January 8, 2021

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

PS- If plan to prepare for CAT 21, subscribe to my blog for more informative articles and join my watsapp group for free study material, reading links, preparation strategy, suggestions, information, and motivation.


December 7, 2020

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’ :D
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 :D 

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-  http://lokeshlogan.blogspot.com/

Happy Englishing!

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November 30, 2020

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.  

November 29, 2020

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.  

November 20, 2020

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 :-)

October 27, 2020

How to read The Hindu?

As explained in one of my earlier articles and during my many classes, it is imperative that we read extensively and from different genres if we truly intend to, and not just hope to or dream to, secure a stellar percentile in the VA section of CAT, or any other aptitude test. One indispensable constituent of your daily reading diet must be The Hindu newspaper, more specifically its 3 pages- front page (page no. 1), editorial (page no. 10) and Oped (page no. 11). While we read the front page to add to our general knowledge and current affairs knowledge which are tested in some non-CAT B School exams (IIFT, TISS etc.) and also matter in the second state of selection i.e. GD, WAT, PI etc., we read the editorial and Oped to enhance our familiarity with different genres which these two pages beautifully cover.  Also, never break the flow of reading by looking up the meaning of a word over a dictionary while reading. You may mark a few of such difficult words and look up their  meaning once you are done reading that page. And never look the meaning of more than 4-5 words in a day. 


Some of you students have recently expressed your concern about the availability of The Hindu newspaper. So, here are the options that you have 

Option 1. Subscribe to the physical copy of the newspaper- reading the newspaper in the traditional way. The dadaji style! This is the most effective way of reading, especially for all the newbies, as the experience of holding the newspaper in hand and to feel the texture of the paper is the authentic way of reading. This is how I began reading newspapers when I was in 7th grade. However, this may not be safe during the ongoing pandemic. Also, this option might not be available to some of you who put up in far off districts, as one student from Assam recently pointed out to me. Additionally. this will add some monthly financial burden which some of you may not be willing to take. 

Option 2. Subscribe to the e-copy of The Hindu, as I have. They charged me just Rs. 499 for an annual subscription. The millennial style! I can now read whatever news I want to on my 24 inches desktop monitor (I avoid reading over phone as it strains my eyes). This option is clearly way more economical than physical newspaper subscription and also, like option 1, supports honest and unbiased journalism. Besides, it is available to any person who lives at a place with internet connection, no matter how slow. Additionally, this method helps you get accustomed to reading articles over computer screen, something which eventually you will have to do during CAT, thus increasing your familiarity with the interface, which is important for those who are not used to reading on screen.  

Option 3. Download the pdf version of The Hindu daily from the websites and Watsapp/Telegram channels where it is shared daily. The Indian style! This option is best suited for those who absolutely do not want to pay. For all of you who would rather download Mirzapur 2 from Telegram group rather than subscribe to Amazon Prime! The only problem is that such groups may miss sharing the pdf one one odd day. Additionally, many of these groups eventually become inactive or are banned after a few months. But then then there always are new groups that keep popping up. Some such sites/groups which are working as on 28th Oct 2020 are





Request: In case you know of more sources from where students like you can read English newspapers for free, then please be kind enough to post the link of the same in the comments section. 

Happy Reading
Lokesh Sharma

October 3, 2020

CAT v/s Other Exams

 'Penny wise and pound foolish' is an English phrase which refers to a person who would waste away something far more valuable trying to salvage something of much less worth. Imagine you switch off your refrigerator in a bid to save a few units of electricity, resulting in spoilage of thermolabile medicines worth a thousand rupees! 

I draw the same analogy with those who focus too much on exams like NMAT, SNAP etc before they have taken CAT. How many worthy colleges does NMAT have for a student who has prepared well and aims to take admission only in a reputed college? The answer is ONE- NMIMS, Mumbai. NMIMS, Bangalore is alright, Hyderabad is average and the newer ones are meant for those who lack any merit whatsoever!

