It is that time of the year when a lot of you (especially the third year students) start thinking about the road ahead. Having been in that position, I know that one is plagued with uncertainty and all sorts of doubts. I am thus writing about my experience of preparing for the postgraduation entrances, in the hope that it shall be instructive and useful for you.
1. Although this post is about preparing for entrances, I feel it is equally important to mention the importance of thinking through the decision to pursue master’s itself. It is a decision that must be based on serious self-reflection and a passion for Economics. The next question that you should ask yourself is whether you want to stay in India or go abroad for postgraduate studies. Once you are sure you want to pursue a master’s degree in India, jump headlong into entrance prep!
2. To take coaching or not to take coaching? That is the question (that a lot of juniors have asked me). There is no one correct answer to this question. Coaching may neither be necessary nor sufficient to crack the entrances. It can, however, be very useful if supplemented by serious self-study. The decision to take coaching is also dependent on what kind of person you are – whether you require an external shove to get you to work or if you are driven enough to put in the due diligence on your own. If you want to opt for coaching, there is no dearth of options – Amit Kumar Goyal’s classes, Eco Point, Bliss Point, Crack DSE and NDA are those that I am aware of. I took Amit sir’s classes, and can speak from experience regarding that. He takes 24-25 classes in total, with an emphasis on Microeconomics, Maths and Statistics. Each class is about 7 hours long – the first three hours are devoted to teaching and the last three hours, to problem solving. I found the classes suitably rigorous and felt that they provided a good segway for postgrad.
3. There is a plethora of resources available on the Internet which you can benefit from immensely. The following are some of the sites that I have used myself and would advise you to do the same.
- EdX and Coursera (Massive Open Online Courses)
- Course material from MIT’s OpenCourseWare
- www.economicsentrance.weebly.com and www.economicsentrance.in. Both of these have been created by Amit Goyal. The former is a one-stop primer for all things related to the entrances and the latter is a forum for practicing problem solving.
4. Allocating equal time for gaining conceptual clarity and for practicing problems is crucial. Both are equally important, and neither must be neglected. Choose textbooks that you are comfortable with, and study them deeply. Shortcuts or cookbook approaches can never substitute a clear understanding of the economic intuition. Keep practicing questions regularly from textbooks, but also from past-year papers of DSE, ISI, JNU, IGIDR etcetera which are all available online, if not at the SRCC photocopy shop! Perseverance is key; do not feel discouraged if you are unable to solve a lot of the problems in the beginning. There is greater emphasis on application of concepts in the entrances, so one is bound to experience difficulties. But keep at it, and you will find yourself successfully solving more and more questions every consecutive week.
5. Study groups/study buddies are very helpful! You are likely to face the same challenges and have similar doubts as your peers, and it is always good to have someone with whom you can discuss questions. Make good use of your tutorials with teachers as well – it is something I regret not having done the first two years of my college life but benefited greatly from in the final year.
6. Writing the entrance – As in all entrances, there is a shortage of time, and it must be allocated wisely. Do not spend too much time on a question that you aren’t able to solve. Attempt the paper with a cool head and all your concentration. Try not to get startled by something which may appear to be twisted –it is pretty likely that it is just testing something basic but in an unconventional way. A lot of people enquire about the cutoffs in different entrances. I believe it is something you should completely disregard; one must always try to do one’s best and not just attempt to meet the cutoff for selection.
7. Interviews – Some institutes/universities also have an interview stage after the written exam. I appeared for the interviews at IGIDR and ISI, and what I found common to both of them was that the panels attempt to find out if you truly have clarity of concepts and fundamentals. Your preparation for the entrances and your three years of undergraduate studies are sufficient and there is nothing extra that you need to do for the interview in particular. The IGIDR interview has no set format and may be different for different applicants. I was asked to identify my areas of interest and was subsequently asked questions from those areas. Be sure to play to your strengths and you will be fine. The ISI interview, on the other hand, has a fixed format. We are given two questions – one of micro and another of maths/stats. We have 10 minutes to pick one of them and solve it on a sheet of paper, after which we are ushered into another room where we solve the question of our choice on the blackboard in front of the panel. They may cross-question you regarding the steps that you follow so you have to be clear about reasoning at each and every step.
There is no great formula to cracking the entrances (or for that matter, achieving any goal). You will all have to figure out what works best for you. Just remember to put in regular and consistent effort. I hope you will be able to enjoy your entrance prep and gain wonderful insights about Economics in the process, because that is what matters in the end.
All the best!
Prerna (Class of 2015) got an aggregate of 84.24% in B.A. Economics Hons. She has cleared SAU, JNU(SSS), IGIDR and DSE entrance exams with a top rank at each along with ISI-Delhi entrance and interview which, after much contemplation, she has now chosen. She is happy to receive any queries at firstname.lastname@example.org.