little about your professional background?
I graduated as a computer science engineer from Sir M. Visveswaraya Institute of Technology in Bangalore in 2014. Right now I work for AIG Analytics and Services Pvt. Ltd. I have been there for about 4 years now. I work as a catastrophe modeler. The role basically involves supporting insurance underwriters. We do the risk assessment for the underwriters.
Why did you decide to do an MBA?
I actually had the idea of doing an MBA at the back of my mind towards the third year of engineering. I wanted to get into a managerial role, but I had to explore the corporate world before I could pursue my MBA.
I gave my first attempt of GMAT in 2014 and I scored only a 600 which was not enough for me to get into a good business school. So I decided that I would first take a shot at the corporate world to understand what it takes to become a manager or a business graduate.
What mistakes did you make the first time you wrote the GMAT?
The first time, I made the mistake of crunching through a lot of material and free resources, solving a lot of questions. Rather than understanding the GMAT, I was just processing a lot of material. It was only later that I realized that the GMAT is more of a pattern based exam that you have to crack.
So how did that change the second time?
So the second time I gave the GMAT, was in August, 2016. I took one year to prepare this time. It was an on-and-off preparation because I was trying to juggle it with work. I started maintaining an error log this time to keep track of the sections where I was making a mistake. In this, the Crackverbal material really helped me. I would look at the 700- questions in the CV Prep material and analyse where I was going wrong.
Can you talk about your Crackverbal classroom program experience?
One thing I noticed is that the instructors at Crackverbal have a very good understanding of the GMAT, almost on the level of the GMAT test-makers themselves. So initially I went only for Verbal classes but later felt like I needed help with the Quant section as well. Arun was my instructor for Verbal and he taught everything so smoothly. The second time round I managed to score a 710.
How did you select your B-schools to apply to?
So I mainly focused on the US. I also focused on a couple of schools in Europe like Rotterdam School of Management in Netherlands and Said School of Business, Oxford. I chose all of these schools based on the post-MBA employment statistics in those regions and I felt US was the place to do an MBA. I had applied for fall of 2018 and I had applied to 7 schools. I noticed that European schools stress a lot on work experience, 3 years at least.
What was the application experience like?
The first time I applied I made it more about my GMAT score, essays and how well you can personalise your essays. I would look at a lot of essay topics and basically gather a lot of material and practice by trying to put in within the word count. But I realised that it is more than just those things and you need to craft an overall profile that is strong and makes sense. Schools focus on a lot more, like diversity factor, work experience, undergraduate background and more. The first time, I got an interview call from 2/7 schools and then after the interviews I was rejected by both. That’s when I realized I need to focus on the overall profile.
So how did you go about it the second time?
The second time I did more research on all the universities to understand the diversity factor, job prospects in the region and what each university specialized in. This time my essays were more focused about my achievements and my professional experience and how I could leverage it in the MBA program. There were a few additions to my profile this time round because I had just gotten a promotion and international experience and it really helped me a long way. This time I applied to 7 schools and got interview calls from 4 of them.
How were your MBA interviews?
I went through 2 cycles of interviews. The first time was when I applied for 2018 fall. One of the interviews was in Rice University. It was scheduled for 30 mins and a second year student took my interview. He began asking me the cliched questions like “Tell me about yourself”, “why MBA?”, “Why Rice?” and then it moved towards questions like “How would you handle a team?”, “What is your idea of leadership?” and so on. So what I realised is that I was running out of time and it was like he was setting the tone of the interview. So when I asked for a review, he told me that my responses were lengthy and should have been shorter. So I took these tips and used them to my advantage the second time round.
Can you tell us a little about your professional profile?
Hi, I’m Siddharth Mukherjee. I’m an Aerospace engineer and I have a bachelor’s degree in Civil engineering from NIT Trichy. Right after my bachelors, I did my Masters in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Florida and after this, I got a job in Bell Helicopter Textron and I have been there for 6 years now. And during this time I have seen every stage of a helicopter being developed and somewhere during this journey.
How did you decide that it was time to do your MBA?
As a person I always love to continuously grow and learn and since I’ve been in the engineering sector for a while now I knew what it was all about and if I wanted to go forward in my professional journey, I had to be in the scene and in India I wasn’t really getting a chance to do that. And because of the restrictions that my industry created, I realized I had to get an MBA and utilize my skills in a parallel industry.
What was your GMAT experience like?
The initial thought came in 2016 but I procrastinated on it for almost a year. And then I realized I had to do it. And so the motivation grew. I wrote the GMAT soon after and it was so bad. I got very demotivated and I stopped preparing for 2 months. But somehow I convinced myself that I had to do this! So I referred to many tutorial videos and prepared on my own. This time to keep myself motivated, I booked the GMAT well in advance, but by the time I realized what I needed to do to perform well in the GMAT, it was too late. I did improve my score, but it was wasn’t exceptional.
And then the application cycle neared and I quickly booked another GMAT exam and scored a 680 in that. I felt that I could make up for the score by working hard on my essays because I write well. But I needed help with my interviews.
Which B-Schools did you apply to?
My target schools were a few in Europe and India but the application deadlines for most of the European schools had passed, so I decided to start with the Indian schools and with my experience, the schools that came to my mind were ISB, IIM Ahmedabad, IIM Bangalore, and IIM Calcutta. I applied to HEC Paris in between but it was very haphazard and therefore I didn’t get in but I got interview calls from all the Indian schools.
What did you focus on while working on your applications?
I was very natural. I told them about why I wanted to do my MBA and what I expected from it in the long run and that I wanted to realistically achieve my long term goals.
I told them that I was in a purely engineering space and that since I will probably not be in that space in the future, I was willing to work hard to learn new skills outside the domain. I knew that education is only one-third of the process, the rest comes only through the first-hand experience and that only the degree would not make me an expert. I convinced them that I was using this as a stepping stone for better things in my career.
Why did you feel that you needed help with your interviews?
So my first interview was with IIM Ahmedabad and I got waitlisted. This built self-doubt in me and I had three more interviews coming up. The Ahmedabad interview was very thorough. They tried to probe every way possible. And while I was answering, I was wondering if it was the right way to answer and I felt like I needed someone to hear out my answers, like an expert in the field and get some constructive feedback.
