Studying in America and Canada  
4.1 Only One, But An Important Selection Criterion

The entrance exam score is the only input into the admission criteria that is quantitative and not prone to subjective evaluation. This is the only objective evaluation of candidates on a "level playing field." The entrance exam equalizes assessment challenges introduced by other selection criteria - outlined in Chapter 3 - for admissions. The standardized exam tests you - that is, your competence - regardless of:

  • The prestige and reputation of your former academic institutions
  • The quality of your education
  • Your academic performance in prior endeavors
  • What you say about yourself via the statement of purpose or essays
  • What others say about you via the letters of recommendations
  • Your work experience

Needless to say, the entrance exam score is a critical component of the selection criteria for admission. This is even truer if you do not graduate from a big-name college from India, such as the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs). The reason is that the prospective college in America or Canada man not be able to judge your academic scores - in the context of your quality of education and the rigor of your programs of studies - in an informed manner; thereby, potentially increasing its reliance on the standardized exam score.

Remember that the selection process is just as much a rejection process. Colleges often use a threshold level of this objective evaluation - the score on entrance exam - to quickly reject candidates to narrow down the pool of viable candidates.

While we can not emphasize enough the importance of entrance exam scores, we must not exaggerate their importance either. The entrance exam score is only one input into the selection criteria for admission, albeit an important one. All selection criteria - as outlined in Chapter 3 - are important.

The common practice in India is to use the entrance exam score as the only criterion for admission, so long as you fulfill the stated minimum academic qualifications for eligibility. Such is not the case in America and Canada. Each college in America and Canada uses its proprietary weighting for each element of the selection criteria to assess your candidacy relative to the candidate pool. Focusing solely on the entrance exam, while ignoring other elements of the selection criteria, can only hurt your candidacy.

Many students in India take the approach of putting in a limited effort into their programs of study, while spending extra-ordinary time and effort into preparing for the entrance exam. This approach may work fabulously in India, but it is a recipe for disappointment if you wish to study in America or Canada. If, on the other hand, you have already completed your program of studies, then your academic scores are what they are. You should by all means put extra-ordinary effort into preparing for the entrance exam.

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