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(Harshit is currently in the final year at St. Stephen's College. He secured 780/800 in GMAT)
those of you who don’t know, the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) is
an exam, the scores of which are accepted by most of the internationally
acclaimed Business Schools including Harvard Business School, Yale School of
Management, Stanford Graduate School of Business and so on. Most of us in our
pre-final or final year of college attempt this examination for the ISB-YLP
program, as did I.
first thing to keep in mind is when you would want to give the exam. If you are
constrained by deadlines for applications, then as the case may be. Otherwise,
I’d recommend giving the exam at a point when you know you can devote at least
a month beforehand for preparation. It isn’t usually a good idea to keep it
near your college examinations or other entrances (GRE or CAT). However, with
adequate preparation, it is possible to do well in all scenarios.
of Examination Centre is something that is overhyped. I have seen a lot of
debate over which centre is better for the examination. Personally, the date
and time should take precedence over the location. The centre at Pitampura,
where I gave my examination is nice and quiet. It seats a maximum of 3
examinees at a time, which ensures peace and keeps away chaotic situations. It
is a good idea to visit the test centre once before your GMAT date to not waste
time in navigation on the day of the exam.
time is relative from person to person, their background, and their level of
comfort with Mathematics (Class X level) and English. As soon as you begin
thinking about giving the GMAT, it is essential to give a diagnostic or an
online mock test to evaluate where you stand. This can be done as early as 3
months prior to the examination. Preparation can then start accordingly.
a misconception that GMAT cannot be taken without tuitions, and that
preparation time for it needs to span months. You can prepare for GMAT in the
last 3 weeks also, but you have to make up for it by burning the midnight oil
and doing nothing else for those 20-something days. A comfortable preparation
time would be about 6 weeks.
first reference book you need to follow is the GMAC Official Guide. This book
contains the basic preparation material; it will set the flow in motion. It is
just the first step, as it does not contain 800-level questions in abundance. I
would suggest keeping track of your performance during the first two weeks and
then delving into higher-level books according to your areas of difficulty. The
Manhattan guides for individual sections are extremely helpful in this regard.
As you read the material, you’ll realize that even the higher-level books contain
basic material, and acing the GMAT is all about practice and time management.
into further detail, section wise:
Writing Assessment (AWA)
the first section, for 30 minutes. You are given a 4-5 line argument that you
need to comment upon. You should aim to write about 4-5 paragraphs of 3
sentences each. It is not a lengthy task. The introduction and conclusion are
standard, but in the body each paragraph must pick a separate point about:
(a) How the argument is invalid if certain assumptions are disregarded?
could be added to the argument to complete it?
additional comment on the argument or its fallacies.
to not diverge far from the topic at hand. Since the essay is checked by
software also, it is essential to have the keywords and basic vocabulary – with
NO spelling mistakes. If you try and differ too much from the normal phrases
and try to draw analogies, it might backfire.
Reasoning is the next half an hour section that contains 12 questions. Each
question has 2 or 3 subparts to it. IR is relatively easy, and it tests you on
basic logic rather than on math. This is the only section where use of online
calculators is allowed.
The problem with IR is that there are limited resources to study it, so you
have to make the most of what is available through the GMAC Software and
certain other mock tests.
an optional break before beginning your Quant section for 8 minutes. You can
use this opportunity to relax, stretch a bit, have a quick bite to eat (a
chocolate does good for you J) and some like to gulp down an
Quant section tests speed and accuracy more than anything else. The concepts,
formulae and so on can be brushed up using the reference material. But what it
doesn’t prepare you for is the nerves, and the widely observed phenomenon that
you automatically tend to double check your answers and thus lose on time as
compared to when you were sitting at home and giving your mocks. When it comes
down to crunch time, and you see that you do not have too much time remaining,
do not linger on a question. It is not a taboo to make an intelligent guess (I
made one in my Quant Section!). Your main aim should be to attempt ALL
questions as you are heavily penalized for not completing the exam.
