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Monday, 18 June 2012

Fit for a King


Where are all those pictures of me and my father?! I can’t seem to find a single on my laptop. Tons of me alone, several with my mom and I…but dad? It’s a shame – guess we have never relied on my mom to take a decent picture of my dad and me together.
I am determined to find a picture of us together.
HAPPY FATHER’S DAY DADDY!
It’s hard to sometimes put into words what you’d like to say to your dad. My father and I, we aren’t the expressive kind. We put ‘love’ at the end of emails but don’t generally say it to each other. It’s understood. We talk often – now that I’m done with university and have entered the corporate world, we will even be living under the same roof for the next two years, a big change from the last five where I only visited on alternate weekends.
He’s been a big part of my life. Being an only child, I’m adored, naturally, but its always been more than that. The protection, the advise, the understanding, the sacrifices, the support, the belief, the trust, the pride – a mixed package of both great and not-so-great qualities that I won’t list here. He’s not perfect. No one is. But I wouldn’t want it any other way – thank you daddy. For everything.
Some day I will find my Prince, but my father will always be my King.
I’ll end this with a few beautiful quotes:
It is easier for a father to have children than for children to have a real father. - Pope John XXIII
I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father’s protection. - Sigmund Freud
By the time a man realizes that maybe his father was right, he usually has a son who thinks he’s wrong. – Charles Wadsworth
A truly rich man is one who’s children run into his arms when his hands are empty. – Unknown
Anyone can be a father, but it takes someone special to be like my daddy. – Unknown
The colors of the world may constantly change, but dad’s love remains the same.- Shelly Bauzon

Saturday, 26 May 2012

The Broad Reality of the Altered Indian Mindset

Firstly, thank you everyone for reading this blog over the past year and for your constant support! This week I started receiving emails about any help/advice I could offer with respect to each of your individual situations, and I hope my comments helped you out. It feels good knowing that I may have helped some people the way others have helped me.

Moving on, today's blog post addresses an important issue - the Indian mindset. No, this is not GMAT-related, so if that's what you're here for, then this is not the post for you. My dad has a habit of sending me around four to five articles a day from the Times of India, just to learn and keep in touch with whats happening back at home. And a couple of days ago, he sent me this article, titled "Shining India, swaggering India".

The title of the article as well as the opening sentence - Rage is the dominant emotion in India today - can be perhaps a little misleading. The article doesn't discuss rage and how to overcome it. Rather, the article addresses the Indian mentality of power, and how power is more abused than put to good use - and this is addressed right from the second line.

How many times do we speak of corrupt politicians and other people of authority? The following paragraph is spot on:



It is to be noted that abusing power is not restricted to the celebs. Ordinary people abuse waiters, maids, security guards, small shop owners and others with similar professions. There is no civility in everyday conversations. I don't mean this to come off as arrogance, but to give an example, I use 'please' and 'thank you' pretty often. Shop owners and waiters are literally startled when that happens - and it even goes to the extreme where sometimes I am asked to pay more in shops as they think I'm a foreigner. All because I was polite. As the article says:



The really sad thing is that people accept this - people accept the fact that we Indians have different rules of treating people depending on who that is, something even the writer of the article noted:



How on earth can people even think that they are better than others because of what they do? What about those who happen to be born into a rich family and start acting like they own the world? What about those who use their fame to act like they are God's gift to the rest of our country?

No one knows when this will end. The biggest shame is that our rage seems to be directed towards those at the bottom of the social ladder, those unable to defend themselves, those who are expected to merely surrender as the 'superiors' use their authority on them. As the writer of the article asks:




Clear Admit's School Snapshot Review: IESE Business School


I downloaded Clear Admit's School Snapshot for IESE Business School a couple of days ago, and my initial impression was one regret. I don't know when these were made available, but I do know they weren't available when I was choosing my schools, and I wish they were.

A list of core courses, a brief description on the School's Faculty and Curriculum, as well as a report on the campus, student life, and social clubs. A detailed statistical representation on the admission trends for the School, including class profiles and post-MBA career tracks. Finally, procedures for application and financing the MBA. In short, literally everything you need to know about a School, its stance on business education, facilities offered, and admission and application statistics. 

When I was gathering information, I had to pour through the IESE website as well as other sites like Beat The GMAT, FT Global MBA Rankings and QS rankings for MBA universities. Clear Admit have just done the work for you in the School Snapshot series. I haven't downloaded any other School Snapshot, but based on this one, (and the fact that it's free, so what are you really losing?) I'd say its worth the download. 

