Comprehensive Guide To Get Into ISB (Indian School of Business)

The ISB Post Graduate Programme in Management (PGP) stands as a beacon of excellence in management education and provides a transformative learning experience to aspiring business leaders. The ISB PGP is known for its rigorous curriculum, innovative pedagogy, and diverse student community. It provides participants with the knowledge, skills, and networks they need to succeed in today’s dynamic business world. 

With world-class faculty, cutting-edge research, and industry partnerships, the program fosters holistic development and prepares graduates to make meaningful contributions to businesses and society at large. Whether through intensive classroom experiences, real-world projects, or the opportunity to engage globally, the ISB PGP empowers each individual to fulfil their potential and drive change in the world of business.

For those aspiring to join the esteemed ranks of the Indian School of Business (ISB), familiarizing oneself with the institution’s admission criteria is paramount. Whether eyeing the ISB’s Young Leaders Programme (YLP), the Early Entry Option (EEO), the flagship Post Graduate Programme (PGP), or other executive MBA offerings like the PGPpro or PGPMAX, understanding the prerequisites is crucial to steering your application in the right direction.

Eligibility Criteria to Get Into the ISB Post-Graduate Programme:

  • Educational Background: Prospective candidates must hold an undergraduate or post-graduate degree in any discipline, reflecting the institution’s commitment to diversity and inclusivity.
  • Work Experience: A minimum of two years of full-time work experience is required, with exceptions for the Early Entry Option where less than 24 months may suffice. This criterion underscores ISB’s emphasis on fostering a cohort enriched with real-world insights and perspectives.
  • Standardized Test Scores: Submission of a valid GMAT or GRE score is mandatory, serving as a benchmark for assessing academic aptitude and readiness for the rigours of the ISB curriculum.
  • English Language Proficiency: Applicants hailing from non-English speaking countries are expected to furnish a TOEFL or IELTS score, affirming their proficiency in the English language—a prerequisite for thriving in the global academic environment of ISB.
  • Interview Process: All applicants meeting the stipulated criteria undergo a rigorous interview process, offering a holistic evaluation of their candidacy beyond academic and professional credentials.

Navigating the maze of ISB’s various MBA programs demands careful consideration of individual profiles and career aspirations. By aligning your qualifications and ambitions with the specific program offerings, you can optimize your chances of securing admission to one of Asia’s premier business schools.

Here are the ten key points that ISB MBA applicants are evaluated on: 

10 Key Points that ISB MBA Applicants are Evaluated On:

  1. Academic Credentials: The ISB seeks candidates with a strong academic background, including grades from 12th standard, graduation, post-graduation, and certifications. 
  2. GMAT scores and GRE scores: GMAT/GRE scores are also considered, but there are no strict “cut-off” criteria for academic credentials or test scores.
  3. Work Experience: Applicants must have a minimum of two years’ full-time work experience (for the PGP regular admissions) and less than 24 months of full-time work experience (for a deferred admission through the Early Entry Option). 
  4. Leadership Demonstrated: They evaluate leadership potential through past initiatives, responsibilities handled, and career progression. 
  5. Professional Recommendation: The evaluation includes a professional recommendation that gauges the applicant’s leadership potential in a professional setting. 
  6. Personal Characteristics: ISB seeks applicants who are versatile, well-rounded, and can contribute positively to society. 
  7. Extracurricular Activities: Extracurricular activities and interests beyond work life are also considered to gain insight into the applicant’s personal qualities. 
  8. Diversity: The school encourages applicants from diverse backgrounds, including work experience, educational background, and nationality, among others. 

Comprehensive Guide on How to Get into ISB for MBA

STEP 1: Understanding the ISB MBA Admission Process:

There are three possibilities for reserving a coveted spot in the ISB PGP program

ISB PGP Regular Application: Applicants who have at least 2 years of professional work experience after completing an undergraduate degree can directly apply to the PGP entry. This is the most common route for securing your spot but also the most competitive.

The Early Entry Option (EEO): Applicants who have graduated from college but haven’t yet acquired the two years of minimum requisite can apply via the EEO. Please note that there is no difference between the two entry options in terms of the application form. The successful EEO candidates will be allowed to attend the class after they complete the 2-year requisite experience.

The Young Leaders Program: The YLP route is specifically targeted toward candidates who have demonstrated exceptional leadership potential during their school and college years. The YLP applicants can apply to ISB in their final year of college. This is an interesting entryway because securing a spot in a prestigious MBA program ahead of time gives the candidates the freedom to experiment with conventional career options such as sports, social impact, travel journalism, etc.

