Can you tell us a little about your professional and educational background?
I completed my Mechanical Engineering from Government Engineering College, Jabalpur. Post my undergraduate, I began working with TCS where I was trained and then deputed to Japan on a project with an Investment Banking firm, within 8 months of joining the company.
I returned to India and joined Netscout Systems where I have been working since the past 3 years. I have been a part of the core development team and worked with the R&D teams as well. I have excellent technical experience.
How many years of work experience do you have in total?
Around 6.6 years.
What made you opt for an MBA?
An MBA was always on the cards. When I passed out of college and began working, I wanted to attempt the CAT but since I was working in Japan for a couple of years, that plan was dropped.
I enjoy my line of work and wanted to extend the experience. An MBA was something that would give me career progression, as I didn’t want to transition from my current nature of work. The idea evolved into pursuing an Executive MBA, which lead me to take the GMAT.
To me the focus was in taking a big leap in my career as I was happy with my role. I wasn’t someone who wanted to shift from IT to say Finance. That goal set the rest of my plans in motion.
Being in India, you have several options to choose from. You have each college offering their own entrance exams in addition to the common entrance exams, so it opens up a lot of opportunities.
How did you go about your GMAT prep?
I’m usually a firm believer of self study and went about preparing on my own initially. GMAT Quant was good for me, but I was having trouble with the verbal section. In India we tend to learn English with a sense of what sounds correct rather than from a grammatically correct perspective. During my preparation, I found that despite being able to learn the rules for verbal, I found it extremely difficult to apply them; this made solving it pretty challenging.
I did some research online and came across Arun’s profile and what I like about Arun is that he too is from a similar background as me. He too is from a strong technical background and his aim is to help students better their verbal skills – he struck a chord with me as I felt he would understand my issues completely.
The nature of CrackVerbal’s course too suited me very well, I wanted to enhance my verbal abilities as quant was manageable and I could opt for a Verbal-focused course. It was also a well organized program to suit working professionals such as myself, who want to do some amount of self study as well as better their GMAT skills. The support at CrackVerbal too was brilliant, after my short interactions with the team, I immediately felt it was just what I was looking for.
How did you manage your schedule for the GMAT preparation?
I’m a night person, so I manage to study well then. I would devote an hour, in the morning, each day to Quant and two hours in the evening for Verbal. Quant I would handle as self study and Verbal I would do the homework given during class. I would also practice every section every day.
Once I was done with the official questions, I worked on CV’s advanced documents. I would also take mock tests every week. If you don’t feel too sure of your performance then take a break.
Interact with the support team as well so you can make the most of your prep.
CrackVerbal’s regular updates on the forum helped me solve the GMAT questions quite well too. I would get an e-mail notification and immediately try and solve the questions. Though I don’t reply, it still keeps me motivated and helps me stay in the right frame of mind for the GMAT. Following the CrackVerbal blog too helps a great deal.
How did you go about the application process post your GMAT?
My primary concern was applying to Indian B-schools and I noticed a lot of the top schools like the IIMs accepted GMAT scores for their programs. Their programs are widely accepted in the industry as well. To my luck there were a couple of schools that had their deadlines around the time and I would be ready with my score card like IIM L.
I again worked with the CrackVerbal team for my essays and statements of purpose. The best part about CrackVerbal is that they tell you what the AdCom expects of you. They teach you what you need to put into your S.O.P. and help you understand how you want to represent yourself to the panel. The entire experience helps you introspect and fine tune your reasons for passionately pursuing an MBA.
The other major challenge with most Indian B-schools is the word limit. For instance IIM L had a word limit of around 200 words, it’s too short to explain all of my 6 years of work! You need to have a well thought out structure to your S.O.P.
I got my interview call from IIM L and I returned to CrackVerbal for my interview prep as well. I had a couple of great discussions with the team and I gained proper understanding of what to expect, what are the points I need to highlight, and where I should stop my answer so I can get asked the next question. So in a way it was made a bit predictable for me so I don’t land in an adverse situation. The Adcom panel’s job is to bring you down and your job is to make sure you don’t let them!
Which B-schools did you apply to?
I had applied to IIM L, IIM B & XLRI. IIM B was a part time course so I wasn’t too keen on the course. IIM L worked fast in terms of their deadlines, interviews and results. The other advantage of IIM L was it gave importance to the GMAT so that worked in my favor.
What was your interview experience like with IIM L?
To be frank, it was nothing out of the ordinary from my preparation with CrackVerbal. During my discussions with the CV team, I would come up with all the possible scenarios of questions and then would try to understand how I can answer them.
The mock interview preparation made the entire experience a predictable one for me. For instance I knew one of the first questions will be based on my experience in Japan. It turned out that one of the panel members also had some experience in Japan and so there was a common connect.
There was another panelist who asked me some stern, technical questions. I answered some 60% of it and then told him very honestly that I don’t know the rest. There was also a very polite lady who delved into my personality. She asked me about why I’m looking at an MBA though I’m already in a good role. I think they were concerned that I wouldn’t want to come to North India from Bangalore since I was well acquainted with the city at the time. Overall it went pretty well!
What aspects of your profile did you highlight?
My major focus was on why I wanted to do an MBA. One reason being career progression, the other aspect I highlighted was how I was deputed to a prestigious project within the first few months of my work. I have always been in the top 5% of my peers and I felt I had gained enough knowledge and experience to jump to the next level of my career.
I also highlighted the key aspects of the course at IIM L and how it will help me reach my goals. The course I felt, will give me international exposure despite being in India. Especially coming from the IT industry and wanting to stay in it, the course would help me a great deal.
Any specific reason why you chose to apply to Indian B-schools alone?
The main reason for choosing Indian B-schools is the cost of the course. The cost of an Indian MBA is about half of what you would have to pay abroad. The next reason was all the MBA programs which I could apply to would be two years long and I didn’t want to study for that long. I knew exactly what I wanted out of an MBA and I was focused on those aspects.
The third reason being for my profile, it would be easier for me to get an admit to an Executive MBA in India than a program abroad. The Executive MBAs abroad require candidates to have around 8 to 9 years of work experience and already be in a managerial position. Additionally, I think it’s always a dream for any Indian to be a part of the top institutes in the country. Be it an IIT or an IIM, it’s any day more prestigious than any other institute.
What advice would you like to give to future MBA aspirants?
You need to know why exactly you want to do an MBA. Whatever be the reason, it should show your passion for wanting to pursue the program. It shouldn’t be fueled by peer pressure; I believe it’s a purely personal goal which you should base on clarity of thought. It’s only then that it will reflect in your work and your profile. One must also be completely focused with the GMAT. If you are planning on taking up a course, you should devote yourself completely to it. You shouldn’t get distracted.
What was your experience with CrackVerbal like?
