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.
Before applying, what was your educational background and work experience like?
I have been working for more than 5 years. My profile was fairly typical; I joined Accenture, then Headstrong in May, 2010 and worked for 1.5 years there. I had 4.5 years of experience in total; I thought it was a good time to go for an MBA. I also wanted a switch from IT Development to Management.
You had earlier applied in 2009 to some colleges, tell us about that.
Yes, when in Accenture, I applied to some of the top colleges, I had a GMAT of 680 at the time and I had written the GMAT for the first time. I did not have enough information on the application process. I did it on my own without clear application strategies and so I got rejects from all of the colleges. This time around I corrected my mistakes. It was a learning experience for me.
From the first time to this time, what was different? What aspects did you majorly improve on?
The first time I applied, I did not know that when you’re applying for an MBA to America, you need to have a clear reason behind your career shift. I mentioned in my previous application that I wanted to move to something creative like Marketing or FMCG. I didn’t realize that moving from IT to Marketing is considered something bizarre. At that point in time, I wasn’t sure about how to portray myself and what goals I need to focus on.
The other thing was my GMAT – the first time was a bit low for the schools I had applied to. I was being a bit too ambitious back then. I think the right exposure wasn’t there. This time I felt I had better exposure and that helped me a great deal.
Compared to 2009 and now, how did you choose the B-Schools especially since you are changing your industry completely?
When I had applied in 2009, I wanted to move into Marketing so I chose colleges which were good at Marketing or what I thought was good for Marketing. I applied to Ross, Duke, Kellogg and Emory because of my cousin who had done his MBA at Emory.
This time however, I went about it a bit more analytically. I thought of the viable career options which I can have, and that is how I went about it. This time around my approach was a bit better.
You had written your GMAT in 2009 and again in 2010, how did you go about balancing your work and GMAT?
I think the motivation was there. First of all, I wasn’t too satisfied with my job which was the major factor to give the GMAT. As far as GMAT was concerned, I wasn’t so dedicated that I would spend 3 hours a day, but without fail I would study for about 1 – 1.5 hours and focus on a set of questions. I had joined CrackVerbal as well, so there was a structure to my preparation.
I had to do Sentence Correction then move to Critical Reasoning the following week. I closely followed the OG and so I didn’t get confused with other material. Arun kept saying OG is the best source, so I just followed that and gave my time judicially to OG and I think consistency was a big factor as I would spend about half an hour each day on the questions. That’s how I went about balancing it.
As you mentioned, you were in IT and you wanted to shift to another stream, what aspects of your profile did you think helped you get an admit and what was different from your last set of applications back in 2009?
I think this time my GMAT score was good. Apart from that the extracurricular roles too played a significant role in my profile. Outside office and within office, I was into extracurriculars a lot. At work, I lead the “fun at work” initiative, which was on a large scale, i.e. at an organizational level. They had asked me how I impacted the organization so I always gave this as an example. Even the recommenders mentioned this so it was validated and it was at a large scale so there was definitely an impact.
Even outside the office, I was into theatre for almost 2 years in Bangalore so that too helped me differentiate myself. I have done some stand-up comedy as well so these things helped me get noticed. I would host events and I had performed at IIM Bangalore as well. Even during the interview people asked me what I did outside of work and I would narrate these experiences. You know how the IT Indian Male is an overdone profile? These things really helped me differentiate myself for them to notice me from the pool of applicants.
Which school are you finally opting for?
I had applied to 6 -7 colleges this year. My plan was to choose some ambitious, some practical, and some safe. My dream college was Kellogg and out of all the 7 colleges, it was the only one I got a reject from. The next choice was Tepper (CMU) and I got an admit from there, then Kenan-Flagler, USC Marshall, ISB, and Simon.
All these were my 2nd round of applications. My 1st round was Kellogg and Tepper, I wanted to get into either of them. I was not sure I would get into Kellogg or Tepper, these are a league above the rest. Of course ISB too is a class above, but while applying there, I knew that I wanted to go to the US.
ISB was just a safe option?
Yes it was. I’m going with Tepper finally, I think it is a very good school and is a small program so it is close knit, the kind I like. Although I got scholarships, I’m not taking it up because I feel that scholarships were just around 20-50% so I should not compromise on my goal. I had also applied to Booth but I was waitlisted. I have kind of accepted that Booth might be too far-fetched.
