Friday, March 28, 2014

United Kingdom Visa

The new, improved UK visa centre in Chennai

Business or studies UK is a destination  that attracts Indians. To meet the increasing demand with efficiency the UK visa application centre has been recently upgraded. A new facility is the video conferencing booths for visa interviews. The new ‘passport pass back’ service allows applicants  to retain their passport after applying for visa. Though there has been a reported drop in student visas last year, owing  both to rupee depreciation  and to stricter admission norms, the coming season is expected to reverse the trends gradually.

Content courtesy: The Hindu, dated  March 27, 2014.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Indian School of Business - Young Leaders Program ( YLP )

ISB YLP: step on the accelerator to the corporate world.

The first batch of ISB YLP is ready to get into the prestigious 1 yr MBA at ISB( Hyderabad and Mohali) in April ’14.  The young leader’ s program is a unique package in that ISB handholds you by guiding you while you are still in college. You are initiated into leadership even before you do MBA.  The YLP is the foundation for the PGP, a foundation that gives you the much needed assurance and guaranteed career in business.

What it takes?
ISB looks out for early signs of leadership. Of course,
 consistent, excellent academics and non-academics are mandatory.

What happens at the mentoring stage?
In a nut shell it readies you for the 1 yr MBA program in a structured manner; the 21 month work experience and simultaneous mentoring by ISB, nearly substitute the experience you gain in four to five years in the industry. Once the screening ( included in this story itself) is completed and you’re admitted, you attend weekend contact programs on campus, every six months. The contact sessions centres around career planning, communication, profiling, readiness for the rigors of the 1 yr MBA. Interactive sessions, assignments are part of the contact programs.
Program Structure
March - Pre-final year Apply to Stage 1 of YLP

August - Final year Short-listed candidates to
apply to Stage 2 with GMAT scores

September - Final year Final selection process on
Campus October - Final year Admission offers

Summer - Year 1 of work Attend YLP Learning

Weekend 1, complete graduation and start your job

Winter - Year 1 of work Attend YLP Learning

Weekend 2
Summer - Year 2 of work Attend YLP Learning

Weekend 3
Winter - Year 2 of work Attend YLP Learning

Weekend 4
Winter - Year 2 of work Apply for ISB scholarship and
attend interview

April - Year 2 of work Join ISB PGP*

Application Stage 1 deadline March 15, 2014
Stage 1 shortlist announcement April 30, 2014
Application Stage 2 deadline August 07, 2014
Stage 2 shortlist announcement August 31, 2014
Stage 3 - Final selection process September 30, 2014
on campus
Admission offers October 15, 2014
Acceptance of offer October 31, 2014

Inputs courtesy:

Friday, March 14, 2014

Dynamics of computer-based tests

When open ended questions ruled the world of educational testing, the test faced immense criticism for its subjectivity, after-all the evaluator’s biases were too obvious to be ignored. Though there is no replacement for open ended questions ( the reason why they are still  the best bet for knowledge assessment at school and  college),  a new era of objective  multiple-choice questions( MCQs), affordable for testing a large number of students, found their place at different levels .   Though reasonably reliable, MCQs are not fool-proof either, with their posing a two-way challenge-  the chances of guess and the failure to test certain thinking  skills if they  are relevant to be tested. Unlike open- ended questions, MCQs cannot test creativity, self-expression or a respondent’s thinking process.  As an antidote to the ‘guess’ factor, many MCQ format tests come with negative marking.

The emerging computer- based tests( CBTs)
The emergence of computer as a medium of testing, especially in aptitude testing involving large numbers, has opened up many possibilities. With revolutionary software, we can present multiple format questions, adapt test to the test taker’s ability, reduce chances of guessing, evaluate essay responses, equate scores on different

The Common Admission Test conducted by the IIMs for admissions into IIMs and many other MBA colleges is now administered on computer ( this year the test will be administered from Oct 16th  to Nov 11th).   In the previous year, the test had two sections, with a time-limit of 70 minutes per section. The quantitative ability and data interpretation formed one section, and verbal ability and logical reasoning constituted the other. The test permits you to go back and forth with in a section, skip questions for later attempt, and  work on any question within a section. The second section will appear only after the time limit for the first section is up. All questions are in the multiple-choice format. There are scroll bars to view data spread across more than one screen and you can highlight text. A review screen will show if you have left any question unanswered. Negative marks for wrong answers serve as penalty.  
Statistical procedures, conforming to psychological testing standards,  are used to equate scores of different test takers who take different combinations of questions, drawn from a large pool.

The GRE, Section adaptive
The Graduate Record Examination conducted globally by Educational Testing Services USA, for admission into MS, PhD and business courses, had introduced a new computer test format in 2011. The test has three sections -  an essay section with two topic prompts, a quantitative ability section with two sub-sections  and  a verbal reasoning section with two sub sections. Not all questions in the math and verbal are in the conventional multiple choice format. For some questions, you are required to enter a numerical value, click on one or  correct answers, or highlight a sentence in a passage etc. As in  the CAT exam, you can move forward and backward with in a section(here sub-section), answer questions in any order, or skip a question. An online calculator is peculiar to to facilitate calculations.

