ISB Essays tips 2020 (for class of 2021-2022)

ISB has come out with two essays (and one re-applicant essay) for PGP program this year. Topics for the two essays are

Essay 1: Describe with examples the most important personal quality that you possess which significantly enhances your prospects of being successful as a leader? (400 words max)

Essay 2: What are your short term and long-term career goals? How will Post Graduate Program at ISB assist you in achieving your goals? (400 words max)

There are two major changes this year compared to last few years in ISB Essays –

  1. The word limit has been increased from 300 words to 400 words per essay. This means that ISB wants to give more space to candidates to express themselves in these 2 essays only rather than writing something in the “additional information” essay, which might not have required a new essay in first place.
  2. Essay 1 focusses on leadership potential in the candidate explicitly this time. Till last year, it used to ask how the candidate can differentiate himself/herself from rest of the applicant pool and why should he/she be given admission in ISB. This reflects the focus of ISB on creating leaders and narrows down the scope for the candidates to showcase their qualities.

Essay 1

ISB wants to know a personal quality about you which you have displayed in the past, and which can significantly enhance your prospects of being a successful leader in future. Let us analyze these words bit more carefully.

First of all ISB wants to know a personal quality, which means a personality trait you have rather than a professional skill which you have picked up while working. This is because your personality traits more or less remains a constant, whereas professional skills can be learnt and picked up anytime. Moreover, ISB wants to know about only one such personality trait because it wants you to go deep rather than wide. Once you have identified that one personality trait, you can build on that as a strength and nurture your leadership style based on that one personality trait you possess. Third important keyword is leadership. ISB wants to create future leaders, hence it wants to admit students who have the potential for leadership. A leader is someone who can envision the future before others, and can inspire and lead a group of people towards that vision. Although there is no specific list of qualities that can make someone a leader, still some common qualities which have been seen in the leaders are vision, integrity, honesty, empathy, trust, communication, delegation, empowerment, accountability, achievement orientation, self-awareness, learnability, courage, risk appetite, humility, resilience, influence, strong execution, structured thinking, creativity and innovation, emotional intelligence, problem solving and navigating through ambiguity.

In order to write a good essay, you should follow the following steps –

  1. First think and list out instances where you have created a significant impact, displayed your strengths or have been appreciated for. Think of as many such instances as possible, but not less than 3-4 professional and 1-2 personal instances.
  2. Now think of the challenges you faced and actions you took in order to navigate those challenges and reach the desired result in these instances. This will give you a sense of the most important leadership trait you have underlying all these instances. If there are more than one such quality, chose the quality showcased in the instances which have created more impact than others, and which you are confident of defending in your ISB interview. This is because ISB interview panelists like to dig deep into something that you have mentioned and evaluate you based on that.
  3. Shortlist 2 professional and 1 personal incident that substantiates the personality trait you possess that will enhance your chances of becoming a successful leader. The shortlisting should again be based on the two criteria of having more impact and you being able to defend it during the interview.
  4. Write first draft of essay. The incidents should be written in STAR format (Situation, Task, Action, Result) – which is how a story should ideally be told. Here situation refers to the context in which the incident is placed, Task refers to the target you had been given, Action refers to the actions you took in order to reach your goal, and Result refers to the final impact you created. Task is optional, and can be done away with if there was no clear target allocated to you. Result should always be quantified in numbers. For example, rather than just writing “Doing this, I increased the revenue of my organization significantly”, you should rather write “Doing this, I increased the revenue of my organization by INR 1 Cr, which amounts to 5% of the total revenue”.

The structure of the essay should ideally be along the following lines –

  • 1st paragraph – Start directly with mentioning the quality you want to showcase – It should ideally take not more than 50 words
  • 2nd, 3rd, 4th paragraph – Write 2 professional incidents and 1 personal incident in STAR format substantiating the quality you have mentioned in the 1st paragraph – It should take around 300 words (100 words for each incident)
  • 5th paragraph – conclusion – Conclude the essay by telling ISB that you have consistently displayed this quality in past, and believe that you shall continue to display it in future and become a successful leader – It should not take more than 50 words again
  • If you want, you can squeeze 4 incidents as well in the essay, but not more than that

Get at-least 2 edits of the essay done in order to make it more impactful and free of any grammatical errors. This should preferably be done by an ISB alumni, who has experience of guiding students through the application process. You can find a friend with such credentials or take services from a professional application consultant.

