How to prepare for MBA entrance written exams?

Management GraduatesAs notifications are about to come for the next year’s MBA entrance exams, time is probably right to ponder about one’s strengths and weaknesses and gearing up for the battle. Once you are able to qualify the most important question, ‘Why MBA’, the stage is set for a series of strategically planned events which will eventually help a candidate in assuring a seat in a top b-school. First of these events is applying for the entrance exams and then secondly and most importantly writing those exams as many b-school gives a lot of weightage to the scores in these exams. In this peace of text, I will put forward my approach in tackling these entrance exams efficiently.

So, what is the right time to start preparing for these exams? I will keep my reference point around the CAT exam because almost all institutes follow the same pattern in written exams except IIFT, XAT etc. In my opinion one requires intense preparation of 6-7 months before ‘the day’. By intense, I mean 3-4 hours of time every day with a clear goal to achieve after each day’s investment. Please understand the entrance exams are a test of your temperament when you are out of your comfort zone. It is not a test of your knowledge really. Because, in MBA a cliché line is used which is ‘We are generalists and not specialists.’ So, as a candidate you are expected to do reasonably well in all the sections of the exam and not only in one.

Now, when a candidate looks for preparing for these entrance exams he gets perplexed when he sees various institutes claim 100% strike rate in getting students to top b-schools. In my opinion, one needs to spend time with oneself for preparing well, especially if the student is from science background. One needs to play on its strengths and cover his weaknesses to perform well. Practice holds the key. The more you practice, the more probability increases of your success.

Understandably, if the student is from non-science background, he needs to get extra attention to get his basics right, for which joining a coaching institute is a fair call. The questions which are asked in the quantitative ability and reasoning section don’t require intensive calculations in most of the cases. Most of them can be solved by proper visualization based on basic concepts. Questions on geometry, trigonometry are an example. As mentioned above, practicing in a timed setup will reap maximum dividends in terms of increase in performance. Mock tests come into the picture now.

For practicing in a real time environment, one needs to subscribe to one of the leading coaching institute’s test series. Caution: Don’t let the frustration creep in into your mental set-up on low scores but do note your mistakes/weak areas. Focus on accuracy and the speed will follow. In these high pressure scenarios, the judgment that which question to attempt and which one to leave becomes very critical in the final score. This judgment will only come if the candidate will follow the mock test series schedule religiously. Don’t run chasing each and every test series in the town, because all of them are mostly same that is they have same level of difficulty. Please…please…don’t exert too much pressure on yourself for solving too many questions in too less time. Trust me it is not going to help you and will decrease your efficiency.

mba graduates

One needs to develop reading capability for scoring in the exam by solving reading comprehension questions. Reading will help you in increasing your vocabulary. In questions like, synonyms-antonyms, one word or choosing the odd one out a good vocabulary comes very handy, because in these kind of questions either you know it or you don’t. So, having a good vocab will enable a candidate to score quickly without thinking much. The time saved here can be devoted by candidates to solve more questions in data interpretation and reasoning section where candidates complain about lack of time.

In many exams like XAT there is a section named as ‘decision making’ which asks for your course of actions in certain corporate/business scenarios. My take on this is that one cannot prepare oneself for this by mere practicing. Rather, reading economic times or following up with the activities happening in the business world and trying to decipher the business logic will help the candidate a lot. In this kind of sections, candidates with work experience hold an edge because they don’t need to prepare for it specifically. As a matter of fact, there have been instances in previous years when XAT also asked candidates to write an essay in the entrance exam itself. I will talk about it in my next article.

Also, now various institutes have started to keep a section of general knowledge/current affairs in their entrance exams. In exams like CMAT, SNAP and IIFT students already feel the pressure of lesser time. But if can attempt this section in a better way, it will save them a lot of time apart from increasing their score. In this case also, either you know it or you don’t know it. In today’s mobile age, it won’t require much effort to download an app of a good newspaper and be in touch with the recent news/current affairs on the go.

In the above discussions, I have not endorsed any book or study material for the preparation. What I did was, I referred Norman Lewis for vocab and read articles in various newspapers for comprehension. For quant and logical reasoning, I followed material of a coaching institute religiously. Most importantly, I monitored my performance during mocks very closely.

Thus, prima facie everything depends on, how well you managed your time to give an optimal performance across the sections in an exam. Remember, an exam cannot decide your career, so be calm and composed. Having a composed state of mind increases your performance by at least 10% and in this tough race, every inch is important. Be sure that you do well in areas of your strengths and cover your weak spots efficiently. Everything will be good. Good luck!!

