Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Aug 22, 2012 – General musings and an interview with

I was fortunate to have had the chance to go through an admissions related book with It was a further boon when they requested me to have a kind of a discussion with them on their questions with regards to the B-School application and GMAT. I must confess that such events are truly wonderful in terms of boosting one’s confidence. So they sent me a set of questions and I responded back with my thoughts.

The entire interview can be reviewed at the below link on

On the preparation front there has been a real bad lull. I have been travelling and honestly it is close to 2 weeks since I have even touched the books again. I have decided to take the GMAT in September last week which roughly gives me 1 more month to prepare. I have completed out with the basics and now have to move with increasing my accuracy and more mock tests. I am slightly worried that these 2 weeks without any practice might really damage all the hard work I have been putting since the start. It is also about time that I start looking into the IR section. This is a new section and while I have attended a few sessions on IR by the premier coaching websites I have actually not tried my hand at any real practice. I am hoping that it is not going to be a real difficult task considering analytical and graphical analysis is something that is pretty much a parcel of daily work life.

I will be taking a break for 4-5 days starting this weekend. I am feeling a bit jaded and I decided that it is about time I took a break to recharge my sagging spirits and energy levels. I have been working for close to 6 months now without a break. This break should help me get back on track and I will also use the time away from normal life to work on the essay points.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Aug 3, 2012 – What is the best strategy for working people preparing for the GMAT?

I have been pondering over this aspect of preparation for a long time now. While I totally agree that many people prepare for the GMAT simultaneously while working it needs some neat planning to do this successfully. This entire planning is highly subjective and will need to be customized by every individual simply because even though we all might be working the nature of our jobs and work on the job might rarely be the exact same as each other.

I come from a more operations and support kind of job background which simply means that my work load and work hours are highly unpredictable and not steady/constant. Mind you that when I say unpredictable and not steady it is on the worse side i.e. at least 40 hours of per week will be devoted to work. In fact 45-50 hour weeks are usual. Above this if there are some issues with any of the customer deployments then the hours worked easily reach around 70 hours per week. Believe me that this is not an exaggeration.

All this led to all my plans to study regularly go haywire. The very basic of any plan is that there will be a steady number of hours spent studying every day. I am pretty sure that a large number of individuals might be facing a similar dilemma as I have been. It is not only the number of hours worked that affects the preparation but also the mental fatigue and impact that such heavy work load tends to have. There have been days when I have had the chance to spend 1-2 hours on a Thursday or Friday but my mind was simply so stretched and tired that either I could not focus or grasp the content I was studying or I was taking long time to solve problems or making lots of silly mistakes.

Personally, I have tried my level best to study every day and I have been able to put in a good effort in this aspect. However, like stated above I feel tired and this entire effort actually has a very bad effect on my performance. Effectively, I feel like I have not done anything productive in such sessions where I am fatigued. This has led me to identify a plan that suits my daily routine and study habits. I feel it is necessary to take a break for either a day or two mid-week. This break preferably is Thursday or Friday so that it helps to get back on the weekend plan with more vigor. Also, personally, I feel it is important to relax and enjoy. Go out with friends for dinner, see a movie that is being played in the cinemas and most importantly play the game that you like or work-out for 30-45 minutes every day. There is no point is getting exhausted and forcing oneself to study if the productive output is just not up to the mark.

Study when you really feel like irrespective of what time of day it is. In your office time, instead of avoiding the extra talk during lunch-time take a walk out in the fresh air. It will help getting in some activity in your schedule. Solve 1-2 questions which should not take more than 10 minutes of your time. The daily digests from the GMAT sites is a good option to subscribe to. The quality of questions might not be authentic GMAT level but there is something to be learned from every question.

A word of caution with attempting to follow this approach is that do not miss many days at a stretch without having any study. Do a bare minimum every day so that the mind is in the GMAT and study mode. I have been feeling fatigue and have observed that for the past 2 weeks my productive output has really dropped. I am planning on taking a break for the next 2-3 days and have a quick vacation to recharge my sagging energy and concentration levels. This is a much needed break.

I hope this post was a good investment of time and maybe I have touched a string in your schedule and study plan. Do let me know if there are any comments or if there are better suggestions.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

July 31, 2012 – Review of the first mock test during this GMAT attempt

Before I move ahead, post introduction of the IR section, the official site now has the newer version of the GMATPrep tests. This version can co-exist with the older version (one having 2 essays). So effectively the students having both versions can avail of 4 mock tests.

