6 Learning Tips for Studying Smarter for GRE Verbal Section

Staying late in the night for those last few weeks before GRE? Trying to learn a new way to read fast a month before the GRE? Cramming hard, devoting a whole day to nothing but mugging 1000 Frequently Asked Words in GRE?

We do appreciate your efforts. But sorry to say, you’re doing it wrong!

The art of studying right for GRE is an absolutely scientific task. At DIKSHA, we follow the GRE Verbal course specifically designed by a couple of our Verbal Advisors – one from the State University of New York (SUNY) and the other from Ohio State University, both having cracked GRE with 95 percentile plus scores in the Verbal section. Here are the top tips for your successful GRE Verbal Test preparation.

  1. Start Reading Online: Reading is a skill. While Reading Comprehension (RC) has multiple technical aspects that need to be considered, if you cannot read fast and comprehend faster, then whatever efforts you have put in to master RC’s technical aspects will simply go in vain. Unfortunately many of us are not into serious reading anymore. Today everything is learnt through diagrams, flow charts and videos. As a result, most of us seriously fall short when it comes to our reading skill. And believe me, reading online is tougher. Here you cannot highlight phrases or underline words. So start spending at least 30 minutes every day for reading practice. Read high quality AND complicated English passages online – from various International Journals, Blogs, Newspapers and magazines. Try to read as fast as possible and try to comprehend through a bullet point summary. If you continue this for at least about 3 months, I am sure you will find a marked improvement in your reading skills. One of the key success factors of students of DIKSHA in GRE Verbal is that in the class we often make students read online and help them to master the art of reading.
  2. Get into the habit of taking notes while reading online: When you are reading from a computer screen, your mind at times may go numb for a while as it is a very passive process. Besides, it is a proven fact that you tend to retain information better if you write it down in your own way. So at DIKSHA, we ask the students to start taking notes in their own way when they are reading something online. Notes don’t mean well written sentences or paragraphs. But these are mostly some words or some bullet points or even at time some schematic diagrams – whatever students can put in while keeping their eyes almost glued to the computer screen.
  3. Don’t just keep on Reading — Start Applying: Stop re-reading the same Sentence Equivalence question and the answer options 5 times at a stretch to understand it better. There are chances that the more you read, the more you will start getting confused. So whether it’s a Sentence Equivalence question or an RC passage, try to read once while taking notes in your own way. Then put your grey matters to task. Use your brain to retrieve and process the information to come up with answer to the question. In our GRE Verbal classes after discussing the concepts, we straightaway move forward with class practice questions – where the students are tasked to answer the questions within a time frame. While initially many of the students find it difficult, but within a month or so their brain muscles get used to such stretching. Thus at the end of the day, they become better equipped to retrieve and process information in a short span of time. And that’s what GRE — or for that matter various real life situations — demands from us.
  4. Start your preparation early & Space it up: Cramming puts a lot of information in your head fast, but it also leads to fast forgetting. “Spacing helps embed learning in long-term memory”. So start your preparation for GRE at least 4 months before your planned exam. While I have come across many students, who get fascinating GRE scores just by studying for a week or so (in fact one of my friends from IIT got a perfect score in GRE with ABSOLUTELY no preparation at all), here we are not talking about the geniuses of the world. For a person having average IQ level, spacing up the GRE preparation for a span of 4 to 5 months is really helpful. At DIKSHA we suggest our GRE students to study everyday for at least an hour for the initial 3 months. In the last 1 or 2 months, this can actually go up to about 2 to 3 hours a day. But that’s it! Don’t ever try to put in 10 hours a day just for a month before your GRE and dream of a perfect score.
  5. Think & Sleep on the Words: We know that GRE Vocabulary is definitely a tough job. At DIKSHA we use various scientifically proven learning techniques to ensure our students can crack the words. But apart from these techniques, it’s very important that you start thinking & sleeping on the words! Sounds strange? Not really. Do learn the meaning of the words, but don’t simply try to mug up everything. Learn 50 new words in a day and the next day try to make sentences with the words. Read some high quality articles and see if any new words that you have read are there or not. If yes, can you remember the meaning? Again the trick is to stretch your brain to retrieve and process the information that it already possesses. And most importantly, after learning new words go for a sleep. Your brain needs time to catch up with new information and process all you’ve stuffed in there. Sleep is when it happens.
  6. Multi-task & Switch Topics: Maybe on a particular day you are in mood for “Vocabs” and thus spend the entire day learning 200 new words. You think you have achieved much! Sorry, but actually you have not utilized your day properly. A much better utilization would have been if you would have learnt 50 new words, solved 3 RC passages and written one Argument Essay (AWA). A study shows that we’re more likely to confuse similar things when studied together. So at DIKSHA while making study plans for our GRE students, we always keep in mind to ensure that a student devotes a bit of time every day to each of the subjects or topics. Switching between subjects or topics during your GRE Test preparation shall help you to keep your mind fresh enough to repeat the process over a period of time.

If you have any queries regarding your preparation for GRE Verbal section, please feel free to speak to our GRE Counselor @ +91 9674350993 or 033 40658338 or visit our Office: “Diksha Learning Services Pvt. Ltd.” 15/1, Hindustan Park, Gariahat, Kolkata – 700029 (all days, between 11 am to 7 pm).

 

 

 

Advertisements

GMAT Study Plan for Working Professionals

I often come across this particular question from many working professionals: “Being so busy with my work schedule how can I actually prepare for GMAT?” I also hear questions like “Being a working guy, can I prepare for GMAT in 2 to 3 weeks?”. Hence I decided to share my views with all working people aspiring for a Global MBA through GMAT.

