Posted on May 16, 2016

ISB Essay Questions Analysis – 2016-17

ISB Application Deadlines:

Cycle 1
Application Deadline: October 15, 2016
Offer Date: December 05, 2016

Cycle 2
Application Deadline: January 15, 2017
Offer Date: March 5, 2017

Non-Indian Passport Holders
Application Deadline: January 15, 2017
Interview: within 30 days of application
Offer Date: within 3 weeks of the interview

Selection Criteria

Each applicant to the Post Graduate Programme in Management at the Indian School of Business is holistically evaluated on the following parameters:

  • Academic Credentials
  • Leadership Potential
  • Personal Attributes

The Indian School of Business’s online application for the Post Graduate Programme in Management is live on the school’s website. Like other schools, ISB has also gone on a diet and has reduced its required essays from three to two. It has dropped its multiple-choice prompt, “Describe a (only one) defining moment in your personal/professional life when you had to make a risky decision” or “Describe an (only one) situation in your personal/professional life when you had to interact with people from diverse backgrounds.” Like previous years, the applicants can also write an optional third essay to share additional information that might substantively impact their candidacies.

Thus, instead of a total of 1,200 words, this year’s applicants to ISB’s PGP program have only 900 words to showcase their candidacy to the Ad Com. With an early start, careful planning, and considerable soul searching, you can present an impressive and convincing picture of your holistic personality and your fit with the school.

Let’s take a look at the essay questions:

Essay 1:  If we were to admit just one more candidate to the Postgraduate Programme (PGP) at the ISB, why should it be you? (400 words max)

With a slight modification in the phrasing, this question is similar to the accomplishment essay ISB has been asking for the last three years. While last year’s question specifically asked about an accomplishment (personal or professional) that distinguished the applicants from others and earned them that coveted one seat at the ISB, this year’s question offers the applicants liberty to list more than one accomplishment that would distinguish them from the applicant pool. Given the 400 words limit, you do not have space to do justice to more than 3-4 differentiators. So your best bet would be to pick your three accomplishments from three different areas – professional, community, and personal life so you can present your well-rounded personality. However, if you cannot boast of any leadership role in community service, you may discuss more than one professional accomplishment where you made an impact.

At ISB, you will be competing with the traditional IT applicant pool, so you may not want to select an accomplishment that demonstrates your role as a team leader in an IT project. Try to distinguish yourself by showcasing 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.

The ‘how’ part of your accomplishment is as important as the ‘what’ part. So, never tell the whole story in the first sentence itself. You don’t want to tell the climax of the story in the first sentence itself. Also, make sure that each of your accomplishment stories has these four components: the challenge, the achievement, the outcome/result, the significance. It is important to explain why this accomplishment is meaningful to you in terms of the challenges you overcame, the results you produced, and the lessons you learned.

Please do not begin your story with. “My first accomplishment is” or “my second accomplishment is …” This reads like a laundry list of achievements. Let one story/experience lead to another and paint a cohesive and strong picture of you as a candidate.

Lastly, and most importantly, be as precise as you can in presenting your stories. With 400 words maximum words allowed, you can use approximately 100-125 words in detailing each of your most significant accomplishments.

Let’s look at the following example where the writer wraps up his story explaining why his experiences were significant to him.


“The varied challenges of the business world have taught me persistence, high spiritedness, and honesty. These 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. My voluntary experiences have not only helped me understand various social and cultural issues among poor people and farmers but also reinforced my love towards sharing knowledge and experiences with others.”

Essay 2:  Describe your short and long term career plans. How does the PGP fit in with those? (300 words max)

Every year, ISB phases its goals essay topic differently.  The key difference between this year’s and last year’s goal’s essay is that this year‘s applicants have to share both their long term and short term goals. Also, instead of detailing their past professional experiences, they need to explain how various resources of ISB will align with their career objectives. Even though the question doesn’t specifically ask you about your career history, I suggest you should discuss it briefly 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 ISB to achieve your goals), and your future (goals and objectives).

How to organize this essay? 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 (2-3 sentences). 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 will an MBA fill the gaps in your career?

Then explain your post-MBA and long term goals. 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 current skill set would facilitate this transition.

Once you have elaborated on your goals, explain how an MBA from ISB is your best bet at this time?  How it will help you achieve your goals? You should have a thorough knowledge of the PGP program of ISB so you can demonstrate how its resources (curriculum, faculty, clubs, student communities, etc.)  perfectly match 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.

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. You may organize your essay in the following way:

  • Brief career history (approximately 60-70 words)
  •  Short term Long term goals (approximately 90-100 words)
  •  The connection between ISB’s resources and your goals (approximately 100-140 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.”

Optional Essay: Please use this space to provide any other information not covered elsewhere in the application that could significantly impact your candidature at ISB. 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. (200 words max)

Like last year, ISB’s optional essay allows you to discuss anything that could significantly impact your application. This question provides you an opportunity to explore an important aspect of your candidacy, or other strengths not mentioned in other essay responses and résumé. 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 and could ‘significantly impact your candidature at ISB’. You should try to demonstrate how you can leverage this skill or quality to enhance your MBA experience at ISB and your future career.

You may also use this essay question to address a weakness in your profile, such as employment gap, low GPA, or GMAT. Your weakness may bring out a positive aspect of your personality.

Please refer to the following example of a candidate whose grades dropped because of his military service.


“Although my leadership experiences in the military taught me many valuable lessons in teamwork, perseverance, and management, through all my responsibilities, it impacted my grades.    Thus, I do not view my undergraduate performance as an accurate representation of my academic abilities. However, I grew from this experience and took a dedicated approach to professional education.  I would respectfully ask the admission committee to consider this when reviewing my application.”

Also, please pay attention to ISB’s advice 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.


  • Make sure that all the three essays should read like three different chapters of your unique story rather than solitary pieces. Also, when choosing your stories, make sure you maintain a balance between your professional and personal stories that showcases your well-rounded candidacy.

Want some help in telling your memorable stories in only 200 words? Read Business School Application Essays- ‘Less is More’

Good luck with your Round 1 applications.

Since 2011, MER (myEssayReview) has helped many applicants get accepted into the top 20 MBA programs. (Poonam is one of the top 5 most reviewed consultants on the GMAT Club.)

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