How did you hear about Crackverbal?
I came across Crackverbal through some advertisements online and when I was browsing the website, I saw several of my peers from NIT on the site. So I spoke to them and they told me about the kind of service they got at Crackverbal and I didn’t think twice and visited Crackverbal.
How did the interview preparation process go with Crackverbal?
I wanted to know how my answers sounded, and in that way CV heard me well and probed into all possible questions that could be asked in the official b-school interviews. This also allowed me to rehearse my answers very well and listen to whether my answers made sense. Moreover, when you practice your answers with someone else, you’re able to see if it makes sense to another person as well as to you. So that I could get good feedback and cover all possible ends.
This also improved my confidence each time I practiced the answers. Crackverbal patiently heard my story and supported me throughout the journey.
Can you introduce about yourself?
Hi, I’m Sankalp. I gave my GMAT in September 2016 and I scored 730, post which I applied to a few business schools – the top tier and middle tier business schools. I have got an admit in Michigan Ross.
Can you tell us about your work profile?
I graduated from IIT Bombay in 2013 and started my career in consulting with EY, post which I moved to Boston Consulting Group (BCG). I worked there for a year, took a break and worked with a FinTech startup based in Bangalore over a year and moved back to BCG. So, I have a cumulative experience of five years and will be joining Michigan Ross this year.
What advice would you offer to aspirants planning for MBA?
GMAT was not in my plan initially. I thought of doing MBA very late. That’s probably one advice I would like to give MBA aspirants: plan your career in advance. Plan for your MBA and start working towards it right when you are in college. I planned to do MBA only a couple of years ago when I was with a startup. There were things I did to make my profile more attractive – I wanted to pursue consulting at a better firm, I did some social work on the side, I’d written the GMAT once before, so I rewrote the GMAT to get a better score. So there were a few twists that I had to sort out for my MBA profile. From an MBA standpoint, you should be doing this well in advance so that you’re doing these things for a consistent amount of time so that when you show your story to an MBA board, you can say that you are passionate about something and you have been doing it for a long time.
What do you think the B-schools will be expecting from a candidate?
From the talent standpoint, I think it was very difficult to understand what these business schools want. You want to tailor your profile to suit their requirements, but there’s only so much you can do. Eventually, you have to present what you want to do in life and do the best in whatever you are doing because if you try and tailor your profile towards every business school, you are not going to end up doing something you like.
The biggest challenge I faced was not being able to understand what the business schools wanted. Only when I started researching about them and talking to people did I understand the level of preparation that is required, which I realized that I hadn’t done beforehand, so I started working towards it in a short period of time. Another challenge I faced is that it is a long and tedious process – preparing for GMAT, thinking about the essay story that works best for you, and bringing all your personal and professional elements in order for that particular story. Bringing everything in one tune is a challenging aspect, but if you have your story in place in advance, you can weave your career to fit the story.
Tell us about your overall Application experience.
Last year, I only applied to the business schools like Wharton, Kellogg and MIT Sloan, keeping rankings in mind. Unfortunately, I did not make it to these schools, primarily for two reasons – I hadn’t done much research about these schools and my story was not coherent. So, in the next year, I applied to a mix of middle- and top-tier schools. I realized as long as I can get to my intended goals, a middle-tier school is also good enough, and my story became much more understandable. My initial storyline was centred around entrepreneurship, which is very difficult to do in the US – but I hadn’t given that a lot of thought. So the second time around, I looked at the logical storyline that I can come up with and I built my story around that. My story was around coming back to consulting, and more B-Schools have 30-40% placements in that so I guess it rung well with them.
What prompted you to come to CrackVerbal?
When I started planning to do MBA and essays that were required, I was completely blank. I did not know what to write, no matter how much I discussed it with my friends. That is when I thought of taking help from a consultancy. I spoke to a lot of consultancies from India and the US. I consciously chose an Indian consultant as they can deal with you much better than international consultants. Since I was in Bangalore and CrackVerbal was also in Bangalore, I approached them. They sounded good and had a good history of placing students in top-tier business schools. So, CrackVerbal was a natural choice for me. I also took help from my friends outside of CrackVerbal. CrackVerval helped me come up with a sensible storyline.
What did you like about the team at CrackVerbal?
Arun Jagannathan is very comfortable and easy to deal with. He understands your context really well and understands what you want. He helps to bring out your best and does not try and change your story and bring out something that is not natural. That’s something I liked about him and working with him.
How are you planning to manage your finances?
There are multiple options, but the most common practice is to take a loan from Prodigy finance.
What is your suggestion to MBA aspirants regarding interviews?
My suggestion is, plan your profile well ahead of your application. Your application may be a one-year process, but preparing for your application is a 4-5 year process. Start preparing it in advance, building your profile, bringing out the leadership aspect in you. Do not hesitate to take help because MBA is a big investment in terms of money as well as time. Build your profile in such a way that you can go to Harvard or Stanford, but do not be disheartened if you do not end up there because all other schools in the top 50 are also good.
Can you tell us something about yourself?
Hi! My name is Vivek Saurav. I took my GMAT in 2015 in the month of August and scored 630. I was in a dilemma whether to apply for it again or not. I worked in Bosch for six years and currently I’m working in Harman International as a senior software engineer supervising a team of twelve engineers.
What made your take up the GMAT?
When we were in college, we saw our seniors do MBA after their engineering, which inspired us. I even joined a GMAT coaching institute in my third year, but when I got a job, the idea fell back and I decided to continue with my job. When I met Arun Jagannathan of CrackVerbal through a free webinar session, the way he spoke was very inspiring for me. So, I took the course for GMAT and I scored 630. I was hesitating to apply to colleges but I did it anyway. Currently, I have admit from three colleges – University of Pittsburgh, Purdue University, and William and Mary School of Business.