Contributed by Sthita Sahu

The pros and cons of group study for MBA entrance exam

MBA aspirantsMBA entrance exams that ensure admission to premier B-schools in India need the right mix of hard work and smart work.  However, preparations for MBA entrance exams need careful planning owing to their complexity level. They don’t just test you on aptitude and knowledge but they focus equally on your social skills. To prepare for all kinds of assessments, you need to prepare in different ways. Some traits are honed at a personal level while others need practicing with your peers appearing at such exams.

Group study is a characteristic feature of entrance preparation. If you are preparing for MBA entrance exam, all you need to know about group study are its pros and cons to guide you how to balance it and get the most out of it. You must be able to discern when it is effective and when to avoid group study.

Best utilization of group study will definitely take you one step closer to your dream of cracking MBA entrance exam. To keep it simple, the advantages of group study in preparing for MBA entrance exams are listed below.

  1. Keeps you motivated : Group study for MBA entrance exam will keep you encouraged till the last moment. Knowing the progress and improvement of your peer group will definitely motivate you to put in more hard work. All of you who get bored easily while studying or lose interest quickly can benefit a lot with group study for MBA entrance exam.
  1. Easy help : Being hesitant in asking questions during a class is the most common issue encountered by students. When you attend a class in a coaching institute where students are cramped to the limit, you are likely to face difficulty in comprehending things easily or putting up a question to clear doubts. You can tackle this in a group study, where you can ask for help from the other members of your study group.
  1. Different perspectives : While going for group study for MBA entrance exam, you can benefit a lot in all the sections by getting different perspectives on every question. Different ideas, perspectives, and inputs help all the students of the group in gaining better understanding.
  1. Ease in erasing doubts : Any doubts you have about some of those complicated and confusing questions can be sorted outwith the help of other member students of the group. Quantitative aptitude will become slightly easy for you with a fellow group member explaining the solution with patience and in a casual way. You have the freedom to ask questions many times to clear ambiguity. The comfort level you share with the other students of the group makes it easy for you to come up with your problems and get them solved without any fear and apprehensions.
  1. Keeps you updated when you miss any class : If you happen to miss any of the coaching classes for MBA entrance exam due to illness or any other reason, you can easily cover up in your group study. Help can pour in from any other student of the group who will explain the concepts you missed owing to missing the class.
  1. Easy to get inputs on General Awareness : Studying in a group will help you get information on what all is happening in the world. Discussions with the study group members can hone your general awareness, especially for those who do not want to read newspapers. General awareness is an important section in all of the MBA entrance exams and it also helps to give good performance in Group Discussions and Personal Interviews. So, utilize the knowledge of the fellow members of the study group and get information on important things.
  1. Relieves you of the stress and monotony : Studying in a group will keep you high spirited as whenever monotony or boredom sets in, a lively joke or narration of an adventurous experience will give you the much needed break. Rejuvenation in the middle of serious group study actually adds to the energy levels with every member getting back to studying with a refreshed mood.

mba programmeBut as every coin has two sides, so does every situation. Group study is vital and carries benefits but it might prove futile in a situation where the following disadvantages may act as spoilers.

  1. Straying away from the motive : One of the biggest drawbacks of group study for MBA entrance exams is you might drift away from the motive due to several distractions. When students sit together for group study, it’s natural for them to engage in conversations which can take them away from their goal.
  1. Idle- talk defeats the very purpose of group study : While going for group study for MBA entrance exam, you need to make sure the members do not indulge in idle-talk. Discussing everyday affairs or personal issues will create unfavourable environment for studying. Idle-talk, gossips, pointless conversations will mutilate the objective of group study, causing more harm than good.
  1. Overt domination in a study group proves detrimental : Leadership is a good trait and having a strong headed leader is a boon for any group. But group formed to prepare for MBA entrance exam should be the last group to have a dominating leader. Avoid letting any student dominate the group or else you will always lack behind with no voice of your own. All the members are students and everyone should be equally treated and allowed to share views and thoughts freely.
  1. Negative talks create unpleasant environment : Students have the habit of discussing their feedback of professors, or their teaching style or classroom happenings that might create a negative environment in the study group. The negativity will hamper your concentration and progress towards cracking the MBA entrance exams.
  1. Study group of friends might fail to serve the purpose : If you are forming a group to prepare for MBA entrance exam, having your close friends as members of it might deviate you from the aim. It is natural to end up chit-chatting with them, wasting the precious time. Having friends is not an issue, but stay focused and determined to achieve your goal as preparing for MBA entrance exams is not an easy job.

Remember, this is the most important phase of your academic life, where you need to put in serious efforts to achieve your goal. Securing admission in a good B-school requires a good score in MBA entrance exams. You have to put your best foot forward, so avoid all the distractions and take the best of everything to scale heights of success; this includes group study as well.

Contributed by Qais Mujeeb ( Class of 2001, IBS Hyderabad )