I took the first mock test of the older GMAT Prep software yesterday. I did not attempt the essays and jumped straight away to the Quant section. The initial questions were a breeze and I was pretty much on time. However, around the 10 or 11th question, I got stuck and took about 3.5 to 4 minutes for a question. This was still acceptable since I was ahead of time even at this point. Around the 18th question and then the 22nd question, I really got stuck up on a relatively easier problem. I say relatively because when I was reviewing the test questions, I was able to solve it within 2 minutes with a much better approach. Due to this I ended up having to really rush through the questions from 27th to 31st and missed all 5 of them. Yes, 5 in a row were wrong. L I just managed to finish off the quantitative section just in time but I have surely learnt my lesson. I have to take immense care that henceforth I do not get bogged down by the middle questions. It cost me time and indirectly my accuracy heavily. I am not revealing my overall score as yet since I intend to cover it later on when I mention my review analysis.
Moving on to the verbal, I felt I started strongly. The first 2 were sentence correction questions and I was able to narrow down to 2 choices and then went with my judgment to nail it down to one. The third question was a CR with the question type as a variant of strengthen the argument. I felt that I got this one correct as well. I then a RC passage at question 6 and then onwards more of SC. There were 3 more RC’s with the total RC’s encountered being 4. Since this is almost my 6 or 7th attempt of this particular mock test, I had a feeling of having seen the questions. This mock was my first in over 8 months so chances of answering repeat questions based on my memory can be eliminated. I felt confident of my responses and that I had done well. So, with a calm mind I proceeded to the score. I felt I should be around 700 this time.
The overall score was 670 with Q 49 and V 32. Incidentally I had a total of 11 mistakes each on the quant and the verbal section. Disappointed a bit, I proceeded with the review of the performance.
          Quant Section --:

i. I started off really well. The first mistake was on the 9th question and it was a DS. The next mistake was on the 13th question. I had struggled on the 12th question and fortunately it was correct. This might not necessarily happen always. The next time, I might get one wrong after spending 4 mins on it.
ii. I am not detailing my entire review (I already started with that, didn’t I?) considering it might be boring for the readers. I will just state the gist of my analysis.
iii. My mistakes were question numbers 9,13, 19,20, 25,26, 28,29,30,31 and 35. As mentioned before, I got stuck at the mid-level and that resulted in the mistakes onwards of 20. It really hurts badly if one makes consecutive mistakes as I have. I am actually surprised to see a score of Q 49 after seeing the layout of my mistakes.
iv. I can surely improve on this and try not to get stuck in my next mock test. I might have possibly got the question that I got stuck on wrong but then maybe I could have avoided 2-3 mistakes from question 25 to 31. When reviewing the solutions, I realized with another 30 seconds for each of those hurried questions I could have got them correct. Lesson learnt is “No matter how much you practice with moving on after 2 mins, on the test you tend to avoid guessing on time. This has hurt me and I will take a lot of care not to repeat this mistake.”
v. My biggest confidence booster is that despite making such consecutive mistakes I ended up with a score of Q 49. This does not prove nor disprove anything about the impact of getting the first questions right but I feel, personally, that the do matter. I say this because of my verbal performance review. If I avoid getting stuck, I might be possibly looking at Q 50 which will surely boost the chances of reaching the target score of 730+.
vi. I have improved leaps and bounds on my quant score and specifically D.S. I made 2 silly mistakes on the D.S. and I am pretty sure I need to avoid a recurrence of this theme.
     Verbal Section --:

i. Contrary to my belief that I had started well, I started with a lot of mistakes. I missed the questions 1 and 2 which were both SC. The positive however is that I had correctly nailed down the actual correct OA and the one I chose. It was the final elimination that failed. I have not been working on SC so this is presently acceptable though not desirable. I firmly believe that with practice and SC review I will be able to improve my accuracy on SC.
ii. The third question was CR and this was correct. I missed the 4th and the 6th from the 4th to the 6th question which were all SC. So effectively I missed 4 of the first 6 questions.
iii. Hereafter I was pretty stable and my next mistakes were 19,20, 23,24, 29, 34 and 39. Getting consecutive questions wrong did not help my score in any way but I feel the damage was really done in those initial 4 questions.
iv. I am aiming for a score of V37+ and I need to work very hard on SC hendeforth. I missed 1 CR question and had 3 RC mistakes. I have been working on CR so I am pleased with my CR performance though I am sure my real test will come when I get the SC questions correct as well. The CR will then be of a level which tests my CR ability.
v. I have not started off with RC and I think I am taking RC lightly. I did this mistake in my previous 2 attempts and I intend to correct it this time.

Overall, the key learning’s are to start on SC now since my quant looks better. This does not mean that I overlook quant all together. There are 2-3 topics which seemed to appear as a pattern in my mistakes. I need to work on Simple Interest and Ratio & proportion word problems. The CR is looking better and I need to keep practicing to build on this. For RC I think it is time that I dedicated 3-4 days to learn the finer nuances and reduce the possibilities of any RC based mistakes. It is high time I took RC seriously.

I am planning of appearing for the GMAT in September first week. For that to happen I need to get my RC and SC sorted by the 10th August. I will be taking my next mock on 12th August and it will be with the IR one i.e the new mock test. I am thinking that I will then take the MGMAT on the 15th Aug since the quant in MGMAT’s mock is slightly difficult than on the actual GMAT.