Verbal section starts after another optional break. This section tests your use
of the written English language. Remember, what ‘sounds’ right may not always
be right, because in our day to day usage of the language, we tend to misuse
grammar and phrases. The Manhattan Sentence Correction guide and the Kaplan
800-Level Verbal Guide are of immense help in this regard. It is a recommended
to attack these rules and idioms a few at a time as the list will seem
overwhelmingly long towards the end.
respect to Verbal again, only practice can serve your purpose. All the
strategies and rules that you’ll read about will be of no use unless you can
implement them. This should reflect in you mock test performance as you keep
are a horde of mock tests available online, some free and some for which you
need to shell out a few dollars. I highly recommend giving as many mocks as
humanly possible before the exam. Since all your other practice material will
be divided into sections, and the questions will be also divided accordingly,
it will not give you a fair idea of whether or not you are able to use all the
principles you have learnt in a test like environment, where the type of questions
and their difficulty vary.
giving mocks, keep in mind that your score and percentile do not matter much.
Each company’s mocks have different scoring algorithms and a different database
of students against whom your percentile is scored. What you should review is
the questions you were unable to solve, or solved incorrectly. Keep tab of
which type of question persists in troubling you, and then go back and work on
that area using the additional reference material.
should save your GMAC mocks till the last week as they provide the most
accurate image of your position. They have two mocks and they can be reset to
take advantage of the vast question base. When you give the tests after
resetting the score, some questions might be repeated, so do not get too happy
if the scores are high!
should be relaxed the day before your GMAT – if you do all that’s advised
above, you will definitely be. It is an easy examination; all you have to do is
put in some effort.
The YLP Programme is offered by the Indian
School of Business, Hyderabad to provide guaranteed admission to its one year
MBA Programme contingent on the applicants securing 21 months of work
experience post earning their under-graduate degree. In case you aren’t aware
of the programme, you can always find information about it at – http://www.isb.edu/young-leaders-programme
The application process for the ISB YLP Programme
consists of three stages. The first stage begins towards the end of the
pre-final year of your undergraduate degree. The deadline ISB sets for this
stage is around the first week of March. The second stage will require you to
take the GMAT, obtain two recommendations and write a few essays. This stage
usually has a deadline of around the first week of August. The third stage is
the interview and this is held face-to-face at the ISB Campus at Hyderabad.
Interview slots range from mid-August to mid-September.
The application itself, considered as a
whole consists of the following parts –
2)Curriculum Vitae (CV)
Essays: Essays seek to find out your
perspective on how your life has been. In my application year, the essay topics
were “Describe your two most significant achievements”, “What is your career
aspiration immediately after graduating from the ISB?”, “Describe a past
experience that has shaped who you are today”
and “Please provide additional information that will significantly
affect the consideration of your application to the ISB”.
The last one is pretty standard. You need
to look through your application and see if there is any other important point
that you’ve missed out on due to the constrictions of the online application.
The achievements essay appeared again in
the following year I believe. If it does appear again, my opinion is that in
addition to telling them what the achievement was and how you went about doing
things, you should also touch on why you chose this over your other
Other topics have kept changing.
CV: ISB traditionally asks for the one page CV. The difficulty in this
isn’t how to compress everything into a page, but I feel its picking the right
points to put on that page.
The best advice that I ever got in this
area, and I’ll pass it onto you – make a complete list of all the achievements
that you feel are worth mentioning. More
recent achievements are to be given greater weightage and as the time elapsed
since the achievement increases, the impact of the achievement needs to be that
much greater in order for it to feature on your list. Then prune that list
according to the scale of the effort and impact of the achievement. Try to
strike a balance in order to show consistency and diversity.
Speaking about diversity - I’ve heard is
greatly valued for the ISB process. How much diversity should you represent on
the CV? That’s a difficult question, but even if you’ve done a lot of things
you’ll be able to represent only 2-3 adequately well on a one page CV. So you would
end up talking about only your most important ones while the rest would have to
be accommodated through other parts of your application.
So once you’re done selecting the
achievements you want to put on your CV, get down to making it. There’s only
that much structuring you can do for a one page CV, but the standard sections
that most of us who applied kept it to were – Academic Qualifications
(Including academic awards, scholarships), Internships/Projects/Research,
Extra-curricular achievements, Awards (Other ECA awards) and a Miscellaneous
section if required. Some of us created special sections in order to highlight
certain special skills acquired (Such as Writing or Web-design) and that works
Video: Now this the fun part of the YLP Application. Atleast I had fun
shooting my video. You’ll need to don your formals (Well, I did) and speak
about the topic that they’ve provided for 90 seconds. In my application year
ISB wanted to know if they were to admit one more student to the YLP Batch, why
should it be me. Take some time and plan out the answer. I personally took
around a week and wrote down the whole answer and thought I’d memorize it, but
that didn’t work too well.
