How to fill the S.P.Jain profile-based form

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B-School Selection / Form-Filling Process

S.P Jain (SPJIMR in full or SP as it is usually referred to) is one of the most underrated business schools in the country. One of the highlights of the S.P.Jain admissions process is that applicants have to choose their specialization at the time of application. While this might be tough for freshers who do not have enough information and self-awareness to choose a specialization, it is a boon for applicants with work experience.

Specialization Matters
The biggest advantage of such a process is during placements. The placement team will ensure that for each specialization there are enough recruiters coming on board during the placements. For example, for a person with 3-4 years of work experience in the operations sector, S.P.Jain will be a much better option than may be even the IIMs since there will be recruiters coming down specifically to hire people with such a profile. At an IIM the placements committee does not have the responsibility to specifically find 60 niche operations jobs.

The college also enjoys having a huge locational-advantage with Mumbai being the financial capital of the country as a well as the city where the most sought after Marketing recruiters such as HUL are headquartered.

Profile-based Calls & Score-Based Calls
S.P.Jain also has two different routes through which it gives out calls after you fill in the application form, the deadline for the same is 24-November.

Profile-based Call: The first is an interview call based purely on your profile — your profile should be in line with the specialization you apply for and what recruiters hiring for that specialization look for. This shortlist is out even without a test score. Once the CAT/XAT/GMAT results are out you need to meet the criteria given in the table below


Qualifying criteria CAT 2017 XAT 2018 GMAT (Tests taken between 1st January
2015 and 31st December 2017)
Overall Qualifying Score 85 percentile 85 percentile 650
Sectional Qualifying Score 70 percentile 70 percentile N.A.

Score-based Call: This shortlist is released after the CAT scores are out and based purely on your CAT scores.

This goes on to show that if you get a profile-based call, you will need a lower percentile to get an interview call than if you get a score-based call.

How To Fill The S.P.Jain Application Form
A great profile needs to rank highly on the following parameters:

  •  Academic track record
  • Co-curricular & extra-curricular track record
  • Profile-specialization match

So a lot depends on making a good application that reflects each of these. We will look at a screenshot of how each component of the online application looks and then discuss the best way to go about filling it.

Academic Achievements

SPJIMR Academic Achievements

Academic achievements primarily relate to such achievements as standing in the top performers in your class at various levels, X, XII, Graduation Year or in an exam such as the NTSC or JEE or Math Olympiad.

How does one go about filling this part?

Make a list of all academic achievements. Rank order them not in chronological order but in terms of

  • Level of achievement or position you secured
  • Level of competition or perceived toughness – NTSC, Olympiads, AIEEE, JEE
  • Scale of the achievement – school, city, state, district national

In case you do not have 3 academic achievements then list co-curricular achievements such as paper-presentations, journal publications or anything that is related to your academics.

Describe in less than 50 words: Try to be as brief as possible if the achievement is something that can be easily understood. Use the remaining space to describe how this is something that you have been consistently good at. For example, you have only one top 1-5 in terms of academic achievement but you have always been driven to do well academically. Add that part in the description — throughout your education, you have stood in the top 10% (do not write 10%, calculate your position) of your class etc.

Add anything that puts your achievement into perspective — only person from your town/village/school/institution to achieve this, number of participants etc.


SPJIMR Versatility

For the versatility section please make a list of all your areas of interest that fall out of the curricular and co-curricular category.

Do not approach it from the perspective of what evaluators might find attractive but rather look at the level of interest/achievement you have in that area. For example, if dancing is your biggest passion/interest then rank it first. Do not rush to rank social-service activities first.

If you have certificates and achievements great, but even if you do not, you can still go ahead and fill up three areas as long as you have a strong interest and have done more than your peers.

For example, if reading is a major passion, you will not have any certificates to show for the same! But use the description space to present how much you like reading — favourite genres, favourite authors, reading since age so and so, read so many books a month etc. Any genre is fine as long as it has some international/intellectual significance. For example, fantasy, science-fiction, historical fiction, all are fine. Just ensure that you do not cite Chetan Bhagat :-).

The same applies to any other area of interest that does not correspond with certificates. Applicants from this part of the world (TN & AP), please do not write watching movies since everyone does it. If you watch world cinema or any specific genre of movies a lot, are knowledgeable and can hold a conversation about the same then you can go ahead and mention movies.