First, let me tell you that almost 70% of serious GMAT takers are working professionals and hence they have to prepare along with their hectic work schedule. So if you are one of them, need not worry. Despite your busy work schedule you do stand a very good chance to crack GMAT with a good score!

Next part of the question deals with something more generic – that is how much time one needs to prepare properly for GMAT. Now depending on one’s IQ level and the amount of quality time available in a day for studies, a standard GMAT preparation for a working professional can take anywhere between 12 to 24 weeks (I know a lot of people do it in 1 or 2 weeks. But here I am not talking of the geniuses). Anything less than 12 weeks, is kind of leaving it to the luck factor a bit too much. And if you are taking it more than 24 weeks, there are high chances that your energy level during the last few weeks may taper.

Now let me share with you a Study Plan for GMAT. Please note that this Study Plan is based on my experience of working closely with more than hundreds of working professionals in the last 5 years as their GMAT Coach/ Mentor.

18 – 20 Weeks GMAT Study Plan for Working Professionals:

  1. Start with an Assessment Tests – it should be a comprehensive one with questions from multiple topics trying to assess your fundamental concepts in Maths, Grammar & Comprehension abilities. Generally at Diksha we use a 60-question Assessment Test for this purpose.
  2. Your Study Plan should be based on a proper review of the performance in the Test. I know it’s a cliche, but it helps to understand the gaps and work accordingly rather than taking a “cover it all” attitude. Ideally you should take the help of a pro in designing your personalized Study Plan.
  3. Pick and choose the right books/ online materials/ study materials/ mock tests for yourself. Again, take the help of a pro or at least a friend who has good exposure of GMAT. At Diksha, we provide the students with a very well-balanced comprehensive Study Material along with hand-picked reference books and materials as required for acing the GMAT.
  4. Dedicate a particular time slot of the day for regular studies. Should be at least 1.5 hours a day (the more the merrier) for 1st 8 weeks, at least 2 hrs a day for next 5 to 6 weeks. Thereafter you can have couple of days in a week with 4 hours in the day (I know this is difficult, so try the weekends) followed by 2 hours a day schedule.

By the way, when I say a “week” you can safely assume it to be a 6-day study week. You can keep the remaining 1 day free for your leisure/ family/ friends/ office depending on your priority.

A typical 18 to 20 weeks Study Plan should be broken down into 4 distinct phases.

  1. CONCEPT PHASE (First 8 weeks): Devote yourself to all the fundamental concepts of Maths, Grammar & Critical Reasoning. Besides, dedicate at least 30 minutes every day to improve your reading skills. Cover everything possible within the period. Solve problems, but the focus should be on concept. This is the Learning phase.
  2. PRACTICE PHASE (Next 5 to 6 weeks): Practice hard. One day you can do 20 PS, 1 RC passage (4 to 5 questions) and 15 SC questions. Next day you can do 10 DS, 1 RC passage (4 to 5 questions), 10 CR questions & 1 Argument Essay. Whenever you are getting stuck refer to the concepts learned earlier. In case you come across questions that test concepts that you have not learnt earlier then learn those now. This is also the period where you start taking the time pressure. Keep measuring your performance in terms of % Attempted and %Accuracy till you hit at least 80% in both the areas. Thus, if you are not hitting the 80% mark either in % Attempted or % Accuracy, this period might get extended. And if you start hitting the 80% mark from Week 1 itself, then keep on moving towards 90% or 100%. PLEASE DON’T SHORTEN THIS PERIOD TO LESS THAN 5 WEEKS.
  3. MOCK PHASE (Next 4 Weeks): It’s for the Mock Tests. Take a mock test and review it thoroughly over next couple of days. I mean SPEND TIME on Review. Know your weaknesses (in terms of concept/ approach/ strategy/ timing) and take actions to amend those. You should improve with every Mock Test. Ideally you should review with a mentor who can tell you the gaps and how to plug them quickly. Never shy away from going back to the concept material at this stage, if you feel the need. Ideally 8 to 10 good quality Mock Tests should give you the idea that how you are faring.
  4. COUNTDOWN PHASE (Last Week): Take it easy. You have done whatever could have been done. Go through the concepts once more. Revise your time strategy & other approaches that you have already finalized by now to ensure that you can adhere to those on the D-day. Keep 1 or 2 Mock Tests for the last week at the max. The last one of course should be the one from GMAC (Official GMAT Exam Website: Prepare & Plan for Business School). The day before the exam just relax. Go out, may be have the lunch with a couple of close friends, don’t think much about GMAT. But remember to keep your documents (GMAT Registration & Passport) ready for the next day.

I know most people expects or propagates a 4 to 8 weeks Study Plan for GMAT. But based on my experience in last 8 to 10 years, I have not seen many people coming up with a good score in that short duration (again, please note that I am not talking of the geniuses and toppers and mavericks of the world).

How to make your profile attractive for MBA Admission in Harvard or LBS?

If you are reading this, then Congrats! I am sure you are bitten by the “Global MBA” bug and hence interested to read on! Not only that. It’s actually amazing to know that you want to do your MBA from one of the top B-Schools such as Harvard, Wharton, LBS, INSEAD or MIT Sloan. Definitely it’s a great ambition given that you have the ability, determination & perseverance to fight it out with the top class Global MBA aspirants from across the world.