I am happy with my performance and my review makes me feel positive about being able to next leap and cross that 700 barrier which I have till now never crossed. If at all I can ever do it then it has to be in this attempt. I seriously dread the thought of having to go through this entire process of GMAT preparation again. L

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

July 11, 2012 – B-School application cycle for a re-applicant and the game of cricket

Being an Indian, the passion for cricket seems like a birth-right. There are very few things that cannot be linked to the happenings in cricket and specifically the Indian cricket team. That said, the line of thought can very easily be applied to football as well. Maybe, the English or the Spanish might prefer to relate the stuff around them to the happenings in the football. I happen to be a football fan as well but we are now digressing from the topic. J

So how can the entire re-applicant cycle be associated to Cricket, you might ask? For starters, the thought of thinking about the need of a MBA is akin to a starry-eyed child wondering about what it would be like to be seen on TV. The child wonders about it and starts playing at his local school level. Very soon he realizes that he might have the potential to do something big, be good at this entire playing thing but he needs some expert guidance, some specific coaching. No doubt he looks for a good academy. The change here though is in his reasons for seeking this boat that might help him. While he initially wanted to be on TV, he now seeks to join an academy to sharpen his skills, to become better at what he does. I guess, you now get my point. Somewhere down the line, the only driving force of seeking admission to an elite institution is to learn really great things, to better one self. All the other attributes like fame, money, success take a side-track.

Ok. So far, so good. What the hell does a re-applicant have to do with this? I would say pretty much everything. There are a few children that are born winners; they excel at everything they try their hand at. Not everyone is so fortunate. A majority will make mistakes, fall down, learn from their mistakes and grow better. I have always believed that as long as you learn from your mistakes and more importantly do not make them repeatedly by applying your learning then you are on the right track to rise high. All right, I probably made, in fact it needs to be said that I have surely made mistakes in my last application which is why maybe I did not make the cut. That does not mean I give up. This stage can be made akin to either child who has failed to make the cut to the academy’s final team. Even better, it would be worth associating this analogy of failure with a talented guy who has had a loss of form and is struggling to really nail down his place in the team. Hmm, this now makes some sense maybe. What am I getting at now?

The re-application is like trying to rediscover the form. An ugly truth of life is that when things do not go your way, everything seems to be going wrong. Even the noblest of deeds turns into unfortunate accidents and the simple actions seem to be like a mammoth road-block. Does one stop trying or living then? The answer is obviously no. Like a struggling batsman / bowler, one needs to take one thing at a time. As the commentators say for a struggling batsman, “He needs to face every ball by thinking about one ball at a time. He needs to spend some time at the crease”.

The same way, it is pretty straight forward with my re-application. I need to take things one at a time. My immediate task is the GMAT. While it is very much needed that I work on my application simultaneously, I need to tackle one thing at a time. There needs to be an effective game-plan. I need to take baby-steps, for, rather than taking huge leaps once in a while it is much better to be steadily moving forward. Slow and steady wins the race after all. I am working on this part of my profile. Once this is out of my way then I can whole-heartedly and fully concentrate on my application.

Please note that I have intentionally written that “then I can”. There is always some spare time that can be saved / squeezed in our daily routine to work and think on the aspect of the achievements in life till now. These are essentially the base points, the skeleton on which the application is going to be built. One can always see 15 minutes less of TV, sleep less for 15 minutes and avoid that urge to spend 15 more minutes on the social network or check the personal mails once a day and save around 10 minutes. Not all of these things maybe applicable to everyone but then I hope you get the point. It is not impossible to get a measly 30-45 minutes every day to just think about your life’s story till now. To write one point that comes out of this thinking maybe once in two days. This will ensure that when the essays need to be started it is more a stage of picking and choosing from the available options and develop the story.

I am working really hard to study daily for at least 1.5 hours but I end up procrastinating throughout the day and end up hardly having 30 minutes of quality time studying. I desperately need to stop this now. It is about 65 days for the application dead-line and there is the GMAT, the essays, recommendations, et. all.
I surely have to write pretty soon on the effects of procrastination on my application so that I avoid it all costs. This has to be my next article. Why write about it, you may ask? This is because I totally believe what my father always told me during my schooling days. Writing once is equivalent to reading 10 times. An article will totally reinforce in my mindset that I cannot procrastinate.

Hope this analogy and read today were not outrageous for your taste and time spent reading. Extreme situations have the uncanny ability to give birth to creativity, you see. There are a few things that seem so well timed right now that I am getting a feeling that this might be my time during this application cycle.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

July 07,2012 - Contemporary Musings wrt Work nature and Work Life

Precursory Warning : The entire following analogy is on a humorous note and a very amusing personal opinion! No offense is intended to anyone and so none should be taken. :) 

No matter what the work title says (viz. Analyst,Specialist,System/Application engineer,Tester etc.), the fact of the matter is we (people with such work titles) are all investigators / detectives. The fictional detectives investigated the cases and solved the crime by nailing the criminals and then their act culminated by handing over the criminals to the judicial systems for delivering the justice. We on the other hand, investigate and identify the cause of the issues (might be a cliche but stereo typically classified as bugs) and then culminate our act by handing it over to the R&D guys to deliver the justice to the issues. :D