Since this deals with versatility ensure that you choose three different areas. If you have participated in CSR activities at your workplace or volunteered for NGOs please include that as well.

Overall Versatility Rating: Rate yourself based on the diversity of things you have participated in and the level of interest across areas.

SPJIMR Overall Versatility



Responsibility Shouldered

SPJIMR Responsibility Shouldered

The two sections, personal and professional are clearly demarcated.

In the personal section, include any activity where you took or were given the responsibility. They can be

  • on-going or long-duration responsibilities such as helping you brother/sister in his/her education or guiding him/her throughout, taking up some household responsibility owing to family situation (working parents),or
  • specific short-duration responsibilities such as arranging the wedding of a sibling or family member etc or having to help out your parent in a specific task etc.

In the professional section include responsibilities that you undertook that were not part of your KRAs or job description. They can be can be

  • handling responsibilities higher than your designation due to the absence of manpower
  • special projects/initiatives that you undertook or were given to you
  • organizing events at your workplace

In both cases use the description to put in perspective

  • the scale/importance of responsibility,
  • the role you played and
  • the quality of the outcome

Programme Details


This is possibly one of the most important aspects of applying to S.P.Jain — choosing the right specialization.

How does one go about this? The first question is whether you are applying with work experience or applying as a fresher.

Work-experience candidates should apply to the area in with the reason “relevant work-experience”. This has to be the first preference.

If you are applying with IT work-experience, unless you can really connect the nature of your work with an another specialization, choose Information Management (IM). In previous years, applicants whose profiles did not match with the specialization they applied to have been reassigned to a different specialization! DO NOT make your first preference based on “special interest in this area”, make that your second preference.

Freshers can choose specializations based on “graduated in a related area”. Non-engineering freshers such as Commerce, Economics or BBA graduates can apply to Finance. You can choose a second area as Marketing or Operations based on “done specialized courses in this area” or “special interest in this area”.

Engineering freshers can apply to any specialization based on “done specialized courses in this area” or “special interest in this area”.

Please note that for Finance you will be competing with people who have “graduated in related area” such as the backgrounds mentioned above and CA. So do not mention it as your first preference unless you are really serious about it and are sure that despite your profile not being relevant you will get a shortlist through a stellar CAT score.

A safer option is to apply to Marketing (since recruiters in this sector look for freshers) based on  “special interest in this area” and Operations/Finance as a second preference under “done specialized courses in this area” or “special interest in this area”, whichever is relevant.

If you are mentioning Special Area Of Interest, you have to provide an explanation in 50 words.

Use this space to mention

  • why you like this specialization and how your skills or traits are aligned to the same and
  • the things you have done informally that demonstrate your special interest in this area.

You might have done a lot of things for which you have no certificates to show —

  • say organising events in your college and firm or working unpaid for an event management for Marketing
  • following stock-markets or investing on your own keenly for finance
  • in both fields, you can mention the books that you have read to improve your knowledge of the same

The last part of the form is the work-experience details, the filling up of which should be pretty straightforward.

This has already been a super-long post. Hope I have covered most of the stuff needed to fill the form.

Feel free to post any queries you might have in the comments section.



How to increase your score on VA-RC – Part 2

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CAT Strat / Verbal Strat

In the previous post, we discussed how to maximize your VA-RC score by increasing your accuracy on RC. In this post, we will take a look at VA, time-allocation, and order of attempts for the section as a whole.

The VA section is not very different from RC for most test-takers in terms of maintaining a consistent accuracy. Grammar and vocab-based questions are the bugbears for many, while the rest of VA is the main scoring area.. Read More

How to increase your VA-RC score – Part 1

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CAT Strat / Verbal Strat

I have rarely done posts on CAT Verbal, the last one was this one on FIJs somewhere in 2013, and not entirely without reason.

The VA-RC section has always been a peculiar section on the CAT. It is quite to tough to precisely answer the question — what do they actually test? In all honesty even they might not always be in the know!

Be that as it may, your first objective is to ensure that you at least clear the cut-offs, which will be around 35-40, and the second to maximise your score.

