How to Get Admission in IIM

Getting admission into one of the prestigious Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) is a dream for many MBA aspirants in India. The IIMs are recognized globally for their world-class management education. An MBA from an IIM opens doors to lucrative career opportunities.

However, with thousands of applicants competing for limited seats, getting into an IIM is easier said than done. You need to plan and work hard over a period of 2-3 years to strengthen your candidature.

In this 10,000 word guide, I will share tips, preparation strategy, and insights to help you get into your dream IIM. So let’s get started!

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  • About IIMs
  • Why Pursue an MBA from IIM?
  • Key Stats and Facts
  1. Eligibility Criteria
  2. Preparation Tips
  • Academics
  • Entrance Exams
  • Work Experience
  • Extracurriculars
  • Essays
  • Interviews
  • GDs
  1. Application Process
  2. IIM Selection Criteria
  3. Life at IIMs
  4. Common Mistakes to Avoid
  5. Success Stories
  6. FAQs
  7. Conclusion

1. Introduction

The IIMs are premier business schools established by the Government of India to provide world-class management education. There are currently 13 IIMs located across India –

  • IIM Ahmedabad
  • IIM Bangalore
  • IIM Calcutta
  • IIM Lucknow
  • IIM Kozhikode
  • IIM Indore
  • IIM Shillong
  • IIM Ranchi
  • IIM Raipur
  • IIM Tiruchirappalli
  • IIM Udaipur
  • IIM Bodh Gaya
  • IIM Sirmaur

The first IIM was set up in 1961 in Calcutta. Since then IIMs have grown to be recognized globally for their excellence in management education, research, and producing industry-ready graduates.

An MBA from an IIM opens doors to lucrative career opportunities in diverse sectors like consulting, finance, marketing, operations, IT & systems, HR, entrepreneurship, e-commerce, and more. IIM graduates are highly valued by top recruiters including McKinsey, BCG, Bain, Accenture Strategy, ITC, HUL, P&G, Amazon, Flipkart, Uber, Ola, Aditya Birla Group, Mahindra, Tata Administrative Services, IBM, JP Morgan, HSBC, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and more.

Here are some key stats about IIMs:

  • Number of IIMs – 13
  • Number of seats per IIM – 300-450
  • Average course fees – ₹10-21 lakhs for 2 years
  • Highest salary – ₹55 lakhs per annum
  • Average salary – ₹20-25 lakhs per annum
  • Return on investment – Payback period of 3-4 years
  • World university rankings – IIM Ahmedabad and IIM Bangalore ranked among top 100 for Masters in Management by FT, QS and Economist

Why Pursue an MBA from IIM?

Here are some key reasons why an MBA from IIM is coveted:

  • Brand value: IIM brand has instant recognition and respect in the industry
  • World-class faculty: Learn from professors with PhD degrees from global universities
  • Alumni network: Opportunity to tap into vast alumni network at leadership positions
  • Holistic development: Focus on developing personality, leadership skills, ethics along with management education
  • Campus recruitment: Excellent placements with top firms, high salaries, multiple job offers
  • Return on investment: Payback period of just 3-4 years for course fees
  • Career growth: Fast track career by 5-10 years and reach leadership roles
  • Entrepreneurship: Launch your own venture or get funding via extensive alumni network
  • Learning experience: Diverse batchmates and exchange programs provide enriched learning
  • Life experience: Vibrant campus life, festivals, concerts, talks by business leaders

In short, an MBA from an IIM will boost your career, network, personal growth and leadership skills tremendously. The brand value and recognition is immense. But you need proper planning and preparation to clear the tough entry barriers.

2. Eligibility Criteria

To apply for the MBA program at any IIM, you must meet the following eligibility criteria:

  • Education: Bachelor’s degree or equivalent with minimum 50% marks (45% for SC/ST/PWD candidates).
  • Entrance exams: Minimum sectional cutoffs in CAT/GMAT/GRE/GATE. Some IIMs accept XAT, MICAT, MAT, ATMA scores too in place of CAT.
  • Work experience: Most IIMs prefer candidates with 2-3 years of work experience. Work ex is not mandatory at some IIMs.
  • Age limit: 20-30 years relaxed for reserved category.