But before we start discussing what it takes to get into one of these Top 10 Global B-Schools for your dream MBA, let me share a few pertinent points for you to ponder upon:

  1. WHY MBA? Why do you need to do an MBA at this stage of your career? Is it because one of your cousins or friends is doing it/ has done it? Do you want a career shift or a career progression that is possible only through an MBA degree?
  2. WHY NOT AN INDIAN MBA? Why don’t you plan an MBA from one of the top Indian B-Schools instead? Why a Global MBA? What’s in it that attracts you? Are you looking for an international career?
  3. ARE YOU A POTENTIAL CANDIDATE? Are you really sure that with your current work experience and management exposure you are a prospective MBA candidate in these top B-Schools? As you know the top B-Schools are crazy about the quality of students. People who apply there can be a Consultant in McKinsey or a Subject Matter Expert from Google or a Quality Manager from Tata Steel or even a Sales Manager at General Motors. They will typically have a high GPA and a 700 plus GMAT score. Some of them have been to 3 or 4 different countries as a part of their studies or work. While exceptions are there (say, a Navy Corps with 4 years experience in combat zone having a low GMAT of 660 or a just an average graduate who started an online gaming portal that gets 1 lac hits a month having a GPA of 2.2 etc.). But these are “outstanding exceptions”. So, do you think that you fall in that “high quality” or “outstanding exception” bracket?
  4. CAN YOU AFFORD? Can you afford the Tuition Fees (even considering that you get a good amount of Education loan) at these premium B-Schools? Say, Harvard MBA will cost you approximately INR 1.2 Crores (all inclusive) in 2 years? How do you plan to finance it?

While I don’t want to sound a spoilsport, but answers to these questions are going to be very crucial if you really want to achieve your dream of getting an MBA admit from Harvard or LBS.

Considering you are through with the above points and still want to pursue your dream, now let’s come to your main question.

How do you make your profile “attractive”? Actually you don’t even try to do it!

I mean the Ad-Com is too smart to understand this profile makeover thing. They are not attracted to the superficially attractive profiles. So don’t even try to get into the mess. Rather be honest and logical, highlighting on your strengths. Make it interesting. The Ad-com will be interested to know your interesting story. They would like to understand and assess your potential as a future leader. Give them a “compelling true story” that focuses on your strengths and achievements.

So, if you want to fall into that “high quality” potential leader bracket, what do you need to have in your profile? What do you need to show so that the Ad-Com of Top Global B-Schools will be interested in you?

  1. Academics: You will need consistent and above average Academics – a high GPA! Besides, academic honors/ ranks/ scholarships/ dean’s medal/ cum laude/ academic papers whatever you have achieved from high school till college. I know you can’t do much about this right now, but in case there are any gaps/ inconsistencies make sure that you have a reasonable explanation for that.
  2. GMAT: A fascinating GMAT score – very important if you are eyeing these top B-Schools. Although there are instances of people getting in Harvard or MIT with as low as 650, but most of them are exceptional. For a more generic profile, a score of 720 plus is required. Of course, higher the better.
  3. Work Experience: When I say experience it doesn’t mean number of years you have worked. You will need a great work exposure that shows you have business acumen. Work profile that shows that you do something interesting and something valuable for the company. Not “run of the mill” coding or testing or selling or coordinating. It should focus on your management exposure, business understanding and leadership skills. Think about team handling, project management, client interaction, critical problem solving, cross functional & multi-location team work etc. If you have helped your organization to close a few business deals worth some million US$ or to save a few million US$ that’s really great!
  4. Certifications: Additional certifications (like PMP, Six Sigma, Google Adword, SAP etc.) from reputed institutes/ bodies/ authorities that are related to your academics, area of work or are important for your future career goals can also be a good add-on. It shows that you are ready to take on extra load in order to excel in your professional career.
  5. Extra Curricular & Activities: Don’t fool yourself by trying to food the Ad-com. Don’t just join an NGO 1 year prior to your MBA application to show that as your extra-curricular. If you have any significant achievement or involvement (well documented from reliable sources) in Extra Curricular (could be sports/ arts/ music/ NGO anything) or if you have been Vice President of the College’s Student Council or if you are a part of your organization’s cross functional team for “Go Green Policy” then it’s helpful. But please don’t “make it up” for the sake of the admission.
  6. LOR: Two solid “Reco” (Letter of Recommendation) from someone senior with whom you have shared a working relationship of more than one year. I mean don’t end up getting a Reco from a friend who is working in your project. Not even your ex-Team Leader. Try getting a recommendation from the Project Manager/ Delivery Manager or still better a Senior Partner in your current or previous company. Ideally the person should know you very well and must know what it means to get into a Harvard or Stanford. Recommendation letter should be very personal and it’s not possible for someone to write a personal recommendation if the relationship is not cultivated over a period of time. You can even take it from someone senior in your Client team (that is if you have a client interfacing profile in the first place). Especially if your client is a globally reputed MNC and your referee is some Sales Director (an alumni of one of the Ivy League colleges) in that company, the LOR is going to carry a lot of weightage.
  7. MBA Essays: Well these were the ingredients. Now you can mix them up well and come up with nicely written MBA Essays that show the strengths of your candidature. Be prepared to write at least 5 Essays for each top B-School you are applying to. And the cut-paste job (that is write one essay for Harvard and paste it for INSEAD, MIT Sloan, Stanford and LBS) won’t do. It is because the essay questions are different, the B-school ethos is different and what they expect from the candidates vary widely. So keep writing.

