Practical tricks for MCQ exams

Noted educator Lincoln Pettit gave various practical tricks for dealing with MCQ exams. Here are some:

1) Know exactly how much time you have, and calculate the time you should spend per sets of 5 questions.

2) If the exam allows so, mark the hard ones in the margin.

3) In passages, never try to jump directly to the questions. Read through the passage first. Otherwise you may end up reading the same passage multiple times in looking for individual questions’ answers.

4) Read each option down the line, and mark the ‘wrong’ ones so that the choice is narrowed down to 2 or 3.

5) Always read all the choices- sometimes students get excited on seeing one right answer, and incorrectly mark it, even when the actual answer is ”Two of the above” or “All of the above”.

6) Be slow while doing questions with more than 7-8 items with numbers.

7) Don’t guess, but if you have a strong gut-feel, you can mark the question and come back to it later (if the exam pattern allows.)

8) Do not let yourself run away with compulsive behaviour- the tendency to do something, anything, rather than plod thoughtfully through. There are no prizes for finishing early. Consciously retain calm and rational behaviour than get tipped away by compulsive behaviour due to fatigue, hunger, discomfort etc.

9) Whenever possible, read through the whole exam twice- even though time is a constraint in most of these exams. Especially if the exam is paper-based, it is a good idea to scan through it once, and get a feel of the paper as well as of which section seems easy and which seems the toughest. This helps in retaining concentration and allows for better strategizing.

10) EVERYONE is going to miss questions, and get some wrong. Do not get jittery. Do not start examining ‘all that is lost’ during the exam. The others may be finding the questions just as hard, or even harder, than you are! – to learn the way you always wanted!

Stop Thinking, Start Doing!

There are numerous instances where we wish to turnoff to the world of deadlines and competition and escape to give ourselves peace and relaxation. Instead of doing and performing we start questioning ‘why’, we turn to the past and start contemplating what led me to this mess! More often than not, this leads us to states of more and more dissatisfaction and agony. It takes a toll on our present and is dangerous to our future as well. 

To all such great thinkers like me, I have to say “Stop thinking and start doing!” We live a moment just once in our lifetime, it is on us how well we spend it. We might utilize it building our abilities, learning new things, practicing our virtues or might as well waste it cribbing and idling. The choice my friend is always ours. 

Life shall be full of opportunities for those who look for it & grab it and shall be a tough terrain for those who look at the hurdles before they decide their goal. As told to us by our parents/teachers that the Arjun in Mahabharata did not see the fish but its eye! 

We all have this tendency to get deluged in the sea of options and wait for some light from the almighty to show us the way. I say, take a plunge and find out! Act, do and understand what is for you and what is not. Thinking and brooding over past seldom yields results, one should be full of activities for the day and utilize every moment that life has offered!

– Sakshi Rastogi
The author is a second year student at XLRI, Jamshedpur

SNAP it up!

Symbiosis National Aptitude Test – The gateway to seventeen Symbiosis colleges for post graduate studies – is to be held on 16th December, 2012. The test is divided in four sections, with 150 questions and 180 marks, to be answered in 120 minutes. GD-PI Call cut-offs last year were as follows: SIBM: 91.75, SCMHRD: 84.50, SIIB: 80.00.

While the test is known to be a little respite from the grueling exams like CAT, IIFT and XAT; one must remember that the respite is just ‘a little’. The competition for the coveted B-Schools in Symbiosis stable remains as cut-throat as it is for any other leading B-School. Individual questions, being relatively easy, offer only some psychological comfort to the test takers. While in CAT, 40 net correct questions in 140 minutes can fetch an IIM call; in SNAP one needs a minimum of 100 net correct attempts in 120 minutes to get an invite from SIBM.

Yet, with paper based examination having four sections, and with reasoning questions carrying two marks per question; one can surely strategize better from SNAP than any other exam. One may choose to devote different time to sections depending on one’s skill-set. Thus, you ought to know your skill-set thoroughly well. You may decide to focus more on the areas of your strength. But well, when you treat a test area – say verbal – your strength, why would you need more time to answer questions in that section?! Coming to the point – since you have approximately 48 seconds per questions, 40 questions in area of your choice should be answered in 30 minutes flat – of course with very good accuracy (- if you were already thinking of how many you should get right!). The area that you dread most – may be 20% more time and 25% fewer questions i.e. in 35 minutes, up to 30 attempts.