Apart from meeting the above criteria, you need to have strong academics, entrance test scores, work experience, extracurricular profile and good communication skills.

Let’s understand in detail how to prepare and strengthen your candidature across different parameters required for IIM admission.

3. Preparation Tips

Gaining admission into an IIM requires you to present an overall strong candidature and profile across multiple parameters – academics, entrance exams, work experience, extracurricular activities, communication skills, leadership qualities and more.

Let’s look at how you can prepare on each front over a 2-3 year period:


  • Aim for distinction: IIMs look for consistency in academic performance from 10th standard onwards. Try to score distinction (75%+) in 10th, 12th, Graduation.
  • Choose stream wisely: Math/Engineering background preferred for IIMs followed by Commerce/Economics graduates. Avoid less quantitative fields.
  • Public exams: Securing distinction in national level exams like JEE Mains, CA/CS, CFA, UPSC adds value.
  • Graduation marks: Have minimum three years of academic marks. Convert to percentage. Anything above 75% is good.
  • Subjects: For engineers – have maths, data, economics, finance subjects. For commerce/arts grads – have stats, quantitative methods subjects.
  • Backlogs/gaps: Avoid year drops and extended graduation. Clearing backlogs indicates persistence.
  • Projects/competitions: Undertake academic projects in analytics, data, finance. Participate in quizzes, hackathons.

With early planning, you can shape your academics to build an attractive profile for MBA admissions at IIMs. Academic excellence demonstrates intellectual horsepower which is vital for managing rigor of an IIM MBA program.

Entrance Exams

Cracking the Common Admission Test (CAT) conducted by IIMs is the top priority. Apart from IIMs, over 100 other MBA colleges accept CAT score.

Here are some tips to prepare and crack CAT:

  • CAT sections: Verbal Ability (VA), Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning (DILR), Quantitative Aptitude (QA)
  • Paper pattern: 100 questions, 180 minutes. Section-wise time limits. No negative marking.
  • Preparation time: Start preparation 12-18 months before CAT exam. Solve mock tests in final 6 months.
  • Coaching: Join classroom coaching institute or enroll in online coaching platforms. Self-study using books also works.
  • Topics to focus:
    • Verbal – Grammar, vocabulary, RC, para jumbles
    • DILR – Tables, graphs, sets, logic puzzles
    • Quant – Arithmetic, algebra, geometry, trigonometry, mensuration
  • Mock tests: Take mock tests every week in final 6 months. Analyze weak areas and improve.
  • Sectional cutoffs: Aim for 90+ percentile in each section. Overall 95+ is good.
  • Past year papers: Thoroughly solve CAT papers of last 10 years. Identify changing trends.
  • Speed and accuracy: Equal focus on speed and accuracy. You have around 1 min 30 seconds per question. Prioritize accuracy initially.
  • DILR practice: This section needs regular practice to improve speed and accuracy.
  • Quant formulas: Memorize all key formulas. Solve Quant questions mentally without pen and paper.
  • VA improvement: Read editorials, magazines, novels to improve reading speed, comprehension, vocabulary.
  • Test day tips: Get good sleep. Have a healthy breakfast. Carry admit card, ID proof. Attempt paper calmly. Attempt high-probability questions first.

Apart from CAT, also take GMAT, XAT, NMAT, MAT, ATMA for backup. Aiming for 99+ percentile in CAT with good sectional cutoffs is ideal. This ensures you get shortlisted for IIM interview process.

Work Experience

IIMs value relevant work experience that demonstrates:

  • Leadership skills
  • People management
  • Business operations
  • Analytical thinking
  • Achievements and impact
  • Career progression

Here are some tips on planning your work ex before IIM:

  • Type of companies: IIMs value applicants from top consulting/finance firms, core engineering/manufacturing companies, reputed technology companies. Startups also considered.
  • Timeline: 2-6 years of work ex is good time to apply. Don’t wait too long.
  • Roles and projects: Take up roles involving P&L responsibility, cross-functional projects, strategy, analytical problem solving.
  • Achievements: Excel in your roles and have measurable achievements to showcase – sales growth, cost savings, output improvement, innovations etc.
  • Leadership: Take opportunities to demonstrate people management, client management, and leadership skills.
  • Promotions: Getting promotions indicates ability to deliver results and propel your career.
  • Brand name: Working at reputed firms known for talent provides a halo effect even if your role is not great.
  • Entrepreneurship: If pursuing startup, highlight problem you are solving, business model, milestones achieved.

