Posted on October 31, 2014

ISB Essay Questions ( 1& 2 ) Analysis 2014-15

From ISB website:

Selection Criteria

Each one of you is unique for us at the ISB. However, to give yourself that extra edge, there are a few parameters which you could highlight through the application form so that you stand out:

  • Leadership Potential
  • Diversity
  • Academic Background/Analytical Ability

In the past 3-4 years, ISB had emphasized more on career goals and accomplishments (both personal and professional) of their prospective students .This year, in addition to career goals and accomplishments, and personal and professional traits that make them unique and set them apart from other candidates, ISB has broadened the range of questions that require the applicants to dig deeper and introspect to identify their unique personality traits and talents. With an early start, careful planning, and considerable soul searching, you can present an impressive and convincing picture of your well rounded personality and your fit with the school. Another challenge for you is that this year you have 1000 words instead of 1200 words from last year to present your candidacy to the prestigious ISB.

Let’s take a look at the essay questions:

Q1. Innovation or doing things differently it is said is a key to future success. Could you substantiate or negate this idea based on your experience. Please provide examples from your own experience – either examples of your own innovation or examples of others whom you have worked with. (300 words max)

This essay question is related to one of the key traits that business schools are looking for in their prospective students- the future business leaders. (Remember ‘challenging the Status Quo’, one of the four defining principals of HAAS.) Innovating or doing things differently is considered a key to achieve success in the business world. ISB is offering you an opportunity to agree or disagree with this idea. So you have the option to refute this argument , but whatever you choose, you will need to back up your point with solid examples from either your personal or professional life or someone else’s  life with whom you have worked closely.

Begin the essay with your viewpoint about the argument. If you agree with the argument, reflect deeply to look for examples when you had led a change or initiated new processes at work, or in your personal life, or in your community. To brainstorm ideas, you may ask yourself the following questions:

  • Did you have to take a decision with insufficient information?
  • Did you have to step out of your assigned job responsibilities and go an extra mile to complete a project on time?
  • Did you question an established practice or thought within an organization? How did your actions create positive change?
  • Did you have to convince someone of your innovative ideas when working on a project?
  • Did you have to get out of your comfort zone and take an initiative while working on a project?

Explain the situation briefly and then go on to explain the actions you took. Don’t forget to share your though process when dealing with the situation. The school wants to know how you navigate through the critical situations, how you take initiatives and how you arrive at decisions. After detailing out the action part of your story, share the outcome of your innovative actions, the success it led to and the significance it has for you. In case your argument is against the premise, then carefully choose   your examples/ story to demonstrate how other factors (not innovation) are essential to achieve success.

You may breakdown the essay into two parts:

  • Ø Explain your viewpoint about innovation being an essential ingredient to future success. Why you think so? ( approximately 50-75 words )
  • Ø Support your argument with examples (you may not have space to share more than one story) from your personal or professional life. Make sure your story has all the 4 components – situation, action, outcome and significance. For more details on this 4 part structure, click here.

In the following example, the writer discusses the outcome and the significance of his/ her experience.


After working several unpaid overtime hours, we succeeded in getting the project back on track with a better client relationship. Also, we recently received the Inov@r Accenture Brazil award, for the FY12/13 most innovative project in the risk management practice. The experiences, though demanding, were unmatched because of the challenge of initiating change by me and influencing others. Also, they prepared me to adapt my leadership style to different contexts. 

Q2. Applying to and enrolling in a Business School is an important career decision. Critically look at your career to date, the choices you have made, the key influences behind those choices, your goals for the future and how you expect to benefit from the ISB experience in achieving your goals. (300 words max)

For the last three years ISB has been wording its goals questions differently. Let’s look at the goals questions from the last two years:

  • How does the ISB PGP tie-in with your career goals? (300 words max ) 2013 -14
  •  Where do you see yourself three years after you graduate from the ISB? (300 words max) 2012-13.

You can see that the verbiage of the goals question has changed every year , but there has been no change in the word limit :300 words maximum .However, this year, the essay prompt is more detailed  than before as it also  provides the applicants specific pointers on what they should include in their career goals essay. The word ‘critically’ means that  the school expects you to dive deeper to reflect on the career choices you have made so far , your rationale behind each career move, your future career aspirations ( both short term and long term ) and the role of ISB in helping you realize those goals.

Thus  the 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 (work-experience, skills), present (your need of an MBA from your target school to achieve your goals), and your future (goals and objectives).

Begin your essay with a brief career history and provide details about how you have pursued your career, acquired new skills and progressed along your career path all these years. Then go on to describe why you believe that an MBA is the next logical step in your career path NOW? What are those skills that   you still lack which you hope to acquire by an MBA? How an MBA will fill the gaps in your career ?

Then explain your short term (3-5 years after MBA) and long term (5 - 8 years after MBA) .  Please make sure to demonstrate a logical connection between your short term and long term goals. In other words, explain how you will move from step 1 to step 2 and so on. Make sure that your goals are realistic as well as ambitious. That is, if you aim for a technology or a consulting role, you’ll need to demonstrate that you already possess some skills/experience in that area and are now aiming to enhance those skills. Likewise, if you are a career changer, you should provide evidence as to how your present skill set would facilitate this transition.

Once you have elaborated your goals, explain how an MBA from ISB is your best bet at this time?  How it will help you achieve your goals? All schools expect you to not only have a clear understanding of your goals but also of their connection to their offerings/resources. Therefore, you should have a thorough knowledge of PGP program of ISB so you can demonstrate how its resources (curriculum, faculty, clubs, student communities etc.) are perfectly aligned with your goals and will bring you closer to your dreams.

In the end, discuss what value you will bring to their program? Even though the essay prompt doesn't ask you about your contribution, you may throw in a sentence about your potential contribution to the program. If you choose to address option # D of the question # 3, then you may skip this part in goals question.

Since you have only 300 words to discuss your career history, your career goals and their connection with the PGP program of ISB, you need to be extremely precise in presenting your case. I would suggest that you to follow the structure below:

Ø Your career history (approximately 100 -130 words)

Ø Short term Long term goals (approximately 70-100 words)

Ø Connection between ISB’s resources and your goals (approximately 100 words)


With its academic resources, leadership training, practical approach to learning, brilliant faculty with diverse professional background and perfect location, ISB will provide me the critical tools and network that I need to achieve my career aspirations. Also, I am confident that with my academic potential, leadership abilities and innovative spirit, I will add significant value to the  ISB  community.


For more information on ‘Goals Essay’ click here:

For sample 'Goals Essay’, click here