Just one final piece of advice you would want to give to MBA aspirants, especially from the IT background who begin considering an MBA when 3 or 4 years into their career.
First is to choose a goal which is a bit practical, it should be logical and believable and not something fancy. What I think we feel in India is that if it is not fancy it might not seem lucrative to the panel, which is not really true. If your goal is logical and believable and you show that you believe in it through your essays, I think that works far better than having a goal which sounds great but is really disconnected from your personality. So the goal should be particular to your profile.
Secondly around 3-4 years in IT, almost all of us work as a Team Lead or Senior Developer so if you can differentiate yourself that would work well. Like one guy at ISB – I had a talk with him and had asked him how should I differentiate myself from the rest of the applicants?
He said that you should always speak of a role which showcases your managerial capability – whether a Project Management related project or extracurricular, technical or non-technical, even if you had done some Event Management, you should tie that into your leadership capabilities as well, through your essays.
I think some examples we can bring in from our daily life which had some impact can be helpful. It’s not necessary that we all have big examples as everyone who is preparing for an MBA has a leadership ability of some sort, so everyone must have had an experience they can talk about. They need to think that there will be thousands of applicants and how they can differentiate themselves from others is important, they need to ponder over that. This advice I always give everyone.
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.
When did you take your GRE?
I took my GRE in September 2017 and I scored 320 – 165 in quant and 155 in verbal.
Can you tell us something about your background?
I did my engineering from Punjab University, Chandigarh in 2014 with a CG of 8.6. After that, I worked at Infosys for one year and three months in a TAC project with Juniper Network Security. My profile was that of a Technical Assistance Centre Engineer; I used to help customers in fixing their networks which Juniper firewalls deployed. Then, I joined Cisco as a TAC engineer and I am currently working on their firewall and firepower self-defence devices. Around July, I joined CrackVerbal to prepare for my GRE. I had a great experience with them. I took my GRE on 18th September and on 25th September, I took my TOEFL exam. I scored 104 in TOEFL and 320 in my GRE. I have a total work experience of 3.5 years and my CG is 8.06. I don’t have any published work as of now but I will, soon.
What made you take up the GRE?
I always wanted to pursue my masters. Initially I thought of doing it in India, but after I started working in Infosys and speaking to my friends in India and the USA, I figured out that an M. Tech from India will not give way for great opportunities. Also, when I was working in Cisco, I realized that there are a lot of things that I’d want to get into more depth in, like doing research. It’s always great to work in a company like Cisco, networking geniuses work in Cisco. But to get into research, it’s important to pursue Master’s. That’s when I decided to take up GRE. Initially, I thought of preparing by myself, but while I was preparing, I always had a time issue because, after coming back from work, I used to be tired and say let me postpone it for tomorrow and I was not focused much. That is when I decided to join an institute because I’ll have a fixed syllabus and I thought somebody with sufficient experience will be able to guide me through and I joined CrackVerbal. Since I’m an engineering student, I always thought Quant will not be that difficult – not a cakewalk, but relatively easier. I thought verbal would be a little difficult, because I do read, but not that much. GRE English is not something that you come across in everyday usage. I attended the demo class by Manoj at CrackVerbal. He is an amazing teacher.
How did CrackVerbal help you?
I think one of the biggest problems for GRE students in the verbal section, probably, is reading comprehension. Manoj was so clear and concise about the way he taught us to deal with this, he explained how it is not necessary to read the entire passage. He showed us which parts to focus on. That was massively helpful. One thing I really liked is that CrackVerbal is very structured. I joined a weekday batch because I thought I’d come back from office and do it. But CrackVerbal is very flexible. The classes were from 2 to 5, so I informed Prateek that I wouldn’t be able to make it at 2 – so he shifted the entire batch by half an hour! I think that was a very sweet gesture. And yes, the classes are very structured. For example, for one week, we only do RC. On the first day, Manoj gives us the context, second day we do questions, and on the third day, you can discuss and come up with your own questions and solve the workbook. If you miss a class, you can book a session and watch the video for that class and catch up with the others in the class. That’s a great added option. Plus, you can attend the same class at another centre according to my convenience. They have amazing faculty for both verbal and quant. I have friends who joined other coaching centres, they have a class strength of 100-odd people and they can barely interact with the faculty. Our CrackVerbal batch had around 20-25 candidates. We had Aditya for Quant and Manoj for Verbal. Both the tutors gave individual attention and made sure that you are sure about something before moving on to the next concept. I think it is very important to get personal attention. If you concentrate properly, you don’t even have to go back home and revise it.
