Among the Indian MBA entrance exams, IIFT entrance exam is possibly the most complicated; it has multiple sections (and sometimes subsections also), no sectional time limits, differential marking for questions of different sections, negative marking for incorrect answers, insufficient time and does not clearly specify if it has sectional cut offs.
Unlike CAT which is a useless test of knowledge, IIFT conducts an aptitude test.
This paper checks out your ability to manage time, ability to take the right decisions (choose the easy questions) with insufficient information under a situation of constrains (insufficient time) with penalty for incorrect decisions and achieve the goals without being fully aware of the rules.
This year the IIFT is on 24th Nov and with about 3 weeks to D-day, let us understand the paper structure, its peculiarities and work out the best way of tackling the paper. We will take into account the IIFT papers of 2009 – 12 for this purpose.
The IIFT Paper
Contrary to popular belief that the IIFT paper is unpredictable, the reality is that like any other paper it can be predicted. While most people prefer to look at the differences, I prefer to look at the commonalities or the constants of the paper to work out the strategies for cracking the paper. Hence let us first have a look at the constants in the IIFT paper structure:
1. Time limit: 2 hours or 120 minutes.
2. Number of questions: The number of questions in this paper varies from 120 to 135.
3. Total marks: All papers are of 100 marks.
4. Multiple sections: IIFT papers typically have 6 sections or sub-sections.
5. Areas tested: Irrespective of the number of sections or sub-sections IIFT papers test you on the following areas:
- English Usage
- Reading Comprehension
- Quantitative Aptitude
- Data Interpretation
- Analytical Reasoning
- General Knowledge
6. No sectional time limit: IIFT does not prescribe any sectional time limit and expects the students to not only allocate appropriate time to each section but also ensure that this time allocation is implemented.
7. Differential Marking: Questions of different sections have different marks but in all papers GK & EU questions have the minimum marks and QA & DI questions have the maximum marks.
8. Negative marking: Negative marking is a standard feature in IIFT. Usually it is 1/3rd of the marks allocated to the question for every incorrect answer.
9. Good Attempt: Till 2010 a good attempt was around 50 marks, but in the last two years, with the reduction in degree of difficulty of QA, DI and RC a good attempt is 60-65 marks.
10. Low Cut-off: The cut-off in IIFT 2012 paper was 50 marks which was the highest in the last few years. In 2011, the cut-off was 45 marks and in 2009-10 the cutoff was in the region of 36-37 marks. However, it should be noted that a partial reason for the cut-off to go up substantially in the 2011 paper was that the number of candidates called for the second stage was reduced by around 10% in 2011 as compared to 2010. Also the level of difficulty of QA, DI and RC had reduced in 2011 and 2012.
11. Sectional cut-off: IIFT is silent on this but in IIFT 2012 paper, it declared sectional cut-offs for all sections.
12. Wrong questions: Every IIFT paper has 5-6 incorrect questions or questions in which none of the choices are correct. Possibly trying to see how you handle chaos.
Strategy Tip 1: The Marks per minute funda
Given that the marks per question in IIFT is different for different testing areas, it is important for us to attempt questions in a manner such that the score is maximized. EU and GK usually have the lowest marks per question but they also take the least amount of time. Similarly, QA and DI typically have the highest marks per question but they take more time to solve. In other words, “marks per minute” is more important than “marks per question” and your target should be to maximize the marks in 120 minutes.
Strategy Tip 2: The Target Attempt Mystery
Since IIFT is usually silent on the aspect of sectional cutoffs, we cannot assume that it is not there. In 2012, for the first time, IIFT declared its sectional cut-offs. Given that the total score required to clear IIFT in 2012 was 50 marks (45 for NCOBC and 40 for SC/ST/PH) with very low sectional cutoffs, your target attempt should be:
- in the region of 35-40% of the total marks in the section and
- at least 60-65 marks in aggregate.
Strategy Tip 3: Finding the Perfect Match
The IIFT paper has around 15 “match the following” questions in GK, EU and RC. These have to be definitely attempted since most of them can be solved on the basis of 1 or 2 matches out of 4 by eliminating the choices.
Now on the basis of the last 3 years papers of IIFT, let us go deeper into all the areas that are tested to work out a plan for preparation and also the strategy to do well in the test.
English Usage (EU):
The 20-25 questions in this section are primarily from vocabulary, sentence completion and grammar along with a couple of questions from para-jumbles (short sentences) and spellings. Vocabulary is the least time-consuming sub-section in the test but many students are likely to find the words difficult. Grammar or sentence correction is easier than that in CAT and sentence completion questions (word, sentences and phrases) are also do-able.
