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ISB with GRE score: Why I chose GRE over GMAT

Does ISB accept GRE scores? What’s the average GRE score for ISB? Do they prefer GMAT over GRE? Will it affect my recruitment process?

These are common questions we get from aspirants who fall in one of these categories:

  • They already have a valid GRE score, from their MS application days.
  • They’ve tried GMAT several times but haven’t got a good score for ISB and other target schools.
  • They’ve heard that GMAT is more difficult to crack than GRE.

Shreyas Katta joined the Indian School of Business (ISB) with a pretty good GRE score, had a great time as a student and completed the placement process successfully. The former ISB student body president shares all that in this blog.

By the way, the average GRE score at ISB is 325.


ISB application with GRE score

by Shreyas Katta


ISB with GRE score

My friends would mostly describe me as someone who is passionate, empathetic and hard-working.

As a student I was an active participant of several extra-curricular activities. I was the student leader in my school and had several stints of the position.

Through these the importance of taking up responsibility was ingrained in me.

Additionally, as someone responsible for bringing out the best from a team, I learned to accept my shortcomings and strove to have a team with each member stronger than me in one aspect or more.

I always searched for activities and initiatives beyond curriculum or work. I co-founded a student organization in my college, was a part of the college band, won several contests and competitions.

Most of this pursuit stemmed from some of the values that my parents and grandparents were vocal about.

My maternal grandfather always stressed on how each of us needs to test our capabilities and emerge better. That one needs to strive for others and not just for oneself.

As a result, most of my pursuits gravitated in that direction – I always took up new challenges and worked to amplify the result of my actions beyond just myself.

I worked for a supply chain and warehouse consulting firm for three years and moved to a political consulting firm to run an election campaign.

While most still wonder what propelled me to do so, the desire to take up an opportune role and the possibility of working in such a nascent and unpredictable domain seemed exciting to me.

average gre score isbThe role was challenging in its own way. Especially since a lot of your deliverables depend on how they are perceived and are often changing by the day and hence need you to be extremely adaptive and quick in your approach.

Through my work experience and extra-curriculars, I identified myself as a management enthusiast and realised that an MBA was necessary for a strong career progression as well.

I was aware I ran a risk with my professional background. Although I had spent three years in supply chain and warehouse consulting, my most recent work experience was in running a political campaign and that I thought might cause some apprehensions.

To add to it, I was aware that my submission of a GRE score could work against me in some cases. Even though I believe I learned immensely through my work experience, I did not have any feeders on my resume in terms of both work experience and educational pedigree.

Despite all of these, I was fairly confident of my candidature and realised I needed to work harder on crafting my application. I had a decent profile and needed to work on how I presented my case.

The decision to go for applying with a GRE score as opposed to a GMAT score was more to do with convenience than with any other factor.

I was aware of the risk, especially since at that time GRE was not a popular option for MBA applications as compared to the GMAT.

Why I chose GRE over GMAT

Reasons I opted for the GRE:

  1.  Pattern: (at the risk of inviting a debate) I was more comfortable with GRE’s pattern. The question types were pretty unambiguous and unlike the GMAT where familiarity of the pattern felt important, it was easier to attempt the GRE.
  2.  Timeframe: In my opinion, GMAT needed one to be more conditioned and familiar and the taker needed to be adept across all sections as the difficulty level was adaptive with every question’s response. Hence I estimated that I would need about 8-12 weeks to prepare well for the GMAT.
    Given a very hectic schedule at my work and workloads varying by the week, I could not adequately allocate 8-12 weeks.
    In contrast, GRE focused greatly on vocabulary and I could take out 15-20 mins thrice a day to work on my vocabulary. With this approach, I needed about 18 days for my GRE prep and I thereby prepared a schedule.
  3.  A second chance: I had written the GMAT in 2015 but it resulted in a score that did not provide the confidence of securing an admit from the schools of my choice.
    However, the experience taught me that it was better to make a provision in your timeline for a chance to retake the test if necessary as it alleviates the stress involved. Since I had 60 days on my side, it meant this provision was feasible.

I was expecting a score of 327, going by the mock tests but luckily I managed to score a 328 on the exam (Quant – 169 and Verbal – 159).

If you are confused about which test to go for – I’d sincerely suggest you consider two aspects namely format of the exam and timeline for your MBA applications.

These two aspects made me realise GRE was a better fit for me. If you can grow to understand patterns better and have a tendency to revise and review your answers to practice questions – GMAT has an edge.

If vocabulary is your strength and are probably considering other STEM options, GRE could be a safe option for you.