My tip, if you aren’t an exceptionally good
speaker, make the extra effort to write down the whole thing. Since its only 90
seconds you’ll need to optimize on every word if you want to pack in the
maximum number of points. Even if you are a good speaker, write it down once
and say it to yourself to see how much time it takes. Editing can also become a
lot easier if you write it down.
Recommendations: Recommendations provide the only third-person perspective to your
application and hence the process of choosing your recommenders must be
carefully thought through. Recommendations can be both professional
(Internships, work-experience), academic ( Teachers, academic
instructors/counsellors) or extra-curricular (Related to any sport, society
activity that you participate in. The single most important point that you
should consider before approaching a recommender is that person’s position (NOT
post) to comment on your life. Choose people that you think know you well and
would be in the best position to comment on your life.
Once you make a list based on that
criterion, you could start boiling it down using the kind of information that
you might want to represent to the school. For example, it can be expected that
an ECA Staff-Advisor will primarily talk about your enthusiasm and work in a
certain activity or a teacher will talk mostly about your performance in
Another factor you should consider is the
credibility of the person providing the recommendation. If the Principal of
your college would roughly write the same things on your recommendations as a
Professor would, the person in the higher post (Professor) would be the better
Talking about expectations, my conjecture
is that since you’re applying straight out of your undergraduate degree and
aren’t expected to have much prior work experience one recommendation should be
from an academic viewpoint. Since you’re still a student and your profession is
studying , someone should be willing to talk about how you perform there. Most
of the people who were accepted that I know of had submitted two academic recommendations.
score: I believe this plays quite an important
role in your application. Getting a 700 in GMAT isn’t really rocket science.
From what I have noticed, your GMAT score is usually a function of how many
questions you’ve practiced. There are exceptions ofcourse. The concepts are
fairly simple and easy to grasp but practice does make a difference. It helps
improve your speed and accuracy, both of which are well-tested during the exam.
It takes a bare minimum of 6 weeks to
prepare for the GMAT. Around 2-3 hours of practice every day during that period
should be enough for a 700. Do plan your study period and continuously assess
There is enough material and advice on the
GMAT available on online forums. Lastly, in my opinion, coaching for the GMAT
is really not required. Self-study as long as you’re willing to stick to a
schedule should be fine. I know people who ended up getting as much as 780 with
self-study, so it’s possible.
case-study: Don’t be scared if you haven’t solved a case
before. The cases are very basic and require nothing than a little common
sense. Knowledge of class 11-12 Economics might be considered an advantage, but
is not a necessity. If you’re planning to study though, you might want to pick
up any Beginners Economics textbook (G.Mankiw, may be)
and learn about demand-supply, revenue-cost etc. The first 2-3 chapters should
Lastly, the case-study is a an hour long written
one so while on one hand it gives you more time to think, ISB naturally
also expects you to be more precise in your answers. Examples of cases: I don’t
remember the prompts I heard word to word, but they were something to this
1)Discuss the viability of a
radio cab service in a metro. How would you go about pricing such a service?
2)European mobile phone company
wants to enter the US mobile phone market. What factors would you consider?
3)Credit Card company is facing
intense competition in the industry. What would you recommend for it to
Interview: The average duration of an interview is between 10-15 minutes. The
Written-Case Study and the Interview process are held on the same day.
The interview began with the generic
question “Tell me a little bit about yourself…”. This is a standard question
for most interviews (I realised that only later) and you can go ahead and
prepare an answer for this. Be ready to talk for a good 2-3 minutes. You could
give a short summary of your CV or alternately talk about things you can’t
mention on your CV (For example: Personality traits). You could talk about how
your life has progressed and how you have become the person you are today. Personally
I mentioned a combination of all of these and how it has led me to apply for a deferred
MBA program. You need to justify why you want to pursue an MBA, and why you
want to take the YLP route.
Post that they tend to quiz you on the
material you’ve already submitted (CV, essays, recommendations) and try to iron
out the inconsistencies. Remember, they’ve got enough experience and have given
enough time to your application before shortlisting you so lying would be a
humungous risk. Be prepared to talk in detail about any activity, any point
you’ve mentioned in other parts of your application. For this you might need
some time for contemplation. Be clear on what your goals are, how you’ve gone
about trying to achieve them and how the MBA & YLP fits into the picture.
