17 years ago when I thought of pursuing an MBA degree to enhance my career prospects, I realized that it was a fiercely competitive entrance exam and you needed professional help to have an edge.
A good base of the three R’s – reading,writing and arithmetic – needed to be molded further to cope with sections on quantitative aptitude, critical reasoning, data interpretation, verbal ability and reading comprehension.
And in the mad game of percentiles, even a slight lift could yield big gains. And there was no denying that hard work was the key to success. It seemed unfair to many that the Science students particularly the engineers had a great edge over ordinary mortals in combating the tortuous Maths and DI segments.
I was lucky to join a relatively small batch of aspirants in a Prep School being run by professionals who had cracked the holy grail of IIMs themselves and so could proudly assert that they had ‘been-there-and-done-that’. Luckily ours was a mix batch and we had students from all the faculties including the Engineers. I believe there is a modern trend to have segregated batches filtered by parameters like ‘Engineers v/s Non- Engineers’, ‘Working professionals v/s students’, ‘Aptitude-Test-Toppers’ v/s the rest of the gang. The customization is meant to enhance the course delivery and learning cycle though I remain sceptical about the same.
Well the orientation sessions were like a reality check – one had to hone skills like rapid reading speed, time management, intelligent choice of questions to attempt, reckoning approx answers instead of labouring to calculate exact ones, trading efficiency v/s accuracy, using easy tricks to crack the pattern, understanding personal strengths to leverage the paper and hope for some good luck.
Thankfully our witty Profs spared us the further drill on cracking Group Discussion, Personal Interview and improving ones interpersonal skills. It would have been too much to saddle us with all that at a primer stage.
But the classes did become interesting – one developed smaller networks and got used to the group dynamics. The engineers did lament a bit about the lack of maths and reasoning skills among the ‘aam janta’, who were only thrilled to return the compliment by thumbing them down in sections of Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension. We too had our legends who could conquer all the four segments and seemed to walk on the water for us. It was a no brainer that they will crack the entrance and the debate was whether they make it to the hallowed IIM (A) or not. But the ‘Engineer’ v/s ‘Non-Engineer’ divide was very much real and relevant for most of us.
Well the engineers were a smart lot and they came up with various tactics to cope with their difficulty – all for ensuring they make the sectional cut-off and not turn into ‘English pros’ in six months time.
The quick fixes included –
- Barron’s word list was a popular tool along with word cue cards and other word games
- Reading Comprehension meant encountering vague passages about topics like Greek civilization and philosophy that were to be avoided like plague. Crisper passages featuring IT or financial affairs were good hits as they were specific and to the point, making it easier to answer the questions
- Reading speed was painful to improve but whatever tips could help it were certainly meant to be attempted
- Wacky techniques worked as well – one of my friends would always read the questions first and then look at the passage. Even with same passage he would leave a few questions that seemed time-consuming or tested his vocabulary too much
- Verbal Ability was a far easier section to improve than RC and the tricks we learnt in the class surely helped
- Syllogisms were happy hunting ground for Engineers who would crack it using Venn Diagrams while the more literary folks dueled the nuances of ‘all v/s none’, ‘some v/s some are not’, double negatives etc
After a few months the improvements were visible for all to see – I think the popular vote was that the engineers improved their English better that the rest did their Maths. Guess they learn to be dogged and disciplined in their approach better than the rest. And it showed in the final results as well wherein engineers in particular would walk away with most of the honours by managing to further crack the GD and PI sessions as well.