It was very good and completely worth the investment. Every GMAT test taker spends a lot on his entire MBA process and with an investment you also expect good returns. With CrackVerbal, they always work with the student in mind, be it anyone on the team. Even if they aren’t able to speak to you, they will make the effort to get back to you at the earliest.
The CrackVerbal team is extremely honest, they don’t give you false promises. They give you all the tools and support you need to gain a good admit. They also give you a reality check and help you understand your actual chances of an admit and not build your hopes up unnecessarily. Whatever Arun mentions in his class too works great! It’s not just with me but my batch mates at CrackVerbal too have experienced the difference his advice makes.
Even the MBA application team is very helpful. They brainstorm with you, this is vital given that you know what you have done but you aren’t sure what to highlight. With the kind of work schedules people have in Bangalore, the system that CrackVerbal has is great.
The other aspect which I love about the CrackVerbal experience is it’s all online. The support and responses are all online and you need not come down to the centre for every little thing. The support system is truly unique and extremely efficient. You can visit the centre if you wish but you can get the online support you need which is just as good. I would like to specifically mention the Crackverbal benefit for aspirants – CV now has a huge base of its students in various B-schools around the globe.
Additionally, Arun has his own contacts in B-schools and is well updated with the current performance of B-schools worldwide. This repository of contacts is something unique to CrackVerbal and not everyone can gain access to it otherwise.
The team is always helpful in reaching out to people at B-schools to answer your queries and help you decide what suites you best. Before making your final decisions for applications, interviews or anything MBA related, it’s always better to get the experts’ opinion, which I did at CrackVerbal.
The entire MBA process is a grueling one and if you lose hope at any point, CrackVerbal will help boost your morale instantly! Though they are task-masters, they mold you with the best intentions in mind. Finally I would like to add that you plan your GMAT exam well in advance if you are in Bangalore as the slots get booked pretty quickly and you might lose out.
Could you share your background with us.
Yeah, sure! I am a civil engineer and I had been working in Gurgaon for 5.5 years. For past 2 years I am working with a public sector company called Rites Limited, a sister concern of Indian Railways. My husband is a software engineer in Gurgaon itself. I applied with a GMAT score of 640.
Could you please tell us about your GMAT prep? When did you take the GMAT? And how it happened?
I prepared for GMAT for around 4-5 months and I studied from the Manhattan GMAT. I took GMAT twice, one in the month of June and second in the month of October. But surprisingly instead of using the second score I used my first score itself. This is because I scored 640 in my first GMAT test and 610 in the second.
Actually I also remember that I had contacted Arun before my second GMAT test and told him that I was much more confident than my first test and I would definitely score better. I had also started working on my applications before hand while preparing for the second time.
However, during my second test, I wasn’t keeping well. I was in my first trimester but since I had registered for it before hand, I thought to give it a shot, but later on I realized, it wasn’t a prudent decision.
Could you recall, whether you applied for Round 1 or Round 2?
I applied for Round 1 in all the colleges including Melbourne Business School and Schulich Business School.
So, how did you short list your MBA schools? Which schools did you decide upon? What was your rationale behind the schools you selected?
My first choice was Canada. This is because I am married and Canada is a place where my husband can easily get work permit. Working on these lines, I short listed the best B-Schools in Canada. First one was Richard Ivey School of Business. I had already started working on Richard Ivey, but later I learnt that the sessions will be starting in April 2012 and it wasn’t feasible for me as I am due in April. So, I shifted my preference to Rotman School of Management and Schulich Business School and Arun assisted me all through my applications.
Though I received the interview calls from Rotman and Schulich School of Business, I made it through Schulich but not Rotman. I didn’t apply in any of the colleges in US as it would have been very difficult for my husband to get a US Visa. Therefore, apart from Canada, my second most preferred destination was Australia, as getting a PR is Australia is comparatively easier. I applied at Melbourne Business School. I also applied at NTU, Singapore because Singapore is relatively cheaper. As my GMAT score wasn’t in the range for NUS, I applied at NTU, Singapore.
What influenced you to do an MBA?
My job profile is such that I need to interact with a lot of contractors at construction site. My current company, Rites Limited, outsources its work to various firms and keeps the control of checking the quality. These firms are very small firms but you will be taken aback how well these are doing financially. I realized that despite having better technical knowledge than these contractors, I am not gaining much in financial terms in comparison to these firms.
So, it occurred to me, if I could start a small business of my own, it will be more fulfilling. As a civil engineer, I have the necessary job experience and technicalities. An MBA will help me out to brush up my managerial skills – a perfect combination for an entrepreneur to begin with.
How did you come to know about CrackVerbal? How did you get in touch with Arun?
I heard about Arun from great recommendations from others and it proved to be very helpful. And since my GMAT score wasn’t that good, I really needed someone who could guide me well all through the application process. Before this, I had contacted many consultants in Delhi, but they didn’t seem to be genuine at all. Most of them were money minded and told me that they have all the essays ready, I needn’t worry at all. I candidly told them I DO NOT want their essays, I want them to help with MY essays.
Who did you take your recommendations from?
I took two recommendations. One was from my current boss in Rites Limited and the second one was from my ex-boss at DLF. And in the colleges where I needed three recommendations, I took one from Rites and two from DLF.
How was the interview process with all these schools, anything you would like to share?
My Rotman interview went quite well, infact I found it very easy. They just asked some basic questions like ‘tell us something about yourself’ and so on. After the interview was over, I felt very confident.
Conversely, at Schulich School of Business the questions asked during the interview process were more than the basics such as ‘who is your ideal business figure’ and so on. After this interview I had a feeling I wouldn’t be able to make it, but the results proved to be just the opposite. I got through Schulich but not Rotman. At Melbourne Business School also, I wasn’t prepared for the questions that were asked during the interview, still it went fine.
Tell us a few things you wish you knew before, while preparing for GMAT or applying at various B-Schools?
There are a couple of things, if I wish I knew before hand. Firstly, I didn’t analyze the tuition fees of the colleges before receiving the interview call. Infact, after I received the mail from Rotman School of Management regarding the interview, I analyzed their fee structure and found it out of my reach.
To my surprise, the fee structure of Schulich Business School is almost half of that of the Rotman. All wells, that ends well! In retrospect maybe it is a good thing that I didn’t get through Rotman, otherwise it would have been very depressing to let go such a good college only because of financial reasons. Thus, it is always advisable to check out the fee structure before you apply to any of the B-Schools.
Secondly, when I was preparing for GMAT, I always found that I was good with quant but not with verbal. So, I thought I would be able to compensate with my score, in a way that I will score well in quant and score average in verbal and get a total score of around 700. But when my results were out, I ended up scoring lower than my practice scores in Quant and realized you should not ignore anything or any part of the preparation.
Some final thoughts how CrackVerbal helped you?
It was amazing what Arun did because on my own I would have never been able to get into such a good B-School. I owe him a lot. I am very thankful to him because when I gave my test I had lost all hope of getting into MBA. Arun helped me a lot through my application and essays. He helped me in preparing essays that were very genuine and reflected me as a person.