The section on which most test-takers are trigger-happy

Over years we have seen one thing that is constant about test-takers and verbal section is the number of attempts —irrespective of the difficulty-level of the section most test-takers end up attempting around 20 questions. This does not happen on other two sections. A tough paper will automatically result in fewer attempts.

With VA-RC test-takers attempt because they need to choose between options and not find the answer unlike on the other two sections!

Test-takers eliminate two options, they are not really sure which one of the two that are left is correct, think they have a 50 percent chance of getting it right, it is +3 vs -1, so they pull the trigger to mark an option before they go on to the next question.

Firstly, on 2 of the 4 answer options are usually fillers that you can eliminate easily. So while probability-wise it is 50% effectively it might only be 25%! A good example is the coin toss, while the probability of a heads is 50%, it is not guaranteed that 10 coin tosses will exactly give you 5 heads.

The questions they leave are usually related to Grammar and Vocab where they know that they do know!

What is the result go this I-will-attempt-since-I have-read it— got-it-down-to-two-options?

An accuracy rate that is more unreliable than the Met Department (though I hope their prediction is wrong and it does not rain tomorrow). So it comes as no surprise that when asked about their strengths and weakness within VA-RC section they say it varies from paper to paper!

So the first task is to stop marking options out of a certain feeling called gut-feel, let us leave our guts to deal with what they know best — food 🙂

The next task is to arrive at a method that helps you choose options with precision.

Increasing Your Accuracy on Reading Comprehension

To get straight to the issue at hand — I am caught between two options and want to ensure that I choose the right one most of the time.

For that to happen one has to change the process, the sequence of things that happen before you reach that particular point. If you change the process, you will be able to eliminate 3 options instead of two, you will find yourself caught between two options less frequently.

This is usually the process followed by most test-takers:

  1. Reading the question is a formality to be dispensed with. Before going to the options one does not pause to reflect on what exactly are you looking for in the option
  2. Each option is read as fast as possible
  3. The goal is usually to finish reading all the options once, very fast

It is treated as a swayamvar: the options are prospective brides/grooms, we are greedy to quickly see all of them, we are also confident that the moment we see “the one”, we will know.

Alas like in real life we might end up liking more than one and then vacillate between the two!

Treat it rather like an interview process:

  • define your criteria clearly
  • interview each candidate thoroughly
  • rank shortlisted candidates as per the criteria and select the best one

Read what the question is precisely asking you for

Let us take the following two questions and see why this is the most crucial first step.

According to the passage, which of the following best explains why there is little symbolism in Greek art?

What is this question asking you for? It is asking you to for the precise reason why there is little symbolism in Greek art.

Even without reading the passage we can eliminate a few options because they are not offering a “reason”. Let us have a look at the options we can eliminate straightaway by defining the question properly

(2) The struggle between the flesh and the spirit found an end in Greek art
(4) Greek statues were embodiments rather than symbols of qualities

Option (2) is telling you that the struggle was resolved in the Greek art. But how did it get resolved and how does that resolution link to the lack of symbolism in Greek art? the option is not answering the question, it is just giving you relevant information from the passage.

Option (4) is giving an example of how the lack of symbolism was reflected in Greek statues. Is it giving you a reason for lack of symbolism? No.

So always start by defining what job the correct option should do for you, in this case – a reason for lack of symbolism. If you do this properly your elimination will become more precise.

Always eliminate by going back to the passage

How does one ensure that more often than not you choose the correct option in this seemingly 50-50 scenario? How do you turn the odds in your favor?

Step 1: Do not go by gut-feel, which usually translates into I think I have read this somewhere. Like in real life, the line “I think I have seen you somewhere” or “lagta hai maine aapko pehle kahin dekha hai”, this does not work at all.

Also re-reading both options over and over will not help you break the deadlock, it will on end up making both options seem correct.

Step 2: To eliminate always refer to the relevant part of the passage.

