TAKING a competitive exam is not necessarily just to get admission to a top-notch institute. FMS Delhi student Shashank Prabhu (26) believes that the lack of pressure to get admission into a B-School worked in his favour. He cracked CAT 2011 with a 100 percentile!
Currently, pursuing an MBA, Shashank has an MBBS degree from Grant Medical College, Mumbai. This Mumbaiite talks to Rozelle Laha about his motivations behind taking the exam this year despite being in a good college already, and his journey from being an MBBS to an MBA.
Q. An MBBS aspiring for management studies - how did that happen?
A. Into my MBBS, I realised that I won't be happy practicing. I thought it would be unethical of me to practise just for the heck of it without having my heart there. I needed something which I would enjoy doing and at the same time, suit my strengths. Weighing all my options and talking with people who had previously done that, I decided to take a plunge into pursuing an MBA.
Q. You were a topper in MAH-CET and now a 100 percentiler. How do you feel?
A. Feels great. Both the tests are as different as chalk and cheese. CET demands speed and CAT demands patience. Having done well across both the tests, it is one of the achievements few get to experience.
Q. You are already a student of FMS. What made you take CAT this year once again?
A. The motive which drove me into appearing for the test was the dismal scores I got last time around. I was determined to prove it to myself more than anybody that I deserved more. Plus, taking CAT is addictive for some. I believe, I am one of them.
Q. You were not satisfied with your CAT score last year. But, you managed a position in one of the top-notch institutions in the country. Tell something about the whole journey.
A. It was an awesome experience to say the least. Also, it needed a good amount of persistence and coming back every time you suffered a setback. I was sure of getting a good score in the written part but owing to my different background, it sometimes becomes difficult to convince the panelists about your decision. You have to think beyond the first question of 'Why MBA?' and delve deeper for answers. Overall, it was a good experience and I am glad it bore fruit at last.
Q. From Quant, Data Interpretation (DI) and Verbal Ability, which were your problem areas and how did you cope?
A. I would say I was equally bad across all sections. My basics were in place and that matters a lot when you are appearing for aptitude tests. I had to build just the abstract areas of composure, patience and thinking on my feet to do well across the various entrances.
Q. To what or whom would you credit your success to? Why do you say luck is involved?
A. I would attribute my success to all the people who have kept their faith in me when I was failing to live up to my expectations. My mother has supported me throughout this journey. Luck is indeed involved but to a lesser extent. And it can be controlled. Getting a 99.8%ile is talent. For the rest 0.2%ile, you need luck.
Q. Which competitive exams did you take before?
A. I have also taken XAT, FMS, SNAP, IIFT, MAT, Maharashtra MBA CET apart form CAT.
Q. Management colleges, students say, are the best places to learn time management. The schedule is hectic and people struggle being a part of the committee, events, academics, everything. So, how did you manage to time to prepare for the exam?
A. Frankly speaking, I hardly put any amount of hard work this season. My experience over the last two seasons helped though. I just went to the centre and took the test. I believe the fact that I had no pressure whatsoever worked in my favour this time around.
Q. This year the CAT exam pattern was changed. Since you had also taken the exam last year, do elaborate in the difference between the previous pattern and the pattern as of now.
A. The number of sections has reduced and the time has been fixed per section this time onwards. It becomes increasingly important to be good across all the aspects of CAT this way. Solving the second section, knowing that you have not done well in the first one and can't do anything about it is a test of one's character.
Q. Did you face any hassles moving from the previous pattern to the new one?
A. I did not face any major problem whatsoever.
Q. Of all the sections in CAT, which one came across as most challenging to you?
A. None of them were undoable as such. There was no strategy whatsoever for this year as I hadn't done much of serious and dedicated preparation.
Q. Do you think coaching is required for cracking CAT?
It depends on the type of person you are. If you are good with your basics and have enough discipline, you can make it without any coaching.
Q. What other books did you refer to apart from the coaching centre's learning resources?
A. No coaching material for me. For the first two attempts, I took plenty of mocks to help me know my strengths and weaknesses. This year I did not take any mocks.
Q. Any tips for CAT aspirants? What do you think is a common mistake made by MBA aspirants?
A. There are always going to be good days and bad days. You will get your opportunity at some point in your career. It is very important to not let go of the chances you get and make the most of it. A common mistake by MBA aspirants is that they start believing that something isn't possible and so, lose a chance to improve.
Q. Your advice for B-School aspirants on the journey from entrance to admissions, GD-PI, et al...
A. Presenting yourself is of utmost importance in any process. Knowing yourself helps a lot. The interviewers are looking for someone who would be a good alumnus and would bring pride to the college. Preparing the current affairs and introspection helps a lot.
Q. Tell in brief about the life of an MBA student.
A. It's exciting. The value of an MBA lies in the amount of interaction you have with your peers and the amount of learning you get from the teachers. It's more than learning merely from books and laptops. Plenty of activities are constantly going on and in a student-driven college; you would have the additional responsibility of doing something different from the routine.
Post your queries and comments below this interview, and Shashank Prabhu will respond!