My essays showcased the reality why I want to do an MBA and my career plans ahead. I am sure the interviewers must have easily correlated me with my essays. That was a very big challenge for me to get through a good college with a lower score. That was only possible with Arun.
Before applying to your colleges, what was your previous work profile like?
I did my Undergraduate from IIT Madras in Aerospace, which was my major. My minor was in Operations Research.
What was your work profile like?
I had worked with a couple of banks. I worked with HSBC and Capital One in the Data Analytics division.
When did you decide to apply for an MS and why did you feel this was the next step?
I always wanted to pursue my higher studies. For a couple years I tried hard for my CAT. After my CAT, I realized I hadn’t done as well to get into a top IIM so I decided to apply for an MS program in the US. I wasn’t 100% sure about doing an MS in the US, and I wanted a broader range of choices.
What kind of schools were you looking at when you thought of applying?
I had two options – Finance and Operations Research. Since I was looking at Finance or Business Analytics, I looked into the upcoming trends in Business Analytics. So I chose schools near the East Coast as they would be ideal for this domain and are well known. Columbia, University of Chicago and CMU were the schools I applied to. My backups were UT Austin and Cincinnati. I had applied to 4 schools for Business Analytics and 2 for Finance i.e. Columbia and University of Chicago which are the top schools for this specialization
Being in the financial hub, they seem to be good choices. Was location a big factor?
Yes it was a very important factor. I didn’t have much time as I decided to apply only in December, so my choices were restricted as I had to make a quick decision. I picked the East Coast and the schools which were the best in the business. I had spoken to a couple of friends and went with this.
So the first step was to take the GMAT, how did you prepare for it? How did you manage work and studying?
I wanted to give my GMAT last year and I had joined CrackVerbal. I attended classes and I suddenly decided to postpone my GMAT to sometime later. I thought I would write it a year or 2 down the line. But when I realized my CAT wasn’t going to work, I decided that I would like to do the GMAT. I then spoke to Arun and he said that I was doing quite well in class and I can give my GMAT.
I gave the 2 diagnostic tests and I got a 720 and a 730 respectively, which I thought were good scores but not the ones I wanted. I picked my GMAT exam date within the next 15 days. I was simultaneously prepping for CAT. I did a 15 days crash course, sort of; gave my GMAT and ended up with 710. I did it in a hurry, it was probably not the score I would have wanted but the scores were decent enough for a GMAT program.
So after CAT and GMAT you decided to go with your GMAT scores? Applying for an MS is not the same as an MBA, what was your next step in the application process?
After completing my GMAT, I spoke to Arun about my MBA and how difficult or easy it is to get into a B-School. Arun mentioned that there are MS programs which I could look at. To my surprise I found good programs on the schools’ websites, especially in Finance which were well suited to me.
I had read a lot of papers by Microsoft and did some research, so I figured that Data Analytics and Finance will be high in terms of jobs and the scope in the next 10 years was very good. Since I had already worked in Data Analytics, I decided to stick to it, but I also wanted to do an MS in Finance. Fortunately, both programs were accepting GMAT scores.
Also earlier in college I had given a GRE, the scores of which are still valid, so based on that I applied to the schools, it was around 310. With this I went ahead and applied for Business Analytics.
For an MS program as well, you would need an SOP and recommendations, how did you go about writing them?
For my SOP, I had applied to 6 schools and I wrote 6 different SOPs. They each had a particular requirement so I wrote one for each. CMU and North Western for instance, needed specific essays for specific questions, so it had to be individual for each school.
For Columbia I mentioned my SRM certification and how I’d like to work in Management. I also described some of the Professors’ work at Columbia and spoke of how I would like to be a part of that.
For University of Chicago, it was again related to Finance, I spoke of my education here as I felt it was more apt. However, for my applications to Business Analytics courses, I spoke of my professional experience.
So how did you go about choosing your recommendations for the programs?
Again I had just 15 days to complete my applications, so I chose three Professors I had studied under. One was my project guide who I had worked closely with and she was happy to give me recommendations. The second was a Mathematics Professor as this is important for Finance related courses, and the third was an Operations Research Professor.
I also got three recommendations from work – one from the Director of Capital One, one Senior Manager and finally, one from a Senior Associate. I again submitted my recommendations based on the school I was applying to.
Columbia I thought would never come, so I was more relaxed and didn’t put in much effort into choosing my recommendation. I actually applied an Operations Research (OR) formula to pick which recommendation goes to which school! It was based on probability and I’m not sure if it was a good thing or a bad thing.
So you had a dream school and a safe school?
Yes, I chose my recommendations based on which school I considered my dream and which I considered a safe bet.
After your essays and recommendations were there any interviews?
Yes I had them with almost all schools – Columbia, North Western, UT Austin etc. For CMU, I had to submit a video SOP.
Who took the interview?
For Columbia they were senior students. For UT Austin there was a Program Head/Director. For North Western it was the Program Director and Alumni.
Was it a stress interview or a casual one?
The stress was to find out if you were really interested in the program or not, and whether you knew about the program or you’re applying just for the sake of it, but it was fun. Columbia – their questions ended in 5 minutes and I ended up asking questions for 15 minutes! It was a lot of fun.
So your final choice is going to be Columbia?
Yes again Arun needs to be thanked for it, he and a lot of other people helped me choose it.
For Columbia something funny happened – I applied for the Finance program and so the interview was under the Industrial Engineering department and OR, they offered me an MS in Operations Research. I had applied for Finance and got offered this!
For somebody with comparatively less work experience, and thinking of an MBA or an MS abroad – what words of advice would you give them?
Be conscious of what divisions you want. Ask yourself what you want to do. If you are not sure about an MBA then I advise you to do an MS as it gives the same exposure but with less cost and you’re still in a tech field. With less work ex it is a better option. It is not a business program but it has a broader range. Also be honest with yourself and give it your best shot. Don’t underestimate yourself!
A lot of students struggle with this, after 2-3 years of work experience they don’t know whether to wait or apply so I think this would help them.
You should ask yourself if you’re happy with your job and should I do something better? Then an MS is the right choice that is if studying will help you get there.
Where do you see yourself a few years down the line, now that your college is set?
I’ve left my options open. I’ve left it to the program. A lot of people work with investment banking firms etc. after the program, so that’s a possibility. The Data Analytics option is always open too. OR is flexible that way. Though I applied to Finance, I think OR is really flexible so I want to go there and figure out my options. I think I will allow time to decide after going there.
A big thanks to Arun especially for helping with my SOPs for Columbia. He really guided me through the process and helped me without charging, although he normally does.
What is your educational and professional background like?
I did my Engineering in Electronics and Electrical, from VTU. I’m a Bengali but have lived all my life in Orissa. I did my Engineering in Karnataka. I did ok at Engineering, in the sense I topped my college.