Also, it is important to understand how your target B-schools would be weighing your GRE score – if they convert to a standard GMAT score based on ETS’ converter or if they consider the GRE score by itself. [Read GRE to GMAT conversion]

Right around the time I was preparing for my MBA applications, some of my friends that were in the same position chose to pursue the Masters in Management (MiM) degree instead and that is when I realised I needed to invite some expertise into my decision-making.

I wanted to know more about the acceptance of the MBA program, the feasibility of enrolling for global MBA programs along with the preparedness associated with  taking up a huge debt, the acceptance of immigrant workers across geographies and finer aspects to consider before choosing a program.

There was no dearth of perspectives and I did reach out to a lot of students and alumni of the b-schools I intended to apply to, however, I realised that I needed more than just perspective. I needed an approach and some guidance based on robust experience working on b-school applications.

That is when I started looking out for admission consultants in general. I did come across seasoned consultants but they were focused on the entire application for a school. Other companies lacked the sort of comprehensive knowledge I was hoping for.

Through my search, I then stumbled upon MBA Crystal Ball and the MBA MAP grabbed my attention instantly. The service seemed to be crisp and charged a reasonable sum for the directional sense I was hoping for.

More importantly, when I reached out to them the responses were very candid and the expectations were made clear. I chose to take up the MBA MAP service along with guidance for one bschool application.

When I started off interacting with the team at MCB, I knew what I was going to sign up for and more importantly, what I could not expect out of it as well – an instruction manual or a very specific plan.

Manish Gupta (MG) was constantly on top of things and nudged things in the right direction.

Ankur Gigras helped me with my application strategy and the application.

I really liked the structure that Ankur brought to my application approach. He was very flexible in his approach – you could gain from his expertise and experience in a manner that benefited you.

He made mental notes of my personality, my aspirations and my preferences and through the course of our association constantly redirected me whenever necessary. I gathered a wonderful takeaway from my experience with Ankur.

As an applicant, I was eager to portray my best self through the application and in the process would not prioritize aspects I wished to highlight.

Ankur’s perspectives on bucketing all parts of my candidature and on emphasising certain parts based on my aspirations and the school’s preference really helped me work on other applications as well.

Application strategy

I applied to Oxford’s Said School of Business and the Indian School of Business. B-schools in the USA seemed to offer significant risk and came at a heavy financial cost.

I narrowed my choices down to one-year programs in Europe, India and Singapore and in the end, further narrowed it down to these two schools

Dropping some of the insights that I gathered from my interactions. I believe these could help others in the same boat as well:

  • Understand your expectations from your MBA experience thoroughly. This is a cardinal rule. MBA programs are not all the same and you will need to gain clarity on where you stand currently and what you wish to gain from the experience.
  • Have an unbiased analysis done on your employability. You might be a superstar with all the sheen on your profile but also understand the level and type of jobs you are likely to be offered and have your expectations set accordingly.
  • Never underestimate the costs and time commitments of the program. Leave enough leeway for your expenses, networking and even things such as city tours or wine and cheese tasting events. They could be an integral part.


Interview experience

My ISB interview lasted for about 45 minutes. Since I wished to take up general management or consulting roles, my panel included an ISB alum from a top-tier consulting firm and a senior manager from a leading e-commerce firm.

I was pleased with how they put me at ease and it seemed more like a conversation than an interview. They started asking me about my aspirations, the usual questions on intent – “Why MBA? Why ISB?” and then discussed my profile at length – my educational pedigree, work experience and intended roles post-ISB.

The admit decision was conveyed about 2 weeks after the interview and I was pretty happy to have converted.

ISB student life

My ISB experience was power-packed and a wonderful ride, to say the least. I stood to be the student body president and won the elections, leading to a year that was hectic and enriching.

I gained immensely from all the exposure and learning the role had on offer. The number of people that I met and all the conversations really helped me through and continue to do so.

The faculty was brilliant and the classroom experience was extremely enriching. Alumni played a major role in helping us through our journey.

Since it’s a one-year program and we do not really share physical presence with the previous class, alumni were very encouraging and participative in any of our queries or anything in general we needed assistance with.

The course is fast-paced and can get challenging at several times. However, once the tricks of the trade are learned, one gains a lot of confidence as we are trained to perform under testing situations.

In the most recent conference Global Business Conference, 2020 by the Global Business Forum (conducted virtually), I was one of the four finalists for the “Student Leadership Award”.

The most important aspect of making an application or even approaching one would be assessing one’s fit in terms of intended job function, industry, school culture, alumni and teaching methodology.

Do not just think about what makes you a great candidate for them to consider – put yourself in the shoes of the admissions’ committee and think objectively about each part of your application.

In retrospect, I would have emphasised more on my work experience and justify my aspirations and capability through it.

Additionally, I would have spent a lot more time on weighing out my options and planning my finances, preferably before I start out with my application process.

