[This is the only full-text article on the MBA Success Stories series. It’s my story and the WHY behind this entire series. I’d rather use the video series to interview more interesting & successful Indian MBA candidates.]
GMAT is easy!
Many who are preparing for the GMAT test may not agree. It was quite challenging for me too. I was terrible at math. I mean really terrible – you’ll see what I mean.
In 2010, upon my friend’s encouragement, I embarked upon my MBA journey. It all began with GMAT preparation. My friends, who studied with me all through middle and high school in India, had gotten GMAT scores of 720 in their first attempt with roughly 4 weeks of preparation. Being of similar average intelligence I thought that I could achieve that score, give or take a few points. I was advised to register for the GMAT and attempt one of the two free mock tests to get a baseline score – my “raw” intelligence. Preparation with books or classes could add on 50-60 points to that baseline score, I was told.
And so I attempted that mock test. The result: a whopping 490!
I was heart-broken.
My “raw” intelligence fell short of even average standards. I didn’t even know that the lowest score one could get on the GMAT was 400. That’s pretty close to rock-bottom as one can hit on their test-taking ability.
The turn around, however, was unconventional. I realized that only the unconventional, not-commonly-accepted-methods would work. If I stuck to conventional wisdom, any preparation would only give me a score of 540-550.
[Side note: I had to double check that 490 + 50-60 points was actually 540-550 –> see what I mean by I sucked at math :)]
To get over the GMAT obstacle, I spent 12 weeks preparing instead of 4. It wasn’t pre-meditated, it’s just how long it took me to reach a point where all my practice test scores stagnated at a level where I felt I was ready to take the actual GMAT test.
I learnt, for the first time in my life, the art of learning. I devised strategies that worked for me. I learnt the concept of chunking and mastering each chunk (or variable) in the GMAT test. The chunks of content, difficulty, time, and most importantly energy. I won’t spend too much time on my view of mastering the chunks of GMAT. I don’t want to delve into this as there are far more capable GMAT coaches, consultants and courses better equipped to deliver that mastery.
But I realized a simple truth:
GMAT, like most other things, is a factor of masterful preparation and indicates almost nothing of intelligence. Make no mistake about it, it does help if you are naturally intelligent. But as my established “raw” intelligence was at 490, I had to depend on preparation. Preparation that’s different from normal convention.
After 12 weeks of a carefully executed strategy, I scored a 750 on my very first attempt. To prove my point, I only scored a 49 on Quant. As I understand, it was average quant for an Indian. I fared far better on Verbal with a 43. To put it bluntly, Verbal saved my ass.
750! Pretty good! I mean, pretty freaking good, right?
But here is where the actual journey began. The difficult journey.
Riding on the thrill of the GMAT score, I embarked upon the MBA application. It was long and riddled with mistakes. Many mistakes.
The content for GMAT is outward looking. You are reading content in books and solving problems that don’t have to do with the inner self. The MBA application, on the other hand, is exactly the opposite.
It is completely inward looking. If you think GMAT is tough, you only need to look inwards and realize that introspection is way tougher. Introspection on your desires, your aspirations, your belief system. Perhaps you are already ahead of the average person in their 20s. You are extremely well-adjusted, know yourself, and why you want the MBA really well. But that’s only half the puzzle.
The other half of the puzzle is in communicating your desires, aspirations, and belief systems to the world and, more importantly, to people who are culturally different from you. As an Indian applying to global MBA programs, you have to tell your story so that someone 1000s of miles away from you can understand, empathize, and believe you – without ever meeting you!
And all those stories begin from one source. YOU.
From inside you! GMAT’s looking pretty easy, isn’t it?
I faced many of the same challenges. It was hard. Way harder than math. Trust me.
I stumbled again, rose yet again, and pieced together the puzzle enough to successfully convince The Ross School of Business to take a chance with me.
But my journey didn’t end there.
I realized that I needed to understand what really appeals to those people 1000s of miles away – the ones reading my application, looking for clues into whether I’ll be a misfit or just sufficiently fit to be one of them.
I thought the tough journey began with preparing for the GMAT and ended with getting an MBA admit from a top 10 school.
I traveled 8000 miles to Ann Arbor, Michigan, assuming it’d be smooth sailing going forward.
Alas, it wasn’t.
The pressures of the MBA program, the competing priorities of Recruiting, Academic, and Social (aka the Yovchev triangle – named after my senior at Ross, Boris Yovchev who taught me about this and the need to sacrifice one for the other two to succeed) during your MBA, the incredible ability of my peers from across the world to deal with these priorities with far more ease than I could. Or atleast they pretended to handle these priorities far better than I did.
It made me realize another truth:
I was completely unaware and unprepared for the business school life.
There are people in this world who have a much harder life. I know that these are the struggles of the privileged few. But, as a type-A person in an environment filled with type-A people, I wanted to hold my own ground. I realized the need to be much better prepared to succeed at business school.
After talking to many many MBA students over the past 5 years, I’ve realized that almost EVERY Indian has this same realization when they join a top MBA program. Some handle it better than others.
I hope you do extremely well. And it all starts with awareness and preparation. I want you to be aware of what to expect during the MBA journey.
Hence, Admissions Roadmap
Through the MBA Success Stories interview series, my mission is to help all Indians aspiring to a top global MBA degree to be better equipped to succeed at the MBA applications and the MBA journey that follows.
I go into in-depth conversations with Indians who’ve graduated from global MBA programs so that they can teach you from their own struggles, failures and successes and so you can learn what they experienced and during the entire application and MBA journey.
I, and everyone I interview, want you to be prepared so that you can succeed in this journey.
GMAT is the easiest part. The hard road, and an incredible journey, is yet to follow.
I want to be a part of your journey.