Bottom line is we (people with above mentioned work titles) are all possible Sherlock Holmes characters in a very technical role :) This my dear Watson is elementary :D

Thursday, July 5, 2012

July 05, 2012 – Thoughts rushing through a re-applicant’s mind

Being a re-applicant is not something that I say with pride. The fact of the matter however is that either that I made mistakes during the last application or that my application as a whole did not live up to the expectations of the admissions committee. What then am I supposed to do this time around to succeed is the main thought running through my mind rather than what wrong did I do?
I have been awaiting feedback and unfortunately I do not now see the point in getting the feedback since even if I am provided some genuine comments they would surely be generic in nature. So, I have decided to take my feedback into my own hands. Following are the points that I think are important from a re-applicant’s perspective.

i.                    GMAT
In my case, my GMAT score was really way below the average of the school. I took a chance with it and unfortunately it did not work out. So my task this time is pretty much set in terms of taking the GMAT. I know for sure that the feedback if at all officially provided will highlight this aspect. However the GMAT score for re-applicants with a score of ~700 can be a tricky aspect. A score in the range of 700 is really sufficient and I personally feel that putting in the efforts to raise the score from 700 to a 740 is going to be many times exponentially tough than raising it from 640 to 700. So then does a re-applicant retake the GMAT? While this can be a difficult question to answer, I personally feel there is no need for a retake. Putting in at least 1.5 to 2 months into the GMAT preparation again will be a daunting task in terms of the application. I believe this time can be better utilized in preparing the essays and building up the profile in terms of jotting down every small event / achievement that has happened in one’s career.

ii.                  Essays and Application
This is the biggest point where the hardest decisions have been made. So I applied after doing my research and by putting in my best foot forward. But it is pretty clear that it did not suffice. Now, do I approach someone professionally to help with my application and specifically my essays? This has been a dilemma for me. It is more to do with the fact that seeking help is sometimes looked upon by oneself rather than in view of others. What I personally need is someone to critically assess my essays and tell me bluntly where I am screwing up. If this can only be done by seeking professional guidance then so be it. After all there is no harm is asking to be directed properly if I do not know how to proceed ahead. This will always be a tough decision for any re-applicant and there is no easy answer to this. If you think it will help the application then do not think twice on it. Go for it. After all we are talking about precious time and years of one’s life. Research on the available help and I would personally advise that seek help from someone who is interested in knowing you and in helping you get to the dreams. As the famous dialogue from Jerry McGuire goes, you need to choose someone who says “help me help you” J

iii.                Recommenders
I have not researched a lot on what other schools do but the ISB allows carrying forward the recommendations from the previous application cycle provided one has applied in the immediate preceding cycle. The question then arises that should you retain the recommendations or seek new ones. Another toughie eh L Once again no correct answer to this one. I am 90% sure of getting in new recommenders this time, the reason being that they will bring in new information and a new perspective to me as an applicant. Also the previous recos will be with the school so they will surely review it when they review my application as a re-applicant. I have shifted jobs last June so ideally this is a good time to get in new recos from somebody I have worked with in the last one year. This will provide fresh insights into my new job related performance and achievements.

iv.                The re-applicant essay
The dreaded question of “how has your profile changed since the last application cycle?” Fortunately, I have had changes which are drastic in nature and on the better side. I have had almost a year of international exposure in 3 countries in 3 different continents since the last year. I have achieved a promotion and a title change in 6 months of joining my new job. Personally and professionally I very strongly feel I have grown by leaps and bounds as a person and my experiences have really been colourful and have helped me mature. Not everyone might have such drastic changes. It is then best to present whatever changes no matter small in the best artistic way possible. I specifically used the word artistic because it is all about presentation here. You might have only done one good project but then you need to show clearly that the project was effectively life-changing in terms of your betterment. You saw the entire thing through and had a 10/10 score. I hope I have conveyed my point.

v.                  Extra-Curricular
I have observed in a few forums that applicants tend to ask that how can the EC’s be improved. I feel 9 months since the last application is too short a time to work on this aspect and improve it. That said, I am sure each of us has EC’s. It is just that maybe we do not realize that it can be mentioned as an EC. So all I can say is introspect and find that 1 or 2 things that you think are great in you which you might have over-looked. All one needs to do here is introspect real hard thoroughly. I am sure something will come up as a EC that you simply missed the last time.

Right now these are the points that come to my mind. I will add and edit other points as and when I recall them. I hope my posts are at least informative and have been worthy of the 5-10 minutes that you have given to this blog. Please feel free to comment on the posts.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

July 04 , 2012 – Work & Data Sufficiency. The score booster / demolisher

While I have not taken a month to post again, it has been relatively late. 2 weeks is not something that I wanted to space out for. That said, I believe I have become a much wiser man in these 2 weeks. Work wise I have absolutely been killed. 24 hours seem less for the amount of work getting directed my way.