In your essays and interviews, showcase how your work experience has shaped your thinking, leadership ability, career goals and prepared you for an MBA. 2-3 years in core engineering/finance/consulting firms preferred.

Extracurricular Activities

IIMs seek well-rounded candidates who demonstrate all-round development beyond just academics and work.

Here are some productive extracurricular activities to pursue:

  • Sports: Take up individual or team sports and participate in competitions. Sports certificate add value.
  • Music and arts: Pursue musical instruments, dance forms, painting – helps demonstrate creativity.
  • Public speaking: Debate competitions, MUNs, public speaking workshops build communication skills.
  • Social initiatives: Volunteer for social causes – teaches empathy and citizenship.
  • Online courses: Undertake online courses in psychology, design thinking, business analytics to show interest.
  • Reading and writing: Maintain book reading as a habit. Start blog or contribute articles to build writing skills.
  • Part-time jobs: Become brand ambassador or campus rep for companies. Take tutoring assignments.
  • Hobbies: Pursue hobby projects that showcase creativity – photography, baking, blogging etc.

Pursuing your interests and giving back to society through such extracurricular activities portrays you as a well-rounded candidate. Aim for depth rather than breadth – pursue 1-2 activities in depth. Highlight activities that align with your career goals in essays.


Many candidates struggle with writing impactful essays for IIM applications. Essays allow you to bring your candidature to life and influence the admission decision.

Here are some tips for writing stellar essays:

  • Brainstorm early: Start brainstorming stories, accomplishments, failures months before application deadline. Create an inventory of ideas.
  • Standout points: Identify 2-3 standout points, achievements, qualities you want to convey in essays.
  • Anecdotes and stories: Show don’t tell. Bring your essays to life with anecdotes, stories and examples rather than stating them.
  • leadership, ethics, diversity: Find opportunities to demonstrate these qualities valued by IIMs.
  • personality and interests: Let your personality, uniqueness and interests shine through.
  • career goals: Articulate clear, realistic short and long term career goals. Show linkage with your profile.
  • mistakes and failures: Candidly articulate your major failure and key learnings from it. Demonstrates humility.
  • Draft and redraft: Write multiple iterations. Take feedback from seniors, colleagues to refine your essays.
  • Proofread: Check thoroughly for typos, grammar, factual errors. Don’t rely on spell checkers.
  • Word limit: Strictly adhere to word limits given. Convey your message crisply.
  • Passion: Let your motivation and passion for pursuing management education reflect.

Spend time introspecting, seek feedback and write multiple revisions to craft persuasive, honest essays that bring you to life. Admissions officers read thousands of essays – write memorably.


The personal interview is the final step of the IIM admission process. It carries significant weightage so you need to prepare well. Here are some tips:

  • Research thoroughly: Revise your resume and essays you submitted. Research extensively about IIM, faculty, programs, news, philosophy.
  • Practice: Attend mock interviews. Practice responding to common questions on academics, work ex, goals, strengths, weaknesses etc.
  • Storytelling: Prepare 2-3 stories that highlight your achievements, leadership, teamwork, ethics – practice narrating them.
  • Acads and work: Brush up on key projects, responsibilities, accomplishments to speak about confidently.
  • Situational questions: Discuss current affairs. Prepare for situational questions – how you would handle a case study or hypothetical scenario.
  • Goals and fit: Be clear on your short and long term goals. Highlight why you are pursuing MBA, why IIM, and how it fits your goals.
  • Questions: Prepare insightful questions to ask interview panel about the program, curriculum, culture, alumni etc.
  • Responding style: Respond clearly and crisply. Structure your thoughts. Be polite but assertive. Provide examples and anecdotes.
  • Body language: Maintain eye contact, smiling demeanour and positive body language. Avoid nervous tics like fidgeting.
  • Attire: Formal business attire – suit, tie, formal shoes. Well groomed hair and minimal accessories.
  • Thank you note: Send thank you email to each interviewer thanking them for their time and consideration.