What advice would you like to give for the aspirants?
You should practice as many questions as possible. I think you should keep in mind that time is a very important factor. It’s not important that you get two hundred questions, but what is important is how much time you are taking for those two hundred questions. Similarly, it is not important that you are able to solve all the five questions in your RC, but how much time you take for each reading comprehension. So, initially, you should practice just for accuracy, but when you think your accuracy is good, you should focus more on time because GRE is more of a time game. You have to solve 20 very difficult questions in 35 minutes. Always time your preparation. Take a lot of practice tests and don’t pause your practice test, ever. Sit through the test exactly like a 3 hour GRE test would be. Then you will have a fair idea of what you will be going through on the actual exam day. After the tests, make sure you go through every question where you went wrong. Definitely take the two ETS practice tests by GRE because they are very similar to the final test. Also, do practice the first writing section (AWA) that a lot of students miss. I did not score well in that test, I got 3.5. I applied to a university that had a cut off of 4. So, I did regret for that and thought I should have practiced more on that. At CrackVerbal, Manoj took time for that as well, we had two classes on AWA. So yeah, that is important.
When did you give your GRE?
I gave my GRE in 2017 in the month of September and scored 324. I got an admit in Schulich School of Business, which is a part of York University in Toronto.
Can you tell us about your background?
My background is in economics. I did my bachelor in economics, mathematics, and statistics and in 2011, I did my masters in econometrics, post which I joined TCS BaNCS as a market researcher and strategist for their pre-sales team. With CrackVerbal’s worksheets, study plans and forums and all of that, I was able to put in the hours, be dedicated about it, do the homework that was given and really motivate and push myself to study for it.
How did CrackVerbal help you?
Regardless of your educational background and how confident you feel, a place like CrackVerbal will instil dedication and focus. You can be smart but honestly, dedication and focus is all you need. The nice thing about CrackVerbal is that they gave a lot of tips and tricks to crack the exam, which I may not have realized if I was studying on my own. I would have probably solved a particular question without, say, eliminating choices, because it is hardwired in my mind to do a particular question in a particular way. It’s not about learning how to do time and distance problems or anything like that, it’s about really knowing how to crack it in the most efficient way possible. CrackVerbal helps you do that.
What advice would you give other aspirants?
I’d say whether you score 720 in your GMAT practice tests or 310 in your GRE, I think a course like CrackVerbal’s will be very helpful.
Can you introduce yourself please?
Hi! My name is Shilpa Shenoy and I work for Cisco Systems in the supply chain operations division. I graduated with an engineering degree in 2015 and have been working with Cisco for the past three years. I gave the GRE twice actually, once in October 2017 and the second time in November 2017.
What made you think of taking up the GRE?
At Cisco, I’m part of the supplier chain operations division and I manage the daily operations for the software that Cisco delivers. I have a vendor management team and I lead the level 1 and level 2 teams that look after the software delivery to make our customer experience hassle-free. This became a catalyst for me to apply and do my masters and I just finished my application processes and I’m back to working now.
How did you balance your work and GRE course?
So, the entire process of giving the GRE, filling out the applications – I think takes a considerable amount of time and we need to make sure that we devote that time for this application process. My schedule at work was quite busy where in I used to be at work until 6 and then I come back home and have conference calls and meetings in the night but I realized I have to make a few compromises to get what I eventually wanted. So, I made a few changes in my daily schedule. The first two months, studying for GRE itself required a considerable amount of time every day. So, I worked around my meetings and changed my work schedule so that I would devote at least three hours every day for GRE.
How did CrackVerbal help you?
Another aspect I can think of which I had to change around would be when I signed up for CrackVerbal I think finding the suitable option for me I had only a month between my first and the second attempt. During that month is when CrackVerbal helped me. There were a lot of options like classes, personal tutoring and so on, I think finding the right one that suited my schedule would work and what I was looking for because attending classes everyday between 2-5 is not a feasible option for me. So, personal tutoring kind of helped there.
How did you know about CrackVerbal?