All-in-all I felt that the interview
process was meant to be a cross-check. I felt that they were trying to evaluate
if I was capable of being the person that I had represented myself as on paper.
There might be a few subject related questions
Lastly, again looking at the whole
application - in my opinion, try to avoid over-laps. Don’t go to recommenders
who will talk about something you’ve already written about in an essay. Don’t
write about the same activity in more than one essay. Try to represent as much
information as possible through the options available. It gives them a better
all-round picture and helps them understand if you’re the kind of person they’d
like in their class. Best of luck!
Satyaki Dhar graduated from St. Stephen's College (Mathematics Honors, Batch of 2013). He was the President of Finance and Investment Cell and perhaps one of the most active members of college. He got admission to ISB - YLP programme. Currently, he is pursuing Finance at London School of Economics.
An option that many
people do consider after their under-graduation is to work. Many do so if they
have already got an offer from ISB (which requires you to work for 2 years) or
otherwise. The companies that usually visit campuses are consulting firms,
investment banks, etc.Almost all consulting
firms will test on case studies – though the focus might be different. Some may
focus on guesstimates (Ex: BCC), some focus on quantitative skills (Ex: Monitor),
and some focus only on Business Case Studies (Ex: McKinsey). Investment banks
will require you to have a very good knowledge about finance and good with
numbers (Ex: Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, CitiBank)
There are usually three types of business case studies: (1) A company wants to increase it's profitability. How should it go about it? (2) How to increase the market share? (3) How to enter a market? And guesstimates can be anything.
Few case studies I was asked in some of my interviews or my friends were asked at McKinsey interview: #1. U.S. Apparel Company want to enter into China. How should it go about it? #2. U.S. entertainment channel wants to enter into India. What should it do? #3. You take a flight from X to Y and then from Y to Z. You take airline A for your journey from X to Y and an airline B for your journey from Y to Z. You pay total of Rs. M for the entire journey. How much of this Rs. M will go to each airline? #4. Give two ways in which Reliance can increase its market share. #5. If it is 2007, and you want to open a mall in South Delhi, how much investment would be required and when will you break-even (asked at BCC - Final Round)
Few guesstimates I was asked in some of my interviews or my friends were asked:#6. How much money you need in your pocket now, if you want to open a coffee shop in this area? (A.T. Kearney)
#7. How many footballs can be put in this room (1) when room is empty (2) the room is as it is now (tables, chairs, etc there) (asked at BCC)
#8. Estimate the amount of toll collected in a day in Delhi-Gurgaon highway. (asked at BCC)
If you need help with any of the above cases or otherwise you can write to us. Some general things to keep in mind while approaching case studies and guesstimates.
1. Clarify the question (know what is asked properly before answering)
You need to clarify with the interviewer what he expects you to do/ how he wants you to approach. For example in the case #1. mentioned above, you need some more information, so yes, ask questions.
· Ask questions about the background. For
example, what kind of apparel company is it, where all is it operating at the moment, what is the purpose of entering the China market (is it just to expand or they want to use cheap labour cost, etc.)
· Paraphrasing the question always helps (though not necessary) It makes sure you have got the question right.
2. General guidelines to approach
In the various workshops I attended, all of them emphasized on MECE - mutually
exclusive andcollectively exhaustive sets. So, a way to approach a problem should be to divide it according to this MECE rule.
I would suggest - Never mention Porter's 5-forces model, 4Cs, 6Ps, etc that many case books talk about. I never used them. Yes, read them once. These help you to think about a problem in MECE way. Note: Even if you apply these in any case, don't directly mention during the interview that you are applying it.
Drawing a flowchart: This is highly recommended. It tells the interviewer that you are approaching the problem in an organized manner. And most importantly, flowchart also ensures you took MECE into consideration and focussed more on whatever was required.
It's always better, that once you have clarified the question, ask the interviewer for 2-3 minutes and use this time to draw the flowchart.
One thing that I was always told and I experienced is that the case study is solved by both - the interviewer and the interviewee. So, it's better to make the interview interactive by involving the interviewer while you are solving by asking questions. (This doesn't mean that you ask unnecessary questions)
For guesstimates, it's better that you have some idea of population, demographics, etc of India, U.S., etc. It always helps (though if you don't know, there's no harm in asking the interviewer about it) In guesstimates, don't randomly throw numbers. Everything should be backed by some logic. 80-20 rule etc comes handy. It's better you practice quite a few guesstimates as they aren't easy.