The ISB PGP application in the 2023-2024 cycle had 2 main and one optional essay. The ISB application also requires Academic Transcripts and 2 Letters of Recommendation to be submitted.  

ISB accepts both the GRE and GMAT.

STEP 2: Start Early

The Round 1 window opens for ISB PGP applications on September 1st week. Applicants must take their GMAT/GREs well ahead of time to focus on the applications to present a strong application by the deadline.

ISB R1: September

ISB R2: December

ISB R3: January

STEP 3: Researching the ISB Admission Process

The School-applicant fit is an important factor that is determined by admissions criteria, the applicant’s work experience, culture, and international and geographical factors such as the economy, competition, application volume, similar profiles, immigration trends, and industry demand.

ISB applicants who are more than 30 points below the GMAT median score can focus too much on telling their story. While interesting narratives are recommended, knowing the lower bound of the admissions criteria on academics for a school like ISB can help set the right expectations.

While for a top PGP program like ISB or IIM A GMAT score of 730+ and an undergraduate percentage of 85% or higher is considered a winning combination, meeting these criteria alone does not guarantee admission. Work experience is an important piece of the puzzle. If your work history is not clearly defined, or if you are too inexperienced or too experienced, the admissions team will find an excuse to reject you.

In startups, where the organizational structure is usually flat, your contribution will usually be measured against the milestones the company has achieved. If you align your resume with the aspects that ISB looks for in applicants, the admissions team may see your post-PGP goals in a positive light. ISB interviews are primarily about assessing your goals and suitability for the school. If you cannot demonstrate that you are a good cultural and academic fit for the school and your post-PGP goals, you may not receive the admission you think you deserve.

Researching Feasibility of goals:

If you are considering a career change, such as from entrepreneurship to FMCG marketing or from healthcare to consulting, it is imperative that you consider the viability of your goals. While it’s important not to be discouraged by historical data, trends and general perception, paying attention to relevant statistics can provide valuable insight.

Engaging with professionals who are working in your desired industry or role, whether through platforms like LinkedIn, attending webinars, or speaking with career offices, can help you gather first-hand information about the viability of your post-PGP goals. Also, keep in mind that many MBA and PGP candidates refine their goals after beginning the program. Therefore, connecting with alumni who have taken a similar path can provide valuable perspectives on goal attainment and help you make informed decisions.

STEP 4: Analyzing Successful Student Profiles:

MBAGuide has experience working with applicants at the extremes of the applicant spectrum. Here are two examples of our real applicants and successful ISB Admits. We will go deep into their credentials and how we ensured success for both of these applicants.

👉 Sudarshan Gagrani( Technology analyst, ISB PGP CO 2024, Applied to ISB with exactly 2 years of experience)

Sudarshan had exactly 2 years of work experience at the time of applying for PGP. This meant that he had a below-average chance of making it to IPM due to his lesser experience. We decided to change this by positioning him strongly in the essays and interviews. To show a promising career path in the two years of experience, we helped Sudarshan identify how his contributions in each area took his team’s position from 0 to 0.5 or 1 in the areas of his expertise.

To demonstrate a high level of ownership, we helped Sudarshan unpack his experiences and reconstruct stories in a way that highlights how working on technical strategy, business building blocks, and implementation has given him much more hands-on experience, more experiential maturity, and more ability to contextualize business problems (specific to his area of work) than most others who come from similar backgrounds and are his age. 

Here is another example

👉 Ketan Pandey(Army Veteran, 14+ years experience)

Ketan joined MBAGuide at a critical point in his career. After 12 years of military service and over 14 years of professional experience, he wanted to enter the business world. Despite the challenges of being a much older applicant, Ketan was able to effectively demonstrate to admissions committees his ability to learn and prove that his past performance predicted future success. Ketan chose IIM A PGPX’s prestigious 1-year MBA program over the $60,000 scholarships offered by a US B-school and an IPM. 

Military profiles are highly sought after for leadership positions in operations and strategy because they are less influenced by excessive character traits and office politics, making them highly desirable, especially in high-growth environments, start-ups, or consulting fields that require significant personal sacrifice. I have nearly a decade of experience in operations, supply chain design, and strategy, working frequently with Navy and military profiles. We are very proud to be working with Ketan, who will soon begin his new career in management consulting with a top company, just as he envisioned during the application process. 

STEP 5: Understanding ISB Evaluation Criteria:

ISB evaluates applicants majorly on 4 criteria- Academic history, GMAT/ GRE, Professional Growth Trajectory, and Interview Performance

If you’re worried about a low GPA, consider taking some courses to show that you’ve overcome your weak areas.

