CAR Format : How to impress the Admissions Committee : A Guide to writing your B-school Application – Part 2

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Drafting examples for situation based questions

Continuing from Part 1 , now you have your “comprehensive list” ready. This includes everything about you – academics, work life, extra-curricular activities, significant events, et al.

Now, what you need to do is prepare stories / examples for all situation-based questions (examples given in Part I)

These stories are best expressed in a format known as CAR format. CAR stands for Challenge-Action-Result.
Context/Challenge: To begin, describe the situation you are in and emphasize on the challenge that you are facing. What was it that made the situation at hand challenging?
Your job here is to keep it brief, but enable the reader to have an idea of the magnitude of the challenge and the implications of the situation.

Action: This section should highlight what did you do when you were faced with the situation? This part should focus on you and your actions alone. You should reflect on what you thought and did. In addition to this, also mention why you took that action. The logic behind your actions should become apparent.

Result: What was the result that you achieved by the action you took? Were you able to overcome the challenge? Think about the impact your actions have had, both externally and internally. Even if you made a mistake, did it change you as a person, did you learn from it? As far as possible, try to quantify (if possible) the external impact you have had, be it on the team, on the project or on your organization.

Tip: Not just for your essays, you can use this format while preparing answers for situation-based questions while preparing for your interview


(Mihir Kamdar’s Consulting Service in our Career Store)

Below is an example of an answer drafted in the CAR format


Question Challenge Actions Results
Discuss a projectthat required theuse of youranalytical skills My boss asked me to identify and recommend some new potential sales targets for a product of ours that was facing slow sales. I knew little about the product or its market. I met one of our data analysts to identify the common traits among out current buyers. I then dug into market research data to find potential customers who exhibited similar traits. I recommended that we try a direct mail campaign targeted towards a previously unconsidered segment The direct marketing test was a success, and we rolled out the campaign nationally.While sales had previously been declining 10% p.a., this new campaign helped the product see its first double-digit sales gain since it was first launched.


For all situation based questions, draft answers in the CAR format. It makes for an effective & relevant answer.

The STAR format is a slightly elongated version of the CAR format. STAR stands for Situation-Task-Action-Result. Herein, you can spend more real estate(words) on describing the situation and the challenge you faced.

A choice between the CAR & STAR formats will be governed by the length allowed for the particular essay. Typically a CAR format is used for a 300 word essay & a STAR format for longer. However, the choice is yours.


(Mihir Kamdar’s Consulting Service in our Career Store)


Once all examples are constructed, we move on to the last stage (before the actual writing) of the B-School Application process – The Essay Map. That will be Part III in this series

Part I, Part III

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– Mihir S. Kamdar

(The author is an ISB Graduate and a finance professional. He also helps potential MBA candidates with their B-School applications and interview preparations. You can find out more about Mihir’s Application consulting and Counseling services here in the Career Store. )