Let us go back to the question discussed above to understand the process better. You would have eliminated these two fillers and have been left with the two close options:

(1) The Greeks focused on thought rather than mysticism
(3) Greek artists were spiritual materialists

The relevant paragraph:

The endless struggle between the flesh and the spirit found an end in Greek art. The Greek artists were unaware of it. They were spiritual materialists, never denying the importance of the body and ever seeing in the body a spiritual significance. Mysticism, on the whole, was alien to the Greeks, thinkers as they were. Thought and mysticism never go well together and there is little symbolism in Greek art. Athena was not a symbol of wisdom but an embodiment of it and her statues were beautiful grave women, whose seriousness might mark them as wise, but who were marked in no other way. The Apollo Belvedere is not a symbol of the sun, nor the Versailles Artemis of the moon. There could be nothing less akin to the ways of symbolism than their beautiful, normal humanity. Nor did decoration really interest the Greeks. In all their art they were preoccupied with what they wanted to express, not with ways of expressing it, and lovely expression, merely as lovely expression, did not appeal to them at all.

The first sentence in boldface is nothing but option (3). It is telling you that everything about Greek art stems from the fact that they were spiritual materialists. So in a sense, this option is correct.

The second part in boldface is directly giving you the reason for the lack of symbolism they were thinkers, not mystics and hence stayed away from symbolism.

Both options are in a way correct. The focus on thought rather than mysticism was because of the fact that they were spiritual materialists. Option (1) is a subset of option (3).

This is where questions on CAT RC get tricky. Unlike on the GMAT, on the CAT there is a case for two options being suitable and one being better.

The ideal answer is a combination of (1) and (3). But since that isn’t an option, one has to go with option (1) since it is closest to doing the job for you — giving you a reason for the lack of symbolism.

So this a case where we chose the specific option over the general. But there will be cases where you have to do the exact opposite — the general over the specific.

Let us look another question from an old CAT paper.

When a culture is in a state of disintegration or transition the freedom of the artist increases – but the question of subject matter becomes problematic for him: he, himself, has to choose for society. This was the basis of all the increasing crises in European art during the nineteenth century. It is too often forgotten how many of the art scandals of that time were provoked by the choice of subject (Gericault, Courbet, Daumier, Degas, Lautrec, Van Gogh, etc.).

Why does the author quote examples of Gericault, Courbet, Daumier and three other?

(1) They were all caught up in some art scandal or the other
(2) They failed in choosing subjects correctly for their societies
(3) The subjects they chose provoked controversies
(4) They represented the crises facing nineteenth-century European art

Usually, test-takers eliminate (2) and (4), and debate between (1) and (3) and through logic convince themselves of one option over the other.

The first step as discussed is to define the question. What is the question asking you for?

The reason why the author quoted the example; we quote illustrate a point or an argument. This is different from what are they examples of?

Options (1) and (3) are telling you what are they examples of — they are examples of artists who caused scandal and examples of artists whose choice of subjects was controversial.

By why the author is quoting the examples? What is the larger point he wants to make?

He wants to illustrate the crises that facing nineteenth-century European art.

When the culture was insecure, there was no commonly agreed upon subject, like it was when cultures were secure, leading to greater freedom for artists to choose their subjects, which ended up causing controversies. So the correct answer is the option (4).

This question was clearly a case of looking at the larger picture and not getting caught in the specifics.

So how do you decide which route to take?

The litmus test is always — what is the question asking for?

Eliminate between close options by going back to the text and using your reasoning skills rather than relying on memory and using your gut-feel.

When do I take a chance and guess?

What do you do if you are not able to break the deadlock even after going through this process?

You have spent a good 2 minutes, is it not better to at least take a chance? Well, it depends on your overall accuracy levels.

If you have mastered this process, are able to choose options with precision and usually end up getting 8 out of 10 right, then go ahead and guess.

If your accuracy levels are low and you always choose options with a degree of doubt then use the MARK button. At the end of RC see how many questions you have MARKED for review.

If they are only a few in number then guess, else leaving the ones you are most doubtful about should be the best option.

The number of guesses should not be more than 20% of the number of attempts.

Reading and solving RCs differently

It is usually a choice between two ways of solving RCs:

  • Read fully and then go to the questions
  • Read the questions and then go to the passage

The second one is generally best avoided since once you read the questions, you will start looking only for specific words and phrases and end up with a less than half-baked idea of the passage.

The first one is what we generally recommend. But it’s something that only people who are very good at Verbal can pull off without a hitch. The others tend to

  • start well and read the first paragraph properly
  • lose interest midway through the passage
  • skim through the last third of the passage
  • rush to the questions

So while the method is correct, executing it can be a problem. Is there a way out?