A unique feature of the GRE is that the test is section adaptive. The first subsection of each of math and verbal comprises moderately difficult questions. Your performance in this section determines the difficulty level of the questions in the second sub-section presented to you. This means that a good performance in the first sub-section will result in a tougher second subsection, raising your chances of a higher score. The essays are graded two ways – language assessment using an e-rater and content evaluation manually by essay evaluators. The GRE test has evolved so much that scores on the paper- based test and those of the computer-based test are equated.

The GMAT, Question adaptive
The Graduate Management Admission Test, administered by GMAC USA, is one step ahead of the CAT and the GRE, in its format. In addition to the essay, quantitative and verbal sections you have a new integrated reasoning( IR) section. A vast majority of test takers find the verbal section of the test more complex and demanding than that of the other two exams  discussed above. The passages are abstract,  sentence correction questions tests the intricacies of English language and critical reasoning tests higher order thinking skills.  The integrated reasoning tests your ability to analyse, integrate and evaluate data presented in multiple format. In the IR section, you can drag columns and rearrange data.
Unlike section-adaptive GRE, the GMAT is question adaptive. That is, depending on your performance in a  given question, the  weight age of the next question will be determined. Hence you cannot skip a question, neither can you go back to a question. Each section is separately adaptive. There is no score deduction  for unanswered questions;  instead a cluster of wrong answers will invite lower weightage questions.
With each admission test posing a new set of challenges, test aspirants must adapt to the changing dynamics of competitive exams. The scores of CAT and other Indian exams are valid only for that year, where as the GRE and GMAT scores care valid for 3-5 years. Since these exams test more or less similar skills, many  MBA colleges in India take GMAT or GRE scores. Though there are overlaps in preparation, extra bit of learning will give you more options.

Contributed by Dr. Vijayakumari
GRE, GMAT trainer at semantics Chennai

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

How to prepare for GMAT logical reasoning?

How to prepare for GRE, GMAT logical reasoning?

Let’s face reality. Few college books prepare you to think critically. But critical thinking skills are extensively tested in both GRE and GMAT. Critical reasoning (referred to also as logical reasoning or analytical reasoning) constitute an array of thinking skills that involve, analysis, synthesis and evaluation of numerical, verbal or non-verbal data. Numerical reasoning questions measures your ability to apply reasoning in a math setting whereas non-verbal reasoning involves interpreting symbols and pictures, the latter skills hardly tested in higher order aptitude tests. A majority of reasoning questions tested in these exams are text-based
(verbal reasoning).

Logic is the science of correct reasoning. It is integral to mathematics and philosophy. There are many logic concepts that originate from the above disciplines and applied in GRE and GMAT tests. The common test areas, viz.  critical reasoning (short passages that present arguments), argument essay and integrated reasoning draw immensely from philosophy and logic. These questions requires you to analyze issues, reason logically, and argue effectively. These skills are essential to succeed in higher studies as well as in careers.

How to build reasoning skills

1.    Using test prep resources

A common practice among test aspirants is to seek help from coaches, preparatory test guides and online discussion forums in order to learn tips and strategies to crack reasoning questions. No doubt some of these are useful sources to make you motivated and test ready. However exercise caution; desist from using these indiscriminately; do quality check.

2.    Reading varied texts
Those who are habituated to reading will over time become critical thinkers, and thereby succeed in many areas of aptitude tests. It is to be noted that the question stimulus in reasoning tests are drawn from everyday knowledge rather than from academic disciplines. Being well-read will make you familiar with the content of these problems.

3.     From principles of  logic
A third and highly productive way to build your logical reasoning is to master elementary logic theory. What is logic theory?

 Here’s a basic concept in logic.
Statement : Whenever Sara goes to the supermarket, she buys cookies.
You saw Sara this morning carrying a jar of cookies. Can you then infer that Sara has gone to the super market?
 No. this is wrong reasoning, because the supermarket is not the only place where Sara buys cookies from.
Let’s consider the scenario:  Sara did not buy cookies, can we infer that she did not go to the supermarket? Yes, we can.

In logic theory terms, the original statement can be expressed as,
If A, then B; If not B, then not A. This expression can be applied to a class of problems. Many such formulae  can be learnt and applied to logical reasoning. Merely common sense will not work.

There are many books on elementary logic suitable for beginners  that can give you solid foundation in  critical thinking. You may make use of such sources for your test preparation.

A good book on critical reasoning
One book I would recommend is Critical thinking: A Student’s Introduction by  Gregory Basham, William Irwin et al.  Online edition of this book is also available.

This book provides all basics consistent with the reasoning historically assessed in tests of reasoning and aligned with the content areas covered in  global admission examinations. Hence a good reference source for aptitude trainers too. The real-world examples and proven step- by- step approach to answering questions that this book provides can significantly improve the way you look at reasoning  problems.  The concepts that you need are; structure  and components of arguments, inductive and deductive arguments, method of evaluating arguments and  ways to spot common errors in arguments.
Let your preparation involve understanding the logic behind problems and not merely seeking solutions.

Becoming a critical thinker is both an adventure and  hard work.   Practice. Make mistakes. Learn from them. Improve. In the coming  test season, be equipped with a workable set of thinking tools.

Contributed by
Dr. Vijayakumari
Instructor  at semantics, Chennai