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Isham Roy – 700 on GMAT – Admitted to ISB

Posted on February 21, 2017
Isham Roy ISB Admit GMAT 700

In conversation with Isham Roy who scored 700 on GMAT and got an admit to ISB..

 

What was your basic motivation behind your MBA?

 
 
Basically I come from an engineering background, I did my computer science engineering in BIT, then I worked for 4 Years in Cisco in Bangalore. I was working in a purely technical role and was doing quite well. The next move to grow in the organisation would be to dig deeper into the advances of the technology as in go down the route of filing for patents.
 
While all that was quite enjoyable, the take the next step in technology was not what I was looking for. I wanted to go into the business side of things – like understanding how a business cycle works, how revenue is generated and what the revenue model is and so on.
 
Cisco would offer a managerial position in certain cases but it would be more like a ‘people manager’, however I wanted something more.
 
 

I wanted to go into the business side of things – like understanding how a business cycle works, how revenue is generated and what the revenue model is and so on.

 
 
MBA was the natural step to take, take a break from work for about a year and then study at a top MBA institute, because doing an MBA and leaving Cisco for any other reason wouldn’t be worth it. If I got into a top institute, yes it would be worth the risk of taking a year off and getting back into education.
 
Yes, that was the basic motivation, and it was on the condition that I get into a top B-school and not any other MBA.
 
 

While you were working at CISCO, during those 4 years didn’t the thought of pursuing an MS cross your mind?

 
No, not really. The conception of what I had of an MS, is that it would take me into a more streamlined technology such as Networking or Big Data or Artificial Intelligence, and I wasn’t very inclined towards that. I was more interested in the business side of things, so yes MS didn’t click to my mind. An MBA abroad would be great but not an MS.
 

So, did you apply for an MBA in colleges abroad as well?

 
No, my first priority was ISB. If I case ISB hadn’t worked, I had short-listed a few colleges in US that I would look into.
 
 

Was there a particular reason why you chose ISB? What was your criteria which made you choose ISB as the college you would want to get into?

 
My first reason was that I would prefer being in India, as I was looking at it from a personal angle. I got married a couple years back so my wife was also in India. By and large if I could make a good living in India that was the first thing. If it didn’t happen, yes there are opportunities abroad. That was the first driving motivation.
 

So now, looking at colleges in India, I went through the top 100 B-schools in the world in the Financial Times, I found that there are only three schools which feature – IIM-A, ISB and IIM-Bangalore. So, those the premier IIMs and ISB. The IIMs, have a different process of admission, and it seemed like the IIMs were more attuned to a 0-2 years experience profile.
 
So, filtering all that, it seemed ISB was the only option. The only other option would be opting for a 1-year MBA. However, the opportunities for a 2-year MBA were much more. In a 1-year MBA you can get back to work, however the weight given to a 2 year MBA is much more.
 
So keeping all that in mind ISB turned out to be the best option. The next best option turned out to be Great Lakes, but there was a huge difference between the two.
 
So, it was ISB, and I had marked out my next best option in the US, as Kenan-Flagler Business school. Singapore was an option, as it is not too far from India but the schools are up there in the global rankings.
 
 

I went through the top 100 B-schools in the world in the Financial Times, I found that there are only three schools which feature – IIM-A, ISB and IIM-Bangalore.

 
 
After I took my GMAT, I sent my score to the colleges I had short-listed, so they were ISB,NUS and Kenan-Flagler and there were two more which I am not sure about. Kenan-Flagler Business school I had chosen becuase of its close ties with CISCO, they have a major office in North Carolina, so my wife could shift to that office and the institute would fit into the criteria of being a top B-school.
 
 

So, what all colleges did you get an admit from?

 
I applied for ISB and Round-1 results came out on 15th November, and I was on the main list. I stopped applying thereafter. Had I not got through would have applied to NUS and US etc.
 

So you only applied to ISB?

 
Yes, my decision making was that if I didn’t make it to ISB I would apply to other places.
 

How is life at ISB?

 
Life at ISB is good.
 

Are you in the Hyderabad campus?

 
Yes, I am in the Hyderabad campus. They have an intake of 800 students across their Hyderabad and Mohali campus. It is a very competitive environment because every student you meet has a stellar profile. These are people who have contributed in a major way to their field.
 
So, you might be a big fish in a small pond elsewhere, but once you are here you realize that everyone in unique in their own way. You meet a lot of people with very interesting profiles. I was from an engineering background working for an IT company, and I had no idea about things like mergers, acquisition and equity markets.
 
When I met people from finance backgrounds and economics backgrounds it was very interesting to see how they approached problems. Everybody had come from a basic qualification and trying to cope up with the academic curriculum here, which is pretty intense.
 
It is very challenging, the faculty is very good and will keep you on your toes. There are also visiting faculties from colleges abroad. You get a mix of both – a very good faculty and very good peers.
 
 

So, you might be a big fish in a small pond elsewhere, but once you are here you realize that everyone in unique in their own way. You meet a lot of people with very interesting profiles.

 
 
Having seen two terms, I would say it’s been a very good experience.
 