After reading all these, if you are still determined to go for it, my suggestions will be:

a) Prepare hard for GMAT. If you are confident and have sufficient time then go for self-study. Else you can go for a good institute or a personal coach. But please don’t end up in a coaching institute that will make you sit in a batch of 15 to 20 people. What you need is guidance and personal attention from the faculty. Go for the good ones where the batch size is 5 or less. Ideally the faculty should know what GMAT is all about (still in India, most of the institutes work with CAT faculty for their GMAT batch and it’s like using Coconut Oil for cooking Pasta).

b) Once you get a good GMAT score, you should take the help of an Admission Consultant or a friend/ senior who has got accepted in one of these top B-Schools in the last 2 to 3 years.

Best of luck if you decide to embark on this fascinating journey. Believe me it’s worth every bit of it.

For any support for your GMAT or MBA Admission please call us at +91 9674350993.

My answer to “How can I get into a good MBA College Abroad?”

I often feel a shiver the moment I come across emails from complete strangers asking questions like “How can I get into a good B-School Abroad?” or “I want to do a Global MBA from Abroad. Do I have a chance?”

I mean, come on, how do I know? I don’t know anything about YOU. Your mail doesn’t contain anything apart from your name, the question and some useless jargons describing your good-self. So how is it possible for me to tell how you can get into a good B-School Abroad? Give me a break!

So generally when I get these emails I take a deep breath and write a polite reply asking them to speak to me over phone or Skype for a detailed discussion.

But last evening when I received another such email from a guy called Sauvik Sinha (whom I don’t know at all as usual), may be out of frustration, I decided to write a long email to him.

And I thought of sharing this reply here on the blog so that next time I get a similar email without feeling the shiver I can comfortably share this link in response. Here goes my email response to Sauvik.

——————————–

Re: How can I get into a good MBA College abroad easily?

Hi Sauvik,

Thanks for your mail. It’s indeed interesting to know that you are considering a global MBA abroad. And as a part of Team DIKSHA I would be happy to help you on this. But unfortunately it’s a bit difficult for me to answer the question easily. If you have some time you can go through this long email that may give you some idea about Abroad MBA. But whether that’s helpful for you or not, I am not too sure.

Please note that without your detailed profile (education, work experience, scores) and your requirements (country, budget, career interests) it’s very difficult to say that how can you get into a good B-School abroad.

And moreover, you will also need to define the term “Good”. For some people INSEAD is a good B-School, for someone else SDA Bocconi might be a good MBA College and still for others it has to be a Harvard or an LBS. So what’s good for you?

Finally, let me also tell you that “good” things generally don’t come “easily”.

Without the background information, my response is not specific but rather it’s going to be generic – what the management gurus would term as the “rainfall approach”.

Assumptions:

  1. You are thoroughly convinced that you actually need an MBA from Abroad and you do have sufficient reasons for that
  2. You are sure that you will be able to afford that either through your own sources or through Education loan
  3. You do have some decent work experience (at least 2 years)

Note: In case your thoughts on the above points are “Not true” or “Not sure”, then STOP here and try to sort these out.

 

Definition of Good B-Schools in context of this response: Top 125 Global B-Schools in USA, Europe, Canada, UK, Australia, Singapore, China/ Hong Kong etc.

The Steps for getting into “Good” B-Schools Abroad:

  • Prepare for GMAT
  • Prepare for IELTS/ TOEFL
  • Take GMAT and IELTS/ TOEFL exams
  • Get good scores in these exams
  • Shortlist the “Good” B-Schools where you should apply
  • Get your documents in place
  • Research and Write MBA Essays for the shortlisted B-Schools
  • Complete your B-School application
  • Get Interview Calls from some of them
  • Prepare for your MBA Interview
  • Crack the Interview
  • Get admission offer from some of them
  • Select the best one
  • Pay & complete the Visa process
  • Prepare for Visa documentation & Visa Interview
  • Get your Visa
  • Complete your pre-flying chores
  • Fly to your MBA destination

While the steps listed above may look rudimentary, but actually you have to physically go through all these steps. And it takes time, patience, resource, guidance and motivation.

In general the entire process will take about 15 to 20 months time. So it’s better to be mentally prepared for this eventful, exciting & stressful journey right at the start.

And if you decide to go for it then to make this journey somewhat smoother, here are 5 specific guidelines on the first part of the journey.