I heard about CrackVerbal from a friend of mine who I work with. She was also in a similar situation. She had a lot more time, so she went for the classes and I decided to choose personal tutoring and what I liked about CrackVerbal, especially with the personal tutoring, was that they were extremely flexible with what I wanted and they catered it to my needs. Aditya, who was my maths tutor, was also like my academic advisor as well. So, he managed my English and maths sessions in spite of being my maths tutor. I like it quite a bit. Another aspect that helped me prepare well for my GRE was that the tutors made sure they prepared me with harder, GMAT level questions, so that when I’m actually appearing for the GRE exam, I would find the GRE level a little easier in the exam.
Can you tell us about your experience in the application process?
The GRE is your first step to your application, but I think doesn’t end there. Even after the GRE is done, I spent about a month, writing my statement of purpose. Depending on the college the essays vary. I wrote two essays, three essays… and it went on for quite some time. I think I was writing essays for two months. Getting the letter of recommendation from work or college, all that took some time and after two months I was glad to be done with the entire application process.
What advice would you like to give for the aspirants?
One advice I would give is that I think there is a lot of application materials and training materials, a lot of advice that people give out – it can get a little overwhelming. So, you need to decide what works best for you, because everyone is different, right? For example, I realized that personal tutoring and in-person classes worked best for me, so, although a lot of people said, “online classes are good, you should be able to do it,” I gave that a shot, but I realized that personal tutoring and in person classes works best for me. So, I decided to go with my instinct. That’s how I succeeded.
What was your score for the first time?
I got 720 in the first attempt and then I got 750. For the first time, I prepared on my own, but for the kind of score I was targeting, I thought I could use a better GMAT score and I’m capable of getting a better score.
Can you tell us something about your background?
I’m basically an engineer, graduated from NIT Suratkal in 2012. Subsequently, I joined EY in the operations consulting role and slowly shifted into strategy consulting. I still work with EY as a management consultant. It has been five years now.
What motivated you to do MBA via GMAT?
I was always keen to do an MBA because I felt more inclined towards the business aspect than any of the technical roles that I had encountered through my engineering. I had done some technical internships and I also had a chance to intern with EY. I realized that I’m more inclined to the business aspects of work. I had the idea, then, that I should probably do an MBA. Just generally talking to people, I realized I wanted to get more perspectives because what I have seen is, typically, in Indian MBA programs, you can join IIM as a fresher. That was one of the options I was considering. So, I even gave my CAT, but the reason I decided to wait and look at doing an MBA abroad is the access to perspectives and the diversity you get is unparalleled when you compare it to the Indian MBA programs. Even if you look at the top programs like IIM and ISB, a lot of Indians, unfortunately, have a similar background – engineering – and I’m one of them. I did feel that going outside will give a better perspective in terms of people from other areas and other countries. I also had a long term goal of working for a multinational company and I felt, from that perspective, working abroad for a few years will help develop my profile further and prepare for future jobs in that kind of role much better than an Indian MBA would. And obviously, once that’s decided, GMAT is a mandatory requirement.
Could you tell us about the challenges that you faced and how did you overcome them?
I initially studied on my own and gave the GMAT a shot. The number one challenge is getting back to the studying mode because the first time I gave the GMAT test I had worked for about three and a half years and trust me, getting back to spending time studying really does take something. You basically forget a lot of things and the entire practice of studying goes out of your system. I think that was one big challenge. I think it is very important to get the fundamentals right when it comes to GMAT. The first time around, while I knew the formulae and went through the questions and understood the GMAT format, I think there were a couple of key things missing, which helped me do better the second time. One of the main things is to actually look at GMAT as a pure test of common sense and logic. I think the mentality a lot of Indian students have is they tend to look at formulae and solving specific types of questions, hoping that you’re prepared for similar questions. In GMAT, you have to go back to the first principles and think about common sense and logic more than just formulae. Secondly, I think you need to be mentally and physically prepared for it.
What kind of research did you do prior to coming to CrackVerbal?
My research might not have been as extensive as others’ research because I knew a couple of people who attended CrackVerbal who gave me some good feedback. I did enquire about two other institutions. I attended a couple of trial classes, one by Aditya and the other by Arun and I was impressed with Aditya’s approach in solving maths. Engineers mostly think that we are good at maths, but I think his whole approach in understanding GMAT was lacking in my approach before and Arun’s method of conducting the verbal classes made my decision simpler.
How do you think CrackVerbal helped you?