That said, I have realized over the last few days that there is no end to work as such. The more you slog and do, the more work you get. While this is really good normally and even I have enjoyed it in my career, this particular fact is detrimental when there are some other ambitions / tasks that get lined up. In this case it is specifically studying for my GMAT and preparing my application. I am not sure how many of the working people face this dilemma. It is tough to give one’s 200 % at both work and study at the same time.

My solution to this problem is resorting to the same logic as solving Data Sufficiency in a way. One has to prioritize at all stages of one’s life and career and my present stage is such that my priority has to be my study time and my application. I cannot stop working and stop putting in efforts at work, can I? So what do I then? The answer I realized is work for the stipulated time and as much as is sufficient. After all every one if happy if sufficient work and output is received. This way I am working well to complete my assigned tasks and also not burning out myself. I have done this for the past 2 days and I realize that I have done a good job so far. I am not exhausted when it is study time and am able to devote at least 1 session of 75 mins in solving problems. I need to now make another 30-45 minutes more daily to analyze my problems and mistakes.

I completed the OG12 problem solving section. There is considerable increase in my accuracy which has risen to 90%. Interestingly, the most mistakes that I have made are in the easy and the medium difficulty levels. A few of these were silly mistakes and I have to be careful in my attempts and maybe take another 10 seconds to verify if needed. I made only 6 mistakes from the 78 hard questions. This was encouraging. I am now scouring for some really good questions to take my score to the next level. I feel that the OG12 questions are good enough for around 650+. To achieve 720+, I need to start practicing some really tough and testing questions more regularly.

I then moved on to Data Sufficiency questions. I have completed 100 questions and I realized that I am doing well initially and then when it comes down to the final choice I am just going the wrong way. Normally when the question comes down to C or E then the mistakes I am making are where I am choosing the wrong one. So while strategy wise, when I am guessing between C and E there is a probability of getting the correct answer 50%, I am ending up getting the wrong answer. I have already mentioned in my previous post that I am making this mistake. I need to work more carefully on reducing such mistakes. Another observation is that I tend to get 2-3 mistakes on a stretch and then a real good run of correct answers. This will kill me in the actual GMAT. I am trying to analyze if there is something wrong in my approach to the Data Sufficiency questions. I feel when I guess the answers here in DS, I tend to linger on that question even when I have the next question. This can be fatal. I need to consciously avoid this. I have some way to go still with the official guide questions and then the quant guide questions. I hope I adapt and improve.

For someone interested, a basic step in DS that maybe everyone knows but does not use is AD or BCE. I am using this and this helps narrow down solving questions that absolutely stump the living lights out of you. So as a step, I am writing this down on my notepad and striking out when I have evaluated one of the answer choices. This is surely helping me. Another general tip is to not be fixated with trying the first answer choice for evaluation. If the second one is easier to understand then it needs to be chosen. There is a reason why the first statement is sometimes convoluted and hard on you. Don’t get caught up there and move to the second statement first. After all the GMAC is spending roughly $250 per question that is being put forth in the actual test’s question bank. It cannot be so easy and straight forward, is it?
I hope I get back to my next post soon with some further news on my preparation and hopefully lesser DS mistakes. J

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

June 21, 2012 – A few strategies that can be used for quick maths

This post is intended as a continuation of the previous dilemma. I have been traversing different sources of study materials recently and was lucky to have a chance to spend a week of trail with an online study portal. There were a few things that I understood there that were really good and are shaping my resolve to use the quick maths more regularly. I am only listing a few of them so that if someone is interested they can dive into the deeper depths of that specific analogy. Along with the names I am providing some simple explanations as reference for the usage / application.

i.                    Process of Elimination
This is undoubtedly one of the most widely known terms of usage. However I would think that in the pressures of the actual test environment this trick is under-utilized. Personally I find that I fail to apply it to the trickier problems. This process of elimination helps when one can arrive at some understanding of the possible answer.
ii.                  Substitution : Plugging in the value
I find this strategy is helpful when solving for the problems with ages, mixtures, percents and even more in Data Sufficiency questions. The skill or the trick here to be learnt is on the good numbers that can be plugged in. A specific piece of information that is helpful is that when dealing with fractions, multiply the unique denominators of all the fractions involved and use that number for the substitution.
iii.                Tables
This methodology is really helpful in all the cases where the solution is leaning towards a Venn Diagram. If there are two distinct choices then this solution should be applied more frequently. An example would be in a class of students 5 girls are tall and 4 boys are fair. Blah blah blah…no girl who is fair is short…blah blah blah…find the boys who are not fair. These are the typical examples of applying the tables setup.
iv.                Data Sufficiency (AD or BCE)
This is also another very popular trick when guessing on the DS questions. It is really helpful in eliminating the answer choices. The trick for me to work and learn on here is when it comes down to choosing between C and E. While the probality of choosing a the correct answer between C and E is 50%, somehow I am presently not making the correct choice and am hence working on this aspect.