“But sir there are colleges other than NMIMS that accept NMAT scores.” They are ALL below average or downright unworthy colleges. So are you preparing so hard for NMAT, which is heavy on vocabulary and grammar, topics that are unlikely to appear in CAT, so that you can enhance your chances of selection to that one college, while taking your eyes off from CAT which has umpteen envious colleges under its umbrella? 

Understand that NMAT/SNAP, as exams, are very very different from CAT. The type of questions, the difficulty level, the strategy to be adopted, format of the paper- all vary greatly. While it would be prudent to practice a couple of mock NMAT papers, but to change your focus considerably to NMAT or SNAP before you take CAT would be detrimental to your larger aim of getting into a worthy B school and would thus be ‘penny wise and pound foolish’. However, if someone is specifically targeting MICA because he has his eyes set on pursuing a life in advertising or communication, or if one desires only IIFT out of her will to build a career in foreign trade, or if one is passionate about rural management due to a clear inclination towards rural sector, then it is understandable for such students to keep exams like MICAT, IIFT, IRMA at the center of their preparation. But for all other 'mango aspirants' who haven't chosen any particular niche specialization (banking, power, foreign trade, rural management) or for students who aspire for the usual specialisations (Finance, HR, Operations, Marketing), it makes perfect sense to keep their focus centered around CAT. You can prepare specifically for all other exams once you are done with CAT, no matter how little that period (after CAT and before the specific exam) seems. PS: The opinion expressed by the author is completely personal and may not resonate with the views of some other trainers/institutes. As always, I would suggest that you weigh an opinion on the merit of its underlying rationale before you accept or reject it. Feel free to ask your queries related to the content of the above article in the comments below.

August 18, 2020

Analyse Your Test Well

Imagine that you go to a pathological lab, get all the  tests done- MRI, Ultrasound, Blood test, Urine test-  but do not care to go through the details of the test reports. Wouldn’t that be flushing down the drain the entire cost and effort that went into undergoing the tests? Similarly, taking a mock test is pointless if it is not analysed well. Make sure that whenever you take a test, may it be pathological or academic, you analyse it thoroughly. Even if you spend an entire day in taking and then analysing one CAT-type test, it is a day well spent!

How to fully analyse a test? I highly recommend the following process-

1. Take the test just as you would take CAT- no breaks, no mobile phone, no 2-minute gap. Make it an absolute dress rehearsal. If you know the actual timing of your CAT slot (which you would by October), then take the test in that exact time slot.

2. Take a break for an hour or two, and then solve the entire paper again without any time limit i.e. take 5-6 hours and solve each and every question, all DI sets, all RC passages, no matter how tough or easy. You may do this in parts while taking breaks in between, say 2 hours for each section.

3. Now begins the real analysis. Look at the solutions of the questions you got wrong during the test or one you were not very sure of. Analyse what you did right and what not. Did you choose the right questions? Did you miss the doable ones? Did you spend too much time on certain areas/questions? Did you attempt the tough nuts that weren’t meant to be attempted? How could you have got more juice out of each of three sections in the given time? How could you have done this test better? Ponder over these questions. Analyse everything from your question-selection to speed to accuracy. Identify the areas and skills to work upon for the next 10 days. 

You will be able to identify some patterns after 3-4 such analyses. You shall realise your problem areas and your strengths. You will know which areas you must focus on in the next 8-10 days before you take the next test and then benchmark your improvements.

Also, you need not take more than 10- 20 (maximum) tests in the run up to CAT from here. Taking tests does not sharpen your skills, it merely tests them. Remember, a battlefield is not where you learn warfare, it is where you display what you learnt during your preparation. Taking too many tests will wear you down, and kill the enthusiasm and adreneline rush that one must feel while taking a test. So do maintain a minimum gap of 7-10 days between 2 successive full-lengths tests. In between those tests, you may daily take one sectional test daily- QA on Monday, VA on Tuesday, LRDI on Wednesday.. The above mentioned approach of test analysis is time-proven, but only a few would be wise and patient to implement it. However, those who do, will see the magic of it. All the best to all of you.