Read RCs like a set of linked CR passages

This approach is built around breaking the passage into smaller parts.

  1. Read the first paragraph and go to the question next to it
  2. If the question is related to the paragraph answer it, else go to the next question
  3. If you find a question related to the first paragraph, answer it
  4. If not read the next paragraph and repeat the process.

In short read a paragraph, see if any question is related to it, answer it and go to the next paragraph. This way we are looking at it like a set of linked CRs. At the end answer questions that are based on the entire paragraph (main purpose, central idea, tone etc.)  and questions based on more than one paragraph.

In case the passage is made up of short paragraphs and has more about 6-8 paragraphs, then read two at a time.

This process is based on the knowledge of how questions to RC passages are set. At least one or two questions will be specific in nature since all questions can’t be based on the whole passage and all questions will not turn up from one particular paragraph.

The biggest advantages of this process are that

  • you will not lose your reading focus since you will be breaking it into parts
  • you will not forget something you have just read so you know where to look to eliminate between two close options

The way to execute this without confusion is to write down the question numbers related to a passage; as you answer something strike it out. So toggling between questions becomes easier.

The passage about Greek art form which we discussed a question earlier in the post has three questions:

Question 1 – Para 2 & 3

Question 2 – Para 1

Question 3 – Para 3

It is not too late to get better at RCs, provided you change your approach and practice whatever we have discussed in this post. You cannot get better by only solving RCs during tests!

So try out the strategies discussed by practicing about 5 passages a day taking 2 min per question. Remember you cannot do the same things and expect different results!

In the next post, which will be up by tomorrow, we will take up the strategy for VA, time-allocation, and order of attempts for the VA-RC section.


Why I Teach

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The germ for this post sprouted in the aftermath of the death of Dr.Kalam.

In the deluge of Kalam-related information that dominated the media after his death one small bit struck a chord — his love for teaching. Of all the things he was — a teacher, a scientist, an advisor to the government, the President — it was the role of a teacher that he cherished the most.

On first meetings, people usually ask, “So what do you do?” The only reply I want to give when faced with this question is — I am a teacher. All the rest, the MBA and the business ownership are built around this core.

Teaching at 21

The first paid job that I took up was teaching.

I had completed my engineering as mechanically as possible and graduated with a software job, whose joining date got deferred in the bloodbath that followed the dotcom bust. I had taken the CAT in my final year and contrary to all expectations (including my own) I failed to get a call.

I was more than determined to clear it the second time round and was offered the chance to teach Analytical Reasoning to GRE students (back in the day GRE was out of 2400 with Analytical Reasoning being one of the sections) at the institute where I had prepared for the CAT.

The feedback for my classes was good but back then I did not really think much of teaching as a profession. I can distinctly remember thinking that it can become a really monotonous thing — the same sheet, the same problems and the same jokes.

It would take me more than a decade before I really understood what teaching was all about.

Teaching, now

During my first teaching stint while my feedback was good and I had no problem solving questions, there would rarely be students queuing up to ask me doubts or speak to me after class. But since I moved to IMS Chennai in late 2012 and started teaching again, things have been different.

It was around that time that I realized that in the decade that I spent since I first taught, my approach to teaching had changed completely. I realized that at 21, I was only a good problem solver with good communication skills. I was not a teacher.

At 21, I looked at teaching from my own perspective — what is in it for me? Am I getting a kick out of it? I laughed inwardly about the monotony — the same sheet, the same problems and the same jokes.

I failed to see the most important and unique aspect in this whole process — the student.

The sheet might be the same but there is a set of completely new students experiencing those problems for the first time.

Once one sees this, the sheet no longer remains the same; in fact it is no longer about the sheet, it is completely about the student, forging a connection with them and helping them absorb everything to the fullest.

The teacher always gets more in return

I can confidently say that teaching has actually taught me and given me a lot in return. My successful second attempt on CAT, had a lot to do with the clarity of thinking I developed because of taking classes.

I learn to solve better because I learn to teach better. I learn to teach better from the students. There have been many cases when the same problem and the same explanation with the same energy fail to help a particular student understand. You notice a face in the class that has not really understood it.

It is then that you are forced to come up with a more creative way of explaining the problem. It goes without saying there are also cases where students come up with better solutions.