I will edit and add on more such pieces of possible tricks as and when I come across them. Hope this post was helpful and informative to those new to quant or trying to find quick options.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

June 20 , 2012 – The dilemma : Quick maths or the traditional quantitative approach?

Hello there, it has been a month since my last post. Somehow work always seems to increase when you least want it to grow on you. L These are the few petty matters in the life of an B-School applicant after all J

With respect to the quantitative problem solving questions, this dilemma has been testing my nerve for quite some time now. The basis of this issue rises from the way one’s approach is conditioned to approaching the problem solving quant problems. Being from an engineering background with plenty of exposure to mathematics, the natural approach for problem solving is to take the mathematical way. Believe me this approach will rarely fail. The trick however on the GMAT questions is most importantly there are only 2 minutes per problem and secondly that the questions are not actually meant to test the depth of the quant skills of the test-taker but instead the application of the basic math concepts. Following the natural mathematical approach gets really tough on the harder quant questions since the wording of the problem gets really tricky.

With this in mind, I have consciously decided to try the smarter way of solving the quant problems. This is a very demanding approach and needs immense practice. The end result should possibly result in relative improvement in time taken to solve the problems and also in making informed guesses on the harder problems. Now, a rather straight forward question is that why is this approach so demanding, if one decides on following this approach shouldn’t it be easy enough?

Let me try to explain this with a simple example. The below question is one of the easier questions in OG 12 problem solving quant section. Please take your time in trying to solve it.
A rainstorm increased the amount of water stored in State J reservoirs from 124 billion gallons to 138 billion gallons. If the storm increased the amount of water in the reservoirs to 82% of the total capacity, approximately how many billion gallons of water were the reservoirs short of total capacity prior to the storm? 
A. 9 
B. 14 
C. 25 
D. 30 
E. 44 

Ok, so since you now have attempted to solve this problem it is time to move on to checking the answer. But hold on for a second, the example was not for evaluating the answer but rather for evaluating the approach.

So, when I first looked at this problem, my natural instinct told me that form the equation and solve for the unknown variable. If (82/100) = 138 then x% = 124. Find the value of x and solve up for the total of 100% and subtract 124 from it to get the answer. Voila!

Some potential drawbacks here are that the calculations involved are slightly tedious and can take a significant amount of time. So then how can this be solved using another approach? The answer choices are close enough. So even though this is an easy question they answer choices do not scream out on the correct answer. Notice the word “approximately” in the question stem. So the approach that I now intend to take for such problems is as below.

138 billion = 82%
13.8 billion = 8.2% i.e. ~ 14 billion = 8%.
Now, remaining % in tank is 100 – 82 = 18%.

This can be loosely translated to ( 8% + 8% + 2% ) i.e. 14 + 14 + ~3.5 which gives us 31.5 billion. Now a very important point to take note of is that this is NOT our final answer. We want to find originally (before the rain) how much short of capacity was the reservoir? So we need to keep in mind that something (138-124 = 14 billion) needs to be added to 31.5 to get the desired answer. Now look at the answers, only 44 is greater than 31.5. Our answer is hence E.

To sum it up, as per my personal observation, very seldom will the test the core of your mathematical skills. The second approach, which I by now have thoroughly realized, is not straight forward to apply. It needs quite a lot of practice but the rewards will be good. So, I intend to work out on applying this approach more. Let us see how it goes.

But the bottom line is that one should take the approach one is most comfortable with. There are no extra points for the approach taken hence the approach which suits one best should be used. Hopefully this post has been of some help and has made you think again.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

May 29, 2012 – Powers in the Quant Section in GMAT

While I have been working on the quant section, POWERS is one of the topics that is tested and on which questions can be expected. Below are a few pointers to keep in mind with regards to the Powers that I have been able to recollect and which I have read in a few quant related articles --:

1.                 Keep in mind the properties of Powers (Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication)

2.         0 is an EVEN number

3.         An even power is always positive, whether the base is positive or negative. 
             Eg :-- 
                       (-2)^2 = 4 and (2)^2 = 4

4.         An odd power retains the base's original sign.
             Eg :-- 
                       (-2)^3 = -8 and (2)^3 = 8

5.                 Adding and subtracting powers with the same base:
                        DON'T: add or subtract the exponents
                        Example: x3 + x5 ≠ x8

                        Do: extract the highest common factor.
                        Example: x3 + x5 = x3(1+x2)
6.        If you're not sure that you factored the expression correctly, check that re-expanding the brackets does return to the original expression. This is a method to cross-check and should be used if you have time and are unsure of your answer
7.       Like terms (same base and same exponent) can always be added/subtracted:
6a2 + 3a2 = 9a2

8.        Whenever one encounters an even root in the GMAT, it only represents the positive solution. Which is why x in the quadratic equation x^2-4=0 will equal ±2, but if it is stated as only √4 then it will equal 2 alone. By EVEN Root, the statement refers to square root or 4th root, 6th root and so on.