We, at CrackGMAT, are a group of ISB alumni who have worked at senior leadership positions in industry, and have guided various applicants in their MBA application journey. Please check-out the plans and talk to an admissions expert at




Essay 2

Through essay 2, ISB wants to know your clarity of thought so that it can judge if you really need an MBA from ISB, and whether you would be focused enough during the program to get maximum out of your MBA. This essay should ideally flow in continuation with essay 1. It should ideally build on the personal quality and incidents you have mentioned in essay 1, and address the following 4 questions –

  1. Short term career goal
  2. Long term career goal
  3. Why MBA and why now?
  4. Why ISB?

The short term career goal should be specific – what kind of role, function and industry you want to get into post MBA. Do you want to get into a mid-management/senior leadership/P&L role or a leadership program where you’d get an overview of various functions? Do you want to get into a marketing/ operations/ general management/ finance function? Do you want to remain in your pre-ISB industry or change it and enter a new industry, and why? Do you have any specific target companies where you want to work post MBA from ISB? Why do you want to be in the industry you have mentioned? Is it a sunrise sector with chances of it growing very fast in future or do you have enough cross functional experience in that industry to leverage and get into a CXO role post MBA? The short term goal should ideally leverage the skills you have picked up during your past work experience and the leadership quality you have mentioned in essay 1. The long term career goal builds on the short term goal and should be aimed a leadership position the industry/function of your short term career goal.

While addressing the Why MBA question, you have to justify why doing an MBA now will help you achieve your career goals. How you have acquired the requisite skills and industry knowledge till now, and need to buttress it with academic concepts and leverage the network to reach your career goals. How the industry you want to target is going through an inflection point and you can ride the wave by doing an MBA now. How an MBA can step-up your career to a senior leadership role where you can exploit the industry boom.

However, the more important question is – Why ISB in particular will be your best option to reach your career goals. Here you have to specify what ISB can provide you with, which other B-schools cannot, that will help you reach your goal. ISB is a global B-school in India. Do you want to work in India post MBA? Then ISB is the best bet for you. Can the large and diverse alumni base of ISB, or any of its courses or clubs help you attain your goals? ISB is also one of very few B-schools in India that focusses on academic research and has visiting faculty from top global B-schools. Can a strong academic focus help achieve your goals? Is there something specific that is famous about ISB (like consulting) which is aligned with your goals?

Structure of your essay should be along the following lines, though it can vary from case to case basis

  1. 1st paragraph – Introduce the reader to your career progression till now – industry, function and role you have worked in, and skills you have gathered. This can take 50-100 words. You can also introduce any awards or your major achievements briefly, if you think that will add value. This paragraph should ideally be aligned with your essay 1.
  2. 2nd paragraph – Mention your short term and long term career goals and the rationale behind choosing them. You can spend 100-200 words for this.
  3. 3rd paragraph – Address the “Why MBA” and “Why ISB” questions. This should take around 100-200 words.

Again, if you are writing any incident in this essay, write in STAR format. Take it through at-least 2 edits from a professional MBA application consultant who is an ISB alumni and has worked with applicants in past.

One should not write essay 3 (additional information) unless there is something which could not be mentioned in essay 1 and 2, especially now that ISB has increased the word limit for each essay.

The essay should be crisp, succinct and to the point without any grammatical errors. It should not beat around the bush and strike directly at the point. There should be a clarity of thought displayed throughout the 2 essays, and should have a proper structure.

We, at CrackGMAT, are a group of ISB alumni who have worked at senior leadership positions in industry, and have guided various applicants in their MBA application journey. Please check-out the plans and talk to an admissions expert at

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