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PS- The views expressed above wrt test-taking are based on the writer’s experience and observations. Some other trainers may have differing opinion about the efficacy of the modus operandi of the test analysis discussed. I would suggest that you try this a few times and see if it works for you. 


August 4, 2020

A Lesson in Test Taking

Do you know why young Ashwathama, despite being a keen learner and son of Dronacharya himself, was not considered the best student by his father? Ashwathama too didn't, and thus one day asked his father the same. That day, Dronacharya, during the tutelage, arranged for an exercise where all students were told that a dummy bird placed on a tree was their target. Each student was asked to aim at the bird with his bow and arrow, and while the student was ready to shoot, Dronacharya asked the student what he could see. Some said they could see the surroundings, some said they could see the tree and the bird, some, perhaps to impress their teacher, said they could see just Dronacharya's feet. On his turn, Arjun said that he could see only the eye of the bird and nothing else! A delighted Dronacharya then explained to the students that an archer should have his eyes and mind set only on the target before him and nothing else. This not just answered (and embarrassed) Ashwathama’s question but also has a valuable lesson for us taking monitored and unmonitored tests during our preparation.

A lot of you would have been taking online tests, which are well-designed to prepare you for all eventualities on D day, and I hope that you continue to do so systematically for next couple of months. However, I have observed that while taking these tests, some of you get distracted at the slightest movement or noise, sometimes by something as mundane and frequent as the opening of a door, dropping of a pen or displacement of a nearby chair. Though my observation is limited to a few test labs that I have observed, my guess is that the same would be true for many of us. As someone who has taken CAT seven times, I can assure you that such disturbances are very much a part of the actual CAT experience as well, where people move around to invigilate, students leave the test lab to make a hurried visit to washroom and test takers put their queries to the nearby personnel, sometimes not so quietly. In one bizarre incident a few years back, a girl sitting next to me started crying during the test! Did I mention that she was very pretty too!!! If you continue getting swayed by every movement that takes place around you and every sound that falls on your ears, you would not just waste your precious time, but also lose concentration each time your mind wanders to any of it. The only way to overcome such physical (and even mental) distractions is to be totally immersed in your computer screen with an unbreakable focus and be mindful of only what is there on that screen, as if the rest of the world around you doesn’t exist. Nothing that happens in the test room should be able to shatter that adamantium wall of that unyielding focus. Make it the way you revise and study 10 minutes before you enter the examination hall, when all the chaos around seems to disappear! That is the kind of concentration that you must aspire for. It will not come in a day or even a week, but your conscious effort in pursuing it will get you closer each time, and by the time it is November the 29th, you will be an Arjun with his eyes fixed just on the bird’s eye! You can rest assured that in case fire breaks out in the building, your concentration would by itself get disturbed by the ensuing pandemonium. But anything less should not catch your attention :-) The writer in me somehow gets a massive erection if I am awake beyond 2 am and though, on most nights, what I write has nothing to do with pedagogy, somehow the observation I made today propelled me to write the above. All tests and questions have to be analysed after attempting. How to do that? That’s a topic I would expatiate upon in one of the following articles. Keep checking this space! All the best for the road ahead!

If you found this article of some value, leave a piece of your mind in the comments. If not, see if you have any suggestions for me. I would value your criticism as much as your appreciation.

July 2, 2020

Are you serious about your CAT preparation?