9.       In other words, both positive and negative roots must be considered if we placed the square root ourselves, as part of solving an equation, for example.

10.      If the root sign is already there to begin with, it signifies only the positive root (This is a mathematical convention).

Sunday, May 20, 2012

May 20, 2012 – The importance of time on a minute by minute basis

It has been quite some time, a month to be precise, since I last updated an entry here. The reason though was a valid one that being that I had a much needed vacation and got some time off. This was particularly needed to recharge the sagging batteries since the last unsuccessful admission application cycle which seemed to have sapped my energy. Hopefully this will refuel and fully recharge my batteries for this season.

I was fortunate to experience the transport services in the United Kingdom during my vacation. The most important takeaway from my experience there was the importance of time on a minute by minute basis. I missed a few trains and buses since I was late by a minute or two. That said, when I was before time the train / bus was running about 3-4 minutes late. An irony indeed :D !

It is not rocket science to link that the GMAT being an adaptive time based test makes one value the importance of time. That said, personally, I have experienced that though one does realize that one has only 75 minutes for the 37 Q / 41 V questions it is letting go that needs practice and more practice. Sometimes we just get stuck into a question for too long (too long can be anything from 4 minutes to 7 or 8 minutes). We feel like we might be able to solve the question but then it just does not happen. I recommend that if it is taking more than 3 minutes then it time to just make an educated guess and move on. It is better to guess on the DS than performing one on the PS.

What do I mean by letting go here exactly? So let me just explain it in a slightly more detailed manner. The 75 minutes are normally split into either a small question count or a minutes slot as per one’s convenience. I prefer splitting the number of questions to be completed / left corresponding to the minutes left on the test. For a tentative plan please find the illustration as below --:

Q.05 – 63 mins left
Q.10 – 52 mins left
Q. 20 – 33 mins left
Q. 30 – 14 mins left
Q. 35 – 4 mins left

I devised this during my first attempt since the time clock on the GMAT shows us the time remaining. I would advise you to devise your own strategy time clock for reference. I have observed that the question from 5 to 10 tend to be more intensive. My personal observation has been that the first 3-4 questions tend to be of Problem Solving and then the next 2-3 questions tend to be of Data Sufficiency. Also my own testing experience is that I tend to relax from questions 13 to 25 tending to miss the time and trying to increase my accuracy. I have decided that I have to consciously prevent this from happening again in my attempt this time. I will be taking care of this issue during my mocks as well.

I am working towards preparing a strategy for my preparation now. I know that I need to really work hard on my Quant side to push it to a score of 48 or 49 Q. The problem is that I know the basics but somehow am not efficient enough in the application.

I have a few things in mind for this issue. One is the concept of Ball-Parking. I attended the BeatTheGMAT webinar on the IR and during a session by the instructor from MasterGMAT he illustrated an example on this concept of Ball-Parking. I will try and understand more on this concept and provide an entry once I have a concise understanding of this interesting concept. Getting back to the table now to decide up on a good strategy to supplement and aid my preparation.

Friday, April 20, 2012

A chance to win scholarship by writing out essays

For all those who are in the process of applying to a B-school or preparing for GMAT, the BeatTheGMAT site is like a repository for information, problems and a lot more. The site is hosting the annual scholarship this year and the deadline for the scholarship is 23rd April night. The rewards include quite a few goodies which include GMAT prep courses, admission consultancy freebies and so on. For more details, please refer to the site below --:

To sum it up, like its aptly mentioned in the information, what do you have to lose?! So get going, get writing, this might be a good opportunity to get a feel of what writing essays in an application is all about. 


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

April 15, 2012 – Retrospective Introspection (Part 3 – Reasons for the ding)

On the other front, I have been thinking on the cause of rejection and failure to even get an interview call. I am awaiting feedback from Indian School of Business (ISB) and I have a gut feeling that they would say that I lost out in view of the competition and a below average GMAT score. 

I was able to come down to the following possible chinks in the armour --:

a. GMAT. This was the weakest link and a no-brainer really. I have started preparing again and will be giving it in the new pattern as I believe that the new Integrated Reasoning ( IR ) section would be a good indicator of my data analysis abilities if I intend to apply for a consulting job. Also since this IR section has replaced one of the essays it will not have any bearing on my actual GMAT (Q/V) score. This is one area that I will improve and if things go as per my plan this will not be an issue this time around.

b. I did not spend enough time on my essays as I should have. Thanks to the critical suggestions and suggested improvements by an ex-colleague who also happens to be an alumni from ISB, they were decent enough but I think the content that I enclosed in them did not pack enough punch in them. I need to improve on really choosing the content material with a lot more care in my next application.

c. My extra-curricular activities were not good enough. This might be a possibility but 2 of my achievements were representing the state in a national competition for a sport during my secondary schooling days and heading the IEEE student’s chapter in which we had organized educational sessions for the school students in the schools run by the municipal corporation. I am afraid I cannot do much more in this part as of now. 

