The Last Week

Dear students, today, 20th November 2020, was my last working day for this year. I couldn’t be more relieved right after my class ended at 6 pm. I have back-to-back domestic and international trips lined up, and am looking forward to them more than I can express. As a consequence of being in that relaxed-plus-happy state of mind, I was able to get a lot more work done, met everyone more pleasantly than I usually do, and enjoyed the various activities to their fullest during the rest of the day. 

That’s barely any surprise to me. It is well known that you make the best of any opportunity- may it be sports, stage performances or exams- not when you are most worked-up and excited, but when you are calm, relaxed and happy.  Understand that to be under some pressure is natural and necessary, but excess of it is counter-productive as it prevents you from giving your best and thus impedes achieving your full potential. In any competition, it is imperative that you walk in with a fresh, relaxed and hopeful mind. It is for this reason that sports teams play games (apart from their sport) and go for team outings right before World Cup finals, for they know that one or two more days of practice or fitness won’t affect their overall performance at all, but entering the field with the right frame of mind and renewed vigor certainly would. 

That state of mental peace and positivity is exactly what you need the most in the next 1 week in the run up to the big day. In my 7 attempts at CAT, if there is one thing I have learnt, it is that more than anything else CAT is a game of nerves. I have seen numerous cases where a student who was all set to achieve a stellar percentile foundered in the exam simply because he exhausted himself and went in with a fatigued mind. On the contrary, I have seen students expected to fetch a mediocre percentile do wonders in the exam with their happy-go-lucky and ‘Jo hoga dekha jayega yaar’ attitude. In this game, it is not necessarily the smartest who emerges victorious, but the one who goes in with the right mix of intelligence, hard-work and mental equilibrium. While we, at MBA Guru, have tried to guide you at the first two to the best of our ability and you have matched us in that endeavour with same fervor, it is time now to shift the focus onto the third! 

Make sure that you keep yourself motivated, relaxed, optimistic and cheerful in the coming week so as to mentally prepare yourself for the exam. While I would encourage you to do things that you find relaxing, I would caution you against doing anything over-the-top (in short, you don’t need to go to Thailand “de-stress”…at least not now)

Here are my 7 suggestions borne out of my experience and observations:


Bulati hai magar jaane ka nai     

1. DO NOT TAKE any more full length tests. Some of my colleagues will disagree with me, and I respect their opinion. However, I believe nothing good can possibly come from attempting a full-length test at this point of time. On the contrary, it can
throw you into self-doubt. You may take sectional tests, even take 2 in a day, but avoid taking a full-length test.




2. Watch motivational movies- I suggest you watch 1 movie a day (I am serious here). Some suggestions would be- Rudy, Stand and Deliver, Forrest Gump (my favourite), Fried Green Tomatoes, It’s a Wonderful Life, Life is Wonderful, Pursuit of Happiness, 300, Valkyrie, A Beautiful Mind, Cinderella Man, Homeless to Harvard. Feel free to share your best picks with me! Google to discover more such gems.



3. Get 8 hours of sleep. Make sure you align your sleep cycle with the examination day. I had stressed on this in my earlier message to you. Know the time of your exam, reverse calculate the time you should get up on 29th November and start adjusting your sleep cycle accordingly. There is nothing worse than appearing for this exam in a sleep-deprived state. Similarly, if you get up at 6 am, you cannot expect your mind to be at its freshest at 4 pm.




4. Go for walks in the park in the morning/evening (on days when the pollution level is bearable). Walking around in a lively park and watching small children play is in itself a very life-inducing experience. 




If you have a hobby– dancing, singing, sketching, and reading- then now is the best time to indulge yourself in it. Take time out to do what really relaxes and rejuvenates you. 



6. Meditate. If you do this one thing daily and correctly, then it would make for the absence of all above. But then in the world full of Instagram, Tik Tok and Twitter, how many of us have the patience for this magical activity!


7. Read one motivational novel. For a person as dark and skeptical as I, nothing less than Bhagwad Gita is fructuous. However, if you find that too much, I suggest you read any bestseller like You Can Win, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, The Power of Positive Thinking. My learned and well-read colleagues would be able to provide better suggestions here. 



One final suggestion- in case you follow a religion/god, pray that the economy recover by the time you complete your management education!! 



Note of caution: Do whatever would help your calm your mind, but kindly do not indulge in adventure sports or do something dangerously stupid!

Remember- Guru jo kehte hain humein wo karna chahiye, jo karte hain woh nahi… 😝😝😝
So do as I say, not as I do!


In case you have any more suggestions/experiences on how you relax yourself (not the dirty ones though), then feel free to share here in comments.

PS- The final suggestion was in jest….economy toh Modiji theek kar hi denge 😂

Leave your feedback/suggestions on what else you think I could have included/excluded in this article. Help me get better 🙂

All You Need is One Seat!