I feel I did better in my PUC (state university) since I was in the top 50 of my state.
I then got recruited during the campus placement and that’s how I came to be in the semi-conductors field. It was a small company in Karnataka called Karnataka Microelectronics. When I joined the company it was very small with only 20 employees. I stayed there for the next 7 years.
By the time I left it had grown to 400 employees, so in 7 years it grew from 20 employees to 400! There I used to do a lot of recruitment related roles like talking to professors and students etc. But that being a service industry, I felt I wanted to move to the product industry so I could experience the other aspect of the business as well.
I quit that and came to Bangalore and joined AMD first, and then I moved to Texas Instruments and been there since. I have around 10 years of work experience.
How did you transition to the MBA dream?
One fine day I asked myself what I’m doing in my life and daily I followed the same routine, I felt I won’t grow if I continue with my current role. Ten years after college I felt I wanted to do an MBA. So I came and attended one of CrackVerbal’s demo classes.
Initially I expected it to just tell me what GMAT was about because I didn’t know what it was about and that was the intention I attended it with. I then joined the classes because I felt it would bring a good structure to my learning. I studied all the 3 sections of verbal.
I gave the GMAT twice, the first time I got a score of 660 and the second time I got a 710 and then with that score I thought it would be good enough to apply with a 710 as I have 10 years of work experience.
How did you go about the next steps in your application process?
For applications I came back to CrackVerbal again. Arun and team helped me a lot and told me what was good for me. The courses which they felt were right for me ended up being 2 year courses, although I wanted 1 year courses as I have 10 years of work experience and a family, I felt it would be better.
They suggested 2 courses – INSEAD and MIT. Arun chose the MIT System Design and Management program for me and I wasn’t aware of this course at MIT. I had actually taken the services only for INSEAD and with all the brainstorming etc., I felt I could apply to MIT as well since the brainstorming sessions helped me gain a line of thought.
CrackVerbal trains you for the next application as well and not just leave it at consulting for one particular program. Arun was kind enough to review my MIT application though I had only signed up for my INSEAD application. For INSEAD however, I received a reject. For MIT I had an interview and got through in the first round.
How did you manage to prep for your GMAT despite your work schedule and having a family?
It was very challenging but I tell my friends that if I can do it so can you. Each night I would study between 10 p.m. – 1 a.m. I would return from work late because being a team lead I would have conference calls to attend to in the evenings. I would return home, then spend some time with my wife and finally begin studying after 10 p.m. Of course, I learnt it the hard way that after 10 years, returning to books and GMAT is not easy to crack it takes quite a toll on you. For 6 months I tried to spend at least 3 hours every day and on weekends study for about 6 hours. I don’t recommend the same for others. I felt I wasn’t as smart so I put in the extra work. Some get a 760 with just 3 months of prep. It took me 6 months however.
I was thinking of giving it once more as I wasn’t too happy with my score but I was advised against it, and my MIT admit came through and that was the final goal.
How was the interview with MIT?
For the System Design and Management course, I had given my SOP, resume and a regular format for achievements etc. I got an interview call 6 weeks after. I interviewed with the industry co-director, Joan Ruben. The moment she asked for an interview I just said yes so I think I was the first person to interview.
So maybe that was an advantage for me. July 26th, 2013 was the deadline for announcements of chosen candidates so I would anxiously check my e-mail everyday and finally I got an e-mail from the admission committee that I got in!
What do you think was the defining factor in your profile which helped you get an MIT admit?
I always wanted to get into IIT, but never did. So I always felt I should aim for a big school. I feel if I had gotten into an IIT, it would have made me do the same thing every day but because I didn’t do that, I had a varied background like joining a start up. I taught in Engineering colleges; mentored interns and gave talks, etc. so that gave me good exposure and made my profile look good.
Also the brand names which I have been associated with are good and the score helped too, so it was a combination. It is very important to have a clear line of thought. The couple of brain storming sessions with CrackVerbal were helpful. I thought I wanted to do Consulting but I was guided the right way to the right course by CrackVerbal and I realized a Product Manager kind of role is better.
Since I’m from a semi-conductor background, it is a niche one and to add to it, 30% of employement from MIT is for Product Managers and that’s exactly what I want so it worked out for the best.
What advice would you like to give to the future MIT aspirants?
The first thing I would like to say is there is no substitute for hard work, the only substitute is you’re really smart. You need to compensate for your weakness. If I could do it with 10 years of work ex, a family and a kid on the way I think anyone can. The whole “I don’t have time” excuse is nonsense.
If you sleep for 2 hours less each day, you’ll be able to do it. You need to be very clear with whatever you need to do. Once you have a good story then, clarity of thought impresses them I think.
What was your professional background like before you applied for an MBA overseas?
I’m a B.Com graduate from Delhi University, post which I pursued an MBA at IMT Ghaziabad. I then worked in the agri-business for a few years out of parts of Africa, spent some 3 years there, and returned to India to join ITC in a similar division. I then felt I wanted to switch to the management domain. I joined Danone and worked there for 3 years and that’s when I decided on doing another MBA.
Why did you feel the need to do another MBA?
I felt the MBA was an extension of my undergraduate studies. It was a theoretical exercise to me since I didn’t have any work experience which would help me relate to the subject matter. Looking back, I feel it would have been better for me to have worked for a while and then do an MBA, but it did help me land a good job.
After spending some years working and learning some business skills, I now feel the need to return to school to test out and validate the things that I have learnt on the job.
What sort of an MBA program will you be pursuing now?
Considering my years of work experience, age and skill set, there were several factors which I considered:
A one year program was my prime focus. I had already spent 2 years learning the theory during my first MBA. One year programs are not that easy to come by, I applied to INSEAD, Oxford, Cambridge, HEC Paris and Kellogg in the U.S. which are the few one year programs available. I also got interviewed by all of them; I was wait listed at Kellogg and given offers by HEC and Cambridge.
The next thing I was looking at was the classroom environment. I was looking for a more collaborative environment where I can interact with all my classmates and get to know them better, rather than being in a class that is too large, especially since I want to get into a career in Entrepreneurship and Consulting, this would be important.
Finally, I wanted the school to be close to a city but not within it, as it would help enhance my learning experience. Based on all these factors, I chose Cambridge after which I said no to Kellogg.
What made you choose Cambridge over HEC?
There were a couple of factors which made me choose Cambridge over HEC – the first one being language. I never felt I had a natural flair for languages and despite living in the French speaking parts of Africa, I could never really pick up the language.
The other aspect being my post-MBA career focus which is in Consulting. I searched for people on Linkedin from both HEC and Cambridge and found that Cambridge was better suited to me. It has a very strong focus on Consulting. I also want to work in London ultimately, so it made more sense to study there as well. Although HEC Paris has a wonderful course, to me Cambridge was a better fit.
