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Have you wondered what exactly college selection committees look at when considering potential applicants?
Have you decided against applying to the college of your dreams because you do not believe you qualify?
Do you know whether or not your GMAT score stacks up, or what bearing it has on your admission?

Well, we are glad you are here. This article is designed to answer those questions and to give you the tools to make your dreams a reality.


What do the MBA Admission Committees want?

The University is going to look for genuine students who have the potential to excel and contribute to the MBA program. To determine this, the selection committee will look at a set of criteria that is based on the student’s personal history, experiences, interests, and influences that shaped them. Chief among these ‘pieces’ of history are your academic record, extracurricular activities, and any relevant work experience.

Most of what a University looks at is subjective and will depend on factors that include which country you might have studied in and what undergraduate degree you obtained. They will also review essays and letters of recommendation submitted, which will give a holistic picture of you as a student. However, these documents cannot be prepared too far ahead of time considering they are based on questions asked by Universities when they release application requirements.

Two other key pieces that are used by a University to determine which potential students to accept, and which to reject are the GMAT and the TOEFL/IELTS – standardized tests.

GMAT Score – Seek a Balance – Prevent a Fall

Many applicants to Universities will have strengths in one area and score high in one section, while in other areas they might be lacking – and this will be acceptable if an MS degree is being sought. For B-Schools, however, a balance is sought. The GMAT is thus a preferred standardized test that allows the selection committee to “measure” an applicant’s abilities from a globally diverse pool of applicants. From Jamboree’s experience, most Indian students score 49-51 in the Math section of the GMAT but score on average a 35 on the verbal section.  This is not considered a balanced score. Of the four sections, the AWA requires a strong cut off of 4.5 out of 6. It is, therefore, essential to preparing equally well for all sections of the GMAT exam.

Competition is not always as near as it appears!

So many potential students decide to give up or fail to follow through with applying to a B-School for an MBA when they start reading how few students are admitted to a University each semester, without knowing that although the University has only a specified available seats to fill they are not all “up for grabs” from just anyone – there are a number of spots that will first be made available to only potential students from specific areas, such as India or China.

So the competition pool narrows, and becomes dependent on how many students from that area – say India – have applied to the same B-School program. That said, the stronger the application, the more likelihood of that student being chosen over the next.

A Strong B-School Application

While a high score on the GMAT test will not guarantee placement for a student, a low score will certainly result in a rejection. So the journey to a top MBA program begins with scoring well on the GMAT.

When looking at the average GMAT score for your chosen colleges do remember that students from India (and Asia) tend to score higher in testing overall and average better scores in Maths than their peers worldwide. Considering the “country-based competition pool,” add 30 to 40 points to the class average to correctly gauge whether or not your score is competitive.

IELTS & TOEFL – Whether (or not) to take it?

When it comes to the TOEFL/IELTS, there is no need to rush into signing up for the test. It is a good idea to complete the GMAT first and then check on language requirements of particular Universities. If a student completed their Bachelor’s program at a University where English was the primary language, they are not required to sit for the TOEFL/IELTS.

Similarly, students applying for programs in India, or within the Asian, European or Australian continent might not need to test their English language abilities. There are a few Universities within the top 20 ranking in the USA with the same rule. That being said, about 80% of the USA Universities, all of the Canadian Universities and other countries will still require potential international students to take the TOEFL/IELTS. For such colleges, the score cutoff will be between 100 to 105. If TOEFL or IELTS is required, the student needs to choose which of the two exams to take.

IELTS or TOEFL – Which one to take?

The only difference between the IELTS and TOEFL is the mode of testing.

The IELTS still uses the traditional way of conducting tests – using paper and pen, except for the Speaking section which is conducted in a spoken interview format. Examination takers with handicaps, however, can avail a computer-based IELTS format.

The TOEFL is a 100% computer-based examination. Aside from that difference, both tests are the same and the student can opt for whichever format they are more comfortable with.

B-Schools and some Options

The most competitive B-Schools available to attend would be here in India. From among the top 11 B-Schools, ISB offers a more advanced and fast-paced 1-year program, that mandates students to have at least 5 to 7 years of work experience. The average age of students is 27. Other competitive 1-year MBA programs that require 4-7 years of work experience include Great Lakes, multiple campuses for IIM, XLRI and SP Jain. The median cost for these programs ranges from INR 13 to 30 lacs.

Spanning the rest of Asia we can find competitive programs being offered by NUS, NTU, INSEAD, HKUST, and CEIBS (China). These programs require a GMAT of 700 or higher. Falling in the 600 to 700 GMAT ranking would be programs offered by the University of Hong Kong, AIM Manila, and Singapore Management University. Average costs range from INR 13 to 40 lacs for B-Schools in Asia – except for INSEAD where the program costs INR 65 lacs. Taking into consideration that Asia is emerging as an upcoming hub for the business world, the ROI is excellent for any of these schools.

Let’s take a look at 7 of the top Canadian schools. Each of these colleges requires applicants to have a minimum of 2 years of work experience. They do have excellent placement records and friendly PR policies. Achieving a 700+ GMAT score will open options to Richard Ivey and Toronto Rotman Universities. Queens and York Schulich will open to those with a 650 to 700 score on the GMAT. It is important to note that the York program allows students to study for a year in Mumbai before completing the last one year in Canada – this offering alleviates some of the costs incurred. British Columbia, Mcgill, and Carleton are schools that will accept applicants with a  550 to 640 on the GMAT.

Most of the MBA programs offered throughout Europe are 12 to 15 months long, and while the amount of work experience needed is less – the cost is a bit higher and job opportunities are not as great. Among the top, we would find Oxford, Cambridge, HEC Paris, INSEAD, ESADE, and LBS. These schools accept students with 700+ in the GMAT. The next tier has IE, SDA Bocconi, ESSEC, Manchester, Warrick and UC Dublin. These schools are open to students who score between 650 to 700 in the GMAT. In the 580 to 650 score are colleges like Leeds, Newcastle, and Edinburgh. While there are obviously many others, the ones listed make our list based on the feedback received regarding job opportunities, costs, and assistance provided to international students.

Some of the benefits of opting to study in the USA include the advantages of thousands of specializations being available to potential students. Another positive would be the variety of student loans that B-Schools offer to students. However, whether looking at an Ivy League school such as Harvard or one of the newer schools such as CUNY Baruch, note that most of these top programs have costs ranging from INR 60 to 80 lacs.

One Last MBA Admission Advice – Don’t Stop Believing!

While the GMAT and B-School selection steps may appear daunting, do not be discouraged! Take the time to seek out a counsellor at Jamboree, we would be happy to help you. Most importantly, remember that while a lot of weight may go into the GMAT score, it is not ‘all’ and that earning an MBA through a lower ranking but well-placed B-School will net a higher pay in the long run than giving up your dreams of a better tomorrow.

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