How did you go about your GMAT preparation, Isham?

 
GMAT preparation has to be done in two parts : Quant and Verbal. In Quant I had always been good throughout my academic career – right through schooling and engineering. I didn’t have any qualms about Quant. English, or the Verbal part, does require a certain amount of preparation, as we are not used to english on that level – say as a first language.
 
 

I went for a demo class, where Arun took a class on Critical Reasoning. By the end of the class I decided that that this is going to be pretty good and I was sure that I wanted to enroll.

 
 
I needed to enroll in some kind of systematised learning. I was in Bangalore, and did some research myself. CrackVerbal appealed to me, as they offered Verbal as product, on its own. I asked around, and people who had already gone through said it was good. Also, the course content was broken down into 3 sections, with 4 weekends each – this looked pretty concise.
 
I went for a demo class, where Arun took a class on Critical Reasoning. By the end of the class I decided that that this is going to be pretty good and I was sure that I wanted to enroll.
 
I took the Verbal classes at CrackVerbal, whereas the quant I had prepared on my own. I used the GMAT Official Guide, 14th Edition I think it was, along with the supplement section with it for Verbal. I took some tests, at official mba.com where the first two were free and then I had more tests from CrackVerbal center.
 
I just relied on the official material. That was Arun’s advice and I followed that.
 

So did you use the CrackVerbal Sentence Guide, Reading Comprehension etc?

 
From CrackVerbal, I got the Qusetion Bank, which was collated from all question which have appeared in the GMAT in the recent past. That was a very important resource for me, as it had 400-500 questions in that plus the OG which had around 800 questions and the Verbal Supplement, that was also part of the OG. Yes, that was the material that I relied on.
 
 

Were there any particular areas which you were weak in, as this was your first attempt at GMAT?

 
Initially you tend to struggle with the Sentence Correction, but over time you tend to understand that they are structured in a very good way, there are rules hich apply and there are exceptions to the rule. If you know these rules well, you would be in a good position. Relatively, in the verbal section the Sentence Correction as compared to the other two sections were a bit more tricky, for me.
 

Quant was never an issue and in all the tests that I took , my score was always 50-51.
 

How did you go about preparing for your Quant? Were there any particular books?

 
I just had the Official Guide for Quant, which had around 400 question, deep association and normal arithmetic. I just practised them 5-6 times a week, 20 questions at a time. My entire GMAT preparation, stretched over a few months from March to June. The classes would have been till mid April, so by May , although I didn’t have a set schedule, I was solving 20 questions a day.
 

So during your preparation, you were were working and taking classes at CrackVerbal. How did you manage your study hours and your work timings?

 
 
On hectic work days, I didn’t study at all, while on lighter days I would sit and solve questions. I remember, taking stock of the total material that I had, cause once you gather all the material from friends, you have a plethora of material that you need to go through. It is nice getting all of this material from everywhere, but it doesn’t really help.
 
So, that was when I decided that what I was going to cover, was the GMAT Official Guide and the Question Bank which I got from CrackVerbal which had original questions, and the Supplementary Material with the Official Guide.
 
 

It is nice getting all of this material from everywhere, but it doesn’t really help.

 
 
At this point I tried to figure out how many questions were there, and I even went down to a granular level to understand, how many questions were their from, say, data sufficiency and how many from Critical Reasoning and so on. So you have five sections and a number of questions in each, in the entire material. I don’t remember the exact number, but let’s suppose there were 300 questions in each, – so now you now try and figure out how many can you solve each day.
 
Some of the question would be work-based and some of them study-based, and you can only cover a certain number of study-based question.
 
So, in all, I calculated around 2000+ questions which I had to cover in 63 days, which makes it about 30-40 questions per day. I started by doing around 20 questions on average a day, as that was the most I could do. I moved forward towards the end, and in the last two weeks I was doing 10 questions from each section.
 
I think what helped me more than the practise tests, was a test which CrackVerbal had given us – it was the Manhattan GMAT test. They had booked me a slot in the center, and it was very legit. I think tests 1 and 2 are free, and then CrackVerbal gave 3-4 additional practise tests.
 
In the lead up to the exam I scheduled around 5-6 practise tests and that helped me more, since I was doing all the sections at one go. Initially questions you can do 10-20-30 a day and that is ok.
 
 

So, in all, I calculated around 2000+ questions which I had to cover in 63 days, which makes it about 30-40 questions per day. I started by doing around 20 questions on average a day, as that was the most I could do.

 
 

How did you go about giving your mock tests? Did you take a window between each section? Were you timing yourself?

 
The mock tests I did pretty religiously as per the instructions of the actual exam day. I think you are given 8 min breaks between sections, I would time myself that way. I would skip the essay on the mock test, as the impression I had was that the essay is just a formality and doesn’t really count.
 
Even in the exam, unless you mess it up badly, you would be ok. I had gone through a video on how to approach an essay, it basically speaks about the structuring and format. So once I had practised some mock essays I moved into Integrated Reasoning. I gave myself an 8 minute break between the Verbal and Quant, and then do the sections at one go.
 