With preparation and practice, you can master IIM interviews. Be confident, authentic and display your true personality to make an impact on the interview panel.

Group Discussion

Many IIMs conduct a group discussion (GD) as part of the selection process to assess your communication skills and leadership qualities. Here are some tips to excel in GDs:

  • Practice regularly: Attend GD workshops. Practice GDs on variety of topics with timer. Video record and review.
  • Launch well: Prepare template to launch discussion with definition, example, context.
  • Content: Structure your points logically. Support with data, facts. Offer perspectives, solutions. Apply concepts from work.
  • Body language: Maintain eye contact. Display enthusiasm through voice modulation and hand gestures.
  • Listen actively: Don’t interrupt others. Take cues and build on others’ points. Disagree politely.
  • Leadership skills: Guide the discussion if going off-track. Show flexibility by accepting good points from others.
  • Stay calm: Don’t get aggressive if interrupted or disagreed with. Maintain composure.
  • Conclusion: Summarize key points discussed and conclude positively with a way forward.
  • Do’s and Don’ts: Avoid slang and fillers like ‘basically’, ‘kind of’. Don’t lose cool if people argue.

GD success requires a balance between content and delivery. With frequent practice, you can excel in IIM GDs. Launch the GD impactfully and display teamwork.

By dedicating time and effort across academics, work experience, entrance tests, extracurriculars, communication and essays – you can systematically strengthen your candidature over 2-3 years to emerge as a competitive applicant and crack the IIM admission process.

4. Application Process

IIMs have a four stage application process:

Stage 1: Apply online

  • Visit IIM’s website during application window (Aug – Oct)
  • Create login and fill detailed application form
  • Provide information on academics, work ex, awards, extracurriculars
  • Write essays on given topics within word limit
  • Submit entrance test scores – CAT/GMAT etc.
  • Pay application fees online
  • Take printout of final submitted application

Stage 2: Shortlist for WAT/PI

  • IIMs shortlist candidates in November based on entrance test scores, academics, work ex, essays
  • Shortlisted candidates invited for Writing Ability Test and Personal Interview

Stage 3: Appear for WAT/PI

  • Shortlisted candidates attend WAT/PI at IIM campus in Nov-Jan
  • WAT involves essay writing for 30-45 min on abstract topic
  • PI involves panel interview with faculty for 30-45 min

Stage 4: Admit list and waitlist

  • IIMs release final admit list and waitlist in February-March
  • Waitlisted candidates may get off the waitlist later
  • Admitted candidates need to accept offer online and pay fees

Meticulously complete all application requirements and prepare thoroughly for WAT/PI to navigate the process successfully. Give your best shot at every stage.

5. IIM Selection Criteria

Getting shortlisted and selected in IIMs is highly competitive given the thousands of applicants fighting for limited seats. Here is an overview of the selection criteria and weightages:

  • Academic scores (10th, 12th, UG – 10-15%)
  • **Entrance test

5. IIM Selection Criteria (Contd.)

  • Entrance test scores (CAT/GMAT) – 25-30% weightage
  • Work experience – 15-20% weightage
    • Relevance of work ex
    • Job profile, responsibilities
    • Achievements and impact
    • Career progression
  • Extracurricular activities – 10% weightage
    • Depth of involvement
    • Achievements
    • Personality and interests demonstrated
  • Essays – 10-15% weightage
    • Articulation of goals, motivation for MBA
    • Career progression and linkage with MBA
    • Key qualities, achievements, failures conveyed
  • Academic diversity – IIMs seek diversity in academic backgrounds in the batch – arts, commerce, science etc.
  • Gender diversity – IIMs aim for 30-40% women in batch
  • Work experience diversity – Mix of freshers and experienced candidates preferred
  • Interview – 15-20% weightage
    • Communication skills
    • Personality fit
    • Goals and motivation
    • Subject knowledge
    • Leadership traits
  • Writing ability test – 5-10% weightage

Aim for excellence across academics, work ex, entrance tests, extracurriculars and communication skills to present a well-rounded profile. Combine strengths across diverse parameters to maximize your chances.