Remember, General Awareness and Logical & Analytical Reasoning sections should be classified as Area of Choice or the Dreaded Area. General Awareness would give you those additional minutes you allotted to the dreaded area; and Reasoning section consisting of 2 mark questions becomes a must attempt section. You can safely consume up to 35 minutes for 30 questions in Logical and Analytical Reasoning, leaving you 20 minutes to do justice to the General Awareness section.

It normally being a speed test, what you must ensure is moving through the test steadily; rather than spending too much time on a question or a set or a section.

Disclaimer: The pattern discussed here and suggestions made are based on previous year test pattern. We suggest you read the instructions carefully, apprise yourself of the structure well before you start the test, and be flexible in your strategy.

-Hasmukh Agrawal

(The author is the Chief Mentor at

A day at XLRI

A typical day at XLRI starts with the deafening knock at the door by wing mates announcing 10min to the morning 9 am class. This is obviously followed by the sprint to the classroom with something eatable in one hand (if you are lucky) and a notebook in the other! If made in time for the very crucial first five min of attendance, you pass a winning smile to your batch mates who have been sitting there already, otherwise, get ready to get those fingers being pointed at you to tell a tale of your misery!

The break at 10:30 am is well utilized at the small Dadu’s store in the campus who sells everything to help you wake up for the next class. Classes give way to the lazy afternoon where everyone is in a lookout for time for siesta. The few unlucky professors, who get the afternoon slots, spend half their time punishing and scolding the sleeping beauties.
The setting sun is greeted by the football enthusiasts, lively badminton court, gym visitors and the lot who treads to the yoga classes. The offices get shut for the day and the hostel life begins to ooze energy and get ready to work on assignments, quizzes etc. This is the perfect time to plan out parties and sharing the gossips over tea. XL ki kudiyan can be easily sighted in groups giggling, chattering and some even running towards the inhospitable regions of sport complex!

After 10pm the campus becomes lively with people queuing at BishuDa the night canteen and tapping their feet at the beats of the Bodhi tree (music band of XL) practicing in the same building. All the green benches in front of MT (the girl’s hostel) are now occupied with groups both working and enjoying the moments of MBA. The famous meeting joints like JLT (just like that, a lawn), Bodhi Tree, XL Dhaba etc. are all brimming with life.

This is the time when all the committees at campus schedule their events to attract maximum participation of the lively junta. The night extends to 4 am after which the campus gets into the comforts of their bed being happy and satisfied for the bonds they developed and the super time they have at XL! After all, MBA at XLRI is a lot more than a glamorous job; it’s about bonding and understanding our own people.

-Submitted by Sakshi Rastogi, a second year student at XLRI Jamshedpur.

The MBA Grad

I entered the corridor of the hostel with only one thing on my mind – who on earth have they selected for my roommate?

Today was Day Zero at my MBA college, and we were supposed to check into our hostel by 5 pm, or pay a late coming fine of 5 grands! Not worth shelling out your expense account for the month over a measly one day of freedom, right?

Find Roommate! Set up channels for Communication!

Well, he did check in before I did, and a cursory glance told me he was normal; two hands, two feet, and all that jazz! He’d already started unpacking, so the room was pretty much a mess as I entered, and that at least is something that hasn’t changed over the days!

What did change after the first day, however, was my concept of the word ‘work’! If quizzes were by the dozen, assignments were by the million! Everyone had the same complaint – that the grass is much greener on the other side! Why did we leave our cushy IT jobs, where the only associated hazards could be falling prey to a non-existent family life or the addition of several spare inches to our already bulging waistlines, and come for a life of servitude and perpetual tension over the next day’s case study? Woes betide us that we did thusly!

By the end of the first two weeks, we were well-read idiots. There was no doubt that we were well read. Also, there was no doubt that we were idiots. Life bordered on the borders of imagination as far as academics were concerned; either our case study solutions were as blank and bare as my second cousin’s best friend’s aunt’s refrigerator after we decided to have a midnight snack there, or as imaginative as Ekta Kapoor’s K-serial plots where long-dead protagonists suddenly come to life after a two-month hiatus!