Here’s an example:

Let’s say you struggled with computer science engineering in college and ended up with a low GPA, but later in life, you decided to upskill yourself with the help of various courses and guidance from mentors. Now, you’re a successful software engineer with a wealth of knowledge and experience under your belt. This is the perfect example of how you can turn personal adversity into a growth opportunity and can show to the admissions committee that you’re capable of overcoming academic hurdles

Even if you have limited work experience, emphasize the skills and knowledge you’ve gained during that time.

Here’s another example:

if you’ve been working in category management/marketing and had a low GPA in finance during your undergrad, talk about how you’ve learned to analyze financial reports and create budgets as part of your job. This will help demonstrate to the admissions committee that you have relevant skills and knowledge beyond your academic record.

You must also pay heed to your undergrad transcripts and take relevant courses in the weak areas, to show you are committed to getting the admit. If your grades in calculus, statistics, accounting or economics were mediocre, you should take courses in these subjects and let the school know. If you have a liberal arts background, take calculus and statistics. If you get an A in any of these courses, you should submit the proof of improvement as early as possible.

Address your perceived shortcomings without emphasizing them. For example, if you have a low score on the GMAT verbal, and you joined Toastmasters to improve your English, tell the school that you joined Toastmasters two months ago, won the extempore and that the whole experience was enjoyable because of the friends you made and the confidence you gained. As you can see, the focus should remain on showcasing the growth areas.

STEP 6: Focusing on Essays:

Here are some winning ISB essay samples.

Essay 1. Provide an honest portrayal of yourself, emphasizing your strengths and weaknesses. Highlight the key elements that have shaped your personal journey. Give relevant illustrations as needed. (400 Words)

The striking resemblance in wording between this question and the first prompt of INSEAD’s motivational essay is hard to overlook.

“Give a candid description of yourself (who are you as a person), stressing the personal characteristics you feel to be your strengths and weaknesses, and the main factors which have influenced your personal development, giving examples when necessary.”

This is proof that ISB is looking for profound thinkers and seeking to bring forth a dimension in applications that goes beyond a mere recitation of professional achievements. ISB has placed significant importance on the development of one’s character and attitude, considering these qualities to be central requirements.

In essence, this essay is a portal to your life story, offering the admissions committee a glimpse into the person behind the academic credentials, test scores, and resumes. It provides a valuable opportunity to gain a deep understanding of your distinctive identity and the influences that have contributed to your personal development, aspirations, and passions.

Beyond that, the essay revolves around the concept of “self-awareness,” a quality that plays a crucial role in personal development. Individuals who lack self-awareness often struggle to progress and adjust, resulting in a state of stagnation. Conversely, those who possess self-awareness are regarded as authentic, empathetic, and receptive to learning, earning them respect and fostering likability.

Your response should revolve around your values and how they have influenced your character, encompassing both strengths and weaknesses. Sources of value formation may include childhood experiences, moments of triumph, events that reinforce certain values, or the guidance of mentors and role models.

When you talk about your weakness, in particular, it is important to exercise caution. Choose a weakness that you are aware of and are actively working to improve. Avoid highlighting weaknesses in communication or cross-cultural understanding, as these skills are critical in a global business school environment. Instead, focus on specific areas where you may have had limited opportunities or challenges due to your socioeconomic background. A weakness you address should be something you can overcome. Also, emphasize the personal qualities you consider strengths and weaknesses, and provide insight into the key factors that have influenced your personal development. Show how you are actively addressing the weakness or have already made significant progress in overcoming it. Finally, read and understand the question carefully to provide a good answer.

Here is an example of a compelling story about a weakness:

“In my pursuit of perfectionism, I often develop anxiety stemming from the fear that I may not succeed. In such cases, I have found that I can become impatient with my team or friends. In the past, I have regrettably experienced a situation where I was overly harsh with a team member who I felt was not doing his best to meet a critical project’s timeline. This not only negatively impacted our professional relationship, but also caused discomfort within the team. When my mentor in my US team, who understood my ambitious nature, recognized the discomfort within the team and how it was affecting me, he gave me invaluable advice and taught me the life lesson of prudence and forbearance. Overcoming this weakness was a transformative experience for me as a team leader. I now make a conscious effort to respect each team member’s inner clock for self-realization and understand their unique pace of growth.”

Every individual’s story is unique, and schools want to know what you have to say about your own experiences. This personal narrative essay is an opportunity to breathe life into a one-dimensional file and offer the B Schools a more personal and vivid picture.