If yes, then the following might the most important article you will read, especially wrt VA section

Before I ventured into teaching VA for CAT, I studied Pharmacokinetics where I learnt that in order to bring about a drastic change in the rate of a pharmaceutical process, we must alter the step that dictates the phenomenon the most. Trying to manipulate a step which has little significance would barely bring any perceptible change. Same, my friends, is true for your CAT preparation!! You are at, say, 70 percentile and wish to jump to 99+. How do you think you are going to make that big a jump? There are topics and subtopics in each of the three sections, but are all of them equally critical? If not then which are the ones on which your performance in the exam broadly rests? A wise man proportions his belief to the evidence. So let us look at some data to see the distribution of 34 VA questions across different broad question categories - Reading Comprehension (RC), Critical Reasoning (CR), Grammar and Vocabulary, in that order

--------------- (RC)----------(CR)----------Grammar---------- Vocabulary

CAT 14-------16-------------14-15------------3-4----------------------0

CAT 15-------24-------------10-----------------0------------------------0

CAT 16-------24-------------10-----------------0------------------------0

CAT 17-------24-------------10-----------------0------------------------0

CAT 18-------24-------------10-----------------0------------------------0

CAT 19-------24-------------10-----------------0------------------------0

CAT 20-------18--------------8-----------------0------------------------0  (CAT 20 had 26 Qs in VA instead of the usual 34 in the preceding 6 yrs)

CAT 21--------?---------------?-----------------?------------------------?

As is evident, the areas that have clearly dominated the VA section of CAT in the recent years are RC and CR. One may accuse me of being selective in considering only previous 6 years’ data, but the reasons for that are

CAT 14 Scorecard
a) recent trend has to be a parameter of relevance. I am sure that while preparing for your end-sem exams, you pick the end-sem papers of previous 3-4 years as your cornerstone, and do not worry what was asked 10-15 years back.
b) there has been remarkable consistency in the number of questions asked in CAT (100) and in the individual sections (34 in VA) in the last 5 years, before which it is hard to find such consistency and thus difficult to observe any clear pattern.

One may also point out that I am focusing on only one exam wherein there is a multitude of other tests that do have quite a few, or perhaps a lot of, questions from Grammar and vocabulary sub-sections. Understand that CAT is the mother of all MBA entrance exams you would appear for, for no other exam acts as a gateway to so many and such illustrious colleges, including the elite IIMs. There is a reason the name of most of your study groups on watsapp and Telegram is CAT preparation and not MBA entrances preparation!

I discuss at length in my classes why CR, and especially RC, remain such darlings of CAT and the cornerstone for any test that wishes to ascertain your rationality, however, I will steer clear of that discussion here for the want of time. The point is VA in CAT, in the present context, is all about RC and CR. If I further breakdown CR, we see that almost all the questions asked under this broad category in the recent years are from 3 topics - Summary, Parajumbles and Out of Context. While the first two are known old devils that have been appearing in CAT since always, Out of Context is a recent, somewhat unique (and cryptic) addition. I may choose to write about this question type some other night if I so feel like, and that, I am sure, will ruffle a few feathers here and there  😏

So that brings us back to what we started with. Is what we are focusing on as important as much we are focusing? Are we sure we are not fixated on certain areas because we are good at them or because we find them interesting? You can be the stud who knows almost every word in the newspaper, but what would you do with that vocabulary if there are no questions where it is tested? Grammar could well be made out to be almost half the syllabus in terms of volume, but what’s the point of your spending so much time and effort on it if you will barely get any questions that require any understanding of grammar? Also, I hope we are not avoiding proportionate effort in some areas owing to the amount of labour it would take there or because it requires us to do things beyond our comfort zone. You know which area I am alluding to  😝

Think. Reflect. ADAPT.

CAT 15 Scorecard
With my 10 years of experience of teaching VA for CAT, and having scored over 99 percentile in VA section on many occasions, if there is one thing that I can say is sure to catalyse your accuracy and improve your comprehension in RC and most of CR questions (all in CAT), it is READING DIVERSE GENRES. Whenever you read CAT RC passages (RCs), the single biggest factor that governs your comprehension of that passage is your familiarity with the field/genre to which that RC belongs. Understand that CAT makers do not write these passages themselves. These passages are
basically excerpts taken from articles posted on internationally renowned magazines and websites such as http://time.com/,  https://www.nytimes.com/, https://www.theguardian.com/ international etc. So whoever writes these articles, does so for the readers of these websites and magazines. And like any other article, these belong to a particular genre and thus find place in the relevant section of the magazine or newspaper before they are picked up by someone to be turned into an RC.

