Experts’ Global: Hi Sakaar, thank you for agreeing to this interview! Could you kindly share your journey with us?
Sakaar: I started targeting an MBA around five years ago. At the time, I was still working in my first job, a job in the financial services sector. Talking to a few MBA graduates who had done their degrees outside India, I came to know that I needed a certain amount of work experience and a good GMAT score. Deciding to quit my job to take the GMAT, I thought that I would be able to breeze through my exam prep and ace the exam.
Accordingly, I started taking tuition from a local GMAT coaching center, while volunteering at an NGO in my free time. I had failed to anticipate how competitive the GMAT would be and how exacting its syllabus was. I spread out my studies over too much time and did not stay focused throughout, so my first GMAT attempt, in 2018, got me a 670. At that point, I realized that I had neither a high GMAT score nor the four to five years of professional experience most good business schools required.
After a five-month professional gap, I got into a boutique investment firm, moving to a front-end client-facing profile that showed growth in my career arc. My second attempt at the GMAT, in 2020, was also a failure. This time, I knew that learning to manage my time well was the missing piece of the puzzle. Accordingly, I availed GMAT guidance from MBA admissions consultants Experts’ Global, and was able to secure a 720 on the GMAT in August 2021. Doing well with the school applications, I was able to secure admits to two Australian business schools and a US business school.
Experts’ Global: In your opinion, what decisions made the difference in your success?
Sakaar: The first decision was the decision to keep going even after my initial GMAT failures. Further, being able to take the actual GMAT online, due to the pandemic, was a good thing for me. Handling the pressure of taking the test at the exam center was a weakness of mine, and taking the GMAT online allowed me to relax more. The application process taught me to contextualize my profile and achievements as per the competition I would face.
Experts’ Global: With the benefit of hindsight, what mistakes did you make in the process?
Sakaar: One of my biggest mistakes was assuming that I would ace the GMAT on my first attempt, even with subpar preparation. I also, initially, analyzed my profile without taking into account the competition I would encounter. Doing so, later on, helped me target more realistic schools.
Experts’ Global: Regarding your GMAT preparation, what resources did you use and what advice do you have for other applicants?
Sakaar: I used the Experts’ Global GMAT online course. The GMAT mocks that accompanied the prep program were also quite helpful, as after every mock I attempted, I would be presented with an analysis of my performance that allowed me to focus on improving my weak areas.
I would advise other GMAT applicants to analyze their performance on the mocks that they take, similarly. Just do not only look at the errors you make; also take a look at the answers you got right to see if they were just a fluke. Further, make sure to get your prep done and the GMAT taken within a fixed three to four-month span, instead of studying for the GMAT for two months, taking a break, and then getting back to it.
Experts’ Global: What would you like to say about your experience with managing the application timeline?
Sakaar: Before I got in touch with Experts’ Global, I was only aware of the basics of a business school application, which involved writing essays, gathering transcripts, and obtaining recommendations. I soon realized that alumni outreach was a huge part of the application process. Reaching out to former and current students from the schools I was targeting helped me craft essays that highlight the particular aspects of my profile that each school was looking for.
For my own benefit too, this outreach helped me understand which school’s culture would fit me best, and what schools were best positioned, in terms of their recruiter connections or location, to help me realize my individual ambitions.
Experts’ Global: What is your final message to our readers?
Sakaar: For the GMAT, specifically, I would say that focused prep can easily land you a good score. The GMAT is an adaptive test that modulates its difficulty as per your performance during the test, and also shows a balance between verbal and quantitative sections. Make sure to take a free GMAT practice test from all the GMAT test series sellers out there to select what works best for you.
In terms of the application process, make sure that you are a good fit for the schools you apply to. Instead of wasting money on the application fees for twenty schools, do your research, talk to people, and try and narrow your list down to a smaller number that you can target with greater intensity!
Experts’ Global: Thank you for sharing your journey with us, Sakaar, and many congratulations on your recent admits!
Sakaar: Thank you, and I hope my insights prove useful to others!