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How do international MBA programs differ from Indian programs?

A comparative analysis of the difference between an MBA in India and an MBA abroad.

Sameer Kamat
How do international MBA programs differ from Indian programs

In India, students involved in standard MBA programs have little to no experience. In contrast, all the top b-schools abroad expect its applicants to have a considerable amount of work experience.

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Sameer Kamat is the author of the bestselling Beyond The MBA Hype where he shares insights and pitfalls that aspirants should be aware of before they embark on their international MBA journey. He is also the founder of MBA Crystal Ball, an admissions consulting venture. He completed his MBA from the University of Cambridge.

MBA aspirants in India are quite familiar with how the Indian MBA works. Many who have gone through the gruelling business school selection process and failed to get into the B-school of their choice, turn their attention to international schools. However most of these applicants assume that the international MBA selection process, the experience in the class and the expectations from the entire experience will be more or less similar to Indian MBA programs. And they are caught off guard when they realise that there are fundamental differences.

Before you think about applying to international MBA programs, it is important to understand how the two differ – starting from the MBA selection process and then moving on to the rest of the aspects (like academics, internships, careers, networking). This article focuses on the essentials.

Length of the Program

Indian MBA courses are generally spread out across 2 years. GMAT based MBA programs can have varying formats and lengths that can extend from under a year to 2 years.

MBA fees and other costs

Compared to around Rs 5 - 20 lakhs for an Indian MBA (this could cover MBA fees, living expenses etc), overseas MBA courses can start off at Rs 30-40 lakhs for 1 year programs and go up to 75-80lakhs for the top US MBA programs. For the top schools, scholarships are tough to come by, but the lower ranked ones might offer financial assistance in various forms.

Age and Experience levels

For the typical 2 year MBA programs In India, most applicants have little to no experience. Those with more experience are the exception rather than the norm. In comparison, many of the top international schools expect applicants to have spent a substantial amount of time in the working world. In the best international programs, the average work-experience is in the 4-5 year range.

Getting into B-School

In India, the CAT is the king of the entrance examination jungle. However, it is not the only option for B-School aspirants. Many Indian institutions offer their own version of entrance exams. Juggling the schedules for each of them can be confusing. For International MBA programs, the Graduate Management Aptitude Test (GMAT) is what you’d need to focus on. Indians do very well on this test, which is why just like the CAT, GMAT preparation gets a lot of attention.

Choosing the right B-School

In Indian schools, B-School rankings and reputation influence the priority list for applicants. IIMs end up on the top, followed by the other schools for international B-Schools, ranking is important but there are other factors that are far more important. The most critical one being ‘Fit’. This refers to a combination of multiple aspects the primary ones being - how a B-School can help you achieve your goals and what you can give back to the B-School.

How B-Schools select candidates

In Indian schools a high CAT percentile is necessary for the top schools to even consider a candidate for an interview and group discussions. For international schools, the GMAT score is important and a high score always helps. But schools don’t have any cut-offs. It is considered along with other submitted components such as MBA essays, recommendations, resume, transcripts and several other personal /professional data points. A candidate with a low GMAT score but an excellent professional track record presented in the form of strong essays can win the battle against someone with a high GMAT score but a mediocre sounding profile.

B-School abroad also try to increase the diversity in the class by selecting applicants from a wide variety of industries, roles and countries.

Jobs and careers

The placement process in Indian school makes it relatively easy for students to network and interview with top companies on campus. For the top schools, most good students are virtually guaranteed multiple offers. In B-Schools abroad, the concept of placements works very differently. The school cannot guarantee that you will get a good job (or any job for that matter). So it is important that students take the onus of reaching out to their dream companies and utilising the opportunities on campus to maximise their chances of getting a job.


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