The best paradigm shift occurs as one transcends the world of academics and walks into something that is the best part of the MBA thingy – The Internship! Let me explain.

The entire first year of your MBA life is an endless effort to secure the best internship available in the campus for your specialization. Ergo, Year Two is the same, with higher stakes – a job! There’s nothing more to the degree, really. Anyone who says otherwise is an altruist or a liar! It IS that simple!

The internship was a breeze, and not one person came back to college at the end of two months complaining about it! It almost made second year bearable, though a lesser number of classes also contributed to that!

And as I sit in my room writing this, I am moving towards Phase Two: The Job! This is where I leave my thoughts at the moment, for they are yet again taking me back to the same question that everyone in this college seems to ask themselves: WHY should anyone give a guy/girl like me a job?

If you find out, do let me know!

– Submitted by Abhilash Talapatra, a second year student at TAPMI


Most of us pursuing Science careers end up at this point where we have two starkly different career choices and still we wonder where to go! Given our Indian mentality to play it safe, we end up preparing for both at times. Well I was one of such a lot, ended up reaching the last level of IISC Bangalore selection process for their PhD program. At which point I made my decision to let it go…

People come and go but this situation remains the same and I get queries from my juniors at undergrad college and my friends about the same. It is tough to ask to our teachers and peers as we are ashamed that we don’t really know what we want. Actually we ourselves are amazed that we face this confusion where we understand that the two paths are awfully different and we just need to know what we want. But living in a developing country with limited lucrative career options, and the way things happened for the few people we know, quite influence our mind and we tend to give in to this situation in our helplessness!

Well, there is no one answer to the question, but I will like to say that don’t be hesitant to pursue what you really want, that is in case if you know it!

For others like me, I have a small solution, first decide on what does your decision depend on- like future life, money, time for family, kind of work, etc.

For instance – if it is future life, then look at what kind of life do the two options lead to, by talking to people in the field or by reading about it. 

To put it in perspective, MBA does make life busy & glamorous though very taxing. It gives you all the accessories to live life king size but doesn’t give you the time to do the same! It makes you quite resourceful but you seldom end up using the resources for yourself. If you happen to be a person who can work wonders under pressure then this might be it!

On the other hand, MS makes you have a career where you earn enough and have enough time. You have a balanced life overall and mostly end up out of India if you do it from a good college. You have to get a job outside India as you need to pay for the loan you took for doing MS, and if you happen to develop passion in your field you might end up doing a PhD. All this just builds you for your own personal satisfaction- the Indian society gives no particular social value to MS so far for a simple reason that it is not commercialized in India as yet.  

– Submitted by Sakshi Rastogi, second year student at XLRI Jamshedpur


The world is my oyster. Go out there and pry it open. Of course what you dream is always much more difficult to achieve.

People say that dreams do come true and yes you too must believe it too. But try to understand the essential price that any dream exacts from the dreamer.

A dream is a step away from reality, that one fantasy that always promises to turn real. Just that it is still unreal when it is a dream.

A dream promises, and hence raises expectations. A dream allows you to see a version of the future, and like all versions of the future no one can Guarantee it happening – that is, no one except the being called ‘me’.

A dream is a clarion call to the real entity inside you, to come out and prove itself beyond all odds. A dream asks you to wake up, to reinvent yourself, to understand, to strive, to push harder.

A dream is a challenge, a distant mirage that can turn into an oasis only if you have to courage to continue walking towards it when you begin feeling that it is nothing but illusion. A dream hence is the start of a lot of things, things that you have to kick-start in many cases. A dream is a start of a new life, a new ever-fresh beginning.

So dreams sometimes scare people. It is easy to stumble upon the rich gold vein but to have the patience to stake it for years requires a conviction that separates the men from the boys. That is what a dream is – to see your goal and know you have to get there. Disappointments are but natural but resilience in spite of it is what again makes real dreamers special.

The point is – continue dreaming but also comprehend the responsibility that it hands down to you. Great powers call for great responsibilities and a dream is a great power.

So here’s an ode to all those dreamers out there. DREAM!

 -Raman Choudhury

(The author is our ex-student and XAT achiever.

He went on to get the gold-medal in the 2011 batch of XLRI  Jamshedpur-PM&IR.
He was also the gold-medalist at NIT Surat in computer engineering, and currently works in TATA Administrative Services- TAS)