Now when we read or watch anything, we go for something of our choice- a young college girl might like to read a fashion magazine, a sports fan would pick up Sportstar or watch sports channel, my political enthusiast father would prefer the front page of the newspaper and watch political debates, I would confine myself to The Economic Times or maybe Bigg Boss, a male engineer would rather watch….well, let’s not go there  🙈. You have got the larger point anyway. We all read what matches our interest which naturally makes what we read interesting for us, and are thus easily comprehensible. But imagine if one day you pick up something that belongs to an area totally unfamiliar to you. Imagine a person who has never had the inkling of the farthest of particle of philosophy is given to read the works of the great Jacques Derrida or Friedrich Nietzsche!! (if you think just their names are complex, you have no idea what’s in store for you when you read their work  :D). And that is what happens to you when you read RCs, basically articles, that lie outside the area of your interest. Why does that happen? Simple.

1.     You DO NOT get to choose the RCs that would appear in CAT. You have to attempt whatever is thrown at you, which, as a matter of fact, is all luck!

2.     RCs that you would encounter would be from diverse genres. I would encourage you to go through some of the 20 RCs (5 in each of the two slots) that appeared in CAT 17 & 18 and are readily available online. You may even go through RCs from previous years. You would discover for yourself how CAT selects passages eclectically, a beautiful mix of passages from philosophy, religion, history, science, technology, social issues, fiction, literature and what not. And with about 15 to 20 genres out there, what are the chances that you would be lucky enough to get all or most of you 5 CAT RCs from the 2-4 genres that you are comfortable with? For an average person who has familiarity with 3-4 genres at best, on a fair day he would have only 1 reason to cheer and 4 to lament while attempting CAT RCs.
CAT 17 Scorecard

So what should you, as rational and informed people, do so that you do not end up fretting when you face RCs in CAT and before that in the exhaustive series  which we, at Unacademy, have planned for you? You must develop familiarity with all (or as many as possible) different genres. Read the previous sentence thrice. You must read diverse articles from varied fields so that there remains no genre that you are alien to. While that may seem like a punishment in the beginning, the rewards it would reap you in the long run would be rich! If you think reading is an excruciating pain, you have a choice- face this pain either during the preparation or in the exam! There is a well-known saying in army academies across the world- the more you sweat during the training, the less you bleed in the war. Also, know that it is only a matter of time and habit before you develop curiosity in areas beyond your realm of interest, and then it would be a smooth sail after which RCs would not seem as frightening as they might now do. But that would take persistent and conscious effort to step out of your comfort zone and read what you have never read. To implement the above, I strongly suggest the following:

1. Read one novel every week.
It goes without saying that each novel should be from a genre that you have hitherto been unintroduced to. I generally share a list of authors and novels and also give some genre-wise suggestions in my classes. You would find that in the next post.

2. Read the front page and editorial section of The Hindu newspaper. Add Oped (right next to editorial) to this after a month of beginning.
Front page contains the news of national and international importance, adding substantially to your knowledge repository. All this awareness about current affairs would come handy when you participate in Group Discussions (GD), Personal Interviews (PI), Extempore etc., all of which comprise the second stage of preparation. Editorial is one page in the newspaper (usually page number 10 in The Hindu) which has articles from diverse fields. If you are game for it, do read the Oped page, which is the immediate next page to the editorial. And for God’s sake stop reading ToI. ToI to newspapers is what AajTak is to news channels and what fight sequences in South Indian movies are to fights in reality.

3. Read 1-2 articles every alternate day from https://aeon.co/. The website comprises carefully selected, and highly informative and  diverse articles with CAT-level difficulty. In fact, CAT itself has picked 6 of its RCs in the last 5 years from this website!