Imagine it’s a cold evening in December and your little heart is desirous of a strong coffee. So you venture out to the nearby CCD, but find it closed. Do you drop the plan to savour your sumptuous coffee or do you go to the next cafe? If you are motivated enough for the beverage, you would not mind going ahead to the next restaurant that you know serves coffee, despite the apprehension that it may too be shut or may be a little pricier or a little far. The simple question one needs to ask himself is- how many of these shops can be shut or be too expensive or too far? If you want a cup of coffee, you will get it provided

1. you have a reasonable amount of money (ability)
2. you are willing to walk some (effort and motivation)
3. you are wise enough to realize that what eventually matters is the coffee, not the cafe (wisdom)

Replace coffee with an MBA seat at a worthy college, and various cafe with the different entrance exams that are there. Does the above example seem more relevant now? Understand that all you want is one seat at a good B-school, and that which exam that seat comes from shouldn’t matter! Ask a lover if it matters to him where he met his love, or a loyal drunkard the place or material in which he would like to be served liquor or a die-hard football fan whether he would prefer soft copy or hard copy of the ticket to the FIFA World Cup final. The answer would be same- It doesn’t matter! Harivanshrai Bachchan has captured this thought most beautifully and succinctly in the below stanza of his poem which I occasionally recite in my classes.

जो मादकता के मारे हैं
वे मधु लूटा ही करते हैं
वह कच्चा पीने वाला है
जिसकी ममता घट प्यालों पर
जो सच्चे मधु से जला हुआ
कब रोता है चिल्लाता है   

Back in 2011, when I was assigned my first batch for CAT, where half the students were elder to me by a year or two, there was a student named Abhishek Shrivastava. Despite his above-average intelligence and whatever hardwork he could manage to put in (after his 10-hour workday at office which was 20 km from his home), he could manage a CAT percentile in 80s. His attempt at almost all other exams met similar fate. However, GMAT clicked, and that landed him at ISB, Hyderabad. So does it matter to Abhishek that the college he eventually got was the only good college that he could convert or, for that matter, the only worthy college that he could secure a call from? No. It is irrelevant now. Had he got 99%ile in CAT and done equally well in all other entrances, he would have still been at ISB, and happily so. There are numerous similar stories that I can recount where some student got to NMIMS, Mumbai or SIBM, Pune or IIFT, Delhi or TISS, Mumbai where that college was the only star call the student had.  

So stop fretting about how your CAT did not go as well as you would have liked or prepared. LIFE IS UNFAIR. PERIOD. Get used to it. However, it is NOT ALWAYS UNFAIR. So bad luck, illness, anxiety etc can play spoilsport in one, two or maybe three exams, but not beyond that. Just as a person in the coffee example may not find what he is looking for at a few shops, but eventually he surely will, you too would find success in some or the other exam provided you have put in effort and have common sense/basic intelligence.

Understand that results are never in your hands, and it invariably happens that 1-2 papers go wrong, and we have no control on which ones those 1-2 will be. However, if one has prepared well, then this misfortune can strike in 1 or 2 or maximum 3 exams. The good news is that we have atleast a dozen worthy exams and all we need is to crack one exam that will pave our way to a desirable MBA college. Which exam gets us to that college should not be a worry. I read somewhere that many a time in life we are so busy looking at and mourning for the door that closed on us that we do not realize that four others opened for us in the meanwhile. So stop cursing your stars for CAT and aim at the next exam in front of you, for only the first battle is over, not the war. Pull yourself back up, gather your armory and prepare for the next battle. Get on with the preparations for the rest of the exams, especially XAT, NMAT, IIFT and SNAP. All this while, keep reminding yourself of the fact that all you need is one seat in any one decent college.

Fun Fact : The writer missed his own CAT in 2018 because his bus to Delhi was cancelled and there was no viable alternative to reach the test center in Delhi in time. The writer hopes that his story doesn’t resonate with that of anyone else here.  

Strategy for IIFT and other exams like SNAP, CMAT (not XAT)

In exams like IIFT and SNAP, SPEED IS THE NAME OF THE GAME. You must move across and within sections swiftly. One who lingers is the one who loses. One who flows like a river is the one who remains in the race.


Following are my not-so-humble suggestions:


1. Read the instructions carefully since IIFT is notorious for its twisted instructions which are far from the blanket instructions one sees in CAT. For example, some questions may have higher weight while some may attract higher penalty when attempted incorrectly. I would be extra careful if the penalty for the wrong answer is half of the marks awarded for the right answer. Conversely, I would invariably mark some or the other option even if I am unsure, if there is no negative marking for it.