A good starting point for preparation is to know the meaning of every word that has appeared in the question and the choices of the last 6 years IIFT papers. Vocabulary questions that have appeared in past XAT and FMS papers are also useful for IIFT.
Strategy Tip 4: When in doubt – leave.
Give this section (EU) about 10 minutes for 20-25 questions and attempt only those questions that you are sure of. When in doubt leave and do not bother to read the lengthy questions.
Reading Comprehension (RC):
For the last few years RC, has contributed 15-16 questions in 4 lengthy passages (1000-1500 words). The passages are mostly factual and not difficult to understand or answer. In addition to the RC passages of past IIFT papers, practice the RC passages of CAT 1990-98. Most of these are lengthy and factual.
Strategy Tip 5: The 7-8 min rule
Glance through the passages and attempt two passages, @ 7-8 minutes per passage, which you are comfortable with based on the subject of the passage.
IIFT 2012 had 20 questions of EU and 16 questions of RC (@ 0.75 marks per question) in a single section of 27 marks. The cut off for this section was only 7 marks.
After CAT the IIFT-QA will be a relief for most of you. Arithmetic and Algebra are the mainstay of IIFT papers in QA. IIFT 2011 & 12 papers had questions primarily from Ratios, TSD, T&W and Percentages, Simple equations, Sequences & Series and Inequalities with a couple of questions each from Geometry, Mensuration and P&C and Probability. Till 2010, IIFT papers had questions from Functions,Trigonometry (mostly height and distance), Set Theory and Binomial Theorem also hence these areas should not be ignored. It will be useful to revise the important MCQs of these topics also.
IIFT 2012 had 25 QA questions of 1 mark each and one could easily attempt 15 questions in 25 minutes but the sectional cutoff was only 6 marks!
Strategy Tip 6: Find the Sitters
Many IIFT QA questions are lengthy to read but easy and short questions are sprinkled across the paper and there are 4-5 questions that are not worth attempting. This section should be attempted in 2 Rounds – R1 for the short and easy questions and R2 for the lengthy to read questions.
DI in IIFT typically contributes about 15-20 questions in 3-4 sets. In terms of calculation intensity these are a couple of notches higher than CAT essentially because of very close choices. While most of the data sets are tables and graphs, caselets have also appeared in the past. Data Sufficiency questions have not appeared in IIFT for the last 5 years and hence can be ignored.
IIFT 2012 DI was easier than its earlier editions due to lesser calculation intensity and one could easily attempt 15 questions.
Strategy Tip 7: The DI and RC connection
Apply the RC strategy in DI, attempt only two DI sets – the easiest and least time consuming sets in about 15 minutes and ignore the rest.
In the 20 Reasoning questions in IIFT test, you should expect 2-3 questions each of arrangement, eligibility criteria, syllogism, coding-decoding, course of action, mathematical operators and alphabet & number series. Hence it is advisable that all these be practiced from your study material.
Questions of arrangement, eligibility criteria and mathematical operators are easier to solve if you work systematically and also take less time, attempt them first. For the rest go by your comfort level
Strategy Tip 8: Maximize!
This is the section to maximize your scores since the level of difficulty is low – medium and reasoning questions usually have the highest marks per question. Questions can be solved in about 1.5 minutes each. Plan to attempt all questions in this section.
IIFT 2012 had 20 questions of AR (of 0.75 marks each) and 19 questions of DI (of 1 mark each) in a single section of 34 marks. This section at 8.917 marks had the highest cut off among all the sections.
This is the area that most of the students are most worried about also The GK in IIFT is possibly the most unpredictable among all MBA entrances. It can have questions from country-capital-currency, authors-books, business, advertising, films, politics, geography, history etc. In short, anything under the sun can be asked. The saving grace is that the regular newspaper readers will not have a problem.
For preparation, download the IIFT GK Compendium and Question Bank. Also do go thru the GK quizzes in Management Compass of the last 8 months and the last 6 years IIFT papers.
IIFT 2012 had 28 questions (of 0.5 marks each) and 4 correct answers were sufficient to clear the section since its cut-off was 1.667 marks!
Strategy Tip 9: The Last Word
Plan for not more than 30 seconds per question in GK, leave the question if you are not sure of the answer. An attempt of around 7-8 questions is good for this section.When in doubt leave is the right strategy for this section also.
Do attempt IIFT papers of 2010-12, time permitting you can go back till 2008. Videos of past IIFT papers will be available shortly in your SIS. Webinar of Mock IIFT discussion will also be announced shortly. For a detailed analysis of IIFT 2012 paper do refer to the Strategy after CAT section in CL Exam Corner.