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.


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 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.

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!

Monday, 7 May 2012

Item of the week: summer pants from MANGO

A weekly fashion-related post, including must-haves, season bestsellers, what looks good, or what I recently purchased.

With summer just around the corner, no one wants to be seen in dark colours, so check out this week's must-haves from MANGO! These summer trousers, available in five sizzling shades, just scream out style. 

No need to go for full pants - MANGO gives you the option to pick up capris too!

Cannot wait to finish my exams and pick up the green one. On second thoughts, wouldn't mind that hat too.


8 Life Updates

My New Year's Resolution (or my NYR as I like to call it) was set just a couple of days ago - and that is to be more active on the social networking front.

Silly, you may think. But networking is something I have overlooked as often being meaningless and only for people with way too much time on their hands. At least, that's what I think when I keep refreshing my Facebook page in the hope that something interesting turns up. But over the past couple of months, I have become more involved in LinkedIn and Twitter, and I must say I'm enjoying the 'buzz'. 

Chatting about sports with complete strangers is something I used to previously wrinkle my nose at, but there's nothing more enjoyable than sharing your views with people and having them share theirs. And its not just restricted to football, its tennis, music, movies, engineering, business school, applications, job hunting, just everything.

This NYR also means that my poor neglected blog will get some well-deserved attention from me pretty soon. In fact, there is a whole list of things I'll get to do again once I finish my undergraduate studies in LESS THAN A MONTH. Terrifying times. 

I’m currently in the midst of my final exams for my engineering course – there’s a certain ring to it, I must admit. They say time flies when you’re having fun, but I say time flies whether you’re having fun or not. Where have the last three years gone?

This is not to say I hate my course, but my final year of studies have been a little too difficult to handle, and there’s a large part of me that’s thrilled that the ride is finally ending. Academic-wise, of course. In social terms…well I barely had much of a social life in this final year. But I will miss some people, my close friends, most of whom have plans to leave Malaysia soon after graduation.

I’m taking a break from the highly strenuous exam preparation to update my readers on…my life really. Good fortunes, tasks done, mistakes learnt from – et al. So here you go, in no particular order:

1. MBA applications were completed and submitted by the end of January. I’m not ashamed to admit it – yes I shot for the moon with some of the schools I aimed for. It’s a tall order to get into Harvard Business School when your Engineering undergraduate course is already killing your brain cells one at a time. I applied to six schools, and at the end, interviewed with and got accepted into IESE Business School, Barcelona! It’s a Young Talent Program, where accepted students are allowed to join the MBA course provided they complete a minimum of two years of work experience. I’m SO thrilled about this – I was resigning myself at one point to just forget about B-School apps and concentrate on job-hunting. Now I get to do both!

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2. Job-hunting has been a little less successful. I applied to a MILLION positions, no joke here, since the application procedure literally just involves a cover letter, a resume, and an online application form. I have been fortunate enough to receive interview invites from Accenture, Bain & Company, Frost & Sullivan, and Theta Service Partners – I think it’s obvious that I’m heading into consultancy eh? Accenture and Frost have both put me on hold; Bain is a ding, while I got into Theta. Still waiting to make a final decision though.

3. Goodbye five-year-old Dell laptop, and hello Apple!! Yes, my birthday present from my parents arrived three months late but it was worth it, as I write this post from my spanking-new Macbook Pro. Still haven’t got the whole hang of it yet, but I’m lovin’ it so far. If anyone has any software recommendations, bring it!

4. I will officially own a Bachelors Honours Degree in Electronic & Computer Engineering in July 2012, and I’ll officially be done with undergraduate academic as of May 31st, 2012. Our graduation is set for 7th July, and saying I’m looking forward to it would be a major understatement.

5. Summer 2012 is the first couple of months where I have no studies and no internship; the first summer in a long time when I’ll literally have nothing to do. That said, my summer has somehow turned out to be jam-packed. I head to Bangalore to visit my grandmother for around three weeks in June; I head back to Kuala Lumpur to attend my graduation, and straight up fly to Barcelona on the same night to attend a week-long seminar where I get introduced to the School, the program, other accepted students, and Spain in general. An added bonus in that I’m flying Emirates – luxury awaits! Hallelujah!

6. Spent the year as the Public Relations Officer for the Indian Cultural Society in my University. Good stuff, I think. Enjoyed it to bits. Ended up strongly disliking a couple of people in the process, who I’m slightly sorry to say have gone from “close friends” to “people I used to know.” The strangest bit is that a large part of me doesn’t care much about this change. If I don’t miss them, then they never should have been part of my close friends, right?

7. “Shop ‘til you drop” has been the motto I’ve been living on. I had a ridiculously large shopping spree before my first semester results came out, and it turned out I was worried for nothing, as my results were surprisingly great. I don’t expect that to happen this semester, so I’ve started saving money for my India trip – its time to splurge again. Zara/Mango/Padini/Vincci/SubZero/FOS, here I come.

8. My Final Year Project has finally been submitted. My project involves building a job application portal, which should manage students and staff for the entire Department of Electronic & Electrical Engineering. Students undergo an optional industrial training placement during the summer, and the portal is supposed to help them apply for a job and satisfy all other assessment criteria. My portal is going to be developed and hosted by IT Support, and is officially going to go live from the next academic year! I'm so excited - my piece of work being used by all. It's thrilling really. 

Okay so I guess that’s about it. Told you I didn’t have much of a social life.

In case you’re interested, my upcoming blog posts will most probably address the following topics:

1. Post-examination bliss
2. A GMAT Review – I have had a couple of people asking me to sum up my preparation, the resources I used, as well as any tips or tricks I may have.

Stay tuned!