Having made those earnest recommendations, I concede that only a small percentage of you would actually follow all that I have suggested with the sincerity that is required, but so would be the percentage of the students who would make it to a prestigious B school.

Remember, if it is worthy, it won’t be easy to get; if it is easy to get, it can’t be worthy. “The world is at Sharda University” and not at IIMs for a reason. Where do YOU want to land? If you seriously want to get into a top-of-the-charts B school, you must be mentally prepared to give your 100%, no less. We, at Unacademy, resolve to put in our most sincere efforts to see you through the various obstacles in your path to success, and expect you match us in that. Your choices and efforts today will decide your tomorrow. This current sentence that you are reading has no relevance with the topic of discussion here, and has been introduced solely to mock and expose any competitor who mindlessly lifts this article without even reading it completely and tries to pass it off as theirs. All the best! Let the game begin!!

Lokesh Sharma

The author of the article is part of VA faculty at Unacademy and unapologetically takes more pride in his understanding of MBA entrance exams than others are willing to concede ;);

Telegram Main group to get unique material/useful posts-  https://t.me/joinchat/RLcZsw0SJt5oM7KH 

Telegram Discussion group to ask queries from me & discuss questions among yourselves- https://t.me/joinchat/rfu79hhiUeo4ZjY1

Following is the list of the authors whose books/authors I suggest you read from now on. The idea behind reading these books is to choose the sequence in which you would want to read the books from different genres and to explore the areas that you have hitherto been either oblivious to or uninterested in. Take this as an opportunity to read some wonderful masterpieces rather than a drudgery being forced upon you. Performing it as a customary rite would prevent you from experiencing the pleasure of reading such accomplished and ingenious compositions. As Amir Khan rightly puts it in Three Idiots- The fright of a whip's lash does make even a lion sit on a chair, but we call him well-trained, not well-educated! Ultimately our aim is the same as yours- your selection at a reputed B-School! And I assure you that this exercise is imperative and well directed towards actualizing that goal. Obviously, you won’t find Chetan Bhagat or Paulo Coelho in my list of recommendations as the purpose behind reading here is edification, not just entertainment.

Happy reading!!!  :-)
Lokesh Sharma

Do leave a comment mentioning what did you like, what you didn't and what more would you like to be added to this. You may even mention on what other aspects of VA/ CAT preparation you would like me to blog about. 

Novels-wise suggestions

Dickens- Great expectations
Oliver Twist
David Coperfield
A tale of two cities
Jane Austen
Pride and Prejudice
Sense and sensibility
Emily Bronte
Wuthering Heights
Jostein Garder- Sophie’s World
George Orwell-Animal Farm, 1984
Nabokov- Lolita
D H Lawrnce- Sons and lovers
George Bernard Shaw- Complete works
Complete series of Sherlock Holmes
Mark Twain- Adventures of Hucklebery Finn, Adventures of Tom Sawyer
R L Stevenson- Kidnapped, Treasure Island
Dostoevski- Crime and Punishment, The Brothers Karmazov
Bram Stoker- Dracula
Mary Shelly- Frankenstein
J D Salinger- The Catcher in the Rye
Jules verne- Around the world in 80 days, Journey to the center of the earth
Alexandre Dumas-  The Three Musketeers, Count of Monte Cristo

Genre-wise suggestions

Sophie's world by Jostein Gaarder (for beginners)
The Republic by Plato (advance level)
The Prince- Philosophy+Politics (easy language) by makaveli

Any by Karl Marx
Freedom at Midnight
Discovery of India- Jawahar Lal Nehru

Sunny Days by Sunil Gavaskar
Tale of a Tiger by Mak Pataudi

Perfect questions perfect answers
Bhagwat Gita by A C Bhaktivendanta (Best, must read)