The first issue is the time gap between when I took the exam and when I applied to colleges, and it’s not even a great GMAT score. The perception among students is that if your score is not over 700, whatever you are going to invest may not give you returns. That was the fear in me, but after exploring a lot online and discussing with many people, I came to know that GMAT is not the only deciding factor. It also depends on your application and how you have portrayed your real story. There were small achievements while I was in college or at work that I was not sure of including in my story. After I visited CrackVerbal and met Shivaranjani, I had a brainstorming session, which was the best part. She asked me about each and every small achievement that I did not find great, but she put them across and made a beautiful essay out of it. I wrote an essay for around 2000 words and she edited it, shrunk it to around 250 words, retaining whatever I told her. That was the reason I got calls from five colleges out of six applications.
What advice would you like to give to the aspirants during the interview?
You can’t know what the person is going to ask you. My only advice is during the interview be true to yourself and be honest with the interviewer. Also, do some research about the schools. Interviewers want to know how interested you are in the program and they want to see how useful you will be to them as an alumnus. So it’s important to explore about the school, too.
How are you going to manage paying the fees?
The savings I have done from my earnings for the last few years will not be enough to manage the fees and other expenses. So, I’m getting support from my dad. In addition, I’m going for education loan that covers a major chunk of it. Also, the college I am going to join, Katz Business School, has offered me a scholarship of 50%. So, I have to arrange the other 50% by my savings and education loan.
How did CrackVerbal help you?
I can clearly say that CrackVerbal is not money-oriented. I have been to multiple institutions before so I can say this: many institutes have a set pattern that they want you to think according to. But hats off to Arun’s teaching and communication skills. I haven’t scored a lot but I did learn a lot. It has exceptional faculty members and other staff who are always ready to help you. Initially, I had doubts about paying such a huge amount only to apply to three colleges but when I was going through the process, I realised you get your money’s worth. They know things about what to put in, in ways you would never think about on your own. Srilekha took the mock interviews and gave me real-time feedback, the interviews were very similar to the real interviews I went through.
What advice would you like to give to the aspirants taking the GMAT test?
Arun always used to say follow only the official material while practicing questions. With CrackVerbal, you already have thousands of practice questions that are official questions. They have a very good collection of official questions that train your mind on how to sole on the actual exam day. People think that if we solve the difficult questions, then the easier questions will be like a piece of cake, but GMAT is not like that because when you are solving a question, the system knows how your behavior will be for the next question. Just solve the official questions, it will help.
What made you choose to do MBA?
The reason I chose to do MBA is to bridge the gap between what I am right now and what I want to become.
Can you tell us about your background please?
I graduated in 2013 from the College of Engineering, Pune, with a degree in electrical engineering. I got a job at Oracle in Bangalore. My parents were also in Bangalore at that point; they are still are in Bangalore. For me, it was a no-brainer, I thought “This is a fantastic job for me, I get to stay home. I’m going to take this job.” I looked at the financial benefits and decided this is the job I’m going to do. Within a year, in the middle of 2014, my parents said, “Why don’t you get an MBA?” They said they’d pay for my GMAT classes so why don’t I just go attend the classes, so I enrolled for the CrackVerbal classroom program at the Infantry Road center. I attended four classes and ended up quitting because I didn’t have that inherent motivation. Arun talked about having a strong “why” and I didn’t have that “why”. Whatever my parents said, it didn’t work. In the end, I fell into the drudgery of an IT job. I put on a lot of weight, became unfit, unhealthy. I used to play a lot of football in college, so one day, it just hit me. So, I bought a cycle and decided to use that to commute to work, which was 3km away. In the beginning, I stopped twice on the way, because I was not able to breathe, just covering that 3km on that cycle. This is something that is worrying for me, so I said, forget MBA, forget everything else, let me just get my health in order first.
What started as an exercise, just for the sake of getting fit, eventually grew into a passion. In 2016, I ended up in racing at the nationals. The entire journey I went through in these two years was fantastic. Not only did it help me get my life back on track but also gave me a lot of direction in terms of what I wanted to do with my career. After Oracle, by the end of 2014, I joined a cycling startup. I was the head of ecommerce there. It became India’s largest online cycling company. Then, I established my own startup in the performance apparel and wearable tech space, which was in place for two years and recently, the IP part and the entire supply chain got acquired by a business in Mumbai. So, that has been my professional journey.
What made you decide on taking up the GMAT?
Sometime in the beginning of 2017, when my company finished one year of operation, I started having difficulties scaling it up. Upto one point it is fine when you learn from mistakes. As people say, when you start a company, you learn from mistakes and keep growing, but after you enter the big league, those mistakes are just not allowed. That is when I felt I needed an MBA and that became my “why”. I figured that I wouldn’t be able to attend classes because work was pretty hectic, so, I enrolled for the online course at CrackVerbal. Because I had such a strong why, this time I was able to stick to the study plan which they prescribed to the T. Over a period of two months, I got done with my preparation and appeared for my GMAT for the first time. I got a pretty decent score.
When it comes to the GMAT, if you ask me what worked for me, I can say I just stuck to the study plan they had prescribed. A lot of times, you have that inclination to go and refer to the external study material or go and enroll for another four or five tests because all your friends are doing it, but I didn’t do it. I thought of just adhering to this study plan and it worked out well.
Any comments for students preparing to take the GMAT?
During the GMAT, I would say, don’t get too flustered when you get a question or two wrong. I’ll give you a personal example. I entered the test center and my AWA was fine and IR was okay, but I had done better in the mock tests. This started playing in my mind. So, I went outside, just washed my face and when I got back to the test for quant, I realized that I was two minutes late. When I started the test, I think the first question was a simple profit and loss question, but I still ended up struggling with it. And then you get into the trap of trying to predict: is this a 650-level question or 680 or 700-level question? Before that could become a catastrophe for me, I decided to focus on the question and take one question at a time and gave the GMAT. It worked well and I got a decent score in the first attempt.
What are the challenges you faced in the application processes?
One thing that I had done was, I overestimated the amount of effort that it takes to take the GMAT and underestimated the amount of effort that the applications would actually require. I got in touch with Arun and took his help to get done with my application for all the B-schools that I wanted to apply to and the first school that we decided was Kellogg. I happily looked at the leadership essay question I got and I wrote the essay. I felt quite confident about it, so I gave it to my dad. He did not give any immediate response, but I could gauge from his reaction that my essay was not working. When I got on a call with Arun to discuss the essay, there were a lot of changes. He literally changed the essay; he changed the story. My story was wrong, forget the grammar or adherence to word limit. It was evident that I was not focusing on the topic and that is when I realized that the entire process of filling the application is much more taxing than the GMAT preparation. I would suggest not to leave it for later. Start thinking about your “why” right now. It might help you later on when you are filling out the application.