  1. Decided your MBA Session: which session you would like to start your MBA. This is May 2016. So Fall 2016 (starting August this year) is out of question. Depending on your own planning the earliest could be Fall 2017
  2. GMAT Timeline: Start preparing for your GMAT now. Based on your Quantitative & Verbal skills it may take somewhere between 3 to 6 months for the preparation for most of the students (of course I am referring to the average students and NOT the genius or the dumbos). In your case, if you are applying for Fall 2017 then ideally you should be done with your GMAT by end of October 2017
  3. Your GMAT Preparation: As you must be knowing GMAT is Computer Adaptive Test for assessing the Academic Aptitude for potential MBA students. It consists of three parts: the first part consists of 2 sections (Argument Essay of 30 minutes and Integrated Reasoning of 30 minutes); next is Quantitative Aptitude (37 questions in 75 minutes) and finally it’s the Verbal Aptitude (41 questions in 75 minutes). It’s very difficult to write about how you should prepare for GMAT in a single write up, but in short let me tell you it’s a rigorous and disciplined approach (and may be some able guidance) that will be required for a good score in GMAT. Your mathematical concepts should be absolutely clear. You should be accurate with all the standard written English grammar rules. You should be an amazing “READER” (expert in reading and getting a “fairly good idea” about long, high-quality, complicated and boring passages in a short time). Generally I suggest my students to adhere to the rigorous study schedule as designed for you by the Diksha GMAT Transcend. Leave no stones unturned in your practice – memorizing rules, doing the assignments, studying the explanations of practice questions you answered (correctly or incorrectly), taking mock tests strictly under timed conditions and maintaining a good health throughout your preparation schedule etc. In short, be stubborn about improving your GMAT score on every single day leading up to the test.
  4. Ideal GMAT Score: The total GMAT score is 800 (except the first part, consisting of Argument Essay and IR, that is scored on a Scale of 6 separately). Now it’s very difficult to say what score would be ideal for you. Of course, higher the better! If you score a 740 plus – you’re OUTSTANDING. If you score 700 plus – you’re EXCELLENT. But please note that despite being outstanding you can be denied admission in a particular B-School. In general, if you are eyeing an admission in Top 25 B-Schools I would say aim for 720 plus. If you are targeting Top 100, then 700 plus is good. And if you can go one level below (i.e. Top 125) then 670 plus will be really fine.
  5. TOELF or IELTS: These are International English Proficiency Tests designed by ETS (USA) and Cambridge University (UK) respectively. Both measures the English Communication skill of a candidate in four Sections comprising Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking. It is required by all candidates planning to study abroad (even those who are planning immigration) to take either of these tests and score more than a certain cut-off marks. Now a days, almost 75% of the Universities or Countries are quite flexible with either of the exams (that is, you can submit your IELTS score in USA and your TOEFL Score in Spain). If you are planning for Fall 2017 admission then ideally you should be through with your IELTS/ TOEFL exam by end of October. But since I have already suggested end of October as you GMAT exam date, hence you can take IELTS/ TOEFL either 45 days before that. Depending on your grasp on English communication (again considering you are not in the extremities), the preparation should take somewhere between 1.5 to 3 months. Please ensure that you work on your pronunciation, essay writing skills, extempore etc. Besides do watch USA/ UK English News Channels and English Movies (without sub titles). IELTS is a pen ’n paper exam where each of the Sections carry a maximum band score of 9. The Overall IELTS Score is also out of 9. TOEFL is a Computer/ Internet Based Tests (it’s called the TOEFL iBT) where each section is scored on 30 and the Overall TOEFL Score is out of 120. Generally the Universities or the Countries specify a requirement Cut-Off marks in IELTS or TOEFL. To be on a safer side you can take the higher limit of the cut-off as
    • IELTS: Overall 7 and not less than 6.5 in any of the sections
    • TOEFL: Overall 98 and not less than 22 in any of the sections

For any specific questions please feel free to revert. You can mail me to dikshalearningservices@gmail.com or call me at +91 9674484100.

Best wishes.

Debasish Basu

Chief Advisor

GMAT & MBA Admission

DIKSHA LEARNING SERVICES P LTD.

 

6 Winning Strategies for Visa Interview for Study Abroad

Congratulations that you have got an admit with 100% Scholarship at a top Global University in US and the University has sent you the coveted I-20 required for the US Student Visa!

After toiling so hard for a top score in GRE & TOEFL exams, after researching for hours for your application essays and after preparing hundreds of documents for your applications, now it’s the time to relax and cherish the moment!

Sorry, but most probably you have forgotten the most important last step. The Visa Interview!!!

For the uninitiated, Visa Interview can be one of the biggest challenges that students face during the entire study abroad application process is the visa interview.

In order to make sure to sail through your Visa interview, here are some tips and guidelines from DIKSHA LEARNING SERVICES that specializes in Study Abroad Test Preparation and Abroad Study Admission guidance:

1) Documentation shows Dedication

Ensure that you have copies of all the required documents with you during the interview, arranged in proper order and ideally coded with a proper marking.

Ideally you should classify the documents in following categories & in following order:

  1. Visa related: I-20, Visa Fee receipt & Visa Interview confirmation letter
  2. Admission related: Admission Letter, Scholarship Letter (if applicable), University Fees receipt, Education Loan Approval Letter (if applicable), Any other Letter from the University related to admission that you deem fit
  3. Academic related: Degree transcripts, Degree Certificates, School Leaving & High School Leaving Certificates, Test Scores of SAT/ GRE/ GMAT and IELTS/ TOEFL, any significant academic achievement certificates
  4. Work experience related (if applicable): Appointment Letter of current and last 2 employers, last 3 month salary slips (as applicable)
  5. Extra-curricular related: Any significant extra-curricular certificate

At DIKSHA we always tell our students that the ordering & marking of the Document Files is important so that it becomes easier for the interviewer to find things easily. And in case he/ she asks you to show something from your file, you should not fumble – you should be prompt and confident. A neatly arranged document file gives an impression of the application as someone who is highly dedicated, systematic and thorough in his approach. And trust us, the Visa interviewer is going to like that.

2) Focus on Finance

To get your student visa, you need to furnish several financial documents. These documents prove that you have the necessary resources to pay for tuition fees, living expenses, accommodation etc. If your parents (or any relatives) are funding your education, then you will need to submit their bank statements (or, liquid asset statement) including original bank records, Income Tax returns of the last three years along with fixed deposit receipts or certificates. This may also include Scholarship Confirmation letter or Education Loan Approval Letter.