I think it should not be too much of a challenge for people who have a strong academic background to get a score of 680, 700, or 720 if they just put in the work. Getting that 30-40 point increment above that, I think that’s where external coaching can help you. From that perspective – going back to basics and looking at a whole new approach to solving GMAT problems, especially in quant, which I was exposed to through Aditya at CrackVerbal, I think that really made a big difference to my score. At the end of the day, my verbal score improved by two points, but again, from 39 to 41 is a sizeable jump.
What can you say about the support team, apart from the faculty?
I interacted with Likkesh and Prateek and both were very supportive. They took a lot of effort – I had a special situation where I was retaking the exam after 9-10 months and at 720 I was in two minds. So even though I’d forgotten some things, I was very keen to prep for a month and immediately take the exam again. In terms of customising the classes to crunch everything down to 3-4 weeks and cover all the topics, I got a lot of support from the team to that end. They even scheduled the mocks, gave me access to faculty whenever needed, even followed up with me after my GMAT. They enabled me to take full advantage of the faculty and resources at my disposal.
What are your future plans and how are you going about preparing for it?
CrackVerbal helped me with my applications as well. I’ve already gotten into ESADE in Barcelona and I’m waitlisted at Johnson Cornell. I have also applied for a couple of more colleges in the second round.
Could you elaborate on the services as far as the application services are concerned?
I worked personally with Arun for three or four colleges. There was great one-on-one support and I got timely access and quality feedback from Arun. Everything was customised to the story that I wanted to pitch and I got support for the specific colleges I wanted to apply to. CrackVerbal helped me narrow down my choice from numerous options to the ones that were best for what I wanted. They really considered all possible aspects from geographical location, class size, to companies known to recruit heavily from certain universities. It was very comprehensive.
What advice would you like to give for the aspirants planning to do GMAT or wanting to study abroad?
The only advice I would give is think about the right school to take full advantage of the MBA experience. Just speaking to students from colleges I wanted to be in gave me great insights and helped me make my choice. The opportunities provided by top universities abroad are enormous. This is one of the most important decisions of your life. Don’t get caught up only in your GMAT prep, take the time to talk to students and figure out your best fit.
How much did you score in your GMAT test?
I scored 770.
That is an impressive score. Was it the first time you took the test?
No. It was a second attempt. Although I did fairly well the first time, I scored 710 but I felt I could do much better. That made me take the test the second time and it worked out.
Great! That’s quite an achievement. Can you tell me something about your background?
I actually studied mechanical engineering and after that I started working in a data analytics firm and up until very recently, I was with them. I’ve just started an internship at an asset management company in Mumbai. Besides, I have cleared Level 2 of the CFA Exam.
Could you tell me about the preparations you went through and the challenges that you faced?
Yeah, in terms of preparation, I think I stuck to the official guide, that is the OG for Quant and Verbal, and CrackVerbal’s Guides and advanced documents that Crackverbal had given. Even the instructors mentioned that it is better to stick to two-three sources. I agree with that. More than the questions you deal with, I think what you take back from the questions is more important.
How did you hear about CrackVerbal?
I had actually gone to CrackVerbal about four years ago. While I was doing my engineering, I was contemplating applying for the 2+2 or YLP, one of those programs. At that time, I had heard about CrackVerbal online, visited CrackVerbal offices and attended a couple of programs but decided not to do that and instead give it a few years. So this time, it was just a matter of calling them back because the experience was really good.
How do you think CrackVerbal actually helped you?
First of all, the instructors are really good, not just in terms of how they manage to break it down and really understand how a student would approach studying the whole thing, but also in terms of the strategies. I think the time hacks – the more you start doing mock tests and reaching the fag end of your preparation, you start realizing how important the strategies they give are. All the time-saving strategies add up together. That was a major difference point. One more thing is how ready the instructors are to make as much time as you want. No matter how many doubts I’ve had, I’ve always gotten the help I need on email as well as in person. Everyone is really supportive. I’m not the only one, there are so many students – so, the time they make is really appreciated.
Can you point out one specific feature that interested you or you liked in the entire course?
One thing that I really, really liked – this actually happened after the classes when I was taking all the mock tests. There was literally a phase where I’d take a mock test, I would come out and then whatever I didn’t get right, I would sit and discuss with Aditya, the quant instructor. He would explain to me everything that went wrong. It was a kind of instant feedback that really helped me a lot.
What would you say about the support provided by the team, apart from the instructors?
I have interacted with Likkesh and Prateek. They helped in mock-test scheduling and arranging classes that I missed. Divya responded to my emails promptly. All of them were approachable.