How did you go about preparing for the GMAT and the applications thereafter?
I took the test twice and I didn’t do too well the first time around. It took me 4 years to take it again. I tell a lot of people who come to me for advice to try and do well the first time around so you can get done with it. It’s unlike CAT where the exam is scheduled on a particular day. Although you can take the GMAT after 30 days of your first attempt, you still need to plan it and that takes some time because we tend to procrastinate. You have to mentally prepare yourself from scratch which is not always easy.
The second time I took the GMAT, I applied a more focused and clinical approach. I stressed on the areas which I was not too strong in. I was also at a disadvantage – being outside of India, I had no access to coaching classes so I had to do it all on my own.
As far as the application process was concerned, I worked with CrackVerbal for my applications. I was taken through a self discovery process of sorts because the nice thing about Arun is that he questions your reasons for doing an MBA. It’s not treated as just an application, but you are also learning things about yourself which helps bring more perspective. The entire process tested me in ways I had never expected and I ended up learning a lot about myself.
The other good thing about Arun is that he never sugar coats the weaknesses in your profile, he lets you know what won’t work and then helps you showcase your profile the right way. There really are no weak profiles, because every profile is unique. It helped me understand my strengths and speak of them, while I also mentioned my weaknesses.
That’s an interesting insight, one would assume that having taken the GMAT once before, you would have more confidence to deal with it the next time around and it would be easier, is it common for people to find it more difficult the next time around?
The GMAT, I feel is the most brilliant exam ever. I have taken several exams but this one was the best. I feel it tests your knowledge and additionally your management skills. The exam itself is like a decision making process, the questions you get and the levels of difficulty that test your ability to make a decision at that point. Being right or wrong is a different thing.
It’s also an exam you have to plan around – when you take it, how you prepare, etc., all this tests your ability to manage tasks. It’s not an easy exam. Yes it is harder the next time around because of these factors as you need to stay motivated and work on it. It’s easy to forget about it and give excuses because of work, family commitments etc., but it’s really difficult to actually stay focused and manage your time from start to finish. That’s why it’s better to finish off with it the first time around.
Does having an MBA while applying to another play to your advantage? How do you feel the panel would have viewed your profile?
I don’t think having an MBA goes against you or works for you. Looking at a specific case – Kellogg requires that you have prior business knowledge, so that way my Indian MBA helped.
The other schools liked my profile too, so there was no question of it being a hurdle, it was simply the question of whether I’m doing another MBA for the right reasons. As long as you can get that point across, you won’t have anything to worry about.
What was the interview process like?
Every school follows a different type of interview process. For instance, Judge has a more exhaustive one which involves two rounds of interviews. The first round, you are interviewed on a personal level and the second, you actually get a chance to visit the school, attend seminars, speak to alumni and then meet the panel.
My personal opinion is that B-schools in India and abroad differ in their interview process. In India, it tends to be more technical where they ask you to draw graphs which is easier when you are fresh out of college. The interviews are treated like stress interviews where you are asked several questions on say costing or economics and asked to draw figures and charts.
Abroad, they tend to want to get to know you better as a person rather than just focusing on the theory. I found it to be a more enjoyable experience and a less hectic one. It was more of a discussion between two adults which involved a more open environment. There was no right or wrong or no conclusion which was drawn.
I was simply asked questions like – what I felt was going wrong in the dairy industry back when I was working with Danone, what feedback would I give my CEO, and so on. It was just to gauge whether you are logical and what you say makes sense. It was never like a teacher talking to a student.
You mentioned you worked in several countries, do you feel your Indian MBA helped you with that?
The Indian MBA did help me get a good job which helped start my career. I also made plenty of good friends and yes it taught me the theoretical knowledge which I needed. However, I felt most of my learning process was on the job and it didn’t really help me grow as a person. It’s catch-22 sort of situation where ideally you would like to work before doing an MBA but would you get a good job without one?
What are your future plans post your MBA?
Immediately after my MBA I would like a job because I’m taking a loan!
Long term, I would like to work in Consulting and perhaps open a boutique Consulting firm in India and maybe even a restaurant!
What advice would you give to future MBA aspirants?
I come across a lot of people with some basic questions, which is good but I think when you’re ready to spend Rupees 20 Lakhs to 50 Lakhs on an education, you should research out the possibilities well. Seek out profiles on Linkedin or online forums, look at people who are doing what you would like to do and then speak to them to see how possible everything is, because it will help you plan your career well.
Make sure you speak to people who are in your target industry and alumni who are either currently studying there or who recently graduated. Take a scientific approach to networking. It doesn’t make sense to add everyone at the school. Deal with networking in a focused manner.
Secondly, I would say don’t take more than 3-3.5 months to prepare for your GMAT, some people keep preparing, don’t do that. Try and limit your preparation time to within 3.5 months.
Don’t jump ahead of the game – lots of people think about their application process without even giving their GMAT, this won’t help them in any way.
Make sure you give yourself time, the application process is a very long one. I had submitted my application on 21st September of last year and I’m joining school this year, so that’s how long it took me. And don’t take rankings too seriously while choosing a B-school.
What was your educational and professional background like?
I’m from Andhra Pradesh, I did my Engineering in Instrumentation & Control from Sri Venkateshwara University. I moved to the department of Atomic Energy as a Scientific Officer. I then worked at Invensys, Dubai for 4.5 years and moved back to India to begin work with ABB as a Training Manager.
What prompted you to pursue an MBA?
My experience working overseas made me meet people from all walks of life. I would often come across people with a Management orientation. My work too, apart from being technical required me to speak to customers, this not only helped my profile but it also helped my company. With this I found that I developed a penchant for Marketing and tilted more towards Management.
I discovered that GMAT would be the ideal route to work in Management. I gave the GMAT a few times after preparing on my own but didn’t succeed in obtaining a good score. My score was around 640. After reading many articles and the blogs of CrackVerbal, and speaking with my friends, I felt CrackVerbal is doing the best job in teaching GMAT.
After returning to India, I joined CrackVerbal’s Verbal classes and then took up Quant classes as I was extremely happy with the Verbal experience and felt the need for both. I finally obtained a GMAT score of 680 and was thrilled with it.
Being an Engineer, it’s usually believed that Quant is easy to tackle, what do you feel about this?
Initially I too felt that Quant is fairly easy, I scored around 47 to 48 but to improve the scores to a 50 or 51, I felt it takes some fine tuning, the right type of strategies and methods. It’s not sufficient to merely practice, and GMAT Quant is quite different from the usual Math we learn in school and college.
It’s more logical and is not limited to learning formulae; this is where I felt I needed some assistance in learning the right tactics and to fill the very narrow, but existent gap of logic. I joined classes at CrackVerbal and they helped me a great deal in improving my score.
After giving the GMAT, how did you proceed with your application process?