I'll write about my interview with an investment bank in much detail in a later post. For any questions, post below as comment. If you need any help with job interviews/CVs etc, you can mail it to us at email@example.com
This article is written by Gaurav Poddar. He received job offers from BCC and Deutsche Bank after graduating from St. Stephen's College.
Securing an admission at the London School
of Economics and Political Science is a matter of both good performance and
good timing. The application for MSc. Economics requires the following:
Statement of Purpose
GRE: The Msc. Economics programme of LSE requires its applicants to
submit a GRE score. This GRE score should not be more than 5 years old. The
MSc. Economics program at LSE gives more importance to your score in the
Quantitative section of GRE than your score in its Verbal Section and
Analytical Writing Section. LSE has explicitly mentioned that for securing
admission into the one-year Msc. Economics program, the applicant should score
above 160(out of 170) in the quantitative section. For the two-year MSc.
Economics program, they require a score above 163 in the quantitative section. So
make sure you manage to cross this ‘cut-off’ in the quant section of GRE.
should aim to give GRE before October. This is for 2 reasons:
a)The quicker you give GRE, the
faster you complete your LSE application. You should aim to finish your LSE
application before the first week of January (I shall explain reasons for this
later in this article). Note that you receive your official GRE score 15-30
days after the date you have given your exam.
b)If you are not satisfied with
your GRE score, you can give the exam again, but only 21 days after your
current exam date. So make sure you keep that margin.
Also, it is important that you have your
passport made before you give GRE, as the exam centre only accepts the
passport as a valid ID proof.
2. Recommendations: You need to have two
recommendations from the teachers who have taught you in college. You do not
need to send the recommendation letters in your application; you just need to
provide the nameand email addresses of the teachers who will
write recommendations for you, and LSE will contact them itself. Still, you
need to ask the teachers for a reference as soon as you start with your LSE
application, because they take time in writing them. Teachers have a lot of
preoccupations already, and as the month of December begins, more and more
students start with their application and come to ask them for recommendations.
The only thing that delayed my application till mid-January was a
recommendation that was not sent by my referee. Make sure you keep reminding
them to write for you!
3. Marks: Marks in your undergraduate
course is the most important criteria for selection at LSE. For MSc. Economics,
LSE requires you to score at least 70% (aggregate till the final year) in your
undergraduate course. Moreover, LSE gives a lot of importance to your score in
maths, statistics and econometrics at your undergraduate level.
4. Statement of purpose (SoP): Although
your marks and references are given the highest importance in you LSE
application, statement of purpose is an essay (1000-1500 words long) through
which the admissions committee analyse your thinking, and your suitability for
pursuing the course. A SoP should clearly articulate why you want to pursue the
course in that institute(why
particularly in that institute?),
and why you have the right aptitude for the course. For this, not only do you
need to describe the abilities you have that will help you in the course, but
also show that your thoughts and views are consistent with what you are going
to study in the course. Make sure your SoP doesn’t look like your CV in prose.
It should explain how the things you did till now were with a purpose of
helping you in what you are going to do now (the postgraduate course), and how
the course you are going to do now will help you in your ultimate goal of the
to be followed
Although there is no deadline for applying
to MSc. Economics at LSE, the seats get filled quickly. Also, most scholarships
require you to have an admission offer before you can apply to them. Typically,
the deadline for the scholarships is in the period of February-April. So try to
obtain the admission offer by January-February. Moreover, LSE usually takes 8
weeks to process your application, so it is best to send your complete
application (including recommendations) by December.
The most well-known scholarships are Inlaks
Scholarship and Commonwealth Scholarship. LSE also provides scholarships, under
its Graduate Support Scheme. Moreover, this year LSE has announced 50 new
scholarships for Indian students! :D There
are also organisations like J.N. Tata Endowment and Narotam Sekhsaria
Foundation that offer loans at nil or low rates of interest. I advise that you
should try to obtain funds from as many sources as possible rather than
concentrating your energy on just one fully-funded-scholarship. There are many
small scholarships that just escape our attention. Make sure you keep checking
regularly in newspapers and online about any new scholarships.
Each scholarship application requires as
much effort as one application for admission into a university. Most
scholarship applications need a statement of purpose and recommendations (2-3).
