Appeared first in Business Standard, Rediff.com, Indian management
People harbour a myth regarding the quality of students accepted to the one-year full-time MBA. They imagine that these candidates are unable to qualify for admission to international B-schools or the two-year course.There is a belief that the CAT-based two-year course at B-schools is the toughest to enroll for. Students and media ingrain this belief by pointing out for instance that 2,14,000 CAT applicants vie for 3,000 seats for the two-year post graduate programme (PGP) at IIMs.
They don’t mention that in addition, roughly 2,00,000 seats are available to these applicants. In all, 185 institutes, 13 of them IIMs, accept the CAT score for PGP and other courses, such as PGP-HR, PGP-Agribusiness, PGP-IT and Ph.D. Hundreds of other institutes accept CAT scores unofficially.
The story gets better. The applicants can apply to any number of IIMs. So the application pool at each IIM is largely replicated but claimed as exclusive by each institute. Of the 2,14,000 test takers in 2012, approx 2,04,345 (almost the entire lot of those taking the test) applied to the two-year PGP at IIM L and approx 2,00,000 to this course at IIM C.
When students and the media talk about the PGP at IIMs as being the toughest course to get into, they calculate the ratio of the seats to the applicants and speak of a very low acceptance rate. For example, they would talk of the 210 seats at IIM C’s PGP and the approx 2,00,000 applicants to the course and then wow everyone with news of a 0.10 per cent acceptance rate.
By this logic, the acceptance rate for the one-year full time MBA (PGPEX) at IIM C (ratio of 45 seats to the 2,70,000 GMAT test takers – we are taking the figure of the entire lot of test takers because about that many would apply if they were allowed to apply to any number of institutes without charges) in 2012 was ridiculously low at 0.01 cent!
GMAT, which is accepted at most global B-schools, allows you to send your scores without a charge to only five B-schools. To report your score to an additional institute, you pay Rs 1,500. Each school charges a separate application fee which is as high as Rs 3,500 at IIM Indore and more than Rs 13,000 at Harvard. This prevents candidates from applying indiscriminately.
If you were to see the intake at the prestigious Harvard as some kind of benchmark, you find it has an 11 per cent acceptance rate.
Acceptance rates, even if calculated accurately, are a poor indicator of quality of these two courses. The true indicator is the quality of applicants.
The profile of students accepted to the one-year full time MBA in B-schools in India is incredible and in line with that of students at top international B-schools. On an average, the candidates have five years of work experience, which includes international work experience. The average GMAT score hovers around 710 (similar to the average score at Harvard and Wharton).
Past candidates at the one-year full time MBA (EPGP) at IIM Indore included a PGI-educated doctor who led 10,000 troops as an army Major, a nuclear scientist at the Dept. of Atomic Energy, a Zonal Sales Head at an MNC, IITians and managers from Fortune 500 companies.
The admission criteria are holistic and, while incredibly difficult, don’t lay undue emphasis on just one marker of brilliance – test scores. International schools have long insisted on well-rounded candidates. Stanford has refused admission to 800/800 GMAT test scorers over the years because they fell short on other criteria, and the GMAT score range at Harvard is 570-790. B-schools in India are following the same approach.
The admission process spans shortlisting on the basis of the GMAT score, in-depth mission statements, essays capturing past work experience and case studies that check a candidate’s ability to provide solutions to real-world business problems. Thereafter, interviews are conducted by the institute’s faculty across the globe.
Importantly, there is no GMAT score cutoff for the shortlisting and the admissions committee considers everything that hints at a potential leader – from a candidate’s extracurricular interests to the stray dogs she saved working for an NGO. The alumni of the One year MBA in India are proud to say that despite scoring a 650 in GMAT, you can gain admission.
The lower emphasis on percentiles isn’t a sign of a substandard admission process, but of a progressive and world-class approach to finding well-rounded managerial talent.
Regarding the misconception that candidates at the one-year course failed to make it to international B-schools or crack the CAT, let me give my own example. I wasn’t enaumored by an MBA when I graduated from college. I was passionate about advertising and after six years of work I decided to pursue an MBA to complement my rise into a managerial role at work.
As a highly awarded brand management and advertising professional with stints on international advertising award juries, I had a strong profile for global schools. But consider this – even in 2009, when I was applying to B-schools, a one-year MBA at INSEAD cost approximately Rs 50 lakh and a two-year MBA at Harvard cost Rs 1 crore, including living expenses! The one-year full time MBA (EPGP) at IIM Indore, at Rs 15 lakh, presented better value. This is one of the major reasons why candidates choose Indian B-schools over global B-schools.