Remember that the RoI timeline for an MBA is not just 5 or 10 years, but is anywhere between 25 and 35 years. You are in for the long haul and hence the journey might be a challenging one but patience will prove to be the best part of your arsenal.

A lot of things did not go by the plan I had set for myself but in the end, I realised that optimism and persistence were needed through every part of the journey.

Also read:
How to get into ISB
How I got into ISB with full scholarship
ISB reapplicant strategy

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Manish Gupta
About Manish Gupta
Chief Consulting Officer at MBA Crystal Ball, ex-McKinsey, IIT & ISB topper. MG can help you get into the top B-schools. Read more about this top MBA admissions consultant. Connect with MG on Linkedin, Facebook or Email: mcb [at] mbacrystalball [dot] com

17 thoughts on “ISB with GRE score: Why I chose GRE over GMAT”

  1. Hi Sir,

    I am working in Energy/EPC Domain for past 8 years. This year i am planning to do MBA and switch domain to finance. One year full time MBA is not possible for me now as i am married and has a more responsibility of family. I have seen SPJIMR 21 month course. Will it be fruitfull for me. They do not provide placement though. If you could suggest some more.

  2. Hi Sir,
    I really need your advice and looking forward for your reply. Thank you for your precious time.
    Sir,I completed my graduation in commerce in 2014(INDIA),since then I was preparing for UPSC and other exams,but could not get through. I have scored above 85%in my 10th,12th and and graduation.Now I am 27 and want to write CAT and other exams to take admission in 2021, but I am really afraid after researching about the admission eligibility, doing MBA at 28 and placements at this age.I read a lot of stuff where it says,in fact my brother said, its difficult to get placed at this age with no work experience as companies are interested in recruiting youngsters or persons with work experience.What do you suggest about this gap of mine?

  3. Hello sir
    I am a btech graduate with 60% and i will be completing 2 years workex in july 2020.
    Will I be eligible for MBA?

  4. Hi Manish,

    I wish to pursue 1 year MBA to enhance my career in the field of management, with focus on general management / finance streams. My credentials are as below:

    MBA in Real Estate Management from Amity University, India – Gold Medalist with 8.93/10.0 CGPA
    BE in Civil Engineering from RVCE, Bangalore – 9.4/10.0 CGPA
    Class XII (State Board) Science Stream – 94%
    Class X (State Board) – 98%
    Accomplished debater with a number of state and national level accolades.

    WorkEx: 2 years with an International Engineering Consultancy as a Hydraulic Design Engineer (Pre MBA), 2 years in Corporate Credit and Valuation domains (Post MBA).

    Kindly evaluate my profile for top 1 year MBA programs such as MMM, Otto BSM and ESMT Berlin. Thanks for your help!

    • @Bharath, the profile contours look good overall. It will be important to understand the brand of your employer though. Did you mean the Kellogg MMM or which program?

      German/European programs are good provided you are ready to learn the language. With this profile, and a high GMAT score, you should ideally be able to aim higher than what you are currently looking at.

  5. Hi could tell me EMBA online couse is good at SP JAin global considering the cost above 10 lacs. Will i get ROI Since i will doing this with education loan

    I have 10 year of experience and did graduation distance this year with 54 % and 10th with 71% and plus 2 with 59 %

  6. Dear MG,

    I have more than 8 years of experience in different fields (Research, Market Research, Finance &Operation).

    I have already completed my MBA in 2010 and looking out for option for 2nd MBA either in Canada or UK, I have already applied in few of the colleges.
    Can u guide me with this, how to go ahead and prove them that why international MBA is required.


    • @Amrith, tough to give a generic response since it has to be thought through and developed for each profile individually. Since you’ve already applied, how has the experience been so far? Do reach out to us directly for more discussion on this, if keen.

  7. Hi MG,

    I’m working with pharmaceutical industry as a maintenance engineer for 4 years now and studied mechanical engineering from Thapar Institute (one of the best college in North India). I’ve been keenly looking for admission only in ISB for the 1-year executive MBA program to work with best of the class team in MNC’s in the operations field. would you please help me to work on my strengths and weaknesses in order to get into it.

  8. Dear sir,
    I am looking for you suggestion.
    I completed my 10th in 2001 with 64 % from Bihar state board. i Did 4 year advance diploma in tool & die making i.e equivalent to Diploma in machnical engineering completed in 2006. And from 2006 i am working full time. i have total 15 years of regular work experience. i Also completed part time B.E in mechanical Engineering in 2011 and from 2012 till now i have total 8 years of managerial experience.
    Now i want to appear in GRE and want to apply ISB or SMU Singapore for further MBA study.
    please suggest my chances of getting addmission in same colleges.
    I am very very much interested for 1 year MBA from theses colleges.
    please guide


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