“Hard Work Beats Talent When Talent Is Not Working Hard” – XAT 99+ Percentiler

This is an interview with XAT 99+ percentiler, Srinjoy.

Q: How are you doing Srinjoy, What is going on?

A: I am good Padmanabh, just really busy with the classes, trying to catch up some sleep.

B-school is not a cakewalk.

Q: I can see that, but how has the experience been for you?  
A: It has been nothing but knowledge. There is so much I’ve learned in such a short duration of time, and yet the only thing that’s on my mind is how much more there is to learn. This is probably the most illuminating time of my life.

Q: So, let me get to the point directly, How did you prepare for 99+ in XAT?

A: For me, XAT preparation was a three-pronged approach

1. Figure out the paper pattern,

2. Understand decision making as a topic, and not just learn to solve DM questions.

3. Setting a time-limited goal for myself.

For all of the three, I think previous year papers helped me immensely. They helped me decide how I wanted to approach the examination, and that was the base upon which most of the preparation stood.

My goal was to attempt 70 questions in 3 hours, and those papers helped me decide how to do it best.

Q: Why don’t you tell the readers a bit about your background?

A: Well, I am a Mechanical engineer from Manipal Institute of Technology(The other MIT) and had 5 months of work-ex in market research before i took the XAT. The work-ex and education is important because of the exposure that you get when you’re out in the field. You interact with amazing people, and there is always something to learn from everyone.

Q: That sounds interesting, but I’m sure people would want to know when did you start your XAT prep? 

A: I started preparing for the MBA grind back in June of 2017, where I prepared for all the examinations simultaneously, covering whatever I could in that time-frame. My XAT specific preparation started only in December, after my CAT.

Q: Let me stop you for a second here. Is one month enough to prepare for XAT?

A: Well, the quantitative aptitude and verbal ability prep is more or less the same as what one would do for CAT, the game changer in XAT is the decision making section, and personally, I think a month is enough to fine-tune your decision-making skills. You don’t learn something new, you just understand how to read your instincts better and formulate your strategy to fine-tune your process.

But do not underestimate the importance of mocks, they are the keystone of success for any B-School exam.

Q: So the Mocks, how did you start, and how did you approach the mocks?

A: As I said, Mocks are the keystone of success for any B-School exam.

I started taking exam specific mocks around December. My first two mocks included a lot of analyzing.

I took a couple of mocks untimed, and focused only on solving the questions correctly, and figured out that I needed about 3 and a half hours to completely solve the paper. With constant practice, and mock test and analysis, I brought it down to under three hours.

The thing about mocks is that as long as you’re not analyzing them, your score, and the number of mocks you take is irrelevant.
You need to sit with a mock, and analyze where you went wrong, and what you did right.
If you’re scoring a 92%ile in any mock, you should focus equally on the factors that led you ahead of the 92% test takers, they are your strengths, and the factors that are responsible for the 8% being ahead of you, your weaknesses,and how you need to work upon them.

Q: How did you cool off after all the intensive preparation, and what did you do on the day of the exam?

Personally, I recommend any form of physical exercise. Your mind is already working very hard, a good exercise session clears out your head for some time. Any form of exercise is good as long as it works for you, personally, I used to box, that gave me an outlet for my stress.

On the day of the exam, I got a good night’s sleep and a hearty breakfast.
I remember reading this line in a book, “We can’t save the world on an empty stomach;

Q: Let me ask you this, What is different from CAT?

A: The decision making section, obviously. That really tests your business aptitude, and your people-skills, at the same time. Since most questions are of the form of Ethics vs profit, your viewpoint about the world really makes an impact on your thought process. Apart from that, the GK was pretty challenging, but nothing that would scare a well-informed aspirant.

The quant section was a bit more concept-based, and much less calculation intensive, and I found that the VARC section was heavy on critical reasoning, and sentence structure.

But decision making is what turns the exam on its head.

Q: How did you prepare for the interviews, and what were the interviews like?

A: I went through the usual grind at first, took mock GDs, joined a coaching centre to help me with interview prep, went through the experiences of past candidates and tried to understand what the process would be like.

But to be honest, the most important thing in the interview is to be yourself. The interview is merely a selection round, so unless you give them a reason to not select you, you’re good to go. The one thing I cannot stress upon enough is that you need to know every word that is on your CV, and need a clarity in your head for whatever you’ve done and put on that CV.
You need to be clear about the whys, why did you do pursue engineering (In my case), why did you do this job, why do you like Manchester United (Real question!).

Also, please be humble and polite. Confidence and arrogance are separated by a very thin line, and most candidates at that stage unknowingly cross that line. Be very wary of your body language in the interviews, your first impression is made from the moment you enter the room.

My interview, unlike a lot of others, was not a stress interview. They were very cordial with me, chatted about my job, my education and even my favorite football team, and gave me a couple of math questions to solve. My GD performance was brought up a couple of times, and I answered a couple of questions based on that, post which we discussed Delhi’s pollution, current affairs and the like.

It pays to be calm, you know, they just want to know you better.

Q: Since we have less than 50 days left to CAT, what would be your advice for the aspirants?


  • Take mocks, take as many mocks as possible, and take time off to analyze them.
  • Analyze your mocks and figure out your strengths and weaknesses, work on them.
  • Revise your basics regularly, do not slack off, it’s the last lap. Play your strengths, better your weaknesses, and keep taking mocks.

Q: Given a chance, what would you do differently?

A: I would analyze my mocks better, that is one thing I missed out on and it is why i emphasize on getting it right. I would analyze my mocks and better myself gradually, working on the areas that need more preparation, instead of focusing on just the scores.
I would also ensure that CAT is not the first competitive exam i take, because your first exam is where your nerves kick in, and that can weaken your resolve and confidence. Confidence is the key, it is all 10th-grade stuff, never be scared of it.

Q: What, according to you, is the mantra to crack these exams?

A: Hard work beats talent when talent is not working hard. Keep working on yourself, it does get better.

Padmanabh Pandit

An ambitious and hardworking individual, contributing to my personal growth and the growth of those around me.


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