I I was good in studies in high school thanks to excellent dedicated teachers like Mr. Nandi and Mr. Pal, I didn’t study much during IIT days and studied very hard during my graduate days while pursuing first MBA and then MS in computer science at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. In spite of my poor performance at IIT, after just one semester in my MBA program I was also able to secure admission at PhD program at prestigious University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign’s business school with scholarship It was ranked #6 in the US. I remember the professor from Urbana telling me that they had not seen reference letters like the ones for me before.
My entrance to the MS computer science course makes for an interesting anecdote. My roommate, a graduate of IIT, Roorkee, was disdainful of MBA’s and challenged me to take computer science course- IBM Assembly Language Programming which he found to be very challenging and which was considered to be one of the toughest programming courses offered in the program. I decided to take it during the summer session, when courses were paced at roughly twice the speed of regular Fall or Spring semesters and most students took only this course to do justice to it. I decided to register for 3 more courses after much argument with the Dean. The school didn’t allow me to overload to 4 courses and I decided to take this course by not registering but attending the classes and the professor gracefully agreed to grade my tests and assignments. I scored the highest score in the course out of about 30 students. I also did well in the other 3 courses too. [Exhibit S2] Later, I decided to continue with computer science
Afterwards, I decided to conduct an experiment – to take the GRE Advanced Test in Computer Science at the start of my CS program, and then taking it again towards the end. This way, any improvement in my score could be attributed to the CS program, and my goal was to show that the program can compete with brand names like Stanford and MIT and learning depends mainly upon the student. When I took the GRE Advanced test within a few weeks in the program, about half the 80 questions covered material which I was not exposed to. I answered the rest. I scored 750 which placed me in the 91th percentile. Earlier I had obtained admission material from PhD in Computer Science program at Stanford, which was and still is one of the best programs in the world, and it showed background of its incoming PhD students – most had completed MS in computer science which was not surprising but the surprising part was it mentioned median advanced test score of its incoming PhD students and it was 750 – exactly the same as mine. It actually discouraged me from taking the follow up advanced test towards the end of the program realizing that I didn’t have much to improve on. What a pity!
Later I studied for certification in Actuarial Science by taking Society of Actuaries exams. I was working at the University of Tennessee at Martin at that time and during my free time, studied for them. They were very challenging and most actuaries who worked in the industry got free time, study material, exam fees, training reimbursement, promotion etc. I had no such benefits. I went faster than most, and scored quite high all in my first attempts even though I sweated through some of them thinking the actuaries who set the questions on those tests were sadists. When I went for interviews, potential employers seemed to be impressed. To make up for lost time, I decided to go faster by getting my CFA and CFP certifications too. CFA had lots of reading material for each level exam (over 1000 pages each) but I thought it was an easy track but investor bankers proudly displaying the CFA designation after their name might disagree vigorously. The level 1 covered economics and I thought I did very well (almost perfect – among the highest perhaps) in that section (they don’t disclose the scores though). CFP was tougher, I scored on average 95% on 6 exams, and I wouldn’t be surprised if very few people, if any, exceeded that. I took all three concurrently and added to the challenge which motivated me.