Author-wise suggestions

John Nashe
Jack London
Rudyard Kipling
James Joyce
Stephen Hawking
Bertrand Russell
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Agatha Christie
Leo Tolstoy
Anton Chekhov
Maxim Gorky
Fyodor Dostoevsky
Franz Kafka
Jean Paul Sartre
Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Mahatma Gandhi
Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru
Karl Marx
Adam Smith
Jerome Klapka Jerome
Ernest Hemingway
Friedrich Nietzsche
Emily Bronte
Charlotte Bronte
D H Lawrence
George Bernard Shaw
Louisa May Alcott
Mark Twain
Mary Shelley
George Eliot
Bram Stoker
F. Scott Fitzgerald
George Orwell
J. D. Salinger
Malcolm Gladwell
Harper Lee
Daphne du Maurier
Victor Hugo
H. H. Munro
Stephen Leacock
P. G. Wodehouse
Charles Dickens
Thomas Hardy
Jane Austen
Vladimir Nabokov
O. Henry
Oscar Wilde
Somerset Maugham
Samuel Butler
Graham Greene
Alexandre Dumas
R L Stevenson
Harper Lee

June 17, 2020

Be the lowered matchstick

Dear students,

In my online classes that I took in March and April, I used to often caution- things will get much worse before they get better. Or you may have read my fb post on this about over a month ago https://www.facebook.com/lokeshrisky/posts/10157660551507496

That worse is here NOW!

Understand that the number of cases in India, and especially in Delhi, will now explode in the next 1-2 months! You might well see a situation of 10k+ cases in Delhi every day! Also, this is the worst time to be looking for a hospital beds because there aren't any. All the tall claims by Delhi government are fallacious- trust me, I have seen the reality of it first-hand. Even if you find one, imagine spending 25k+ per day (yes you got it right 25k). The patient might have a medical insurance for 4-5 Lakhs, but how long do you calculate it would last? Especially with 1 injection of Tocilizumab costing over 40k (just one injection, not a pack, mind you). Add to all this, the possibility of eventually losing your loved one.

Are you at risk? Absolutely not! Almost all of you are young and strong people with healthy immunity. Even if you contract Corona virus, at worst you would have just mild fever with cough and maybe some diarrhea and general weakness for a few days…maybe a week. So what’s the big fuss then? The problem is if you live with your parents, worse still with your grandparents or small children, all of whom have fragile immune systems and existing medical ailments. THEY are the ones at risk, and YOU are at risk of bringing this virus home with you. One it gets inside one house, it is almost certain that it will infect everyone in the house, usually in a matter of hours.

So what if they fall sick? I have a doctor in my family and my family member wouldn’t even need to go to the hospital. Wrong. You parent/grandparent would need a ventilator and continuous monitoring, and for that he would need a hospital bed. Also, there is no cure for Covid 19 as yet. The three medicines used in its treatment Tocilizumab, Remdesivir and Dexamethasone have very limited success and are as hard to get as getting Sanjivani Booti was in Ramayan, that if you can afford these expensive medicines in the first place. Fun exercise- Do call around the chemists and pharmacists you know to see how easily you are able to arrange these…try it. Also, the Plasma therapy that you would have heard of in news and which too has variable success rate is available in only 3 hospitals in Delhi- AIIMS, Max Saket and Apollo. You would need some serious pull to get a bed in one of these.

What’s the gist of this all? PLEASE STAY INSIDE and follow best practices to sanitise whatever comes into the house. This video teaches how - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sjDuwc9KBps&app=desktop   

If you cannot, then rent a room or shift somewhere you do not come in contact with anyone else. A couple of friends of mine have moved to Chandigarh; that too might be an option for some of you, especially those who have another house or extended family elsewhere which is not as affected as Delhi and Mumbai are. Remember, you must remain Corona-free to protect the ones who would otherwise pay the price for it. You must be the matchstick that pulls away so that the ones behind it do not burn.