Here is a sample profile that can get shortlisted for IIM interviews:

  • CAT overall percentile – 98 to 99.5
  • 10th/12th scores – Above 90%
  • UG Degree – B.Tech/BE in Computer Science from IIT/NIT with 8-8.5/10 CGPA
  • Work ex – 2 years at MBB consulting firm as Business Analyst. 1 promotion.
  • Extracurriculars – Football at state level. Volunteering experience. Online course certificates.
  • Essays – Articulates career progression, goals, achievements crisply
  • Interview – Displays good communication, maturity, leadership traits
  • Diversity – Brings gender/academic background diversity

The competition is intense, so benchmark yourself against profiles accepted in past years and keep improving across all parameters. Stellar academics and work ex is core – everything else provides additional boost.

6. Life at IIMs

While getting admission itself is a challenge, once you enter an IIM you become part of an unparalleled learning experience. Here’s a glimpse of life after getting into an IIM:

  • Rigorous academics: Case method of learning. Courses in finance, marketing, operations, strategy, economics, analytics. Quizzes, assignments, projects keep you busy.
  • World-class faculty: Learn from leading professors. Exposure to guest lectures from industry experts.
  • International exposure: Opportunity for student exchange programs at global B-schools for a term.
  • Co-curricular activities: Become part of student clubs – sports, dance, music, drama, debates, quizzing, special interests.
  • Leadership development: Develop leadership skills by organizing fests, conducting college social responsibility activities. Become class representative.
  • Conferences and seminars: Attend conferences by industry bodies and seminars by business leaders within campus.
  • Competitions and hackathons: Participate in case study competitions, coding hackathons, business quizzes.
  • Alumni network: Interact and learn from distinguished alumni at the top of corporate ladder.
  • Placements: Opportunity to get placed at top consulting, finance, tech, e-commerce firms visiting campus. Multiple job offers.
  • Entrepreneurship: Incubation, funding opportunities for startups. Mentorship from successful alumni entrepreneurs.
  • Vibrant campus life: Reside on campus. With festivals, cultural events, there’s always something happening. Lifelong bonds.

Pursuing MBA at IIM leads to immense learning, friendships, and transformation at personal and professional level over the two years. The toughest part is getting in – life after that is vibrant and full of opportunities.

7. Common Mistakes to Avoid

Here are some common mistakes that MBA aspirants make which reduce their chances of getting into a top IIM:

  • Starting preparations too late – Take 2-3 years to strengthen academics, get work ex, build your profile.
  • Poor entrance test scores – Not taking enough mock tests. Ignore weak areas. Don’t analyze past papers.
  • Work ex in irrelevant field – Taking up roles not valued by IIMs. No impactful achievements.
  • Too many gaps – Frequent job changes. Gaps between graduation and work.
  • No leadership achievements – Not taking opportunities to demonstrate teamwork, people skills.
  • Poor communication skills – Not working on improvingsoft skills, personal branding.
  • Vague career goals – No clarity on motivation for MBA and long term vision.
  • Clichéd, boring essays – Repetition of profile points rather than interesting stories, anecdotes.
  • Grammatical errors in application – Typos, factually wrong information. Not proofreading rigorously.
  • Fumbling in interview – Unable to articulate key achievements, weaknesses, goals clearly and crisply. Answering theoretically rather than with examples.
  • Overconfidence and arrogance – Reflected in body language and communication during interviews.

Avoid these common pitfalls through timely planning and dedicated preparation. Have an expert review your entire application objectively before submission. Pay attention to detail.

8. Success Stories

To inspire you in your IIM admission journey, here are some success stories of candidates who overcame odds and achieved their IIM dream:

Prakash Sharma, IIM Ahmedabad

Prakash graduated as a mechanical engineer from a little known college in Uttar Pradesh. He could not afford expensive coaching. But through self-study of past CAT papers for 2 years using basic books, Prakash increased his QA percentile from 70 to 99. With consistent academics and work ex in auto manufacturing, he converted IIM Ahmedabad and gained global exposure by attending an exchange program at MIT Sloan.