Note that you can get a recommendation from a teacher only a limited number of
times (usually 4), so make sure you manage your ‘profile of recommendations’
from different teachers well. Many scholarships ask you to describe how you
will arrange your funds for pursuing the course abroad. My sincere advice is:
please describe it as honestly as possible. Trust me, being honest will
increase your chances of getting that scholarship.
(Pankhuri Tandon graduated from St. Stephen's College in 2013 and is currently pursuing Economics at London School of Economics. If you have any queries regarding LSE applications, you can leave a comment below)
IGIDR entrance has two stages, a
computer based entrance examination and then an interview
for the shortlisted candidates. The level of the examination is in colloquial
terms, “manageable”. There are four sections in the paper-
1. Comprehension, Reasoning and
2. Basic Mathematics
4. Advanced Mathematics
(To pass the exam one has to pass all individual sections.)
Section 1 includes reading comprehensions, vocabulary, rearranging jumbled
words, analytical reasoning etc. preparation for which can be done from any
book containing these sections that one can get their hands on.
Section 2 has the 10th-12th level mathematics’
questions. Revising these concepts is essential because the questions are facile
but at the same time convoluted if one doesn’t recall the concepts (LCM/HCF,
integration, limits, polynomials, relative speed etc.)
Section 3 is a better option for economics’ students as the questions
can easily be done if one is comfortable with the undergrad syllabus. There is
nothing really to worry about the economics section, it has (mostly) direct
questions from the syllabus. Those preparing for other examinations DSE, ISI,
JNU etc. shouldn’t essentially need separate preparation for the IGIDR
economics section. The same practice material should suffice. The sample
questions can be obtained from http://www.igidr.ac.in/newspdf/msc-infhandout.pdf
However, it should be made sure that one is comfortable with the
online pattern of the exam for which the sample is available on www.igidr.ac.in . It is important to go
through it once before the exam so that one can concentrate on solving the
questions rather than struggling with the computer during the examination.
Note: The pattern of the paper given above is for 2013 and is liable
to change, so be sure to check the website for the pattern of the examination.
The second stage is the interview. Here again what one needs to be
sure of is her/his basics of economics. A typical interview would last for
15-20 minutes. The first question asked in the interview is generally ones
favorite subject in economics, and that then becomes the basis of the interview
(so be very sure of what you want to say). However it is not essential that
they stick to your chosen subject throughout but most of their questions come
Some of the questions that were asked in the IGIDR interview were:
What is consistency? What is heteroscedasticity, how do you detect
(tests), its consequences and correction methods? (Econometrics)
Explain the income and substitution effects (through a diagram on the
board) when the price of one good out of the two given goods increases.
What do you understand by PPP (purchasing power parity), UIP
(uncovered interest parity) and CIP (covered interest parity)?
Draw the graph of xǀxǀ (Mathematics) etc.
interview is not going to be very tough so be calm and confident, even if one
doesn’t know the answer to a question don’t panic because there are more
questions to come. While answering, try to be precise and clear e.g. the answer
to what is heteroscadasticity could be the problem of unequal error variances
i.e V(u) is not a constant. Similarly for consequences, mention lost efficiency
first (unbiased, linear are common consequences for all and thus they wait to
hear lost efficiency).
is not at all the hard and fast rule, everybody has their own way of dealing
with interviews and it is fine as long as you are confident about it. Just
remember to brush up your basics before you go for the interview and rest
should be fine! :) (Sakshi Gupta scored 85.2% in B.A. Economics (H), Batch of 2013, from St. Stephen's College. She is currently at DSE. She cleared DSE, ISI, JNU and IGIDR entrances. Post your queries as comments below.)
The most important thing about preparing for the DSE entrance test is continuity. You need to be completely comfortable with the recommended course material (which, for DU students is basically second year stuff, under the older course)-emphasis on 'COMPLETE'. Because only when you're comfortable with it can you go on to the practicing bit of preparing. Trust me it's extremely annoying (not to mention disconcerting) when you're doing a question and you start thinking,"do I know what they're talking about here?". Once you're through going through the course content, which really doesn't take too long, you need to start questions (yeah, I know that's obvious) and this is where continuity comes in. You need to get your hands on as much practice material as you possibly can. This is especially important for those of us who have a burning, unquenchable desire to keep on at it with economics but just don't seem to have that natural knack for solving essentially simple but convoluted questions. And truthfully, DSE mainly throws out things that we do know how to do. Sure there's the odd instance where they decide to dig through a masters textbook on stats and fling us something we more or less have no chance of figuring out-but that is extremely rare, not to mention ultimately inconsequential (one question should not stand between you and the cut-off).