I didn’t have much time between my GMAT and my application deadlines. I had given my last GMAT on 7th August, I then attended a two day workshop with CrackVerbal and my application deadline to IIM Ahmedabad was on August 10th. For IIM A, there was not much to do in terms of essays, so I filled out the application myself, though I have to say, the workshop was extremely helpful.
For IIM Bangalore and Calcutta however, I needed help with my essays as the deadlines were at the end of August and it was the first time I had thought about my essays. I had taken the assistance of CrackVerbal for this as well.
It usually takes 4-6 weeks to introspect and write one’s essays, however I had to do my best in 20 days and this was possible thanks to the help and advice I received from CrackVerbal. Even the brainstorm sessions and inputs were quite helpful. The application services of CrackVerbal were very good.
I even applied to ISB on 15th September. I received interview calls for 3 out of 4 schools and I think the application services definitely helped me in this regard.
Which 3 B-schools did you receive the interview calls from?
I received interview calls from IIM A,B & C. I believe my GMAT score was low for ISB and perhaps why I didn’t receive an interview call for the same.
How do the interviews at IIM A & B compare?
Both interviews were on similar lines – they delved deeper into my profile and my essays, and tried to understand me better. They also asked me about current affairs, and since I began my career in the Nuclear industry, they asked me about my opinion on how the industry is fairing. In the interviews, a large part of what they ask you tests how well you can take a stand on a subject and how comfortable you are with your profile. They try to see how quickly you can think on your feet.
What was the nature of the interview, were they stressful?
I never found them stressful, it was more of a casual talk where they tried to get to know me better. I didn’t find it strenuous as I was well prepared with my answers. The Mock interviews with CrackVerbal helped me prepare for the actual interviews and I knew what to expect.
What factors are you considering while choosing between IIM A & B?
I’m looking to further my career in the Energy sector, and placements play an important role in my decision process. Last year I believe IIM A didn’t have enough placements which is deterring me from choosing it.
Relocating along with my family is another concern; I’m looking at these factors and will also speak with the experts at CrackVerbal to make a good decision.
Having international exposure, what made you opt for Indian B-schools?
Indian B-schools are at par with international B-schools, even the Financial Times rankings have Indian B-schools listed amongst the top schools. I feel they provide exposure which is on similar lines as international schools.
The fees are also more affordable, which made me consider the IIMs and ISB.
Finally, I wanted to settle down in India as I was out of the country for a long duration which is why I felt it best to pursue an MBA here.
If you were to list out the top 3 things that helped you achieve admits to IIM A &B, what would they be?
Although I began my GMAT preparation quite some time back, I maintained the persistence and dedication. It’s very important to stay dedicated to your GMAT plans and preparation.
I was also very well prepared with my profile and made sure I was following current affairs pertaining to my industry. It’s vital that you stay up-to-date while applying for an MBA.
A lot of people can offer advice but we will not know if they’re good or bad, The right advice is also crucial. Luckily for me I have been working with CrackVerbal for my GMAT prep, essays and even the mock interviews, this has helped me a great deal in achieving admits to IIM A & B.
What was your overall experience with CrackVerbal like?
I think everything went very well for me, I don’t see any lacks or negatives!
What advice would you give future aspirants?
I think dedication plays a huge role in achieving your goals. One must allocate a few hours each day to study and prepare for the GMAT.
Research is another important factor in choosing a B-school and it being a costly affair, it’s important to learn everything there is to know about the program, the school, and so on.
One should make sure they heed the right advice and listen to experienced professionals while they pursue their MBA dream.
Overall, dedication I feel plays the biggest role, no matter what your goals are.
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 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.
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 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 a 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. 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 another set of top-tier schools. I realized as long as I can get to my intended goals, these schools of my choice were great, and my story became much more understandable. My initial storyline was centered 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 has 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 an 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 any school of your choice. If you do not end up there you could also look at other schools in the top 50.
Sankalp has also been featured on Poetsandquants Class of 2020 at Michigan Ross
What was your profile like before you decided to pursue an MBA?
I graduated from NIT Trichy with a B. Tech. in Computer Science. I worked with Morgan Stanley as a software engineer for a couple of years after that, and with Zynga for about a year as a developer before moving to Data Analyst role within Zynga. I wanted to move towards products side and Zynga is one of the best places to learn product analytics.
What prompted you to take up an MBA program?
Since college, I’ve realised that I am most motivated when I work at something that touches the lives of people directly. Hence after gaining experience at Morgan Stanley as an engineer, Zynga seemed to be the best place to go next.
At Zynga I felt I could be more involved in the product decisions which a proper understand to the business would facilitate, hence the MBA.
How did you go about preparing for the GMAT?
I knew I needed coaching to keep me focused and save time. I looked out for options on Pagalguy, for the best institutes in Bangalore. Crackverbal seemed to be the best bet. I went ahead and joined CrackVerbal.
Initially I would fail to practice regularly and lost touch with the basics. I decided to take it more seriously and took a more dedicated approach to my preparation. I also took off for a couple of weeks from work before the exam.
How did you shortlist B-schools and were you focused on Indian B-schools alone? If yes, why?
My experience was in technology and Social Gaming. I like the field of Social Gaming. Hence, I looked for schools which focus on technology and products. I realised this includes only some US Schools and ISB. Additionally, ISB’s program is more affordable than the rest.
Applying to US B-schools is obviously a huge cost, I wanted to apply to my dream B-schools and this list included MIT Sloan, Kellogg, Berkeley Haas & UCLA Anderson. My aim was to get an admit this year, if not I would continue with my current position as it was an interesting one that allowed me to explore the business side of things.
How did you go about the MBA application process?
I wrote my GMAT in August, 2013 and Indian School of Business Round 1 deadline was on 15th September. Because of the time contraint, I felt it best to work with CrackVerbal for my applications and it was totally worth it! However, despite this, the quality of my initial drafts were not the best; so CrackVerbal advised me to push my application from Round 1 to 2 to get more time to rework my essays and put my best foot forward. That worked.
By this time, I had shortlisted the US B-schools I would like to apply to. I once again worked with CrackVerbal for my US applications as it was a lot of work to do so on my own.
The interview was very friendly. I had three alumni in my panel. I was asked about my profile, my current work, the Indian gaming industry and suggestions to improve it, my career prospects in the gaming industry (since I wanted to return back to the same industry), my strengths and weaknesses. I felt it was an earnest attempt at getting to know me better.
What are your short-term & long-term goals post your MBA?
In the long run, I want to handle multiple products in a products oriented company, or start my own company in this space. I feel working as a Product Manager in the gaming industry is the first step towards that, although you don’t really need an MBA to become a Product Manager. However, if you have sound business knowledge across different functions, you are in a much better position for success.
What advice would you give to future MBA aspirants?
