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INSEAD MBA admissions interview and GMAT experience

In our MBA profile evaluation analysis (i.e. MBA MAP), INSEAD MBA ends up as a Stretch or Ambitious school for most. Rather than sugarcoat our findings, we say it like it is. And for those who’ve had the INSEAD MBA program as their top choice, it can be devastating.

Till we explain to them what those ratings mean and how they can improve their chances.

Dheeraj Shah (name changed) was one such candidate who decided to use the minor blow (during the simulation) as an opportunity to learn and improve. He’s currently pursuing his INSEAD MBA and he writes this post from Paris (France).

How I got into the INSEAD MBA program

by Dheeraj

November 2010

Having taken my GMAT 1 and having got a decent 680, I was trying to know which schools I would be competitive at. With 3 years of experience by matriculation in 2011 Sept, I wanted to apply to a couple of schools in R2 for the Sept 2011 intake. I was a regular reader on the GMAT Club and ran into Sameer from MBA Crystal Ball on their discussion forums.

So I happened to touch base with Sameer and requested for the MBA Mock Application (MBA MAP). Having not applied to any business school yet and not having gone through the rigours of business school applications, I answered the short essays asked by Sameer in a very rudimentary way and have given my brief resume as well for is evaluation.

What came out of the MBA MAP report was very disappointing for me, as according to the report the only schools that were practical to apply for me were Business schools which were ranked 15 or more in the Financial Times MBA rankings. I was doing rather well in my current job, both professionally and financially and I was not in a mood to leave everything to pursue a MBA from a non Ivy League business school. I had a long discussion with Sameer over phone on what the report meant and how I should make the best use of it.

Only one sentence still rings in my mind till today from that day’s conversation. Sameer was telling me, the report is based on what I have written in the short essays he has given me and there were many applicants who have upped their ante after completing the MBA MAP process and got into top schools.

I decided to apply to a couple of schools in the R2 for the Sept 2011 Intake even though Sameer seriously advised me to wait for one more year, get more experience and target schools in R1 for the 2012 entry and possibly increase my GMAT.

April 2011

I was working in the oil and gas sector and my professional commitments had forced me to go offshore from Dec 2010 and March 2011 and I had no time to either apply in R2 for the 2011 or retake the gmat. I was back onshore/Dubai after close to 4 months. I was seriously targeting R1 for the 2012 Sept intake and started to prepare for my GMAT 2.

Aug 2012

I was seriously researching about business schools, attending business school events in Dubai, managing work and also preparing for my gmat 2 now and then. I wanted to apply to six schools over the R1 and R2, with Ross / Kellogg / Wharton in R1 and HBS / Columbia GSB / London Business School (LBS) in R2.

When I retook my GMAT, saying that I was shattered would be an understatement.I went from a 49-Q/35-V/690 to some 590/46/29. I was in panic mode with the R1 dead lines fast approaching. I only applied to Ross in R1 stating my GMAT as 680.

Dec 2011

I didn’t get a call from Ross and I didn’t know what went wrong with my Ross application as I felt I did my best job with that and Ross being on the lower ranked schools amongst the schools I was applying, I was worried. I retook the GMAT in Dec 2011 and got a 660/49/31.

As soon as I came off the exam, I retook an appointment for GMAT 4 on Jan 2nd 2012 and started to work on the applications. I didn’t have any time to spare for the GMAT as applying to 5 schools over a months time is very hectic.

Jan 2012

I retook GMAT 4 and got a 690/46/38. I was just smiling at my score after the exam and I knew I was not gonna take the exam again after that. I just could not get the best out of me for the GMAT.

A 700+ was always there for the taking for me, but I realised that it was no longer worth it. With my 690 GMAT I applied to Harvard HBS / Wharton / Columbia GSB / LBS and Kellogg.