2. Begin with the GK section. In any exam that has a GK section, it should be where you start from, for it takes least time. Quickly mark the ones you know and leave the others without spending any time. Know that you are not coming back to this section. Usually each question here (in IIFT at least) carries .5 mark and negative marking is .17 i.e. one-third of the marks awarded for the correct choice. This is not a scoring section in IIFT and most exams where GK is tested, so do not over-attempt because you do not have to. All you need to do is clear the cut-off for this section which varies between .5 – 2 marks and for that all you need is 2-5 correct answers. While attempting last year’s IIFT paper with a student a few days back, I saw that each of the first 2 questions of the GK section were half-a-page long. I left the questions without even reading them! That is how fast one has to be here. For all other questions, keep it simple- if you know it, mark it…else leave it. Do not use your brains here. In most match-the-following type questions, you do not have to match all the pairs, but only 1-2 pairs that you are sure of and then eliminate the options. How to prepare for this section? If you have been rereading the front page of The Hindu, something that I stress upon in all my classes, then you do not have to prepare for it…you are good to go. If not, rely on the GK material shared with you by MBA Guru.  


3. After GK section, attempt the remaining sections in order of your comfort i.e. begin with the section of your strength and so on. Know that from here on, you must attempt the paper in phases/rounds, something that I explained to you in detail during ENS 2 (eclectic reading) and in IIFT-specific session. Attempt the easy/doable ones in round 1 and keep leaving the ones that prima facie seem tough or lengthy. Attempt only the easy and doable ones in one section and swiftly move to the next section where too you must follow the same approach. This way try to attempt the entire IIFT paper as fast as you can. If you are able to reach the end of the last section this way, you can be sure that you will clear all the sectional cut-offs. On the other hand, even if you do exceptionally well in some sections but miss almost the entire last section (irrespective of which section it be), all your grand overall score counts for nothing since you would miss the sectional cut-off of the last section.


4. Once you have attempted the entire paper this way, see how much time remains at hand and which of the various sections you attempted (except GK) do you think has the most potential for enhancing your score. For example, if you feel that LRDI section has quite a few questions that you left in round 1 but can solve, go to that section and begin round 2. If a question seems excessively lengthy or difficult, leave it again. Likewise go to the next section with best potential. This round 2 will ensure that you clear overall cut-off of the paper and score as high as you can. DO NOT RE-ATTEMPT ANY QUESTION THAT YOU HAD ATTEMPTED IN ROUND 1.


5. For VA section- attempt non-RC questions like Vocabulary-based and grammar-based questions first, parajumbles and reasoning-based questions (if any) later and RC passages at the end.

For RCs, just read the question stems at the end of RCs twice and then quickly read the RCs to solve whatever questions you can and move to the next.

Understand that the RC passages you get in IIFT are lengthy but fact-based. You need not scan the passages the way we trained ourselves for CAT. Also, in RCs, first read questions and then simply read the RC passage at a relatively fast pace (NO SCANNING). Keep marking the answers to the questions that you come across while reading the passage. In short, for IIFT RC passages, begin with step 4 of the process we adopted for CAT passages. Also, if, on reading the questions at the end of RC, you feel that the questions are largely reasoning-based or require deliberation, then leave that passage for later (round 2) and move on.


6. Suggestion 5 assumes that the IIFT paper will have RC passages and other VA questions clubbed in one section. In case they decide to split them into 2 separate sections (as they did last year), then you must attempt at least 2 RC passages to ensure that you clear the cut-off for the RC section.


Remember, speed would determine the winner in IIFT. The 14 points I shared in another post before CAT are as relevant here too, so do give that a read. All the best!!

Disclaimer-  The author has himself never taken IIFT but does go through the GK and VA sections of the paper each year and thus has a sound understanding of its content and nature.  

How to speak English fluently?

We all have that one covert desire- to be able to swiftly converse in the beautiful and sophisticated language that English is!! While some people simple lack confidence to speak up in front of people, others lack the comfort with the language itself given that English is not our mother tongue. So how can you converse in English effortlessly? See, there are basically three things you need to do


1. Read English

2. Listen English

3. Speak English


For 1, read newspaper, preferably The Hindu- at least 2-3 pages (editorial is best but you may read some other pages if it is too heavy for you). Even if that is too much for you, read any story book/novel that interests you. If nothing else, read pornographic literature, but do read English so that you learn sentence structuring, usage of prepositions, placement of adjectives and contextual usage of words etc.


For 2, listen to Indian news in English since newscasters have a very refined pronunciation.

Most of the people I know mispronounce the word ‘chores’! Watching English movies and television series with subtitles is also a fun way, but make it an add-on to news, not a replacement. Watching porn wouldn’t help much in this step since many do not have many words, to begin with, and, if even they do, you already are familiar with words like ‘yes’, ‘no’, ‘harder’ and ‘oh yeah’ 😀
Once you get into the habit of reading, try reading out loud, at least some part of what you read. 



