Wednesday, April 6, 2011

MBA Exam Preparation Tips

Finally, the post which I have meant to write for quite some time. Over the last few months, many people have asked me questions related to MBA exams preparation. What to do and what not to do, tips, how to prepare for GDPI, etc. So I have decided to write on How I actually prepared. I will be writing two posts, the first one[ie this post] will deal with the written exams, and the second one for GDPI preparation. But before I start, here is a very important NOTE:

This is purely my personal experience and the methodology I followed in my preparation. If you do the same, it will NOT guarantee that you too will manage to get into a top Bschool. I am not claiming that if you follow the steps, you will surely succeed. What suits me may not suit you and vice versa. So instead of blindly following what someone else tells you, it would be best to create an original strategy that complements you. I am writing this post in the hope that it will be helpful to candidates appearing for such exams in the future. Do not consider my post as a Holy Grail or something which must be followed strictly. Make your own decisions. But yes, more than any coaching institute material, mocks, books, the three things which you surely need are:

i) Self Confidence

ii) Hard Work- Persistence

iii) Never Say Die Attitude

With these few words, I begin:

Written Tests:

For convenience, I have made this post into a Question-Answer format.

Q) 1) What do MBA entrance exams test us on?


Most MBA entrance exams will test you on these parameters:

i) Quantitative Ability

ii) Verbal Ability

iii) Logical Ability

You can get the detailed syllabus in any coaching institute material. Different exams have different time limits. You can get more information online, and also at

Q) 2) When should one start preparing for MBA?

Ans) The first question which most people ask is What is the Ideal time to start preparation. I would say it would be better to Ask yourself Why MBA first and then decide how to prepare. If you are planning to do MBA without a valid reason, suit yourself. But do remember that it may come back to haunt you later in your life. Now to my first question. There is no ideal time to begin preparation. But generally, 6-8 months before CAT is enough. Am considering CAT as the default exam for obvious reasons.
Personally I started preparing after class 12th exams were over. But I repeat, you do NOT need to study for 3 years or more in order to crack CAT/other exams. Enjoy your college life and do not neglect studies. Plus it is always better to get some work experience before joining a Bschool.

Q)3) Which Coaching Institute to Take?

Ans) Whichever one you want. It hardly makes any difference. Personally I feel that coaching institutes are way too over-hyped with every institute claiming 100% success rate. Don’t be fooled by such ads alone, do a proper analysis before joining an institute. I made the grave mistake of joining an institute in my 3rd year of college and I regretted it. Best would be just to take up a test series and take mock tests. That’s it. If you have it in you, you can definitely make it into any top bschool, coaching or no coaching.

Q)4) How many Mock Test should one take?

Ans) I believe 10-12 mocks over a period of 5 months are more than enough. But make sure that you peak at the right time, ie when your CAT exam arrives. I personally took 12 mocks, that too of just one series[IMS]. My percentiles ranged from 89-97. Mostly in the 92-94 range. The mocks provided good practice. And analysis of mocks is crucial.

Things to AVOID:

i) Solving too many mocks, especially in a short span of time: This will just decrease your efficiency and increase your frustration.

ii) Joining too many test series, thinking you will get the best of all: Totally unwanted and useless thing to do. Most mock tests are similar to a great extent.

iii) Getting depressed after one poor performance: I got 83 and 84 percentile in my last 2 mocks. Yet I ended up with a percentile of 96.54. So nothing to get disappointed about mock scores. They are just for practice and analysis.

The most negative point about mocks is that most of them have a high standard of difficulty. Many people get frustrated after solving such problems. But in actual CAT, the problems will be logical based and you will hardly need to remember any formula or complicated step in order to solve them. I personally feel that solving extremely hard problems is a total waste of time. And I know one person who did not TAKE a SINGLE mock the entire season, was working, yet scored 99.7 percentile in CAT and 99.8 percentile in XAT. So it is quite possible to do well without bothering about your mock scores. I got fed up of mocks after I took ten of them.

Q)5) How do I prepare for Quant, Verbal, DI, LR, RC? Which books to follow?

Ans) One of the most common questions asked by many candidates. Here is a short guide:

i) Quant: Arun Sharma books are okay for beginners. You can solve the problems especially if you have forgotten your basics. Else you can take any coaching institute material and revise the basic concepts. Some topics such as Number System, Geometry, P & C, Time and Distance, etc are generally considered more important than others. Solving past papers of CAT, XAT, etc, may also help. Remember that you do not need to be a master of Mathematics in order to score well in this section. But make sure your accuracy is good. Do not do blind guesses. I am personally weak in Quant, so I cannot offer you much advice here, but do remember that with a bit of logic and common sense you can solve most problems.

ii) Verbal: GRE books are good, especially for vocabulary. Barrons guide may be useful for beginners. I personally liked Norman Lewis too. Do revise basic grammar from Wren and Martin or other books. CAT problems are usually typical in the sense that they are tricky, and the options are quite close to one another.
Apart from this, start reading extensively. Books, magazines and newspapers. The Hindu, TOI, ET, Frontline, India Today, etc. Try reading some non-fiction books, especially on management or business. This will not only improve your vocabulary, but will prove quite useful in tackling the Reading Comprehension section. Try to improve your reading speed and comprehending ability.

Remember: Reading books randomly wont help. If you do not like something do not force yourself to read it. For example there is no point starting with Ayn Rand if you are not interested in philosophy, just because your coaching institute teacher told you to. Finally solve previous year papers.

iii) Data Interpretation, Logical Reasoning: This section just requires practice and common sense. But make sure that you have both speed and accuracy. Try to do calculations as fast as you can. Avoid using calculators at all costs. Make sure that you avoid passages which may consume too much time. Just by a cursory glance you should be able to decide which are the passages/caselets that you are going to attempt. Most important is not to get stuck on any problem. Practice from mock tests or previous year papers. Arun Sharma has mostly quite simple problems.

Rest will be continued in future posts. Feel free to ask any queries if you have. Thank you.


Aragorn said...

Interesting Analysis... You have covered the basic aspects well enough. Just for anyone who would be reading this post, i would like to emphasize on having a work experience a MUST before one joins a B school. (3-4 years is the decent work experience required...) Though some institutes take freshers too, a work exp has its own benefits.


J said...

Thank you :)

shubi said...

i am a b.d.s. student n i wanted to do mba so i have to clear all dia cat,mat exams...........since i m nt in touch wid maths n any other mbd related subject because of biology i am tottaly confuse where to start from.....plz guide me with some books n tips so i would start my email id is if u like to contact me..............hoping 4 a rply.....
shubhra mittal

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Wow it's too great article i like it to read and pass among my many friends.. really helpful and motivated.. thanks for sharing, keep more sharing for the same.

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shilpi said...

Really nice article, well-articulated and could connect to it, but as you said, always have your own strategies to work things out :)This can help improve your management skills, perhaps.

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