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INSEAD MBA Admissions Director Tells You How To Get Accepted

Virginie Fougea has worked in admissions at INSEAD for over 20 years. If there’s anybody who knows the secret to a successful MBA application, it’s her

Wed Aug 1 2018

Here’s some things every MBA applicant should know about INSEAD.

The 10-month INSEAD MBA is ranked second in the world by the Financial Times—it ranked first in 2016 and 2017. It costs just under $100,000 (€84,000).

INSEAD admits two intakes of 500 MBA students each year. The average age for the class of 2018 is 29. Years of work experience: six. Average GMAT: 709, but you could get accepted with a 570.

The INSEAD MBA doesn’t just say it’s international; it actually is. That means: 94 different nationalities represented in the class; no dominant culture; and an equally diverse admissions team.

The competition to get accepted is such that INSEAD doesn’t release the number of applications it receives each year. Virginie Fougea, INSEAD’s director of MBA recruitment and admissions, explains that she’s concerned the figures might put applicants from non-traditional backgrounds off. In reality, she says, INSEAD wants these people in the class.

If you come from a non-traditional MBA background, then what are you waiting for? Apply!


The graphs on this page have been sourced from INSEAD and are relevant to the INSEAD MBA class of 2018.

The process to do so is relatively...

: application form; GMAT; three essays; interviews. INSEAD assesses applicants based on four key criteria: ability to contribute to the class; ability to work in an international environment; academic capacity; and leadership potential.

What’s different is that INSEAD asks every applicant to undergo a pre-screening video interview, where they answer four questions. These questions vary from one applicant to another. Applicants have 45 seconds to prepare each answer and 60 seconds to record an answer.

If successful, applicants go on to interview with an MBA alum—NOT the admissions team—usually in their country of residence. INSEAD has 2,200 volunteer-alumni spread out across the world, who conduct on average four interviews a year.


If you get to the alumni interview, Virginie says, it’s a good sign, but it doesn’t always mean a straight acceptance. INSEAD sometimes waitlists applicants, offers a conditional acceptance—more time to get the work experience required—and some applicants are rejected.

If you’ve never travelled, or never had any contact with people and cultures different to your own, Virginie explains, you’ll find it difficult to get accepted on the INSEAD MBA.

Virginie has been involved in admissions at INSEAD for over 20 years. Two or three different people from her team scrutinize every single application.

Should you take the GMAT over the GRE? How should you answer the essay questions? How can you ace the interview? BusinessBecause caught up with Virginie to guide you through the INSEAD MBA application process.


INSEAD only accepts GRE scores from dual-degree applicants or applicants living in countries without GMAT test centers. In the vast majority of cases, if you’re a full-time MBA applicant you should take the GMAT.

INSEAD prefers the GMAT over the GRE. Why?

“The GMAT was created for business schools,” Virginie explains. “The GRE was more designed for undergrad and generalist studies, and is pretty new to the graduate management education space.”

INSEAD’s class average GMAT is 709. The highest score among the 2018 MBA class is 780; the lowest is 570—that’s right, someone got accepted into INSEAD with a 570 GMAT score.

What GMAT score should you aim for? Virginie says that, for many applicants, a 640 with a score at or above the 60th percentile for both the quantitative and verbal sections of the GMAT is perfectly fine, even if it’s quite far off the average.

“More than the total, we look at the verbal and the quant,” she explains. “Depending on the country from where you’re taking the GMAT, education systems differ. You may learn math in a different way to the GMAT-way, so the test could be tricky for some people.

“We look at how people perform against others taking the test in the same region.”

Ultimately, a high GMAT score does not guarantee admission, and a below average score doesn’t mean rejection either. INSEAD looks at the people behind the numbers—the school considers your application as a whole.


Essay Questions

INSEAD’s four essay questions rarely change. They read as follows, as per a recent blog post on

Essay 1: Give a candid description of yourself (who are you as a person), stressing the personal characteristics you feel to be your strengths and weaknesses and the main factors which have influenced your personal development, giving examples when necessary. (approximately 500 words)

Essay 2: Describe the achievement of which you are most proud and explain why. In addition, describe a situation where you failed. How did these experiences impact your relationships with others? Comment on what you learned. (approx. 400 words)

Essay 3: Describe all types of extra-professional activities in which you have been or are still involved for a significant amount of time (clubs, sports, music, arts, politics, etc.). How are you enriched by these activities? (approx. 300 words)

Optional Essay: Is there anything else that was not covered in your application that you would like to share with the Admissions Committee? (approx. 300 words)

“[The essays] are where we ‘meet’ the applicant for the first time,” Virginie explains. “We’re looking for personal stories. It’s an opportunity to for applicants to introduce themselves and tell us about their values.”


Average age for the INSEAD MBA class of 2018.


INSEAD encourages its army of alumni to conduct relaxed, informal interviews. No case studies! In the interview, you’re expected to talk more about your values than your achievements at work.

Alumni, Virginie says, expect applicants to have questions ready for them about their experiences at the school. It’s a conversation; not a job interview.

“We hope applicants are prepared to share,” Virginie continues. “Interviewers sometimes downgrade applicants if they have not been themselves; if they have their answers pre-prepared; if they haven’t done their prep for INSEAD specifically; and if they don’t know what makes INSEAD different.”

Application deadlines (September 2019 intake):


The graphs and information included in this article have been sourced direct from the INSEAD website.