d. Recommendations. I though hard on this part and I am convinced that I had the two best judges of my ability to recommend me. I did not seek to read their recommendations owing moral obligations but I am pretty sure that they both would have surely done great justice in their feedback. The more important point is when re-applying I can either choose to use these same recommendations or then use new ones. The guys that I had chosen were the best choices and the ones who observed me from the closest quarters. I am not at all keen on seeking recommendations from my present organization as it will probably end all chances of any progression in my present profile. 

e. Spreading my net of schools to apply. I am thinking on this aspect and had thought on it the last time as well. The US schools and European schools are way out of budget. Also the most important thing is that 2 years might be a rather large investment and I would rather prefer ISB’s 1 year course. I am delving further on this aspect as of now.

A few points that I have been trying to do in addition to all the above points are --:

I. I have been trying to get in touch with alumni having pre-MBA background similar to min so that I can get an idea on the possibilities after getting a MBA. That is to really pump up and be clear in my Why MBA aspect.

II. Evaluating the need / possibility of an admission consultant for my re-application. I am not sure on this aspect as of now though I am seriously contemplating it.

April 14, 2012 – Retrospective Introspection (Part 2 – Whether to re-apply)

Moving ahead, a very important question that has been troubling me is whether I re-apply immediately this year or wait for a year and then re-apply.

There a few things in this aspect as below --:

i. The Positives --:
The positives of re-applying after 1 more year are plenty, more significantly increased international exposure, reduced financial burden to pay the steep fees and increased clarity on future goals, etc. 

ii. The Negatives --:  
There are a few personal things that would make it difficult to push it ahead by another year. This is the prime most reason of my not wanting to push it ahead by a year.

iii. Changes since the last application --:
If I am to re-apply immediately this year then I will need to show the improvements from my last re-application. On this point I have a few positives. The biggest change is international exposure of almost 5-6 months at 2 client locations. One was a new customer for the company and I was designated to handle the first big revenue impacting event (i.e. the Christmas and New Year period) after the purchase of our product. I handled it pretty well and there were no issues/outages. This is a big achievement since I had just completed 6 months in the organization and had moved out from my comfort zone of my previous job in a different sub-vertical to a new sub-vertical in my existing job profile.

Second up, I was immediately sent for my present assignment for duration of almost 6 months. This customer is our biggest customer in terms of size of market, contribution to our revenue and in general the deciding account for the entire customer group clients. This customer had just upgraded to a new architecture and release and was not satisfied with the project results. My presence in this project was to support and to stabilize the upgrade and resolve any issues. So far it has been fantastic in terms of stability achieved and issues have almost become zero and the customer has also released the payments and has expressed satisfaction in the new product features.

Third, I have been given a promotion as well as a change of designation. This is relatively appreciable since as I have mentioned above I am only 6 months old in the organization.

These are the most important improvements in my profile since the last application. 

It is the negatives that I am considering and at this point I am pretty much convinced to re-apply immediately this year. 

April 13, 2012 – Retrospective Introspection (Part 1 – Contemplating Future)

With things being pretty busy at work I did not make much headway into the deeper delve into what exactly I aspire of in life. Honestly, I have been trying to figure it for the last year or so and feel that it is not so easy or straight forward :( That said, I have come to this conclusion that one needs to have a broader aim set and take baby steps towards it. After all it is the journey in itself which is as enjoyable as the destination. Not sure if I am making much sense on this though.

Through the entire process, I realized that the joy that I got in resolving problems was personally satisfying. The very reason that I intended to approach the consulting profile is a step in this direction. As per my understanding of a consultant's profile this is the bread and butter of the job profile. The luring facet of facing something challenging on a regular basis is the real motivation for wanting the shift of functions. 

That said, I am pretty much aware of two things --:

1. That I might not possibly end up in consulting line even after a MBA since it is pretty competitive and number of people selected by the top consulting firms is pretty much on the lower side compared to the number of applicants. The alternative function / backup option I want to work on is Marketing. I was fortunate to experience and get a very slight feel of how the marketing side of things happens in an organization during my previous work profile. It was personally a really good eye-opener and also the quality of discussions in and around that particular vertical is also one of the main reasons of wanting to do an MBA. I firmly believe that one is only as good as the quality of one's discussions.

2. There is a chance that too many continuous challenges in the consulting industry can result in an imbalance in work-life balance and can also cause issues. Though this is a possibility that cannot be neglected and must be happening to a lot of consultants, this is something that I think might come into play a few years after being the consulting career and either ways it is a chance that I am willing to take.

I intend to have more discussions on this aspect of possible career verticals that are open to me with or without a MBA considering my exposure to a variety of technical aspects within the Telecom sector. I have presently discussed with a few B-School friends and also researched a few blogs on whether it is possible to transition to consulting / marketing vertical with a good brand without a MBA. The inference so far is that while it is not impossible to do so unfortunately it relatively rare and the people who do so have about 8-10 years of experience.