Which business school did you finally choose and why?
I ended up applying to four US schools and one Canadian school. In the process of applying to different schools one by one, I became confident, especially since my GMAT score was good. One of the most difficult parts was the waiting I had to do to hear from the schools. After a long wait, I got an admit from Rotman and then I did not bother about applying for any other schools in round 2 because when I researched about Rotman as an MBA program, my “why” actually helped me decide that this school will be the right fit for me. What I like about Rotman is they have a creative destruction lab and an in-house incubator, which is one of Canada’s biggest tech incubators right now. As an entrepreneur, this got me excited. They also have a self development lab that focuses on developing its students’ soft skills. That’s not just a single semester course that you do, it goes on throughout the two years of your MBA program. I have been interacting with my peers since a while about how life is going to be in Toronto and I feel like I’ll get to learn a lot from my peers, which makes me even more confident about my choice.
Tell us a bit about your GMAT journey.
I graduated in 2008 as a mechanical engineer. Soon after that, I joined Forbes Marshall and worked with them on a sales profile for 1.5 years. I dealt with product engineering, project management, and R&D. Later, I applied for an opening in the UK and moved there as part of an internship opportunity the company provided. Soon after that, I moved with them to the Delhi office. I finally moved to Bangalore and worked with another manufacturing company for 2 years where I had client facing roles and decided to apply to ISB while I was working there. I have a total of 6.5 years work experience in the manufacturing sector.
What motivated you to do an MBA after a purely technical background?
I had to attend meetings with senior officials in my office and we often discussed how to deal with customers, how to sell products etc. I never understood the financial part of the conversations we had. When you’re working in a technical role, you’re limited to that role. You don’t understand the bottom line of what the company exactly wants. I knew I was doing my part well. I only needed to understand the business context of my role. I always felt I lacked something in terms of knowledge about elements of marketing or sales. When I’m in the organization, I should be able to contribute more. Especially since I was taking up client servicing roles, I began to understand the importance of an MBA.
How was your GMAT Preparation?
The hardest for me was Verbal. I started preparing on my own the first time and didn’t do that well. A colleague who had taken classes at CrackVerbal suggested it to me. I took Verbal classes and the techniques which they taught were really good. The key is practice obviously. But when you’re working, it’s quite difficult. I normally read books so my reading pace is fast. But even those who don’t read would find the strategies helpful. I gave the test and got a 620.
How did you balance GMAT studies with work?
Like I mentioned earlier, it was quite difficult. I used to try and solve questions during breaks and practice whenever I got time. I made sure I didn’t just follow any site. I stuck to GMAT specific sites like beattheGMAT, GMATClub to practice. Make sure you prepare using these GMAT- specific websites or you could take a wrong turn down the GMAT road! It took me at least a year to complete my GMAT journey, from starting self-prep, to giving my first attempt to enrolling for classes and giving it the second time. It’s a long process, but you’ve got to hold on!
What were the schools you applied to?
Since I had more than 5 years of work experience, I applied to IIM-A PGPX, IIM-C PGPX and ISB. I wasn’t looking at options abroad since I wanted to stay in India.
How did you go about your application process?
I had already penned down my story but I needed help in sending the message across clearly. Limiting it to 200 words was a challenge. It was a gamble between content and conditions. I had a lot of stories to tell in my essays but found it difficult to structure it in such a way that only the key messages stood out. CrackVerbal helped me with that.
What made you stand out in your essay?
I did a lot of research on the B-schools I was applying to and spoke to other students to get a better idea. I feel you must put down your learning from your experience and show how the situation helped you propel forward in life. Just because you have an interesting story to tell, don’t put it down in your essay. Unless you’ve had some learning experience out of it, it doesn’t make sense.
How was your interview experience with ISB?
Given the education system in India, a lot of people aspire for an MBA and you must be able to convince the Adcom as to why you want to do an MBA. You should have your goals lined up- at least for the next 5 years. During the interview, stress situations were created. Whatever I spoke about, was ripped apart. Questions that were asked were ‘out of the box’. You need to keep calm and answer. It’s not always about the right answer. How you think and frame your answer is more important than the answer in itself.
How was your experience with CrackVerbal?
Even though classes were taken on the weekends, I longed to attend them The classes were really good. I loved the way the strategies were taught on CR. I also got advice on MBA options from CrackVerbal which helped me decide better. For applications, CrackVerbal helped me put the key messages for my essay in place to present it in the best possible manner.
What would you like to say to other GMAT Aspirants out there?
A low GMAT score does not guarantee a reject and a high GMAT score doesn’t guarantee an admit either. In your professional career, if you haven’t done anything extraordinary, do something different than your colleagues or there’ll be nothing to put on your application. If you have a 760 on the GMAT but haven’t done anything differently in your professional career, you could still have a problem getting an admit. Your GMAT score has no link to how you perform in life and stand out. Your story can be personal- perhaps a motivation or a passion- it doesn’t necessarily have to be professional. But at the end of the day, you must have a story to tell!
Please take us through your background
I did my engineering in Bangalore, and in my final year I did an internship with a start-up in Patna which wanted some website and development work done. It was a finance firm but while I worked on the coding aspect, I was also interested in the firm from a holistic point of view. I didn’t limit myself to just my brief. The CEO was pretty happy because he felt that apart from my work, I also took an initiative to understand the business.
After my engineering, I began working at HCL in the software domain. I was lucky to have a great manager who allowed me to work on various aspects like Project Management, apart from my work as a software developer. So in my 2.5 years at HCL, I managed to learn a lot about the business, except the senior management related roles.
Somewhere around this time, the CEO from the startup informed me of an opening at their firm. I was in constant touch with him. It was a marketing role and I was more than happy to take it up since, HCL being a large company would not offer me too much to learn. I also wanted to get into marketing and this was a great opportunity for me.
What sparked the idea of an MBA?