But we have already included these in the “Documentation” part. Why are we repeating? Very simply because we have seen that most of the Indian students don’t know their finances! And during the interview if asked a question on this matter, some of the brightest students just go numb!

“Well my dad is paying. Go and please ask him…” It’s a typical attitude of many Indians. But this doesn’t go well with the interviewer. At DIKSHA we always advise our students aspiring for abroad studies that they should actually know their finances well.

“How much will it cost? How much can I afford? And from where do I get the funds?” Get your calculations thorough on these lines. Don’t miss out possible escalation in expenses (like a provision in the University Fees rule that says Tuition Fees will go up next year or can increase in next semester if you opt for Subject X or even the possibility of the living cost going up next year). Ideally you should comfortable show that you can afford more than what it will take to study for 2 or 4 years.

And one more thing, talk in Dollars ($). A visa interviewer is certainly going to be more comfortable if Indian Rupee is avoided. 

3) Prepare or Perish

Just like the way we prepare thoroughly before going for a job interview or the grand viva, the preparation is the key. Remember the following points that you need to be prepared for:

  1. Course related – the duration, subjects, electives, important dates, study breaks, internship options, credit points and credit hours. If you are not very acquainted with the concept of “Credit Points” and “Credit Hours”, please learn it from someone who knows it well.
  2. University related – about the particular university, which campus (if there are multiple campuses) you will be studying, any significant landmark in the history of the university, eminent professors or alumni (if any)
  3. Country related – about the country, its demographics, about the city/ place where the University campus is located, a bit of history and culture, food habits, important cities/ monuments/ places to see, important personalities

4) Making the logical Match

This may be the tough part that moves away from information into the realm of “persuasion”. Questions like “Why this Course” or “Why this University” can make or break your interview.

So be well prepared and match these four things: Your skills and qualities, your career aspirations, the course and the University. You can refer to your SOP or Application Essay and try to ascertain that how this particular program in this particular university is going to help you in achieving your career goals.

DIKSHA suggests its students not to be dramatic and emotional in their responses to such questions. Ideally you should just be logical and establish the relationship between these four things – how they connect. The facts will certainly help here, but the focus should be on the logic in match making!

5) Unsettling the “Settler” trap

A visa interviewer is like a gate keeper and the visa interview is a process to “close the gate” for a potential “settler” or an immigrant i.e. a person with an intention of settling down permanently in a foreign country.

So, the interviewer may try to trap you. Some of the students of DIKSHA have come across questions like “Ok, so after your MS in Artificial Intelligence would you like to join Google Head Office in California or a Tech Start Up in San Francisco?” or something like “Don’t you think that once your course is over and you join a job, you should bring your parents to the US so that you can take care of them?”. Beware of such questions. These are blatant traps! The Visa Officer is trying to catch you on the wrong foot regarding your intention. Don’t fall for them.

Your answers should be perfectly clear in stating that your purpose for studying abroad is Higher Studies only and it has nothing to do with settling down in that country. Please find logic and passion in convincing the interviewer that you are not seeking employment in the foreign country. After the course you will plan to return to your home country equipped with the degree, knowledge and skills that you have acquired there.

Here it’s important to note that your long term career goals should be related to your home country.
Just for example, if you are going abroad for an MS in Biotechnology you should be able to tell the interviewer how you see the potential of qualified Biotech professionals in India in near future. Or, if you are going for your PhD in Artificial Intelligence you should be able to convince the interviewer that how this PhD from this reputed University would help you to get a dream job of an Assistant Professor in one of the IITs.

Please remember you should categorically try to distinguish yourself from a potential immigrant or a potential job seeker.

6) Overall Impression is Important

Finally, it’s about your soft skills. This is the usual staff. But many a times, students tend to overlook these basics. Don’t be one of those “over-lookers”!  Remember:

  1. Be on time
  2. Be well groomed, dressed in formal wear
  3. Be courteous and polite but don’t be submissive
  4. Don’t get agitated or irritated on any particular question or remarks
  5. Be calm, composed and confident
  6. Be ready for some “strange” or “intimidating” or “trap” questions. Don’t panic. The questions are just to test your intention, attitude, skills, knowledge or common sense. Answer them with conviction. If you don’t know, please say so!
  7. If you can’t understand a particular question first apologize and then ask to repeat the question
  8. Keep your answers short and relevant. Don’t go overboard. Be specific.

And last but not the least “be positive”. Despite following everything as mentioned above there is always a probability that the Visa officer is not convinced. In an unfortunate situation where you are denied a student visa, please refrain from arguing with the interviewer. Instead you can request the Visa Officer to provide the reason(s) for the denial along with a list of documents that he or she would suggest that you bring next time to ensure that you are granted the student visa.  Ensure that you leave with a lasting positive impression.

For any query regarding your Visa Interview for Abroad Study please feel free to connect to Diksha Learning Services Pvt. Ltd. You can call us at +91 9674484100.

GRE Score 324 in less than 2 months: A Student Speaks

Yes, I did it! And I am sure you can score more if you plan and prepare well for your GRE. So in case if it helps any one of you, I thought of sharing my experience with GRE and the test-prep process through this blog.

Disclaimer: This post is not going to tell you what the GRE questions look like – all GRE books & websites do that (if they are authentic). I am sure you already know it by now. Here are what I observed and learnt while preparing for and taking the test. This is a rather long and descriptive post. So, I have decided to break it up in 3 parts. In part one I will discuss the overall study plan required for GRE. So here it goes…….