Sunday, 20 May 2012

GMAT Review: Part II - Tips

Part II of the GMAT Review deals with tips for acing the GMAT - what to do, what not to do, based on what I've learnt and what I've read. See Part I for information on learning and strategy. The following bits of information are resources and procedures I highly recommend in order to get a good score.


Plan your timeline


Create a study timeline. This should vary from person to person, as it depends on the areas of weakness or the areas you would like to target. Take a practice test to gauge your level, and go through the answers to find out the areas in which you are lacking. Most people are weaker in Verbal, so start with that. Devote a certain number of weeks for each section of the GMAT. I suggest devoting approximately two hours a day per weekday and maybe four to five hours a day per weekend - this means that your entire prep should last around 3 months. 

Learn first, then attack the questions

Read through the concepts presented, as well as the strategies put forward to help you tackle each type of question. Each concept is usually presented with an example. Work through these as you learn, so that you can help understand how they are used. Use the review questions in each strategy book to help you.

Flashcards

You can download some free flashcards here. Or you can use Manhattan GMAT's flashcards, available for free with any purchase of MGMAT products. Or (and this is my advice), make your own. There is no better way to instill the concepts in your head than by writing it down. You can also make the flashcards in the format that would suit you the most. I made my 'flashcards' on PowerPoint, and you can find them here:



Official Guides

Bear in mind, however, to not start practicing questions from the Official Guide that address those concepts. Questions on the GMAT are never organised by concept, nor by topic, and practicing them in order will not help you one bit. You need to have all strategies and concepts in your head so that your mind learns how to switch from one to another; you need to learn how to switch from RC to CR, from stats to algebra, from SC to RC. I suggest learning and working through each strategy book, before then devoting all your time on the OGs. 

Use an error log

There are several available online, but my favorites are the ones found here. I downloaded them and updated them as I was working - yes they do slow you down as you have to update the log after every question, but they do help you in figuring out which areas you need to target and what your strengths and your weaknesses are. 

Take a break

There's no point in taking time off work or studies and concentrating solely on the GMAT for 12 hours a day. The test works to test your understanding and your ability to think, and not your memorization techniques. Try not to exceed 20 hours of GMAT-related study a week, and take one day off per week - one day where you don't even think about the GMAT. Your brain needs that break to work better.

Practice tests

Take one of the free practice tests available from GMAC on www.mba.com as a diagnostic before you start your prep. It will help gauge your level so you know where you stand and just how much you need to improve. Take the same test again after you have gone through the strategy books and worked through the review questions. There should be some sort of improvement - if not, its time to review those concepts. If you have improved, then dive into the OGs. Manhattan GMAT provides 6 full length practice tests, so use those as well; take the first after working with the OG for a couple of weeks. Just a note though - no practice test can be as beneficial to you as the ones provided by GMAC. Use your second practice test a couple of weeks before your real test, so you have the chance to take it more than once if you wish. Aim to take a total of 6-8 full length tests during the course of your study.


Fixing the test date


The biggest mistake I made was fixing my date before the start of my prep. I am one of those people who need a deadline looming over their heads to get working. Unfortunately, since I was living in a new country for an internship, I just did not have the discipline required to work day in and day out on the GMAT - I wanted to travel, really get to know the city and do all those touristy things, since I didn't know if I would ever make it there. Due to this distraction, I wasn't able to fully complete the OG; in fact I was just halfway through, and didn't even touch the OG Verbal and Quant books. So either book your date in advance and reschedule it if you haven't finished with your material, or else only schedule your test when you are sufficiently prepared and are confident of acing the test. 

Before the real test

Do not take any practice tests on the week of your real tests. Do not overwork with practice problems either. Ideally you should not work on the GMAT at all on the day before your test. If you are like me and need to have a look at the problems to get your brain ready to tackle the test, then do one problem in each area on the morning of the test - i.e. one question each for RC, CR, SC, PS, DS and IR. 

To all those giving their tests soon, good luck! Feel free to ask me for anything you need. 