I always wanted to enter the marketing domain but that left me with two options – a Masters in Marketing or an MBA in marketing. After I spoke to a lot of people, including family who knew me well, they suggested I opt for an MBA since it’s more generic and a Masters program would be too focused and limiting for me.
How did you approach the GMAT?
I had already taken the CAT several times but didn’t make it. Additionally, I felt that people who get into IIMs are mostly freshers. Since I already had about 2.5 years of work experience, I believed that I might not get to learn as much. This is when I decided on the GMAT since it would allow me to apply to both Indian colleges and programs abroad.
I felt I should study for the GMAT myself as I had already taken the CAT many times. But it just kept getting delayed for various reasons so I decided to enroll in a class.
I attended demos at Ivy GMAT, CrackVerbal and Manhattan Review. I had attended the CrackVerbal demo after the Ivy one and it was Arun’s class on Sentence Correction. After I experienced his class, I was totally convinced because of his amazing style of teaching and the methods he applied. It was so different from the others and I felt this was the best. It’s evident that he is passionate about teaching unlike the other centres.
He wasn’t just an instructor, but he was truly dedicated to it. The quality of the questions and the level too were a cut above the rest. Ivy and Manhattan didn’t have very challenging questions. I rarely get challenged with verbal, but at CrackVerbal, I was really challenged. I think Arun knows the GMAT better than anyone else and this fact really stood out.
So I enrolled for the verbal classes and then for the Quant classes. Because of my CAT experience, I felt quant would be pretty easy but I was in for a surprise. My very first class was so tough I walked out of the class dejected. But then the Quant instructor informed me that CrackVerbal wants to help you understand your current level, so that you can improve to a 50-51 level on the GMAT.
What was your GMAT journey like ?
I took my GMAT twice, the first time I had a good verbal score but a low quant score, I got a 680. After I spoke to the experts at CrackVerbal, I was coaxed into writing it for the second time. This time I focused on my quant preparation more and I got a 690 with a better score on the quant.
I didn’t want to give it once again because my deadlines for applications were fast approaching. I was constantly encouraged by the academics team at CrackVerbal to start my application process because I was running out of time.
I even requested the academics team to help me solve the questions and it was so nice to see that they took time out and help me figure out my mistakes. It shows how dedicated they are to helping to improve your score and understand where you are going wrong.
How different are the CAT and the GMAT? Can you apply your experience with the CAT to the GMAT?
They are very different. The CAT is merely an exam, it’s more about practicing a lot so you can learn the question patterns. GMAT on the other hand is more challenging, it’s a journey and not just an exam. It tests you on various aspects and really makes you think. It’s a lot more exhausting as well.
The verbal on the CAT is easy but the verbal on the GMAT is extremely difficult because you have to apply yourself. It’s not just about practicing but more about the right strategy. CAT doesn’t require any strategy; it’s just writing the test. The admission process too is very difficult in terms of the GMAT, you have to really know what you want and why you want to do an MBA. The CAT is not like that, it’s nothing compared to the admission process here.
How did you choose the MBA programs?
I had attended CrackVerbal’s Admission MBA which really helped me plan out my application process and answered all the questions I had regarding the admission process. The first thing I did was look at the rankings. I then realised that the ranking is not the parameter I should be looking at. I then looked at colleges based on location. I looked at the US, Canada & the UK as a back up. I wanted a 2 year program because it would help me make a career switch much better.
I then looked at the marketing departments, the professors, the blogs, and delved into the details. I narrowed it down to 8 schools which were very different from the 5 schools I sent my scores to after my GMAT. This included Schulich School of Business from Canada Throughout my research process, I would keep speaking to the application services team at CrackVerbal that guided me through the process. I selected Manchester Business School, Pepperdine, Illinois, Atlanta, and a few others. In Canada it was Schulich school of business and Rotman.
How did you go about your essays for the application process?
I had already fallen behind with the application process. I wrote my first draft and was shocked to find that the CrackVerbal experts were not pleased. My second draft too was not good. So I kept working at them, I chose the most challenging essay to work on first as I felt this would help me put things in perspective. I ended up writing 25 essays in all for all my applications!
The best part about working with CrackVerbal’s applications team was that I was made to write my own essays and though the first draft and the final draft had the same substance, the final draft was amazing compared to the first one. It was a really great experience. I had also consulted with others outside of CrackVerbal and they would simply ask me to provide points so they could write the essays. But at CrackVerbal, my essays were completely transformed and it was a brilliant experience.
What was your interview experience like with the schools?
I had attended a lot of info-sessions conducted by colleges. I had a one-on-one chat with the panelists of Schulich School of Business, Manchester & Pepperdine. I was amazed to find after my chat with them, that they had already gone through my essays and treated my discussion with them as my interview. So I didn’t have a formal interview. I would say for this reason, it’s very important that you treat it like an actual formal interview because you never know if they are evaluating you then and there.
Though they say they won’t evaluate you from an application perspective, I think it’s human tendency and it will definitely play a role in your selection. Schulich School of Business and Pepperdine had a very casual discussion with me. Manchester was more challenging but they were all good. I had also gotten an interview call for Terry for which I had opted for CrackVerbal’s interview services. My mentor was Pradyot and he was very straightforward and would not sugar coat your problems. I think this is important because it will mentally prepare you for the toughest interviews and this preparation will make your actual interviews seem extremely easy. This experience with CrackVerbal really helped me stay mentally prepared.
Which schools did you convert ?
I got into Schulich School of Business, Pepperdine & Manchester. I immediately dropped Manchester as it was my backup and I was more keen on the other two. I finally decided on Schulich School of Business after researching the two programs and evaluating their pros and cons.
Any words of advice to other aspirants? 🙂
I would say treat the info sessions as an actual interview and be well prepared with specific questions, not generic ones. It’s also your chance to make an impression with them. Make sure you dress the part, in formals. Carry out a lot of research, speak to alumni, professors and get all the details you can. For the GMAT, Crackverbal is the best, you wouldn’t need anything else and the program is more than enough. For the applications, keep aside a lot of time to prepare for them.
I think keeping aside 3 months to write your essays alone would be helpful since it’s your entire life story which you are writing! Aim at the Round 1 deadline instead of delaying it for later as you would be at a loss otherwise.
What was your profile like before you considered an MBA?
