The written entrance exam for B-schools is a test of speed and accuracy to comprehend and respond correctly to questions and situations faster than others. If there is a key to achieve success, it's undoubtedly hard work, determination and dedicated practice.
Unlike other competitive examinations, MBA examinations do not have a passing marks' threshold. It's an elimination stage to shortlist candidates who progress further to next stages of Group Discussion and Personal Interview. Candidates are judged on relative performance - individual ability in conjunction with how others have performed is what matters. Examiners always like to frame more questions than can be attempted by candidates in the allotted time. This means that knowing the subject matter is not good enough.
Broadly, the written examinations are a test of mathematical and verbal ability. They are as much a test of knowledge as of speed. A typical examination has over 175 questions to be answered in about 120 minutes, thereby giving a candidate less than 45 seconds to read, understand and attempt a question, a tall order by any standards. To compound matters, some schools penalise each wrong answer with negative 0.25 points too. This makes guessing answers a rather risk-prone strategy.
Preparation To get on the right platform, it's worthwhile to join a coaching programme early on in the preparation phase - either a classroom or postal coaching. Scout around to enrol in a good training school in your city or enrol for postal coaching. Recommendation from those who have achieved success in the past years is a good way to shortlist a course to enrol with.
A preparatory course can lend structure to your preparation. They suggest some very useful preparation tips; problem solving hints and provides good practice ground for mastering the typical problem types likely to feature in the examination. There are enough practice tests based on past year testing patterns to provide an insight in various forms of questioning. However, these examinations are known to throw up a surprise with new forms of questions, so be ready for that.
Beyond Mathematics and English, the tests are designed to judge knowledge of reasoning and analytical ability. Another factor that needs to be kept in mind is that all sections of the examination carry weightage. Hence, trying to gain mastery in one area neglecting others in never a good policy. Balance preparations to gain comfort in all areas of the examination. Statistics show that while candidates with engineering background are good in quantitative areas but invariably fumble in verbal sections. Similarly, arts students find quantitative areas tough. These trends can be altered with sustained preparations and practice. As a policy, centre initial preparation on areas of weakness and consolidate on strengths.
The first step towards the preparations is to strengthen the basics of mathematics and English. Pick a high school level course book to revise basics thoroughly. Devote two to three weeks brushing up basics. If you have subscribed to a preparation course, the course material would have provided you with reference books that would cover the basic concepts.
In the second step of preparation, take section tests, which are of about 20-30 minutes duration, consisting of 40-45 questions each. This stage would take you around eight to 10 weeks depending on the time you devote to the preparations. A score of 30 after deducting negative points should be the target. Take these tests in each of the test areas. After attempting a test, refer back to the solution to understand the mistakes. Remember them so that they can be avoided next time around.
The third step involves taking two full-length or two-hour sessions consisting of all sections. Adhere to the time limit since that is of essence. Even if scores initially are not very encouraging, continue practice and there would be a consistent increase in scores achieved. Monitor progress and ensure that performance is consistent in all sections. As you progress with the test preparation; a consistent net score of 125 or over should be the target.
There are four months to go before the first set of examinations is administered. While this may not give you the luxury of a lot of time at hand, there is reasonable time to embark on a well-rounded practice and training drill to ensure performance peaks close to the exam months.