Addressing 500+students at FICCI Auditorium

For 3, speak in English with people around you. THIS IS THE KEY! This is the most important of all steps. You CANNOT learn to speak English, or any language for that matter, unless you speak it! You need not change the topics of discussion…keep the conversation, just change the medium of conversation you have with your friends, colleagues, siblings, girlfriend(s)/boyfriends to English. The only antidote to fumbling/being diffident is practice. Make English the default medium of communication….whenever you can, do it. Find people with whom you can talk (not chat) in English. Request people around to speak in English with you…if they can’t, just tell them that they can respond in Hindi but you would converse in English. If you are that one unlucky chap who doesn’t have one person to speak with in this wide world, then start talking to yourself in English- rather than thinking things, start saying things, either in your mind or even perhaps by mumbling. It’s ok to talk to yourself; I do it all the time and often get mistaken for being mentally unstable 😀 

Exercise suggestion: You can narrate the entire day back to yourself before you sleep, just as you would tell all the events that happened during the day to someone else. 


Once you have gained sufficient confidence in these three, move to the ultimate step i.e. writing in English. Start writing stuff in English. Not just FB comments, but some articles. You can choose a random article or write about your day or your dreams or your best friend or a movie review or whatever. Just write. If you want some idea, take a leaf out from my blog-

Happy Englishing!

If you liked this blogpost, share with others. Also, you can let me know in the comments below what next you would like me to write on 🙂

My CAT didn’t Meow! What do I do now?

I am looking for a tall, fair, very beautiful and professionally qualified girl in her mid 20s from a reputed upper class family for my 52-year-old divorced and unemployed uncle who is 5’4 tall and diabetic.  He doesn’t believe in dowry but insists on a V-class Mercedes and a flat in Greater Kailash be gifted to the bride by her parents. In case you know such a girl, kindly dm me.
Do I sound like I am over-expecting by a mile and being too naïve? This is exactly how your messages sound when you mention that you have secured 30/40/50 percentile in CAT/XAT or scored 150 in NMAT and ask me which ‘good’ B Schools you should apply to. You may not have got the score you had expected and prepared for. IT’S OK! It really is. Trust me when I say that these scores do not define you or your ability in ANY WAY. But please understand that any college that admits you with these scores as qualifying criterion simply CANNOT be a worthy place to invest your precious two years and lakhs of your parents’ hard-earned money.

A good college won’t take a student with these scores and the one that will, simply cannot be good! That’s the bare minimum reasoning ability I hope you would have developed in your CR classes. Please understand that the likes of IIPM and LPU prey on such students by luring them with blatantly false promises and fabricated placement records. The ones that call you asking to come for their GDPI process, even when you haven’t even applied to those colleges, are no better either. In life as in MBA colleges, be very circumspect of the doors that open for you before you even knock on them!

Your next obvious question then would be- “so what do I do now? My parents say that I must join MBA this year and also I won’t get a job as yet? Should I prepare again? What’s the guarantee that I will get a good percentile next time? Should I take the low-paying job that I am getting?” The answer to these and many other questions that you may find yourself confounded with are there but are for you to find. However, your trainers and those who have walked this path can help you find those answers and guide you on the basis of their years of experience and constant feedback with students graduating from all levels of B Schools and students working in diverse industries. As for the question of whether you prepare again? If you feel that you can get a substantially better %ile, or even an 75+ and are willing to work towards it with diligence and perseverance, then the answer should be a resounding YES.

DO NOT take a decision on the basis of what your favourite uncle or close cousin or even your parents press upon. Understand that while these people undoubtedly have your best at heart, they are simply not aware of the facts and figures pertaining to this particular specialized area of education. Nor do they have any experience in career guidance in the light of present day job-market and education scenario. DO talk to your seniors studying at different B Schools and to those working somewhere to learn about their experience of that B school/ work role. Think about what line of work you would like to get into and what roles align well with the skill-set  and bent of mind you have. Finally, in case you are still not sure, come and discuss your options with a person (whether at MBA Guru or outside) whom you trust has the knowledge and experience to guide you in what course of action would be best after understanding your academic, financial, professional profile and your aspirations. Do not take advice from just any Tom, Dick and Harry.In the meanwhile, if you are already enrolled with an institute, I would strongly recommend that you attend GDPI classes irrespective of your performance this year, as this part of preparation is not just fun, but also very knowledgeable and would most definitely be of immense utility somewhere or the other, most likely in the many college/job interviews that you all are guaranteed to take, whether this year or later. See it as a personality development or skill-development course that shall add value to your candidacy. 

Remember, your career has just begun…there are scores of opportunities floating around you. Abhi toh game shuru hui hai doston!!! 

Happy New Year to all!!

Lokesh Sharma

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