Priya Sen, IIM Calcutta

Priya lost her father in 12th standard, but continued excelling in studies while supporting her family. She graduated top of her college with a BA Economics degree. After working for 3 years in an NGO, she prepared rigorously for CAT for 1.5 years along with her job to achieve 98 percentile. Her perseverance under personal odds and motivation shone through in her application essays, leading to her getting selected at IIM Calcutta.

Ravi Sankar, IIM Bangalore

Ravi comes from a modest family background in Bihar with no one to guide him on MBA admissions. Through reading online forums, he prepared a solid application over 4 years – excelling in academics, taking campus recruitment exams, working as an engineer at a manufacturing firm and displaying consistent community service. His diligent self-preparation paid off in cracking IIM Bangalore.

Swati Mehra, IIM Indore

As mother of a toddler, Swati did not have flexibility of doing a full-time MBA. She opted for IPMAT and got into IIM Indore’s executive MBA program catered to working professionals. Here she could learn from faculty and cohort with similar experience while continuing her work, using weekends for attending classes. She graduated in top 10 of her IPM batch.

These inspirational stories prove that with dedication and perseverance, you can overcome circumstances and fulfill your IIM dream. Stay motivated!

9. FAQs

Here are some frequently asked questions on getting admission to IIMs:

Q1. How important are academics for IIM admission?

Academics have high importance, especially 10th, 12th and UG scores. IIMs want to see consistency in academic performance since 10th. Having 90%+ in key exams boosts your chances.

Q2. I have low grades in a couple of semesters. Will that reduce my chances?

Having spikes or low grades in 1-2 semesters is fine as long as your overall grade trend is strong. Provide context for low grades in your essays if needed. Focus on keeping subsequent semesters’ grades high.

Q3. Is work experience required for IIM admission?

Work experience is preferred but not absolutely mandatory. Around 10-20% candidates in IIM batches are freshers. Ensure your academics, extracurriculars and interviews are stellar as a fresher.

Q4. Does internship/part-time work count as work experience?

Internships during MBA academics or part-time work along with studies does not count as work experience. IIMs want candidates who have exclusively worked full-time after graduation.

Q5. How important are entrance exam scores?

CAT/GMAT scores have high weightage in selection process. Aim for minimum 90 percentile in each section and 95+ overall percentile. Meeting just the cutoff is risky. Go beyond cutoffs.

Q6. How important are extracurricular activities?

IIMs want well-rounded candidates. Pursue meaningful ECs like sports, social initiatives, arts where you have demonstrated achievements rather than doing multiple random activities.

Q7. Should I apply to all IIMs or shortlist few?

Apply to IIMs where you meet the eligibility criteria. Shortlist 5-6 IIMs where your profile is most aligned. Attend interviews at IIMs where you get shortlisted rather than all.

Q8. Does my engineering/non-engineering background affect my chances?

IIMs aim for academic diversity and take students from varied backgrounds. What matters most is your consistency, achievements and demonstrating aptitude for management education.

Q9. How can I get scholarships/financial aid at IIM?

IIMs offer need-based scholarships. You can indicate your need in application and apply again after admission. Bank education loans are commonly taken by students to fund IIM fees.

Q10. What support is available on campus for non-engineers?

IIMs conduct math, data, finance bridge courses to cover essential prerequisites. Peer learning groups and academic guidance from faculty evens the playing field over time.

With early planning, hard work and perseverance, you can realize your dream of getting into India’s top IIMs. Stay motivated. All the best!

10. Conclusion

Gaining admission to the prestigious IIMs requires you to work diligently over 2-3 years and excel across academics, entrance exams, work experience, extracurriculars and communication skills. While the competition is intense, with meticulous preparation and by avoiding common mistakes, you can craft a stellar candidature and emerge successful.

Remember to start preparations early, gain quality work experience in core roles, strengthen your areas of weakness, and benchmark yourself against past profiles. Display persistence and consistency across diverse parameters. Craft impactful essays that bring out your personality. Prepare thoroughly for interviews – communication is vital.

Stay motivated through the long preparation journey. Maintain fitness and productivity. Leverage senior mentors who can guide you. Keep the faith and your vision. With the right strategy and commitment, you have it in you to gain entry into India’s top business schools – the IIMs – and access an unmatched management education that will empower your career and leadership journey immensely.

All the best!

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