About Myself: Before we start I think I need to introduce myself. I am Sampoorna Mitra and I am writing this article on behalf of Diksha Learning Services Pvt. Ltd. (“DIKSHA” as I am used to call this test-prep centre for GRE/ GMAT). I did my Masters in Geography in 2013 and then joined a private bank in branch operations. But within a year I felt that the job is not cup of tea. I planned for my GRE by end of 2014 so as to continue my higher studies (PhD). After some initial research about the test format and standard, I decided to take a 2 month leave from my office to prepare for GRE. I started my preparation in Feb 2015 and appeared for GRE by end of April 2015. And I got a score of 324 (Quant – 166; Verbal – 158; AWA – 5.5), which I think is pretty decent. Then I resumed working (of course to save some money for applications) and shall be applying for the 2017 fall session. I did most of what I am going to tell you here in less than two months, but of course with long, intense study hours and thorough guidance from the faculty team & mentor at DIKSHA.

The Macro-level Study Plan: Although I had to do it in less than 2 months (as my office didn’t allow more leaves), I wouldn’t recommend the same to you. And I would also not recommend you to take a leave you’re your office or studies to prepare for GRE. Just in case you are a working professional you can think of taking a 1 week leave just before the final exam.

Whether you are working or studying, around four months would be ideal to prepare for GRE without panicking. Start with a diagnostic test – found in almost all GRE books. You may also opt for the Assessment Test carried out by Diksha Learning Services Pvt. Ltd (DIKSHA) to assess your base level. In fact DIKSHA would also help you to prepare your personalized study plan based on your Assessment Test performance and time availability.

In general I think around 2 hours every day for the first three months and then about 4 hours a day in the last month is what you will require. By the way, I am talking about average IQ people. Please don’t come back and tell me that you have scored 335 with 4 days preparation. If you have actually done so then be happy about the fact that you perhaps a genius!

Also note that when I say 2 hours a day of studying, I mean intense preparation. So don’t just try to mug up 5 words over a cup of coffee with family in 30 minutes.

Plan your schedule well. It should be balanced enough to include all three areas – Maths, Vocabulary and Reading. But at the same time higher time should be kept to concentrate on the weaker areas. I do also understand that occasional breaks can happen in your study schedule. It could be your college fest or a project presentation in office. Relax! You can comfortably study for just 5 days a week. Keep the other two days for your personal/ professional work or plain entertainment. But please don’t end up trying to match just the hours. Remember, 2 hours a day for 5 days a week is much more effective than putting in 6 hours a day for 2 days in a week!

Start with the concepts – the very basics of Math and English from your school days, which you might have surprisingly forgotten by this time. This might take you a month or two. Once you are through with the concepts, try to identify your weaker areas and focus on those. The faculty team at DIKSHA clearly identified my weaknesses in Geometry and Reading ability. And I had to go through a lot of drills in those areas to reach a certain level of comfort.

Once you have gained confidence across all concepts, it’s time to practice hard. Get yourself exposed to lot of practice questions. Content is available everywhere today. But please make sure it is relevant for your GRE preparation. There’s no point solving questions of CAT while aiming for a high score in GRE. While practicing please ensure that you work on your timing too. And wherever you are getting stuck (either not being able to solve a question or coming up with an incorrect answer or even taking too much time for solving a question) please speak to your faculty or coach. During my GRE Test-Prep at DIKSHA I used to get my doubts cleared online through email or Skype with respective faculties.

Finally once your practice is more or less done it’s time to get into the exam mode. Take mock tests. And take the full-length ones under timed condition. Due to paucity of time I could tale only 5 full-length mock tests at DIKSHA along with the 2 mock tests by ETS Powerprep. But if you have adequate time, I will suggest go for 10 mock tests of DIKSHA, along with the free tests offered by ETS, Kaplan & Manhattan.

Please remember that taking even 50 mock tests is not going to be much helpful if you don’t review them well. The objective should be to identify your mistakes (in terms of concept, time pacing or the section-specific strategies) in a mock test so as to plug the gaps in the next one. Review each and every mock test with utmost sincerity to ensure that your performance improves in the next one. I got extreme help from my mentor at DIKSHA who used to review the tests along with me and suggest me the improvement plans for the next one.

By the time you are through with the mock tests you have already finalized your test strategy. In the last two days revise and relax. Have confidence in yourself and your preparation – you will need it for the exam day!

So in a nutshell, what I suggest is that plan well for these 4 months of intense preparation for your GRE. Just to appear in GRE you will need to pay more than INR 12,500 to ETS. So do take it seriously. Have a well balanced and personalized study plan ready when you start and stick to it. GRE is less about being genius and more about being rigorous. Be sincere, diligent and determined. And in case you need any guidance I will suggest DIKSHA’s name simply because of the personalized attention and mentoring that I experienced there.

Top Six Life Hacks for Indian Students in USA

Well, if you are reading this it means you are planning your higher studies from USA or at least you may want to think about it as an option. It may also be the case that you are already through with your GRE (or, GMAT) and TOEFL (or, IELTS) exams and planning for your applications to the US Universities or B-Schools. Whatever may be the stage, here at Diksha Learning Services (DIKSHA) we thought that it will be good for you to know how life changes suddenly from the moment you land in US as an Indian student. While there are too many changes to list out, the following SIX changes will impact you the most. And thus the Top Six life hacks as detailed below is something you should never ignore. Rather, start preparing from now on!