What are your future plans?
Firstly, I’m hoping to hear from some college.* Besides that, like I said, I’ve just started this internship which will keep me busy for a few months. This is in the asset management field, so for me, it is a shift into the career path that I always see for myself.
What advice would you like to give for the aspirants?
I think more important than the number of questions that you do is the takeaways that you get. On the exam day, be calm and confident; don’t try to do a lot of questions before the exam and make sure you’re in a good headspace when you’re walking in. And don’t underestimate your hunger, carry a snack along! Don’t worry if you feel like you’re getting too many easy questions during the exam.
*Update: Sushiksha is now studying at Saïd Business School of the Oxford University.
So, Tell us about yourself!
I did my B.Tech Electrical from IIT Rourkee, an Alumnus of the 2013 batch. After the completion of my engineering degree, I joined Samsung as a Software Engineer.
How did you find out about CrackVerbal?
My friend who was also planning on taking the GMAT told me about CrackVerbal. Through word of mouth and also research on GMAT forums like PagalGuy, and BeattheGMAT which showed some fabulous reviews about CrackVerbal. There was no looking back from then and I joined CrackVerbal for my GMAT.
Tell us about your GMAT journey!
I took the GMAT twice. I joined CrackVerbal before taking it for the second time and boosted my score by 40 points. With regard to my MBA applications, it took me almost a month to get done with after my GMAT. I scored a 700 (Q 51, V 32) on my second attempt.
The first time when I took the GMAT, I scored a 660 with a breakup of Q 41, V 31. Before joining CrackVerbal, my prep was pretty disorganized. Some days I would come back and study for the GMAT while some days I would skip my prep because I felt very tired after work. It felt like I had no direction. I used to borrow notes from friends at other institutions and used to learn for the GMAT.
In the end, I took a mock test and then appeared for the GMAT test. But unfortunately, this approach to the GMAT did not help me attain the score I wanted.
I knew I had to join a coaching institute to give me the required discipline and strategy to carry out my GMAT prep and so I joined CrackVerbal. I had a diagnostic test and scored a 700+. My quant improved drastically after joining CrackVerbal. The classes helped me not only in identifying my mistakes but also helped me build around my weaknesses.
Verbal was a problem for me. I used only CrackVerbal’s material to solidify my grasp on verbal, especially in SC and RC. SC was the trickiest according to me. Also, during this rigorous verbal practicing process, I did not neglect my quant preparation. I made sure I balanced out the study time for both sections of the GMAT. The CrackVerbal material was more than enough for my preparation. Thanks to CrackVerbal, I scored a 700 on the GMAT and I was all ready to apply to ISB.
What Schools did you apply to?
I applied to two schools ISB and MIT Sloan. I got a reject in the second round of MIT. I availed the CrackVerbal application services only for ISB. While working with CrackVerbal, I got to know of how important thought and goal clarity is in an MBA interview. It was this clarity that helped me bag an admit to the Indian School of Business and I owe it to the admission consultants at CrackVerbal who were patient and helped me introspect on my MBA and future goals.
How did you differentiate your IT profile to the Ad-comm members?
Being an IT engineer with minimum work experience, I had to ensure that I do way more than my regular day job. I knew I had to move away from the “IIT graduate” tagline and do more to enhance my profile. Before I started working with Samsung, I used to do a lot of co-curricular projects.
I was an enthusiast when it came to making the world a better place. I had worked on a project called “Thought for Food” which basically aimed at feeding the poor and hungry in India and slowly eradicate the hunger problems in our country.
I had been to Berlin, representing Asia for this project where I exhibited my ideas in front of millions. In my free time I used to develop apps on the Android Platform since I had come from software engineering background. These extra initiatives helped me in portraying the budding entrepreneur within which made all the difference to my ISB application.
Why MBA and not MS?
I was asked this very question by ISB during my interview. I wanted to do an MBA since I had an inclination towards entrepreneurship and product management. My co-curricular activities instilled a very strong desire for social service too and I believe an MBA would help me formulate new goals and ideas to make the world a better place.
Any advice for the IT Guys and Girls in the house?
For all you IT Guys and Girls out there, every B-School wants to see what we IT guys bring to the table. Why do people like us with technical background want to shift to a financial or managerial role? They are basically looking at goals and thought clarity behind your post MBA goals. I would suggest you do a bit of co-curricular activities or take extra initiatives apart from your regular IT job.
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