98.67 percentile in CAT and 96 percentile in XAT, this is how Praneet Pasbola, landed in XLRI Jamshedpur!

About the Author:

Praneet Pasbola (PGDM (GM) 2020-21, XLRI Jamshedpur)

MA: What inspired you to prepare for CAT/XAT/MBA? 

Praneet: My story is one that most people can relate to. A general, engineer, male(G.E.M), I did my engineering (B.Tech) in Electronics and Communication(E.C.E.) engineering from Bharati Vidyapeeth's College of Engineering, Delhi in 2013. After that, I worked for two different multinational companies in the Telecom domain, Aricent(2.5 years) and Ciena (3.8 years). I always wanted to do an M.B.A. after graduating and had given C.A.T. and X.A.T. 3 times in the past. I had scored around 84, 91 and 84 percentiles in C.A.T. So, the story that follows is that of an awakened experienced warrior's path to glory rather than a candidate having a perfect profile (There in fact are none!). This year (2019) when I was appearing for M.B.A. entrance exams, it was the last chance I had to redeem myself, and with discipline and God's grace, I was able to ace it this year securing a 98.67 percentile in C.A.T. and close to 96 percentile in X.A.T.

MA: Why M.B.A.?

Praneet: Straight to the point, one of the reasons M.B.A. is one of the most sought after domains is the lucrative pay package one gets after doing an M.B.A. While money is not irrelevant, it is a driver, but at the same time, one really needs to think through the reason for doing an M.B.A. Try to line your "WHY MBA" with your terminal values in life. In my case, my purpose for doing an M.B.A. was to attain three things: The ability to make an impact on the society leveraging what I know and to improve and add to it to be more valuable, the capability to improve existing practices in an organization and leave a legacy for others to follow and find ways to improve myself both personally and professionally. An M.B.A. granted me the power as well as the capability to achieve all these terminal values that I aspire to achieve. Leverage your M.B.A. to attain something bigger in life. An M.B.A. is a means to an end, not an end in itself!

MA: How did you begin the preparation, did you have a strategy or plan for the upcoming months before the D-Day?

Praneet: I began my preparation in March 2019. First 3-4 months, I worked on the fundamentals of each topic in length. It is at this time that you can try to learn all the bells and whistles that each subdomain has to offer. So go about it with sincerity and discipline. After that, once I had about 70-75% syllabus completed, I started attempting mocks while covering the rest of the topics in parallel. I gave at least one mock a week. I increased this frequency to 2 mocks a week as the D-Day came close. Overall I attempted around 25 mocks, and if you do that and review each one of them honestly (i.e. each question in detail) while this might take anywhere from 3-7 hours/review depending on your current competence, you virtually guarantee yourself a 90 percentile. It is also vital to get your doubts clarified by your mentors. The push from 95 to 99 starts getting hard, and it is here that practice and prior exposure to a wide variety of question sets help improve speed and reduces your response time. In reading comprehension (VA-RC), these tough sets played to my strengths, while tricky DI/LR sets generally presented me a conundrum. My advice to you would be to introspect on your strengths and weaknesses. Work on your strengths and simultaneously build up competencies in your weak areas. With this strategy in place, you can beat most of the competitive exams.

MA: Can you share some of your interview experiences at B-Schools?

Praneet: Interviews in B-School are an epitome of diversity. Anything and everything can be asked. Note that the person sitting on the other side of the table is not only judging your technical acumen but also trying to figure out your personality, institutional fit, and also how placeable you are as a candidate. So in addition to academics, one should also practice situational and behavioral questions. An important skill to learn is how to lead an interview, and this comes with practice. Shortly put, try to frame your replies that lead the interviewer to your areas of strength. This will help you in two ways. One you will have a lot more to talk about and two being well versed with your topic of interest, you will come across as a more confident and knowledgeable person. Practice basic sanity questions like "Tell me about yourself etc." well. Finally, keep a smile and relax when you give the interview. An interview is, after all, not a life-or-death dilemma. With these strategies in place, I was able to convert every call that I got. In addition to XLRI GM, I was able to convert I.I.M. - Shillong, MDI -I.M., IIFT K, and most of the new I.I.M.'s.

MA: Now that you are in XLRI-J, how has been the journey so far?

Praneet: Hectic but Enlightening! The learnings so far have been immense, and an M.B.A. truly broadens your horizons. The top institutes pick diamonds in the rough and polish them by putting them through a grinding process. It is this process only, that shapes future leaders, and it is by no means an easy feat to pass through it. Time management is crucial to "live" through an M.B.A. To all future aspirants, I can guarantee, an M.B.A. will be a roller coaster ride, but in the end, it will be truly worth it!

MA: Any tips for the X.A.T. 2021 aspirants?

Praneet: My advice to all X.A.T. aspirants would be to have the ABCD's in place.

Attitude - You have to have a positive attitude. Do stuff that inspires you towards your goal. Listen to motivational speeches, form groups with people who aim high, even writing a post-dated cheque to yourself with the amount you wish to earn. I did all of this! You get the idea. Reinforce yourself with positivity and realize that any failures that happen are stepping stones to success. Set daily targets for completion of topics and stick to them. Don't be happy with an 85/90/95 percentile. As you start giving mocks, don't let frustration creep in even if the results are not in your favor. I had scores of even 77 percentiles in mocks, but I didn't let that bother me. But at the same time, you must work on the questions you were unable to solve in mocks. Unless you are willing to do this, you cannot achieve glory. Plain and simple. Practicing and improving (especially in areas where you are weak) continuously is the key! There is no shortcut to this. You need to put in hours with the right attitude, and it will happen.

Belief - You have to think and believe you have what it takes to be a 99.99 percentiler. Don't aim lower. Aim 99.99. Even when you have had a mock score of the lower percentile, keep the belief that it will happen on D-Day. Ultimately, it is the performance on the D-Day that counts! You just have to believe that cometh the D-day, it will happen. Don't drop shoulders by looking at other people's performance. You only have control over your performance, so keep your focus. Track your progress, keep a chart, and work on your areas of improvement. Find people who support you. With the right attitude and belief, anything can be done, this is but an M.B.A.!

Composure - I have seen countless people who got 98-99 percentiles in mock flounder on the D-Day. Is it that they were unprepared? Stress is expected when the perceived stakes are high, and competitive exams exemplify that. However, it is imperative to remain calm and focussed. Having the right attitude and inculcating belief, as explained above, helps overcome the negativities. To put it into better words,

"The butterflies are but in everyone's stomach,

Treat them as your personal stroke of luck!"

Dedication and Discipline - If there is anything that has changed my C.A.T. scores from 84 to 98.67 percentile and me cracking X.A.T. to get into XLRI, it has been hard work, daily rituals, and discipline. We all have that craving to start from tomorrow and to think we have time left to prepare. 3 months seems like a lot of time. Think about it as just 90 days and so on. Change perspectives to discipline your mind and take this challenge as a means of self-improvement. We all know working hard with dedication, we will get a great percentile, but how many are willing to actually do it? ( Even I fell into this trap for three years, so I can say from experience!) There are a thousand books written on success, and this anecdote adds to it, but until you personally take up the challenge to get what you want and attach high stakes to it, nothing will change. End of the day, people will guide, but only you have to fight! Cheers and all the best in the upcoming exams!

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