With less than a week to go for the Institute of Rural Management Anand (IRMA) Admission Test 2011, here are a few last minute tips given by the current Rural Management Program students. This is just to give an overview about the paper and the various approaches one can follow in the exam. It also includes some DOs and DON’Ts.

Structure of the paper

Number of Questions: 200

Time Allotted: 2 hours

Section wise distribution of questions

Quantitative Ability: 50

Logical Reasoning: 50

English Comprehension: 40

Issue of Social Concern: 60

The cutoffs for the last year (2010)

 Section General category OBC Female SC/ST and PWD Sponsored Analytical reasoning 85.607 82.910 82.910 79.684 79.684 Quantitative ability 69.707 65.821 65.821 61.608 61.608 English comprehension 67.240 63.247 63.247 59.175 59.175 Issues of social concern 70.430 65.891 65.891 60.823 60.823 Total 89.203 86.004 86.004 75.189 75.189

The two decisive sections in IRMA test usually are the AR and ISC, as must be evident from the cutoffs. The focus on these sections must be proportionate.

Here is a section-by-section analysis of the test.

Analytical reasoning

This section of 50 questions is known to be of moderate difficulty, though some questions can be tricky. As Himanshu Bhardwaj puts it, The Statement-argument and Inference deduction type of questions are confusing and can create trouble for anyone in the paper. So be vigilant enough while solving them because haste can really mess this section up.

This section usually contains Data Sufficiency, Analytical Reasoning (Arrangements), Criteria Based Reasoning, Statement and Courses of Action, Statement and Assumptions, Causes and Effects, Inference and Fact Based,Odd One Out, Coding and Decoding, Analogies, Verbal Puzzles and Numerical Rearrangements questions.

Parneet Kaur says, At this stage one should make sure he is familiar with different types of questions. It will help in the test. I had practised questions from RS Aggarwal and SBI Bank PO past papers.

This section saw the highest cutoff last year compared to all other sections. So one must attempt a good number of questions focusing on accuracy.

Quantitative ability

This section of 50 questions merges Quantitative Aptitude, Data Interpretation and Data Sufficiency. The questions are of easy to moderate level and often calculation intensive. Darshit Shah advises, Try to do DI caselets in the Quant section first. They are easy and can be solved very quickly if you are good at calculating simple percentage increase-decreases. This section tends to have questions on arithmetic such as those based on ratio, time speed distance, numbers and simplification, probability, permutation and combination, apart from data interpretation and data sufficiency.

English comprehension

This is the smallest section with 40 questions. It normally has one long passage followed by 15 questions based on it. They are usually direct questions. Apart from this, there are questions on sentence completion, Para jumbles and Fill in the blanks.

Issues of social concern

This is the largest section of the paper with 60 questions and is considered to be the toughest among all. IRMA provides a list of topics to be covered for this section and it contains questions based on Government Policies, Planning and Strategy regarding the rural sector, Agriculture, Environment, Union Budget, Awards and Book Writers. Vineeth Kn says, ISC is the most important section. Make sure that you have brushed up current affairs and general knowledge to topics specified in the IRMA syllabus.

How to prepare

What to focus on at this stage?

Parneet: At this stage, the aspirants should start finalising their strategy for the exam.

a) Order in which they would attempt the four sections. A common gameplan is to attempt the ISC section in the end because the questions are you-either-know-or-dont-know type. But this was not the case with last year’s paper. The choices are not direct in all the questions, for example the question could be Which of the following statements are true? and the answer choices are different combinations of the statements given. It could take some time before one arrives at the answer.

b) Time to be allocated to each section. This should be done keeping in mind the aspirants strong and weak sections and the need to meet the sectional cutoffs. One need not allocate equal time to all the sections. For example, if one can do Verbal more quickly than Quant, he should set out more time for the latter. This decision can be reached by attempting few sample tests on the same pattern as IRMAs test.

c) Speed and Number of questions to attempt. Many aspirants take a lot of mock-CATs. Though CAT mocks are good enough for testing ones concepts for IRMA too, one must remember the fact that the IRMA test has 200 questions to be attempted in two hours. The questions may be of moderate level but going through all the 200 questions requires sufficient speed. One should plan the minimum number of questions he must attempt accurately before jumping on to the next section, so that the sectional cutoff is taken care of.