  • Food – Learn to Cook it: Let’s start with Food – most of us “Live to Eat”! And for an Indian Student in US, there starts the problem. Your mother is not there to dish out delicacies that you like. You don’t have a cook either. And most importantly you don’t have those canteens, road-side eateries and “dabba” system that helped you to sustain in your hostel days. Definitely you will try the Burger, Hot dogs, Pizzas and Tacos for some time till you start craving for your favourite Chicken Tikka Masala, Rajma-Chawal or Puri-Bhaji or Paratha or Upma… Moreover, if you are a vegetarian (or even if only a chicken and fish eater), please remember it’s a big, bad, non-veg world awaits you in USA. You will need to be cautious about your food. Besides, having a proper lunch or dinner (I mean a proper 3-course meal, not the fast food) in an US restaurant will be strenuous on your pocket. So, simply learn to cook. It is one of the most valuable skills to learn while you are still in India and would be useful throughout your life in USA.
  • Time management – Learn to multi-task: In India you have an unparalleled support system as a student (even as a young professional). Your parents pay your tuition fees on time. You have someone to clean your room, wash and iron your clothes, prepare your food and even at times to get your assignment ready. You are expected to study to get good grades. So you do have lot of time lazing around. You study hard for a week before your exam and still end up with decent grades. Sorry to inform that in USA you are expected (or, bound) to do all these by yourself – pay your rent and utilities on time, work part time to fund your studies/ living expenses, cook, wash and clean. Besides, the education system there will make you study almost everyday – going through lot of reference materials or project reports or journals in the library (and I don’t mean “google”). You have to submit your assignments on time and there are no excuses for a 1 day delay. You cannot copy it from your friend and not even from Google, as it would be construed as plagiarism. So, unless you can multi-task and juggle between activities, you will slowly fade away. I just forgot to mention, there are lot of socializing & partying that needs to be added to the list above. Have you ever thought that parties could be so tasking?
  • Credit history – Manage your Finance: As an Indian, most probably your finances have been sponsored as well as managed by your father. And most probably he would often frown upon on Credit Cards. Even if he has two or three such cards, he would rarely use them – may be just 20% of the total spending! But once are in US, you will need to use Credit Cards. Yes, you will need to borrow and pay back money on time to prove your credit worthiness. You need to build a good credit history for many things – such as getting a new mobile connection, buying a car, taking a rent and definitely getting a personal loan.  In fact I would suggest spend everything through your credit card. This will keep track of all your expenses, provide amazing offers to save some dollars and enhance your credit rating. Within a span of two years you can be a “Very Reliable Borrower” and believe me that’s going to be really helpful in US. There’s just one simple rule of using Credit cards –pay on time! Caution: If you misuse your card or overspend, it could become your worst nightmare.
  • Medical – Get Covered: So here in India you don’t care about your health. If you are not feeling well, you pop-in some pills widely available in pharmacies without prescription. You are feverish? Your family physician is just a call away. You have a twisted ankle? Your family or friends will take you to the neighborhood doctor’s clinic. And even after so much “halla boll” over rising medical costs in India, trust me – it’s still much cheaper than that in US. In US, if you don’t have adequate medical insurance, you are simply screwed! Most Universities shall enforce students to take a costly medical insurance coverage upon enrollment. And you better take a good one if you want to play it safe. Besides, the medical process out there is not so simple. When you go to a hospital in US, there are procedures, documentation, legalities and technicalities that make the first-timers loath themselves for falling sick. And always remember that ‘Dental’ and ‘Vision’ are most probably not a part of your medical insurance. If you are prone to such problems, then please purchase those as add-ons beforehand.
  • Networking –Socialize with an Objective: You are a good student – good at academics (i.e. getting good grades). You are also a smart, polite and good-natured individual with good communication skills (read, English). But these alone may not be sufficient to get you what you want in US. Right from getting the desired on-campus job and teaching assistantship to securing internships and full-time job offer – a lot depends on your network and rapport with the right people. Unfortunately in US the concept of “Campusing” is very different. It’s highly unlikely that Ford will come to the campus on 12th September to pick up 10 bright Mechanical Engineers! You can’t simply live in US all by yourself and expect the system to offer you something good on the platter. You will have to work your way out to know the right people and always try to be there in the right place at the right time. You will need to have your own information system (well, not the computers; I am talking about human beings) in place so as to grab the right opportunities. Socialize with people. Play a sport. Join a hobby club. Attend campus parties. Participate in career-fairs and corporate info sessions. Go for poster presentations and technical seminars and conferences. Simply, connect with as many people in different spheres where you operate. Be genuine while you network to build long lasting relationships. This would definitely go a long  way.
  • Legal – Learn to Obey Law: Being an Indian, often we tend to take “Law” as a very subjective as well as flexible thing that is open to interpretation and manipulation. But in US, please make sure that you know the law well. And also make sure that you never try to ignore or bypass it. Your US friends will be of great help to get your basics right. Besides, the University will also give you guidelines. Don’t overstep at all. Because once you are found on the wrong side, you cannot bribe your way out. If you try to do so, you might end up in jail. Some basics – You should stop at the signal (even if no one is there to watch over); you should not work overtime than the allowed legal hours (if caught you might get deported); you should always carry a copy of your legal documents that allow you to stay and study in the US. And if ever you get into some legal trouble please don’t try to work smart. Check your words (you will often find the cops saying “You have the right to remain silent”).  And seek help from University/ College authorities.