May 26, 2020

How to learn Stock Market Investment

A lot of my students and some friends often ask me how they can learn about stock markets and investments. While I am myself a novice at this and have miles to go before I can even begin to give ‘tips’ on which stocks to pick, I do have a few suggestions on how to begin learning, based on my 4 years of investment experience. So here it goes-  

1. This site gives you access to a 3 hour free video (FLAP) by Varun Malhotra after you register. Let this be the beginning of your learning. I have attended his extensive training program (FLIP) in offline mode and can vouch that he is one of the most learned persons in this field I have met. Subscribe to his You Tube channel and watch some amazing videos- https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCY1-91vKeDNzyS3_cY-lh_w

2. Once done with FLAP, start reading extensively to 
A) develop your aptitude and understanding of finance, money, investment instruments and stock market in general
B)  know about basic terminology and concepts 
C) get into the habit of being aware of what his happening around you and its implication on the economy, stock market and individual stocks

For A, I suggest reading books like Rich Dad Poor Dad, The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham, One Up On Wall Street by Peter Lynch, The Little Book of Common Sense Investing by John Bogle and then keep going. Must read Letters to Investors by Warren Buffet, which, for an investor, is Bhagwad Gita straight from Lord Krishna!

For B, start following Investopedia.com to learn new terms, ratios, matrices and their relevance. Just subscribe to this website and read the 1-2 articles you would receive in their mailbox. Also, you may watch You Tube videos which explain any term/event you want to understand. So if you want to know what is ‘Free Cash Flow’ or how ‘Repo Rate increase tames inflation’, watch some You Tube videos on it or just Google such terms to find some articles that explain it simply. For example, this video lucidly yet simply explains the sub-prime crisis of 2008. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bx_LWm6_6tA

For C) begin with reading the business pages of The Hindu and later graduate to The Economic Times. Along with it, follow relevant articles on sites like Money Control, Livemint and Bloomberg. Join Watsapp groups where you get info of various big developments and where list of headlines from various financial papers is shared daily. Basically surround yourself with people who are into investments.Read the articles whose title seems interesting or useful and share it with others. This way develop a network where valuable and insightful articles are shared and discussed. 

3.  Once you feel that you are getting a hang of things, join some professional course by someone who can then help you understand how to pick individual stocks and evaluate them. There are dozens of stock market gurus on TV and social media (I wonder how much money they have made and why would they be running their mouth if they really were worth their salt). However, I suggest two- Varun Malhotra’s intensive program (FLIP) and Dr Vijay Malik’s full day workshop titled ‘Peaceful Investing’. I have attended both and can thus vouch for their fruitfulness. They both have offline as well as online sessions. In case you decide to join the online course, do consult me…I might be able to get you some discount. There are some free courses too, like one by Rachna Ranade on her You Tube channel, which is all good for a beginner, but then if you want some real quality, then of course you must be willing to invest for that. I can say without any doubt that the money I have invested in my learning have had a multiplier effect on the profit I have made.  

4. On the basis of your understanding, develop your way to shortlist, pick and analyse sectors and companies, and choose the one whom you feel confident about. Use https://www.screener.in/ for that. Discuss those stocks with other learned peers and Google its history to get deeper insights and different perspectives on it.

5. Open a demat account -I have one with Sharekhan and one with Zerodha. (I use Sharekhan to track shares and price movements as it has better interface, but I buy over Zerodha as it has least brokerage). Buy the stock! Congratulations, you are in the game!!!

One last word- 2 is the most important, time-taking and burdensome step. Of course, the problem is that most people start with 5 😁

If you don’t want to lose money here, as a lot of people here do in the initial phase, including myself, then don’t rush. Take it slow and take time in building knowledge. Then start small, invest only small amounts to test your understanding, and do not dive head first. 

PS- I attended dozens of free webinars during the lockdown and none of them was worth my time, even when I had loads of it!

PPS: Let me know in the comments below if this added any value, and what else would you lik eme to add to this. Your appreciation will bolster my resolve and your suggestions will improve the article.