I did my undergrad in VIT, Vellore. I was recruited off campus as a business technology analyst at Deloitte. We are into technology consulting. I then moved to Deloitte digital.
When did you start thinking about an MBA?
One day, in 2013 I spent some time thinking about my future and I realised I wanted to do something more interesting and challenging rather than just technology. Thats when I felt an MBA would help.
Did you think of the CAT as well, because most people first think of that. What made you think of the GMAT?
I think the main thing I wanted from an MBA was the global exposure. The Indian MBAs are very competitive but I feel it’s not as great for global exposure.
I also felt I could relate to an MBA abroad because of the study methods in terms of the case studies and so on.
How did you go about preparing for the GMAT?
I used a lot of the resources available online and on the forums and I would also be a part of group discussions. I had a lot of friends who studied at CrackVerbal so I would study with them as well. For me group studies work, but each person has their own way of studying. I also took the MBA.com free tests which helped me assess my performance. I got a 730 on the GMAT and I took it on July 2nd, 2013.
A lot of people who take the GMAT also take the CAT. They think that their CAT preparation will get you a good score on the GMAT. But the GMAT is very different from the CAT so the approach matters if you need a good score.
I think for self-study you need to be strong theoretically and know how to approach a particular section of the test for which you need to probably refer to study material. Practice is the key to tide over the GMAT challenges.
When did you begin on your application process?
To be honest I was lost, I wasn’t sure when I had to figure out the various nitty gritties. The Essay Writing workshop at CrackVerbal really put things in perspective and gave me a framework to work with, it gave me a lot of direction. Before that I had no direction and no idea where to begin.
How did you choose which schools to apply to?
I looked at all the rankings and then seeked out profiles on Linkedin about the school. They are very forthcoming with their responses so this gave me a good first hand account of what the school offers.
I even spoke to them about their interviews and how they went about it and applied that to my interviews. For instance I got into CUHK and the students had told me that they appreciate honesty so I thought out my answers from that perspective. I know this is probably not the best way to tackle an interview but it’s good to be able to understand what kind of person the interviewer will be and frame your answers accordingly.
I also feel the school websites are useful to an extent but the blogs are very insightful. Like for UNC, Tepper & Duke, their blogs were very good. Most of the blogs are not easily accessible so you’ll have to dig a little deeper.
How many schools did you apply to?
I applied to at least 10 which were spread across different locations. There was CUHK, IE and many others in the US.
I converted 5 schools – Tepper, McCombs, Georgetown, UNC Kenan Flagler and IE Business School. I’ve decided to go with Kenan-Flagler as I have also been offered the Forte Fellowship.
What advice would you give to people getting ready to write their essays?
The challenge I faced was that I couldn’t recycle my essays for each school since they all have different questions.
I also struggled with figuring out my short-term and long-term goals because I wasn’t sure what exactly I wanted. Even now my peers are already applying to the prerequisite courses because they already know what they want. So it’s important to figure it out what you want especially since an MBA gives you so many options so it can get confusing.
I tried retrofitting my essays but that didn’t work because the tone and the spirit of the essays don’t come out. This is where getting my essays reviewed by the CV team again helped – they acted as a sounding board for my ideas.
How were your interviews?
Kenan Flagler was my first interview, the panelist made me feel really comfortable and I never felt the stress of an interview. He was about 60 years old and was an entrepreneur before he joined the school. It was very easy.
At Tepper you get to choose your interviewer, I chose a lady because she seemed sweet and friendly! The interview was very similar to that with Kenan Flagler, it was very relaxed.
CUHK I got interviewed by two people, I was questioned simultaneously. This was very tricky and it was conversational. It didn’t feel like an interview at all. It was more like a chat and I wasn’t asked any questions I had not anticipated.
IE’s was an alumnus interview. It was a also a very typical interview.
How did you prep your recommenders?
I told my recommenders what I would like to highlight. I made them read my essays and get some feedback too. I think they mostly had no experience in writing recommendations so I needed to help them understand that better.
I had 5 people I had in mind for the recommendations were mostly managers because I was applying to so many schools and didn’t want to depend on the same 2 or 3 people.
Any advice for aspirants?
I think you should get yourself a consultant because it’s only there that you get a good understanding of what the panel requires of you. I think it’s because I worked with CrackVerbal I managed to convert my applications.
What was your motivation behind an MBA?
So, I’ve done my engineering in Electronics & Tele-Communications, and I have about 4 years of work experience. When I started off, I joined a company called Ice Asia as a service engineer. So, what this company does is that they are a service and sales partner for several European firms who are into the field of automation. I joined here as a service engineer and was later promoted to handle technical sales. Somewhere along the line, since I was very passionate about consumer electronics, I felt I needed a shift.
What aspects did you highlight on your profile for an admit to Schulich?
I think my rapid career development due to the various roles I had taken on while working in the service department, while simultaneously handling sales & technical sales, was something that helped me in great ways. An added plus was my hobby of writing for blogs on daily life experiences. This was something that was unique about me, and I felt that it helped me crack an admit to Schulich.
What was your GMAT Mantra like?
Before joining CV, I had approached the GMAT like any other typical engineering exam just like all Indian applicants do — cramming whatever you can into your head just before the exam with a text book and a few notes.
Although Quant was easy, Verbal was the real obstacle during my first attempt. So later, when I started doing some research on various forums, this one post on GMAT Club really caught my eye. It was written by a student about how CrackVerbal provided him the perfect approach that was required on GMAT Verbal and how the GMAT is a test of logic and not skill, plus how there is a pattern in every question on the GMAT.
Coaching from CrackVerbal was an integral part of my journey especially because it helped me understand this pattern, which in turn helped me score well on the Verbal section considering that was my weak area. Plus, it taught me how to keep time when I’m writing the test.
When it comes to the hardest modules on GMAT Verbal, I would say that CR and SC were my kryptonite. At CrackVerbal, they taught me the right way to ace the Verbal section by helping me understand how we can classify each question and distinguish between them. Hence, with all that, you’ve got a definitive approach to each question that appears on the test.
What sort of material did you use?
