As 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.
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