 

How did you go about your applications? What did you highlight in your application?

 
As I said ISB was the only place I had applied to, and I was asked to write 4 essays. There is one essay which asks you to reflect on your career and asks ‘why you want to join ISB?’. These were very standard questions.
 
 

I highlighted my academic achievements, my school days and my CISCO career path, in which I had done some CISCO certifications. Regarding ‘why you want to do an MBA?’, although the answers are cliched, it is more about how you present it at the time.

 
 
I highlighted my academic achievements, my school days and my CISCO career path, in which I had done some CISCO certifications. Regarding ‘why you want to do an MBA?’, although the answers are cliched, it is more about how you present it at the time. I pitched it, in a way that, that I have been successful in a pure technical role, but now I want to explore Management and Leadership roles in leading teams and so on. So, highlighting would be majorly academic and extra-curricular achievements.
 
 

So what extra-curricular achievements did you have?

 
I had done a few presentations in my engineering days, I highlighted that. In CISCO, I was very involved in the sports community, in fact, I had founded the sports community and managed a few events. I had mentioned that in one of the essays, as something that I had developed from scratch, even though it was nothing related to the core business of CISCO, but as far as employee engagement it concerned it went a long way.
 
 

So how did CrackVerbal play a part in your MBA journey?

 
I would say CrackVerbal had a good part to play in my journey. In March 2014, when I had a zero-preparation level, I knew some kind of guidance would be required, as compared to studying on my own. I tried studying for GMAT in the final year of my engineering, I had got the GMAT Official Guide, and started preparing, however I never went through with it.
 
When you have a classroom environment, with peers who are equally motivated, it reminds you, every weekend, of the path and where you are going. Quality teaching also played a part, I think Arun was very good with the Critical reasoning and the Reading Comprehension.
 
With that guidance, it was easier to practise questions and look up exceptions to the rules.
I attended the classes religiously – went down to Koramangala every Saturday-Sunday.
Each class was of 3hrs and I made it point attend all of them.
 
 

When you have a classroom environment, with peers who are equally motivated, it reminds you, every weekend, of the path and where you are going. Quality teaching also played a part.

 
 
So I had decided, that I was going to invest three and a half months including CrackVerbal classes and personal preparation. So starting from March within two and half months I went through the material, without prolonging it any further.
 
 

So Isham, if you were to impart some words of wisdom to people who are preparing to write the exam, what would you tell them, about the application, the interview and the GMAT exam?

 
A lot of it depends on the context, as in my case I needed some guidance in the Verbal section, and that’s how I narrowed down on CrackVerbal. I think CrackVerbal organizes and presents their content in a very good way. I feel some kind of external help is required, and I would recommend CrackVerbal, if not for both, then definitely for the Verbal Section.
 
 

My suggestion would be to narrow down your material in the beginning – don’t get carried away with all the material.

 
 
Mostly for Indian students with an engineering background, the quant is pretty strong, but even the students I met who had enrolled for the Quant course as well said that that too is good. If you enroll, and take these classes every weekend it will remind you how the GMAT has to be taken and not take it lightly.
 
I definitely suggest some kind of external stimuli to motivate you, and CrackVerbal would be my recommendation.
 
As for the exam, my suggestion would be to narrow down your material in the beginning – don’t get carried away with all the material. Keep in mind that there are 2000 questions that you need to solve and aim at doing about 200 questions in a week. You can set your preparation time as per your convenience – someone may have a 4 month preparation time span out their prep accordingly.
 
The best material is the GMAT Official Guide.
 

In the leadup to the exam, take a test every 2 days. The official GMAT gives you 4 tests – those are the best tests you can take, and then the next best are the Manhattan GMAT tests – as recommended by Crackverbal. All in all there were about 11 exams in the last three weeks – that is one every two days.
 
Application, again depends on context, for example I was keen on getting into ISB, and had structured my application keeping that in mind.
 
 

How was your Interview process? Was it hard or easy?

 

The interview cannot be really be called hard or easy, cause it is always a very friendly interview. In my case, it was taken by ISB alums. I think the only thing they are looking for is clarity of thought. They want to know if you are clear about – why you want to do an MBA? Do you know the implications of an investment of 25 lakhs? Do you understand the oppurtunity cost of 25 lakhs? Are you doing it just for the heck of it? – all these things the panel will try to extract from you in those 13 minutes.
 
So, you need to be clear, and if you can give numbers, as to where you want to be in the end of 3 years or 5 years or 10 years, that helps.
 
 

What do you mean when you say numbers?

 
If you give them timelines – say 3-5-7 years, and then you tell them the downsides of continuing in your current role. In my case, in CISCO, I had discussions with seniors and managers and I could approximately come to a assumption as where to where I’d be in a few years, but I knew that if I get an MBA from ISB, I could leverage that to reach a much higher point in a span of say 5 years.
 
Now, ISB offers a buffet of activities, so one needs to choose wisely. I wanted to do an ELP (Entrepreneurship Leadership Program), join the Consulting club, and join a particular organization by the end of term.
 
 

 
 
Are you inspired by Isham’s story? Leave your comments below!
 

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