Where does one get material from? Well the past papers are a great way to start. Trust me there'll be more than a few head scratchers. The papers get you into a certain way of thinking about the questions. Our university exams are pretty straightforward (not just DU, by the way) and DSE most definitely (usually) is not. You need to have a tiny idea of what to expect-the papers are an excellent primer. But beyond that, your options are limited unless you enroll in one of the (way too) many coaching classes spread around the city (or, alternatively, you could have an inside source that gets you the material). Classes aren't always helpful. Seriously, they aren't for everybody. Nor are they necessary for everybody. Blisspoint or Ecopoint (they're these two places that offer classes, in case you didn't know), all you need is material. You need questions. Get them. Get a lot. How you get it is of course more problematic. Just don't go around dropping small fortunes hoping for the ideal stash of exam info (case in point, Mr. A. G., while no doubt an extremely helpful and, perhaps, likable person, cannot guarantee success. Self help is very very important). Don't strategise and leave out this or that subject. The course DSE recommends for preps isn't magnificently vast and you can easily practice for all of it.
Finally, you need a solid p2p network. Peer support is unbelievably helpful (believe me). I only had it for the last 9 days of prep and it was frustratingly fantastic to see how others could solve stuff I had been stuck on for weeks. The entrance is, to put it mildly, manageable. It doesn't take an insurmountable mountain of work to be confident enough to take it and do good in it (okay, maybe I'm being a little pretentious here).
So, in the end, all you need is to know the core subject content, have lots of material to keep you busy for about 3 months of more or less sincere work, and a strong peer support network.
Orville graduated from St. Stephen's College in 2013. He got Rank 7 in DSE entrance and is currently pursuing M.A. Economics at Delhi School of Economics.
By Shruti Lakhtakia The Graduate Record Examination is required by most universities in the UK and the US as a part of the application material. A note for those who are pursuing finance based courses - the GMAT is sometimes allowed in place of the GRE, make sure you check the requirements of the particular course and university you are applying to.
Ideally, you should plan to study for an optimum six-eight weeks before taking your GRE. The test itself consists of three sections - Analytical Writing, Verbal and Quantitative. It is a good idea to begin by taking a diagnostic test (available in most books) that will give you an idea of where you stand. My recommendation would be to begin with a general book (Princeton Review, The GRE Official Guide by ETS, or Barrons), which clearly lay out the entire test - its structure, the kind of questions, and basic concepts used in each section. After doing one or more of these books, you could begin to go through questions in the Princeton Review book of 1000 Questions, which has several drills arranged topic-wise. Simultaneously, you should begin to work on specific sections that you are having difficulty with. Some people find the Verbal section difficult to deal with, others the Quantitative section. Depending on what your relative strength and weakness is, look for a book that is specifically directed at your problem area (published by Kaplan, or Barrons).
The more practice tests you do, the better it is. I believe that the GRE is more a test of how you manage your time and how well you work under pressure, than anything else. Start practice tests (I recommend online tests, but begin with the basics - use the tests given in the books first) when you have about three weeks to go for the exam. But then again, time it well so that you have sufficient time to practice - so if you have an important event or test in college, plan accordingly. Another important tip would be to remain consistent with all your sections, primarily Verbal and Quant. Even if you are super confident about being able to tackle one section, do not neglect it completely. Being in practice close to the exam is important.
Improving your vocabulary is an important part of the GRE process, so start early. The more you read, the better your vocab will get. If you don't have sufficient time, then look for an appropriate word list on the internet (I used the Barrons word list), and work through it systematically. Be sure you know the words that turn up frequently on the GRE - these are the words you see all the time on practice questions: you know you've seen them before, but can't remember what they mean.
Lastly, as I said before, time management is the key. Start early. Plan for the test keeping in mind all other engagements and activities that you will be undertaking simultaneously. The GRE is not tough. It is tricky in that you must be crystal clear with concepts, and you must manage your time wisely - both before, and during the test. Good luck! Shruti Lakhtakia graduated from St. Stephen's College in 2013. She scored 334/340 in her GRE exam. She is currently pursuing Masters in Development Economics from Oxford.