Feb 2012

Kellogg interviews everyone and hence I got interviewed by them as well. It went okay types and could’ve been better. The Kellogg alum met me at 2000 hrs at his office and was in a hurry to go home and he was stopping the conversations in between. But I felt that it went well.

April 2012

All the US schools dinged me and LBS wrote back stating that they liked my profile and wanted me to re-apply next year. It was time for soul searching. Only silver lining was that LBS asked me to reapply. I always had INSEAD at the back of my mind and didn’t apply for the Sept entry or the J class as I was keen on internship opportunities.

Moreover, the applicant pool to both LBS and INSEAD would be pretty same and both being European schools, felt the yard sticks would be same. I felt I will be competitive at INSEAD and applied in the R1 to INSEAD 2013 Jan class.

May 2012

I finally got an interview call. The feeling was amazing……I wanted to convert the call hook or crook. I kept networking, meeting INSEAD alumni, current students and recent pass outs.

I practised mock interviews and left no stone unturned. INSEAD is one of the schools that interviews with its alums and it has two interviews with two alums.

The first interview was with a Financial Consultant in his mid 40’s. The interview was a dream and went toooo perfect to be true. All the Alum had to say to me was, you haven’t travelled much but for the middle east. INSEAD has a great diversity and you need to travel to Europe between now and the time you attend INSEAD. I knew I cracked this and had one more interview to crack.

The second interview was with a Booz Consultant. After setting so high standards in my first interview, it was hard to replicate the same the second time, but I knew I did the second one also equally good.

June 2012

On 26th June at 1335hrs when I was having my lunch, my mobile was ringing with an international code starting from 003 and I knew I had to take it. I took the call and was informed that I made the cut this time.

After 6 dings, 4 GMATs and countless business school essays, I got what I wanted. An admit into a Ivy League business school. Behind all the satisfaction and heart beating, I knew at the back of my mind that the journey has just begun.

But, the journey after getting the admit can wait for another day. Now was the time to rejoice and let the party begin!!!! πŸ™‚

My MBA journey that began with MBA Crystal Ball has taken a pit stop at INSEAD for now.

Read another INSEAD MBA grad’s tips on getting management consulting jobs and join the discussion on the –> INSEAD MBA forum.

And here are some tips on what INSEAD Looks for in MBA applicants

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Sameer Kamat
About Sameer Kamat
Founder of MBA Crystal Ball. Author of Beyond The MBA Hype & Business Doctors. Here's more about me. Follow me on: Instagram | Linkedin | Youtube

22 thoughts on “INSEAD MBA admissions interview and GMAT experience”

  1. Wow!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! An amazing debrief and wonderful way to pursue one’s goals… I wish you all the best Dheeraj.. Thanks Sameerji for bringing in these interesting articles….

  2. To be frank, not everyone is this rich to take GMAT 4 times and keep on applying till one succeeds.
    Nonetheless, hard work done is motivating

  3. @Akshat: Correct. INSEAD isn’t Ivy League.

    For others wondering about this, ‘Ivy league’ technically refers to the 8 universities: Yale University, Brown University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Columbia University, Harvard University, Princeton University, the University of Pennsylvania. Six of these univs offer MBA programs.

    However, apart from the technical definition, the term Ivy League has taken on a bigger and broader reference term with a broad set of meanings – elite, top, highly selective, quality etc. I’m guessing Dheeraj used it in that context.

  4. Hi there, great post! can you tell me what your gmat verbal and quant percentiles were? I also have a 690 with a score of 43 verbal (96th percentile) and 42 quant (54th percentile). I’m worried about getting into insead with my quant score even though the overall is ok, and I dont have time to retake the test as I’m targeting R3 for Jan’14 intake.

  5. Hi…i scored 680 (Q/42, V/41). I have 5.5 yrs of work exp in Retail Management and planning but only in home grown companies (Raymond & VIP Industries). Do you think I stand a chance at Insead. Or should I retake the GMAT?