It is very important to believe in yourself and prepare well for the GMAT(3 months of regular prep is optimum for an average Indian aspirant). Also, you would need a lot of time figuring out a lot why you want to do an MBA and while you’re selecting schools. Make sure you set aside time for that along with your preparation time. Good guidance goes a long way and people are generally helpful in this community.
What was your experience like with CrackVerbal?
Awesome! They were very understanding and went out of their way to help me in my MBA journey – right from GMAT prep till my Indian School of Business interview. The faculty and the admission counsellors are of very high quality and they understand the Indian applicant well. I availed their services for GMAT Verbal Prep, essay writing, and interview prep. Although it amounted to a lot, it was totally worth it!
Any interesting anecdotes from your MBA journey?
I had just began searching for people who were in a Product Management domain after doing an MBA from my target schools. I came across one such profile and hastily contacted her so I could learn more. This didn’t turn out well as there were many spelling mistakes in my e-mail, and I failed to share any background information. Since then I make sure I write proper mails!
The other interesting incident was when I went to a junior’s place for a party. When I got there I met her flatmate who seemed familiar at first but I didn’t think about it much. However, later while talking to the junior of mine I realised that her flatmate teaches at CrackVerbal and had taken a practice session. That came as a surprise.
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!
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.
Please tell us something about your profile and background.
I did my engineering from Panjab University, Chandigarh in computer science. I have been a software engineer at Adobe Systems for the past 5 years. I am working for Acrobat Security and am leading a small team. As we work with security projects, we deal with vulnerability and hackers. The projects usually have a very short turn-around time and there is large money at stake. And because we deal with security, we come across different people and companies beyond Adobe. As security can be a problem with anyone, a lot of cross-geographical work and co-ordination is required. I have also worked with my team at San Jose, where the Head Office of Adobe is situated.
And how did MBA become a part of the plan?
When I joined Adobe, it was dealing with recession. I saw Adobe changing its strategies and its product line. In fact, Adobe has been re-running its business for the past 4 years. This experience gave me a lot exposure and I was inspired to move towards Product Management whether at Adobe, Google, Apple or Microsoft. But to get into such companies I realized that an MBA is important. Also, an MBA would help me develop some good habits like preparing for tests and reading the Economic Times every day. On the whole, I wanted to learn a wide spectrum of things!
When did you start with your GMAT prep?
I took my GMAT on 7th August 2010. I prepared for my GMAT for around three months, beginning by late April 2010.
Could you share with us your GMAT score and how you prepared for your GMAT?
Sure! My GMAT score was 730. My break up was 49 and 41. Initially I studied only from – OG 12. As far as GMAT books are concerned, I personally believe that you should begin your preparation from OG, as it gives you an insight into the fundamentals of GMAT test. You will be able to identify your strengths and weaknesses and work towards those. Though my Quant was strong, I needed to work on Verbal.
This is because in GMAT, Verbal is more analytical and logical, almost like mathematics. I started studying seriously around mid of May. I studied for 2-3 hours every day and took two GMAT mock tests every weekend. I do believe that “Consistency” helps a lot.
Candidly speaking, GMAT preparation is not that tough, if you are consistent and patient in your preparation. Sitting for 3.5 hours for a test requires a lot of stamina and practice! It is futile to study 8-9 hours a day for GMAT, like we usually do for CAT. I never took a break for more than 2 days while preparing for my GMAT.
Towards the end, I took a week off from my work, and started taking GMAT mock tests. Actually, I was looking for a serious, real-test like environment, as we usually tend to be relaxed at home. For the initial 2-3 days, I gave two tests per day and for rest of the days, one test per day. The test series helped me out greatly.
Is there something you wished you knew before to ease your GMAT preparation?
Yes, as I was over-confident in Quant, I didn’t practice it as much as I should have. Had I had done it in the initial part of my preparation; it would have helped me a little more to build my stamina.
And how did your actual GMAT go?
The evening before the test, I practically did nothing. I was at home with family. I went to the Test centre a day before to get aware of the surroundings. I remembered having an ice-cream on my way back! On a whole, I was quite relaxed! On the Test day, I got up early and I brushed up my basic formulas. I had made some notes out of the mistakes I made during my mock tests. Sometimes you answer some questions very confidently, but surprisingly they turn out to be wrong. So I had made a 4-5 page word document. That is all that I revised early morning.
I had my breakfast. My test slot was at 10:30. Even during my test, I was very patient and relaxed. It was when I reached the Reading Comprehension section that I realized I was running out of time. After comprehension, there were some Sentence Correction questions. So for that comprehension, I attempted 2-3 questions and I did guesswork for the other two, so that I could move to Sentence Correction, followed by Critical Reasoning. Apart from this, everything else went pretty smoothly, including the essay part.
What about your recommendations?
I got my first recommendation from one of my managers who had left Adobe in 2010 to pursue an MBA himself. I got the second recommendation from my cross team manager with whom I had worked. I realized from my experience that it is very important to get recommendations from a person who is working very closely with you, though going and informing him that you might leave soon sounds like a risk.
How was your interview process?
Mock interviews helped me a lot. During my IIM-C interview, it was one of the professors who took it. But in U.S. it is quite different. Sometimes alumni will take the interview or sometimes even a history graduate!
I took a couple of mock interviews from CrackVerbal and another mock from a manager in Microsoft U.S. The idea was to take multiple mock interviews from different kinds of people. That really helped me because apart from my career I had several extra-curricular activities that I regularly participate in.
For instance, I go for Jazz lessons regularly and have performed shows in Delhi. Reading is also on my list of activities, and I write regularly on my blogs. Thus, there is so much stuff to talk about, but I never got the chance of talking about it. I usually end up talking about my work which is too technical. This is where mock interviews helped me profoundly!
When Aruna and Arun from CrackVerbal took my mock interview, it lasted for 1.5 hours and Arun asked me whether I enjoyed the interview. I told him I enjoyed the later part of it but not the earlier. Then Arun told me that for the first part I was a different person and for the latter part, totally a different one. That really helped me to rearrange the stuff I have to talk about during my interviews. Mock interviews also helped me to recall and highlight important factors of my career and my life during the actual interview process.
So, which schools did you apply to?
Initially, in 2010, I was looking only at ISB. However, 31st August was the deadline for ISB that year. I did it in a rush because I took my GMAT on 7th August and there was little time for my application. I got an interview call after the application. I was even wait-listed, but couldn’t make it through. The next year, I applied to IIM Calcutta and got through. But as I was very satisfied with my job at Adobe Systems, I was reluctant to resign. I was also not sure whether I would get the work I was looking for, post IIM C.
During that time I was getting engaged and my fiancé was trying for U.S. and European B-Schools. That’s how I too made up my mind to apply in U.S. B-schools. But because I applied late, I had very little time to do justice to my application forms and missed most of the B-schools in Round 1. I applied at Carnegie Mellon and Duke Business School in the first round where I was waitlisted at Duke but called for interview at Carnegie. In Round 2, I applied to Ross, Darden, and Haas and got admission to Darden Business School.
