What you always wanted to know about Electives but were too afraid to ask.

The title is wrong. You were never afraid to ask “What Electives should I opt for?”. It is the second most commonly asked question, after “Who is that girl?”

Everyone has a different answer to this question (the first question). Whether the choice of electives really matters in the final placements or even in your career is debatable. But since you are expected to choose them, might as well choose them wisely. And there is no dearth of advice, both good and bad. Allow me to lay out some common strategies. Know and use them cannily.

Generalist

This strategy involves selecting courses from multiple departments. That means you will have a few courses from Finance, a few from Marketing, a couple from Operations and so on. In most cases, the split is mainly between two departments. Usually taken up by people wanting to get into consulting or general management roles. The people are generally from upper and lower ranges of ranks – the toppers trying to get into the exclusive consulting roles and the bottom feeders trying to hedge their chances during the placement process.

Specialist

This is the most favored option for those looking to get into the financial industry. They look at only courses offered by their department, and only opt for other courses if the credit requirements are not met. This can only work if the department offers enough courses to make up for a majority of your credit requirement. Usually not a problem for Finance or Marketing, but might be a problem for IT, HR, etc when enough courses are not floated.

“T”

A variation of the Specialist strategy. Here most of the courses are taken from only one department, but a few are taken from other departments. This can be because of either great faculty or the course complements their core courses. (Editor’s note: For example, Fin students and Marketing students following the Specialist strategy will exchange nothing more than cold stares and sneers of outright contempt. One group can hardly be expected to socialize with the other even in the canteen. However, if a course from the Strategy department is offered, they will all forget their differences, make a beeline for the course, and work with each other because nobody wants to look ‘Unstrategic’.)

Professor

Here is my recommended option – choose the courses offered by the best professors, regardless of department. Not the simplest of the lot because it involves some background research. You need to ask seniors or perhaps reach out to alumni for feedback about the professor.

Some electives will be floated by visiting faculty. They might not have visited the campus last year. It may even be the first time that they are taking this course on your campus. Therefore it becomes important you get feedback from reliable sources.

Bonus Strategies

Use these strategies to decide between two equivalent courses, although nothing prevents you from using them for selecting all the courses.

Freerider

It’s obvious from the title who this strategy is for. The basic game-plan for this involves opting for only those courses which have a very high component of group work in the evaluation criteria. By going for these courses, you can work less/not at all and your group would have to carry your weight.

It helps to not antagonize your group completely by showing up for some meetings or volunteering for menial tasks such as final formatting and printing of assignments.

You need to avoid the tag of a freerider in the first year for this to be effective, because once you are branded as a freerider, the image tends to stick and many groups will shun you. The worse outcome is when you end up with a group of fellow freeriders. Then it becomes a game of chicken, i.e. who will fold first and do the assignment, sometimes ending in it not getting done at all.

Anti-Freerider

As the name suggests, this is the anti-thesis to the freerider strategy mentioned above. Here, you only go for those courses which have the highest individual component and minimal or no group component. You avoid the pains of working in a group where no-one contributes and you are left to do all the work but the credit goes to everyone.

Let me know in the comments below on what some of your strategies have been when it comes to selecting electives.

 

– Koganti Greeshmanth

(The writer is an alumnus of IIM Indore – Batch of 2011 and currently works with HCL Infosystems)

Comments

10 comments

Miti

i think one more thing people should consider is the overall load from all courses in the particular term. Sometimes you may go with the Professor strategy and end up with really great courses, but good professors usually also expect good work in return. If all your courses involve heavy out-of-class prep, you may not end up doing well in any.

Ankit

I am a big supporter of the Professor strategy as most bschools have electives only in the second year, and I think in the second year you are not really THAT bothered about doing 'well'. You would rather make better use of your time in a classroom and choose courses that you know you will enjoy or where you will learn something

Harpoonist

A lot depends on your initial objective. If my objective were to maximize my grades, I would start by scrutinizing the list sent out by the Academic Affairs Committee, consisting of names who have subscribed to various courses. From this list, I would cull out an elective or two where the number of students is few, and the students themselves are quite dumb. I would, at the very last moment, dramatically change my choices, unsubscribing from the topper-infested courses and subscribing to the courses where people are more fun-loving. A sincere note saying "Thank you for accommodating me / Sorry for the last minute inconvenience" will help maintain diplomatic ties with Academic Affairs.

Ankit

Would have loved if the author had covered stuff about elective choosing in a bidding environment. To the best of my knowledge, IIM A, IIM B and now even IIM I have a bidding system.

Greeshmanth

Hi, The Author here.

I have never been through bidding system so wouldn't know any common strategies people use.

I like the idea of "Follow your Friends". Nice and simple.

Tarun Goyal

Hey Greesh, great analysis yaar…. nicely expressed in words…

I also followed "follow your friends" or basically "follow your friend" …. 😀

Dushyanth

Bottom of the Pyramid strategy: Needs some homework if you dont wanna do any work in the course nor pain others by freeridin. Download the Grade list of the seniors and weed out all courses where there are Ds and Fs. Those courses are where the Prof is lazy enough / Doesnt care to normalize scores and make sure everyone passes. Why should you care about them. It will narrow down the list of choices pretty much. Go for em. Doesnt mater if the course has titles like " Investment philosophies and Market behaviour" You know you will pass, so sit for the show and sling a few CPs too while the deligent ones keep wondering where the hell did that come from!