I would say it was always a combination of different reference books along with the material provided by CrackVerbal. No matter what the book was, when it came to practice, I would only use the strategy taught to me during my online classes (Yes! I took the CrackVerbal Live Online Course!). Another thing that aided me when it came to my prep was the student forum that you have access to. They’ve got the solutions for all the OG questions, along with responses from other fellow students. This really helps you understand all the unique ways in which other people approach the same question.
What was your experience like on the day of the GMAT?
Firstly, I ensured that the slot that I booked was perfect for me to write the exam. Because when you are in prep mode, i.e., the last two months of studying, you understand at which point of the day your mental health would be peaking. So, I booked my slot around the time my mental state was the most active.
Secondly, I would say that two chocolate bars would do you good during the break to keep the sugar going and to keep your mind alert.
Thirdly, the most important thing I’d like to say is that you need to be calm although you might make mistakes. Never get disheartened, and always keep your cool.
What was your application process like?
Here, again, CrackVerbal comes into the picture. They helped me when it came to structuring my essays along the right line of thought and ensured that I don’t make common mistakes that other applicants do. I was certain that it was either Canada or Singapore where I wanted to go. The mentors at CrackVerbal were very easy to talk to, and they knew what you needed to have. They ensured a one-on-one personal approach when it came to applications.
What all schools did you apply to?
I applied to Schulich, Rotman, NUS, and ISB. I got admits from Schulich and NUS, but Schulich was my dream school. I chose schools on the basis of the regions I wanted to settle down in after my MBA. The second reason for choosing Schulich was because I was looking for a more holistic experience when it came to my MBA. Plus, I wanted to understand not only the role that I would play in business, but also the roles of other people related to me.
How do you feel CrackVerbal helped?
I took the CrackVerbal Online Course. They have very good faculty who go out of their way to help you. I don’t think classroom or online makes a difference. During my entire MBA journey, I felt CrackVerbal was a major game changer. The instructors and the forum at CrackVerbal helped me with my prep in ways that I cannot even imagine. When it came to applications, they ensured that I would be up to speed with whatever I do. CrackVerbal’s USP would have to be its approach to Verbal and its unique student forum.
Do you have any words of wisdom for our MBA aspirants?
GMAT Quant is very easy, but when it comes to Verbal, everyone finds it hard. This might sound like I’m trying to market CrackVerbal , but I truly feel that they’ve mastered the art of Verbal! They know what works for Indian applicants.
It is very important that you don’t freak out on the day of the exam. You need to be relaxed and composed when it comes to approaching the questions on the test to ensure that you deliver.
As far as applications go, adcoms look at you as a developed individual. It’s not all about academics. It’s what you’ve done in life and how exactly you went through it all. They want to know you as a person who has his own individual identity. At the end of the day, it’s you against another bunch of individuals more or less like you!
Could you tell us about your profile?
I graduated in B.E. computer science in 2007 from Visvesvaraya University of Technology. I started my career with NIIT Technologies where I worked for 3 years and later I switched to L&T Infotech. I went on to work with Samsung Electronics in South Korea for 13 months and have worked with Samsung Research India, Bangalore ever since. So, in total, I have close to 7 years of work experience.
Why MBA after 7 years of work experience?
The challenging and dynamic work environment at Samsung Electronics motivated me to start thinking of an MBA. I was interested in profiles like Product Management and Marketing and I began to interact with people from these fields. I realized that an MBA clubbed with my work experience would help me excel in this area.
Why did you choose to study abroad rather than in India?
Global exposure is the main reason behind my choice. Also, my company (Samsung) has a dominant market in the USA and in Korea. So an MBA abroad would give me a better understanding of these global markets.
How did you go about with GMAT Prep?
To be honest I had no clue what the GMAT exam tested you on. So, I started my research right from scratch and understood the different concepts tested on the exam. I found the Verbal section challenging as I am predominantly from a technical background and lacked the presentation skills.
I heard about CrackVerbal on the Pagalguy forum. The clear and constant communication about CrackVerbal’s awesome work on the forum helped me decide on signing up for a class. I attended a demo class and was amazed! Soon after the class I took up my diagnostics test and saw that I had problems with SC and CR. Thanks to CrackVerbal’s classes and support, I was able to focus and improve in these areas
Tips for GMAT prep
I took the GMAT twice. In my first attempt, I scored a 600. I was quite disappointed and I am sure something went totally wrong that day. Either it was my nervousness or some technical issues due to which my test was delayed and I was literally racing against time to complete my test.
During my second attempt, I referred only to the books and materials given by CrackVerbal. These materials were so helpful and it tested students on concepts and scenarios similar to the actual GMAT. Hence I did not see the need to refer to other articles.
My long working hours did not allow much room for GMAT prep in the evening. So, I prioritized my GMAT prep over my morning exercise schedule and followed it religiously! Also, completing the homework helps a lot in refreshing the concepts. Believe it or not, homework is good!
Eventually, I also joined quant classes with CrackVerbal and Akshay’s tips helped me understand the concepts better. I spent almost 3 months preparing for the GMAT and I scored a 690 in my second attempt.
Though the score was not high, I decided to go ahead with my admissions as I had only 10-15 days left to make it to Round 2 deadlines! Also, a 90 point jump from my first attempt on the GMAT was a great motivation to apply.
Thanks to CrackVerbal, I started to enjoy Verbal over Quant!
Which schools did you apply to and how did you go along the application process?
I applied mostly to mid-tier schools in the US. The adMission MBA workshop by CrackVerbal was very insightful and gave some direction to my application process. I availed CrackVerbal’s application services. Expert advice on my essays and also the mock interview prep with Jaideep helped me produce great essays for my MBA applications.
When it came to collecting recommendations, the admissions consultant at CrackVerbal advised that I take them from people who I know personally rather than choosing the high-level managers. All these inputs helped me transform my application for the B-schools.
How was your Interview experience?
I was interviewed by two schools. The interview with Foster Business School went pretty well but unfortunately, I did not get selected. I had my second interview with University of Maryland- Smith School of Business. This interview was particularly interesting as I spoke about my hobby of cooking and the global diversity I was exposed to at work. I had a cross-country exposure in Korea and USA. These two were the main highlights of my interview which helped me bag my MBA admit to Smith School of Business.