Why did you decide upon joining Darden School of Business?
As getting admission into U.S. B-school calls for a lot of investment, a good school is of prime importance. I wanted to go into either technology or general management consulting that gives you a wide exposure to all the industries post MBA.
I was not getting into any specific sector like finance or something like that, so I wanted to go for a B-school which is more case-based, more on general management. Since I decided quite late on B-schools, I picked up some from top 10 and some from the top 20-30. Darden comes within the top 5-10 B-Schools and focuses 100% on case-based studies. So it was my obvious choice.
Could you give us some insight into financing your MBA program?
Initially financing was my biggest concern. So, I opted for colleges that provided loan arrangements. Secondly, in India there are some private lenders, such as HDFC Credila, which gives loans to Indian students without collateral. Thirdly, applicants should try for scholarships. For instance, I initially got an 8000 USD scholarship from Carnegie-Mellon.
In fact, I would also say that negotiating is a good idea. Remember, B-schools need you as much as you need them! If they are offering you admission, it means they want you too. So, try negotiating the scholarship in the end. I negotiated with Carnegie Mellon on merit as I had got a promotion this March. My scholarship increased from 5,000 to 8,000 USD!
How did CrackVerbal help you?
CrackVerbal helped me a lot during my mock interviews. I was given a list of questions from which I would prepare for my interview. The list was very exhaustive. It laid the foundation of my preparation. It helped me to sort out the stuff I am good at and also highlighted key factors in my profile. As my actual interviews lasted for hardly 20-25 minutes, I had very limited time to talk about my entire life. CrackVerbal helped me to zero in on what exactly I should share with my interviewer.
Could you tell us a little about your background?
I have a B.E. Degree from BITS Pilani. I worked for ‘travelocity.com’ as a Business Analyst. I was the bridge between the technical teams in India and the various Business Operations teams abroad.
How did you go about preparing for your GMAT?
I had no intentions to of applying to ISB, but after attending an info session of ISB’s, I was inspired! Following this session, I began my GMAT preparation. I took the GMAT date and studied for 3 months. I felt that this time period was sufficient to prepare well for GMAT, in fact I realized that I could have finished my preparation in 1.5 months!
For the first few weeks, I started my preparation with OG. As I was working long hours, it was hard to devote time and return to the study mode, initially.
There were five sections in the Official Guide – two on Quant and three on Verbal. From each section, I took 10 questions every day, and I spent about an hour everyday on these questions. I finished OG in about 3 or 4 weeks. Then I started with the Review questions.
For the Verbal review, I got hold of e-books and I went through that for about three more weeks. After finishing my reviews, I was ready to take mock tests. I took off work for about 10 days and I took 1 test every day for 10 consecutive days.
Did you take the full-length tests or just the Verbal and Quant?
I took the full-length tests and that too at the same time as my GMAT was scheduled! This is because I wanted to condition my mind to make sure that I am not hungry or sleepy during my test hours. As my slot was 12 to 4, I took full length tests from 12 to 4 everyday for 10 days. I would eat lunch at 11a.m., just to experience the exact test constraints.
How was your GMAT test day?
When I took the real test, the essays were fine. However, I was a little exhausted after the essays and was not expecting my Quant to be that difficult. My last question in Quant didn’t go well. There was a break between Quant and Verbal and that particular question played on my mind. This is what a test taker shouldn’t do – he/she should relax during the break and then concentrate on the next segment of the test.
I was pretty exhausted after the two essays and in contrast to my mock tests I was running short of time in Quant. During my practice tests, I would finish my Quant 30 minutes prior to the end-time! But, when I gave the real test, I was left with 10 questions in last 10 minutes. So, I tackled Verbal with a fast pace and hence my accuracy went down a little. I ended up scoring 50 in Quant and 37 in Verbal and my GMAT score was 720.
So, it was your 50 in Quant that pulled your GMAT score up to 720?
Yes, it did, though I could have scored 740 on the GMAT! During my practice tests, I was scoring 750-780, I was a little disappointed that I got a 720 instead.
Were you planning to give your GMAT again despite a 720?
Yes, I wanted to take the GMAT again to improve my score. But on second thoughts, I didn’t want to miss the Round 1 deadlines of ISB. I didn’t really have the time to give it again and also apply for Round 1. To overcome this dilemma, I contacted CrackVerbal. I got to know about CrackVerbal from the internet. I scheduled a counseling session through the CrackVerbal website and I was directed to Arun.
During that time, I was also interacting with other institutes to help me with my application. But Arun’s thoughts struck me and I wanted to go with him. I had a gut feeling that we were thinking on the same lines. There was a comfort level right from the beginning. That is what drove me towards CrackVerbal.
Finally, I met Arun and I explained to him the complete story – what I have been doing, my work, my profile, my extra-curriculars and my GMAT score. He listened to me and chalked out a chart for me, portraying what my strengths and weaknesses are and we brainstormed to figure out what I should write in my essays. I incorporated his suggestions and I drafted my essays in some 15-20 days. Some 7-8 reviews later, my the final draft of my essays were ready.
Why did you choose ISB over other B-schools?
I wanted to apply only to Indian B-Schools because of the finances and recession in the market. I had also written my CAT and got through IIM-B. I had discussed this with CrackVerbal and they helped me decide on the B-school that suited me best – I decided to go with ISB.
Who were your recommenders?
My Manager and Ex-Manager were my recommenders. When I applied to ISB in Round 1, I was wait-listed. Round-1 results were announced on 15th of November that year and ISB was going to announce some of the Round 1 short-listed applicants with the Round 2 short-listed applicants. Round 2 results were announced on 15th February.
However, at the end of January, I wrote an e-mail to ISB, asking for some clarifications and updating them with my professional accomplishments – I was promoted to a Project Manager role during the time I was awaiting the announcements from ISB. I was also involved with a lot more social initiatives in Bangalore. I had tied up with the Ministry of Health, to set up a co-operative in Bangalore for people with disabilities who make handicrafts.
I also informed ISB that I have got a lot of calls from IIMs, but I prefer ISB! Again it was Arun who helped me out with the e-mail. I sent him the drafted e-mail, he reviewed it and shared his feedback with me. In the last week of January, during the final stages of Round 2, ISB considered my application and luckily got converted along with the Round 2 results!
How was your overall experience with CrackVerbal?
My CrackVerbal experience has been remarkable! I knew a lot of things before but I wasn’t able to articulate them well and convert them to essays. Arun literally gave ‘words’ to my ‘thoughts’. The way he interacted the first time, it was incredible!
Just after listening to my story, he was able to chalk out my strengths and my weaknesses and he precisely pin pointed what to write in my essays and what not to. I was very comfortable working with CrackVerbal. We had no hassles and we were able to understand each other immediately.
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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