Here’s a philosophical question: Consider someone who has cleared all 3 levels of the Chartered Accountancy course (hailed by many as the toughest exam in the world) in the first attempt and done well in the professional world. When such a person fails to get a competitive score on the GMAT, is that a reflection of the candidate’s potential? Or the diminishing credibility of the traditional admissions process, which still gives so much importance to a single number?
Tejas Raval, a Company Secretary and Chartered Account, got an extremely low GMAT score in his first attempt. A 160 point difference from what he was expecting. He did not do what other GMAT test takers would normally do in the situation (curse the test, doubt their self-worth, sulk / binge-eat for a few days and finally re-schedule another date for a GMAT re-take).
He did something else that got him multiple admits from top ranking business schools (1 top 50 program and 2 in the top 100 according to FT rankings), and some scholarship as well to sweeten the deal.
From a country where almost a billion people follow the same religion, I am no exception – Cricket flows in my blood. Whenever asked by my Father about career, I used to always say Cricketer it is. After all I was the U-15 captain of the district team.
During my 10th grade my focus slowly shifted from Cricket to CA. After thorough research about the course I was sure that I wanted to pursue a career in finance and CA seemed a right platform. I secured good grades in 10th that even my school principal was shocked to see my admission form for Commerce. In India, it is still a taboo that only low-grade securing students opt for commerce. Winds are changing now and it’s quite evident.
My family shifted to Uganda immediately after my 10th and I decided to stay back in India for my studies and also agreed to take up the role of “Care taker” for the house all by myself with no one’s support. This seemed a cakewalk with friends around, IPL and enjoying the freedom of staying alone at home.
Career was always a priority and hence I became more focused during my 12th grade.Eventually, I secured first rank in School albeit I knew there’s no vacation henceforth.
Now here comes the most rigorous phase of my life. I had my B.Com classes at my college in morning, followed by my articleship (Articleship is 3 years of on the job training required to appear in CA exam) throughout the day followed by CA exam studies in the evening.
Post-B.Com, I thought of pursuing another professional degree. A simple thought that came to my mind was “Every CS knows what’s going on in the senior management/board but not every CA knows”-something that I learned through my articleship. So I enrolled myself for CS exams.
CA requires lot of hard work, dedicated focus, a strategy that suits you and of course luck. I checked all the boxes and was able to clear CA all three levels in first go. My experience with CS was quite different. I was appearing it straight after my CA exams so I was tired mentally but on the other hand I knew the course well. With focus on other core subjects, I could clear CS as well.
Post-CA, I joined Internal Audit department of Larsen & Toubro at Chennai. Beyond professional growth, it gave me an opportunity to travel across India. After having worked for 1.5 years, I realized that I am still away from my dream to be finance personnel. That’s where I joined TATA Steel at Bombay House, Mumbai.
Working with the Group Executive Director and a super supportive boss, the role opened my dimensions towards financial planning. The role required me to convert strategies into number so as to build the financial models for future cash flow planning. Working here I realized that there are certain knowledge gaps that are restraining me to understand end-to-end business strategies.
I had two choices either to focus on my career and bridge this gap through years of experience or to go back and study MBA. I choose the restart my career with MBA.
Since the steel industry was going through a tough phase I never got time to focus on my GMAT. During this time, I got an opportunity to work as Interim Financial controller for a startup focused on engineering services. This opportunity was gateway to my leadership and communication skills.
From establishing functions to recruiting right people, the startup was prepared me in all terms. It’s not easy to run a startup in an organized sector and not every startups are successful. I was working on deal to exit the BPO services; this consumed a lot of time and hours of negotiation with clients and employees.
This was also the time where I wrote my GMAT.
I knew I was good at quant and was securing well in it but verbal somehow seemed a challenge to me.
A day before GMAT, I secured 740 in GMAT. Somehow on the exam day I could only secure 580.
A very Very VERY low score considering my calibre. I was disappointed, but then I decided to stick with the score and focus on the applications.
I wanted to apply for round 1 and finish with the application process in advance so that I could focus on my career. But due to this, I never felt like reappearing for GMAT again. I always thought GMAT is a part of overall applications and not just the only one. But in reality, one loses an opportunity to join elite bschools and scholarships due to lower GMAT score. This is the case with most applicants and the sooner one accepts it the better.
I was looking for an expert’s advice to help me with my essays so as to strengthen my application. A friend of mine, who himself had a dream MBA admit through MBA Crystal Ball, suggested their name to me. I had a word with Sameer Kamat and he was quick to revert. He introduced me to Manish Gupta (MG).
MG is one of the most critical person I have ever come across, but that’s his strength.
He actually helps you improvise the essays and bring out the missing links. He pushes to do more analysis on the school, program, alumni etc.
This input actually helped me to network with current students, alumni, professors and get the real insight where I could connect with the school and to understand how MBA could leverage my experience and where I could add value to their MBA program.
MG’s assistance on essays helped me up scale my applications. During my application process, my strategy was to convey admission committee that my GMAT is not the mirror of my professional growth and/or experience. MBA crystal ball actually helped me convey it clearly in the subtlest way.
I applied to ESADE, Manchester Business School, CUHK Business School, EDHEC and Babson Business School. ESADE and Manchester wait listed me. I was accepted at all the other 3 bschools. Return on Investment, alumni network and reputation of college in Finance field were key criteria for me.
Once I received the interview call, I knew it is time for me to capitalize on things that I couldn’t talk about during applications and prove that I could be a value addition to the school’s eco system.
All the interviews lasted for about 45-60 mins over a Skype call. Having interacted with Admission committee over a period during my applications helped me to actually relax during interviews. I had a good rapport with them already and hence the interview mainly revolved around other professional and personal developments not discussed before.
Eventually, CUHK Business School offered me 25% scholarships, EDHEC offered me 30% scholarships and Babson offered me $10,000 scholarship.
The process from interview to receiving admission letter took around 7-10 days. With the GMAT score I had, I knew now I could afford to smile.
But, the job was just half done. It was a time of sweet dilemma where I had to select the best among all.
This was also the phase where I was offered a role in a private equity industry, something that I was always keen to explore post-MBA. This would actually help me actually test my skill set and also get real feel into the PE industry.
While I worked at the Private Equity, I interacted with many investors. I discussed with them about my MBA admits as well. I realized many of them are CUHK alumni and their feedback was very positive. I could also see their professional growth post CUHK.
Hong Kong is the one of the biggest global financial capitals and hence, most of the financial institutions and Private Equities are based in the Hong Kong. It would also help me understand the Asian markets well and explore the global financial hub closely.
As finance professional CUHK had upper hand amongst all the other admits.CUHK gave me the right balance between joining a highest ranked business school with brand value and potential to carry enough debt to fund my MBA.
As I write this, I am gearing up for the opening ceremony at CUHK Business School. I am excited to meet my fellow batch mates with whom I have been interacting since quite sometime now.
At the end, Good luck!
Indian, Adventure enthusiast, Wannabe globetrotter, Movie buff and a Finance Professional
There are many factors that influence the Adcom’s decision. Maybe not competing in a highly represented applicant pool (like IT) works for some. Maybe having an unusual and impressive career trajectory works for the others. So, don’t get carried away with low GMAT success stories. Carry out your independent research on your goals, the choice of schools and then decide if/when/how to apply.