Posted on June 5, 2012

Indian School of Business (ISB) Essay Questions Analysis: 2012-2013

Like last year, the ISB PGP application essays package includes two standard essays on accomplishments and career goals and a third that offers you an opportunity to provide additional information that would serve to strengthen your candidacy. These three essays offer ample scope for presenting a strong and convincing case to the ISB admissions committee. With an early start and careful planning, you can present an impressive and convincing picture of your plans and career in 900 words.

Yes, exactly 900 words for three essays. Unlike other B-Schools that allow applicants to exceed their word limits by up to 10% without penalty, the ISB is a strict disciplinarian and will not allow even one additional word, So, following the principle of “less is more”, you need to make every word count to present your case.

This year’s addition:  With a view to getting a sense of who you are beyond the printed word, ISB has added this year a video response question about your perception of life.

Let us take a look at the essay questions:

Essay 1: Please make a strong case to differentiate yourself from an exceptional set of applicants applying for PGP 2013-14. You could cite personal/ professional achievements to present your case. (300 words max)

This is a pretty straightforward question. Last year’s essay prompt was to detail your two most significant accomplishments. This year they are more specific in directing you to share only those accomplishments that would distinguish you from the applicant pool. At ISB, you will be competing with the traditional IT applicant pool, so your best bet will be not to select an accomplishment that demonstrates your role as a team leader in an IT project. Try to select your achievements that showcase your ability to face challenges in other roles, e.g., your adaptability to changes in the global world, your talent to convince others of executing your innovative ideas, your courage to take calculated risks that yielded results, and so on.

You may choose one accomplishment from your professional life and one from your personal life to present that you are a well-rounded personality.

Please do not begin your story with- "My greatest accomplishment is" or "one thing I did well was... "

Let your story/ experience speak for you.

The ‘how’ part of your accomplishment is as important as the ‘what’ part. So, never tell the whole story in the first sentence itself. It is like telling the climax of the story in the first sentence itself.

Make sure your accomplishment story has the following four components:

  • the challenge,
  • the achievement,
  • the outcome/result,
  • the significance.

Do not forget to explain why this accomplishment is meaningful to you both in terms of the challenges you overcame, the results you produced, and the lessons you learned. In the following example, the applicant wraps up his story by outlining its significance for him.

Example: “Today I recall CIT as one of the most memorable projects. From a revenue perspective, it was not the biggest project I handled, nor was it the most complex project. However, it was the most challenging project: in terms of saving my company and my reputation in front of the mounting unforeseen challenges.”

Lastly, and most importantly, be as precise as you can in presenting your stories. With 300 words maximum words allowed, you only have approximately 150 words each for detailing two of your most significant accomplishments.

Note: For my article on ‘Accomplishment Essay,’ click here. For sample ‘Accomplishment essay,’ click here.

Essay 2: Where do you see yourself three years after you graduate from the ISB? (300 words max)

A slight variation of the standard goals question, this essay prompt expects applicants to focus only on their post-MBA goals. Although your focus should primarily be on short-term goals, you can always provide some insight on your long-term goals as well to demonstrate your clarity of thought about your objectives.

Goals essay requires you to make a logical connection between your past, present, and future. This means you need to tell a story that connects your past (past work-experience, skills), present (your need for an MBA from your target school to achieve your goals), and your future (goals and objectives). That is, if you aim for a technology or consulting role, you will need to demonstrate that you already possess some skills/experience in that area and are now aiming to enhance those skills.


“With seven years of experience now, I have already gained expertise in technology consultancy and leadership…….. After my MBA, I wish to join a reputed Technology and Strategic solution organization, such as X and Y. My time analyzing and implementing IT strategies for clients will provide me the opportunity to understand a range of strategic business issues and their resolutions, as well as substantial insight into the art of business development.”

After elaborating on your post-MBA goals and briefly stating your long-term goals, you should make sure to explain how ISB’s program will bring you closer to your goals. If you are a career changer, you should provide evidence as to how your presentation skills would facilitate this transition and how some specific offerings of ISB would help you through this transition.

Note: For my article on 'Goals Essay,' click here. For a sample ‘Goals’ essay, click here.

Essay 3: Please provide additional information that will significantly affect the consideration of your application to the ISB. (300 words max)

This “additional information” question reads like an optional essay, but it is not. It is one of the required essays which provides you an opportunity to explore an important aspect of your candidacy, or other significant achievements/strengths not mentioned in other essay responses, resume, and recommendation letters. You can choose examples from your work, community service, education, travels, or any other hobbies. You may also share a life experience that has greatly influenced your personality and life. The idea is to bring to light that aspect of your personality that truly makes you unique. Then you should try to demonstrate how you can leverage this skill or quality to enhance your MBA experience or your future career.

Lastly, since ISB does not provide an optional essay, you may use this essay question to address a weakness in your profile, such as a gap in work or a low GPA or GMAT.


"The private tutoring job that I had to take up to support mine and my sister's education required me to spend 30 hours/week and left me with hardly any time to focus on my studies. This eventually ended up pulling down my grades to 70%."

A video on "Life to me is.........................(Please complete the following statement in your own words on Video- 90 Secs/15 MB)

The addition of this video about your perspective of life may be daunting for some applicants, but with thorough introspection and preparation, you can breeze through this challenge. The purpose of this video is to evaluate your personality, appearance, conversational skills, confidence, and ability to hold the listener’s attention, etc. So, take this as a platform to reveal your personality to the Ad Com before the interview.

Be honest in presenting your perspective of life in a precise manner citing examples. Begin the video by completing the given sentence, "Life to me is.......................... Then go on to explain your thoughts, illustrating them with examples from your own life. For example, if life for you is all about hard work and perseverance, you should substantiate how your life experiences have shaped this view of life.

Make sure to use this video for presenting those aspects of your personality and experiences which are not covered in other parts of your application.

Please give yourself ample time in formulating your response on life and the rationale behind it. Revise and edit until you are completely satisfied with your response. Rehearse in front of the mirror how you will voice your thoughts, get someone to video record, watch it again, get your friends’ feedback, re-record to improve on shortcomings. Do not worry. No one will know how many times you have practiced before coming out with this perfect presentation of your perception of life. You must put your best foot forward. Right!

Note: For my article on ‘Optional Essay’, click here. For sample ‘Optional essay,’ click here.

Do you have questions about your application? E-mail Poonam at or sign up here for a free consultation.