Thursday, 17 May 2012

GMAT Review: Part I - Learning

A long overdue post, since I took the GMAT on 14th October 2012. But I was slightly ashamed of my just-acceptable score of 700, which was below the median accepted score for all the six schools I was applying to. Surprisingly, I wasn't the only one in this position, as during the month of October I spotted quite a few posts on BTG about retake stratgies for those already in the 700-800 range. I was annoyed at myself for being able to score upto 750 in practice, and that was probably the reason for the disappointment.  Looking back (gotta love hindsight), it was silly of me to be ashamed - 90th percentile is still no easy feat, and I'm proud of myself. Now that I've moved on, I feel more comfortable talking about it, and hence, this blog post.

My advice for retakers, in case you're interested, is don't sweat it. It is true that schools will focus more on GMAT scores when deciding between two candidates or deciding the admission priority of the waitlisted applicants. But it is also true that once you reach a certain score (let's say 680), your GMAT is crossed off the AdCom's checklist and they're on to other aspects of your application. Everyone knows that there's a plus/minus of 30 points, so AdCom members are generally willing to give you the benefit of those extra points. It may also help to note that if they honestly hesistate on accepting you solely on the basis of your GMAT score, they will contact you and perhaps request you to retake the exam. In fact, I think one of my schools had a checkbox on the self-reporting scores page, where I had to tick whether I would retake the GMAT if I were asked.

When it comes to taking the GMAT, it's important to understand that you just cannot memorise your way through the test. That's not to say some have unsucceeded in doing so; in fact a fellow BTG forum user who apparently scored a 760 on the GMAT recently posted the following "I am in oil. Please advise schools for me." (He said a lot more, but I was too shocked after reading that first sentence that I didn't somehow want to read the rest).

I like to believe one has truly only aced the GMAT if one continues to use the concepts learnt in reality. And for that reason, I cannot stress enough on learning before practicing. My strategies are now perfectly in place, and I also used the knowledge I gained and incorporated it into my essays, which I think definitely helped.


http://www.afewgoodminds.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/Verbal_GMAT_Focus.jpg


Several strategy books exist, and several good ones too. How do you pick? The following post helped me out. I used that list and several other forums, and after almost two weeks, finally chose the following (see my blog post on this topic):


The Official Guide for GMAT Review:

This book is an absolute must for anyone taking the GMAT. From the makers of the test themselves, this has a zillion practice questions, all of them being genuine past questions, and hence really help you get an idea of the types of questions you will be dealing with on the actual test. This book also has some review, but I suggest skipping it, as it's really not that great.

GMAT Quantitative Review & GMAT Verbal Review:

Again, these are practice books with genuine past questions, and while there are a couple of repetitions, most questions are different from the ones in the OG. Get this only if you need more practice after completing the OG. I made the mistake of ordering these early on, and really did not have the time to attack the questions here. 
 
Manhattan GMAT Preparation Guide - Number Properties:

Great book. The book includes strategies for attacking problems which you have probably seen in O Levels (or equivalent) and hence just don't remember how to deal with them - that's how basic they are. As an engineering student, I've done math that is way harder than this, and end up using the calculator to perform such problems. Not on the GMAT! Totally worth the buy.

Manhattan GMAT Preparation Guide - Word Translations:

I found this book useful because it helps you to break down the questions into solvable pieces. Too often you get a question on the GMAT that is longwinded, and by the time you finish reading the question, you panic because you have no idea what you really have to do, or else you calculate the wrong value (which is also an answer choice, as the cheeky people in GMAC anticipate your mistakes). While this may not be a must-buy, it's worth it if you're out of touch with word problems. 

Powerscore Critical Reasoning Bible:

This was the first book I started with, and I loved it. It clearly approaches the different types of CR questions that will come up on the test - from an explanation on what the question is looking for, to strategies to find the right answer. Best book I bought, in my opinion. Highly recommended. 

Veritas Prep GMAT Reading Comprehension:

This is a pretty decent book - the strategies barely made up 20 pages, after which it was practice questions. But one can't blame Veritas Prep for that - how on earth does one teach reading comprehension anyway? They do a pretty decent job of it. 4 stars.

Manhattan GMAT Preparation Guide - Sentence Correction:

This ties with the CR Bible for the best book. I'm looking to sell my GMAT books but I won't sell this one. It has everyone one needs to know about grammar and spotting the errors in a given sentence. Yes its a little longwinded, but how else can one cover all the possible grammatical errors that are tested? 100% recommended. 

Part II of my GMAT Review will be out next week, where I'll discuss some tips on how I 'aced' (not really) the GMAT - what I learnt, what I didn't, and how I'd go about it if I were to do it all over again. Check back soon!