  6. Shikha, no one can talk about chances based on what you’ve shared. If you think you can raise the score significantly, then surely give it a shot. If that’s not possible or if there isn’t enough time, go ahead and focus on the rest of your application.

  7. Hi Sameer I havea gmat score of 690 and an IELTS band of 7 with my essay score 7.5 out of 8, am currently working in Mu Sigma Bangalore an American grown company…. Where do you think will be optimum to reply please suggest a few names..

  8. Hi Sameer,

    I have read lot of write ups about MBA at older age but would like to discuss again regarding my profile. I am currently 37 years old and planning to go for 1 year MBA next year. My current profile is:-

    > 15+ years of experience in Sales and Marketing
    > Worked with brands like Whirlpool, Samsung, Vodafone, Airtel and Aircel
    > 8 years in sales and distribution, 8 years in product management
    > Current salary is in range of 47000 USD (Annual)

    My goals are pretty clear:-

    > Explore professional opportunities in offshore locations
    > Strengthen current profile and continue to work in telecom sector
    > Get global exposure

    I have tried to check with some students who are currently studying in INSEAD and have got inputs of hard employability at such age.

    Please share your inputs regarding the same.


  9. Hi sameer,
    I am a CA and CS. I have done my articleship for a period of 3 years. After articleship I have also worked for a period of 2 years as a professional and a partner in a partnership firm.
    I will be sitting for GMAT this year. Could you provide me an insight whether there are even slight chances of my profile getting selected. Also what else could be done to further elevate my chances of selection.

  10. Hi Sameer,

    I have done BE(Mechanical), its been 4.5 years of post graduate experience in Mechanical Goods Procurement/Supply Chain Domain with Turnkey Project Contractor in Construction Field(2 years in India & 3.5 Years in Middle East), my question is how do i select the best B-School pertaining to Supply Chain Management and remain in my industry as i do not want to deviate from my techno-commercial profile and even my elective subject in engineering was supply chain management , i would like to go one step ahead and add value to it.Most of the website and selections says about finance management, Banking etc, being from non IT, non finance related field it overwhelms me, kindly help

    Here is my list of questions, hope you wont get bored

    1.Which program will be suitable for this? is MBA the only choice or MIM is good enough, i know i have to research on this, but a valuable feedback is always appreciated.
    2.Being a just above average student in graduate days, what are my strengths or areas which can cover up apart from getting a exceptionally high GMAT Score while applying for any reputed B-School.
    3.Does acquiring a skill of a new language , being a internal auditor for ISO Certifications/Environmental Certifications or any other company certifications help in the application?
    4. Being from a lower middle class family, and practically finishing off my graduation on earnings of my part time work, that explains the just above average tag on academic criteria which i gave to myself, how do i make a proper selection of college based on the tuition fee without affecting my quest for a prestigious business school?

    • Thanks Sameer for your swift response!, if you could just help me out the way i am planning,

      i have zeroed down to get an B-school in Europe(especially Germany) has it has one year program and i can go back to work again since i have personal responsibility to shoulder on , also if you could help me out with just a few names of Good B-schools in Europe which has got best program for supply chain professional.

  11. Been trying for mba for a while now.. Got a few rejects and very disappointed.. Your post gave some new inspiration..thanks πŸ™‚

  12. Is it possible to get some specific details on the kind of questions asked in INSEAD interview ? It was really nice of Dheeraj to open up about his admission experiences. Absence of specific particulars of the interview questions, use of adjectives such as “breezy” and phrases like “dream and too perfect to be true” etc only serves to make the article ambigous. No offence, but i dont think we are able to get any value addition out of this article because of the ambiguity.

  13. Hi Sophia, some candidates are a little less articulate and specific when we ask them to share the details.

    You’ll find many more interview debriefs on our forum from a wider range of bschools. I’m guessing there are a bunch of INSEAD interview experiences in there as well, if you have the patience to browse through the threads.

    Here’s the link: Business school Interview experiences


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