Essay 2. Contemplate two distinct situations—one where you experienced success and another where you faced failure. Delve into the personal and interpersonal lessons you learned from these instances.(400 words max)

Stories are often hidden in the everyday challenges of life, and real knowledge comes from exposure to different experiences.

ISB’s Essay 2 presents a fascinating shift, urging applicants to

1. Reflect on themselves

2. Meaningfully discuss their own experiences- successes and failures in various situations.

This highlights ISB’s desire for interactive and collaborative individuals with real-world exposure and the ability to tackle management problems head-on. When the admissions team reviews your application, they will assess whether you can actively contribute to the class discussions and case study method.

We encourage you to draw meaningful insights from both professional and personal experiences as this essay also revolves around the theme of “self-awareness.” Some applicants measure success through their professional accomplishments, while others find triumph in overcoming personal challenges. Remember, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. Articulate why certain values and specific accomplishments matter to you. Describe the obstacles you faced and the transformative journey that led to your success.

When contemplating failures, recall moments when you confronted adversity head-on. Failure can be a catalyst for self-reflection, revealing hidden circumstances or information that you overlooked or group dynamics that you did not understand at the time.

A tall order for 400 words, but most importantly address your interpersonal relationships during and after these incidents. Show what you’ve learned and how you’ll apply these insights during your ISB journey and beyond. Embrace the opportunity to showcase your self-awareness, growth, and resilience.

Here’s a winning personal failure story as an example:

“One failure I recently experienced was missing the deadline for an important project to bring metro rail tyres to market. The project team I led moved from the France office to the India office, and an experienced product designer handed over responsibility to an inexperienced colleague. As a project manager, I did not realize the impact of this geographic change on our tight launch schedule. In my haste, I rushed my team members and inadvertently overlooked critical risk factors in our product quality checklist. We proceeded to deliver the design for production according to the original schedule and naively assumed success.

Unfortunately, the quality team soon discovered the tests we had overlooked. Several tyres had already been produced but were deemed unsaleable, resulting in significant losses. It took us several additional days to rectify the situation and perform the required quality testing before the product design could resume production. While my team was understanding of my oversight, I felt deeply embarrassed. This setback was a wake-up call for me to be more realistic and vocal about project deadlines and to exercise caution when assessing risks at every step. I consciously employed strategies to improve my attention to detail, such as taking meticulous notes, using comprehensive checklists, and diligently following up when needed. Although I learned this lesson the hard way, it has undeniably made me a more diligent and organized manager. “

Essay 3 (optional) Given your previous experience and future aspirations, how do you plan to use the PGP at ISB to fulfill your professional goals?

Note: It is not necessary for you to write this essay. Please use this space only if there is something really significant that you would like us to know. (250 words max)

 ISB’s decision to make the foals essay optional adds an interesting twist to the application process. However, a solid MBA/PGP application is not just about showcasing your past accomplishments, but also about painting a vivid picture of your vision for your future.

I strongly recommend that you seize this opportunity to write this essay with enthusiasm because failing to articulate your expectations for a fast-paced, rigorous, and very intense one-year ISB PGP program could come across as lacklustre and lacking a motive.

When answering this question, it is important to focus on your desired industry, function, and post-PGP geography, keeping in mind the limited space available. Avoid general statements that may cause disinterest from the admissions committee. Instead, captivate them with well-researched details and a firm commitment to your career goals.

Even though the ISB doesn’t ask for an in-depth essay about your goals, make no mistake: you need to be prepared for a comprehensive interview. Expect a comprehensive assessment of your profile that includes your resume, work experience, volunteerism, extracurricular activities, and most importantly, your motivation. The interplay of these components will determine the viability of your intended goal strategy. To convincingly showcase your skills and sway the admissions committee in your favor, it is critical to skillfully organize your entire PGP application and skillfully integrate these factors to support your target plans.

By carefully tailoring your application materials (essays and resume/professional experience section) to your goals, you can unleash a flood of compelling reasons why ISB is the perfect launching pad for your career.

Final Thoughts

In navigating the competitive admissions process for the ISB Post Graduate Programme, candidates must showcase not only their academic and professional achievements but also their personal characteristics and leadership potential. Crafting compelling narratives that highlight unique experiences, lessons learned, and future aspirations is key. By aligning qualifications and goals with ISB’s ethos, applicants can increase their chances of securing admission to one of Asia’s premier business schools, preparing for a transformative journey toward becoming impactful business leaders.

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