One tip that I would like to share is that in your B-School interview, highlight aspects of your personal interests along with professional experience. This helps the B-school have an idea of your overall personality.
Did you receive any scholarship?
Yes! I got a 20k USD scholarship for my first year. Based on my academic performance the offer of an additional 20k USD will be extended for my second year as well.
Any words of wisdom that you would like to share?
To all my friends out there, if you are working and are preparing for the GMAT, Please dedicate your time to it! Practice is the key. It is a marathon, DON’T GIVE UP half way!
What was your profile like before you applied for an MBA?
After my engineering from PSG Coimbatore, I joined Goldman Sachs as an analyst and have been working with them in their Asset Management Division for about 5 years now.
What made you want to pursue an MBA?
It was a very personal decision for me. While I was working with Goldman, the environment was a very business oriented one. Although I work on developing software, my role involved a lot of understanding Finance related work too. So as I progressed through my 5 years at Goldman, I realised I’m more interested in the Finance aspect as opposed to the plain technology aspect. I felt getting into the Finance sector would be a lot more exciting to me and I thought the MBA is the way to go.
How long before your GMAT did you begin you preparation?
My initial plan was to move to the US for a job, understand the market and then take the GMAT so I could pursue an MBA. But that didn’t work out. I would say I took about 2.5 months to prepare because I didn’t want to wait. I decided to give my GMAT immediately after I complete my preparation.
So you got a 750 in the first attempt itself?
Yes I did.
How did you go about your preparation for the GMAT?
My focus was on getting done with the GMAT in the first attempt. I didn’t want to give it twice. I started out with CrackVerbal’s Verbal classes because that aspect of the test was my immediate concern. I then advanced to the Quant classes.
I would like to point out that it’s important that you make a note of the things you’re doing wrong rather than just focusing on the things you do right. Analyzing your wrong answers is critical to boosting your score as it tells you a lot about the errors you are making, the approach you use and lots more.
The other thing is maintaining a schedule. Try and put in some hours of prep every day. Keeping your preparation time frame short (about 3-4 months) will also help you remain focused as opposed to delaying taking the exam over a period of 6-8 months.
What was your prep schedule like?
I would put in about 6 to 8 hours per day. I would wake up each morning at 4:30 a.m. and study. Then again at 6-7 p.m.
How did you go about choosing which MBA programs you would like to apply to?
I started thinking about the programs while I prepared for the GMAT. I knew I wanted to get into Finance and I wanted to study in the US in the East and North-East coast as there are plenty of opportunities for Finance there. I was very clear about that.
I started by trying to talk to friends who are in an MBA program, though I don’t have too many friends doing an MBA. I then started seeking out profiles from the schools’ alumni groups where I could access their e-mail ids and then began conversing with people who seemed approachable.
How approachable were the alumni when you spoke to them about the programs?
They were fairly approachable, though you have to ask them straight-forward questions about the program rather than ask them questions like “Why Darden”, this will help you get a response effectively.
To understand the details before I asked my questions, I read a lot online and carried out plenty of research. After that I went ahead and approached the alumni.
How did you go about the application process?
I’d say the initial part of getting into the frame of mind to write clear, succinct essays in the crucial part. When I began writing my essays they would be about 1500 words and I worked with CrackVerbal in this regard. Arun would help me refine my essays a great deal by pointing out the issues they had. Writing essays for the B-school application isn’t as easy as writing in college or school. It takes a lot of effort.
Once I got used to how I should write, I think it became a lot easier and I worked with the CrackVerbal Admissions team on the writing part. I think the initial stages is vital and one must set aside about 15-20 days to get used to the process.
Which colleges did you apply to?
My first round strategy was applying to the very top schools: Wharton, Booth, Kellogg and so on. I got a call from Booth and from Darden. I was waitlisted by Booth and Darden but didn’t get through!
In the second round I applied to Johnson, Kenan-Flagler, and Rochester.
What was the interview process with the B-schools?
Each school follows a different process, like Kellogg for instance tried to talk to each and every applicant. Wharton or Booth on the other hand are more selective, so they would only interview candidates who they feel make the cut.
Kenan-Flagler has a more open policy – every candidate who applies should be interviewed as well. It’s recommended that this applicant-initiated interview be done as soon as possible and it could be via Skype if you are not in the US or it could be face-to-face if you are in the US. I had mine in Bangalore and I had to email the panel asking them about the interview panel.
Is the panel made up of people with a similar background as yours?
I think it’s difficult to come across a panel consisting of people with a similar background. Especially the alumni interviews are not the best as they don’t seem well versed with the interviews.
How well informed are they about your profile?
They are not very well informed, their knowledge is limited to your resume and your application essays.
In terms of your short-term and long-term goals, how did you prepare for those questions?
I think that’s something everyone asks you and it’s important you sound convincing and not come off sounding staged. For me I had very clear cut ideas about where I want to go and what my final destination is. So that helped a lot and I think it’s crucial and converting an interview as well.
Should your goals be aligned to the school you are applying to as well?
I think the goals should definitely be in-line with your personal goals and the school you are applying to as well. They can be a bit lofty but they need to appear achievable to the Adcoms.
Any words of advice for the other aspirants out there?
I think firstly it’s important you take the GMAT immediately and not delay the process.
My perspective on the GMAT is a bit different, I feel it’s an exam where they set some traps and you need to learn how you can avoid those traps.
Secondly, while choosing schools be a bit pragmatic. I had a 750 so I chose the top 10 colleges for my first round. In the long run I think that affected me, I feel I should have applied to the top 15-20 itself in the first round. I feel had I done this I would have gotten a better scholarship too.
How do you apply for a scholarship?
Most colleges don’t have a specific essay for the scholarship, except for Tuck which had one. The scholarship review takes place while they review your application. I didn’t have to do anything specific for a scholarship and thankfully I received one!
What was your experience with CrackVerbal like?
The first thing I loved about CrackVerbal was how forthright Arun was about results. he didn’t promise a high score, instead he simply said he would teach us what we need to know and it’s upto us to make it happen.
The second thing was how CrackVerbal taught me how to talk to someone who is not from my background. I think it’s easy for us to get carried away and sprinkle our essays with technical jargon, but it won’t help in telling your story to the panel. This was a major eye opener.
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