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I've completed a Bachelor's degree in engineering and I plan to go for a master's next. To get admission to one of the top universities in my country, I need to take a standard exam, which is highly competitive. That exam solely would decide whether I get a seat or not.

However, I feel I'm not prepared for the master's yet. There still are things in the undergraduate course of my field that I feel I do not understand completely, and before I clear them up I don't think I will be able to make the best out of my master's program.

Here I come to a dilemma.

If I study solely for the exam, I will be able to get a seat in a year or so, but doing that, I know, would sacrifice my learning to some extent. I'm of this opinion because I've experienced that I can solve an MCQ even if I have a cursory knowledge of a topic.

If I study to truly understand, it takes time, and as a result, I can't complete all the subjects, which as a result, results in low scores in the exam.

There already has been a year gap after my bachelor's, following that complete learning-based approach.

I look forward to your suggestion on this, should I do an exam-focused study or a complete learning-based, or is there an option three?


Details of the Exam

My field - Mechanical Engineering

Can someone please help me with the tags? Thank You.

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  • Was your bachelor's a 4-year degree? If yes, you have already spent sufficient time trying to understand UG-level knowledge.
    – whoisit
    Dec 22, 2022 at 14:56
  • If you still decide to wait a year: in a field as applied as Mechanical Engineering, might I suggest you try to gain industry work experience alongside studies?
    – whoisit
    Dec 22, 2022 at 14:57
  • @whoisit Yes, it was a 4-year course. The first time I studied those subjects I did not pay attention to details, as much as I'm able to now. I feel like I've learned how to learn over time, something that I never knew before. If after my master's I want a job in sector B, and if I gain experience in sector A, where A and B are different, would it be beneficial? Dec 22, 2022 at 15:33

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I will answer your question with one of my own. You say there are parts of your undergrad you don't understand.

How long do you think it will take you to come to a situation where there is nothing about mech eng you don't understand? Even at an undergrad level.

Mech eng, like the typical area of study at a uni level, is a gargantuan subject. More, it is changing all the time due to advancements and new ideas. The apt metaphor is drinking from the fire hose.

If you have a plan for your degree, move on it. Don't worry that there are "holes" in your knowledge. Forty years from now when you are a senior respected emeritus in the field there will still be holes in your knowledge, even of your specific area of study within your field. This is how the advancement of knowledge works, both personal and in the wider community.

While you are still in uni, treat it like an "all you can learn" buffet. But don't worry if you don't get the same amount of knowledge on every subject.

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  • 'How long do you think it... Even at an undergrad level.', honestly, in recent years I've felt as if I'm walking on a path whose end keeps on getting farther, even when I'm walking the fastest I could. This resonates with what you said. I guess I need to find peace with not knowing something. Sometimes I cling to a topic, even if it's not important for the exam, coz I feel it would be important someday and that there are many resources to learn that topic that I have access to. Dec 22, 2022 at 16:09
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    @HarshitRajput It's always a balance between learning the stuff that "glimmers" seductively and the stuff you need for your classes or job. Keep the shiny stuff in mind, but finish the work-a-day stuff also.
    – BillOnne
    Dec 22, 2022 at 17:31

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