Mental preparation to change ones strategy if the situation demands so is important. For example you may realise during the exam that you have spent more than the required time on one section. Stay calm and plan quickly what to do next so that you do not end up neglecting any section.

Himanshu: By now one should be well-acquainted with the type of questions commonly appearing in the test and the pattern of the paper. It is the time to solve previous years IRMA test papers with a timer ticking. One must also work with mocks of various coaching institutes so that one gets good practice as well as knowledge of the strong and weak sections and then accordingly plan the approach to the paper. Get a grip on calculating percentage change, fractions and BODMAS type of questions.

Vineeth: The focus during this week should be to brush up the basics and go through the current affairs and ISC related topics. The number of mocks that one has to attempt in the last week is subjective. I took all the five IMS mocks in the last week before the exam and had taken one on the day before the exam. So it is up to each individual to decide whether he wants to take mocks or not in the last week.

Any tips to take care of the sectional cutoffs? How should one distribute time between sections?

Parneet: I planned my paper according to my performance in the PO papers that I had practised in the last week. I could do Verbal quickly and found it easier than Quant. So I attempted LR first, then Quant, then Verbal and finally ISC. I had to leave a few questions unread in Quant since I was running out of time and jumped to Verbal. In Verbal also I didnt read all the questions and left a Parajumbles question straightaway because it would have consumed some time. Finally, I attempted the ISC part with less than 15 minutes remaining. The key point is to move on as quickly as possible from one question to next. If you feel you have done enough in one section, you may leave a few remaining questions even though you might have done them accurately.

Himanshu: After having given mocks and past year IRMA papers I got to know my strong and weak sections and then could accordingly plan my paper. I attempted Quant first, followed by LR and Verbal and in the end I did ISC. I allotted 35 minutes each to Quant and LR section and was able to attempt 35+ in Quant and 25+ in LR. I gave 25 minutes to Verbal as it was my strong point and managed to do 28-30 in it. I gave ISC 15 minutes and solved all the questions of which I was sure of first and then did some calculative guessing. In total I guess I attempted around 30-32 in it. Last 10 minutes I saved as a reserve and went back to the LR section where I was not able to attempt more questions initially.

Vineeth: Dont spend more than 15 to 20 minutes for the ISC section. Allocate the remaining time almost equally among the three other sections. My allocation was 40, 30, 30 and 20 for QA, VA, DI and ISC. Dont spend more than 40 minutes on one section as it might affect your chances of clearing the sectional cutoffs.

How to go about preparing for the ISC section at this stage?

Himanshu: With one week left I would not suggest that you dived heavily into the topics given in the syllabus of ISC. Rather, try to do some peripheral reading which you can recollect in the exam once you see the answer options. Cover important and current socio-economic issues and the rural budget from Ministry of Rural Development website. Books like Pratiyogita Darpan’s special economic issue and Question Banks of various coaching institutes can really be helpful in preparing. Also solve the GK section of the Bank PO papers. There are many questions which are on similar lines to questions being asked in ISC section.

Parneet: At this stage, one must make sure he has read at least something about all the topics in the ISC syllabus provided by IRMA. Read a newspaper regularly and look out for news related to government schemes and programmes launched since 1970. Read on issues such as food security, agriculture, rural development, infrastructure, flagship programmes of the last 5 years, such as the NREGA, SGSY and other employment and social welfare schemes. Magazines like Yojana may help. But considering the lack of time at this stage, one must smartly filter out relevant stuff from these.

Vineeth: In the last week of preparation, the first thing to do is to go through the IRMA-special GK question banks released by coaching institutes. Attempt mock tests, they will give you another 300 or so sample ISC questions. You can also go through the material shared in PaGaLGuY thread for IRMA preparation in the week before the exam. There is no need of mugging up the facts as the paper will have multiple choice questions and you will recognise the answer if you have seen it before. This combined with a bit of intelligent guesswork would be enough to help you clear ISC cutoffs (assuming that you have a habit of reading the headlines of a newspaper or Google News).