While these are the very specific benefits, there are others that my fellow teachers, mostly freshly-minted MBAs who take time out on weekends to come and teach, have mentioned:

  • one says that he has to come and teach after a long working week,  just to refresh himself
  • another guy says that his wife says she likes him more when he returns home after taking a class at IMS than when he returns from his full-time work place
  • yet another guy says that no matter how rotten his day or week might have been all he needs to do is to take a class and he is back to feeling great again

My favourite part

It was around April 2013, the GD-PI results for the first batch of CAT students that I mentored were expected at anytime. One of the students with whom I had spent quite some time called and said — Tony…IIM-B…then a pause…converted! I leapt out of the chair and screamed YES!, my other arm outstretched.

This is always the best part, the moment a student succeeds. Nothing tastes like success, only in this case, it is not your own but somebody else’s.

When I look back, I did not leap and scream years ago, when I came to know of my own result that I had made it!

The world needs great teachers

There was a time in this country and in our culture when being a teacher was a mark of distinction — the word guru itself means the one who dispels darkness; we have hymns equating the guru with all three gods.

Not just in myths with Dronacharya & Arjuna but everywhere there have been legends of great teacher-taught relationships from Chanakya & Chandragupta to Socrates & Plato.

We live in a different world now, a world that talks about technology, inverted classrooms and self-learning. I am more than sure that technology can really make things better but that does not mean that we can do with fewer teachers.

There is something about being in the presence of a great teacher that makes us want to be better than the individuals we are. I have had the privilege of experiencing this a few times.

I hope that more and more youngsters seriously start taking teaching as a profession. It’s a very fulfilling profession and what better day to say it out loud than today — the birth anniversary of another President, another Teacher.

Happy Teachers’ Day my fellow mentors, motivators & guides!

CAT 2017: How to increase your DI-LR percentile – Part I

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CAT Strat / DI-LR Strat

After the previous post a few of you had commented saying that you are eagerly awaiting the post on the DI-LR section. The earnestness is understandable since most of you who are facing the SimCATs will know that the DI-LR section is one that will make or break your CAT.

If it goes well, you will take that confidence into the QA section finish strong. If your performance on the DI-LR section goes south then you will start feeling the fatigue of 120 minutes of testing and will fade away in the last section. The latter was the case with most test-takers last year. Read More

CAT 2017: How to improve your QA percentile – Part III

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CAT Strat / Quant Strat

In the previous two posts we took at a look at the first two building blocks to increase your score and percentile on CAT Quant — Accuracy & Question Selection. In this post we will look at the third building block — if the first two blocks provide the impetus towards the higher score, this block is the one from where you take off towards a higher score — Speed. Read More

CAT 2017: How to improve your QA percentile – Part II

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CAT Strat / Quant Strat

In the first part of this post we covered on the first building block to achieve higher scores and percentiles on CAT QA — accuracy. In this post we will take up the next one — selection.

QA is the section that gets the maximum attention of test-takers of all stripes and there is always a litany of frustrations and queries that plagues aspirants —

  • I am good at Math and like Math but my score just does not seem to go up!
  • Should one attempt the long Arithmetic questions?
  • I feel every problem is do-able!
  • I get stuck for long with one problem without realising it
  • I realise there were many problems I could have solved when I analyse the test

The answer to all of these questions lies in the way you select questions and the way you navigate between them. Read More

CAT 2017: How to improve your QA percentile – I

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CAT Strat / Quant Strat

Unlike the other two sections QA is a section that has a direct link to what you have done in school and college. Most of the topics that are asked on the CAT have also been a part of school curriculum. This I feel is the biggest roadblock in front of test-takers wanting to achieve higher scores on the CAT Quant irrespective of their relationship with Quant with high Math scores during X and XII exams not having any direct correlation with ability on the CAT QA.

Read More

CAT 2017: Setting the right targets on your way to a 99 percentile

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CAT / CAT Strat / Motivation

Last year, I attended the Chennai convocation function for aspirants who cleared the Company Secretary (CS) exam (a relative of mine cleared the exam). The Chief Guest was Padmishri awardee T.N.Manoharan, who is a pre-eminent figure in the Banking and Accounting sector in the country with his book being a must-read for all CA aspirants. He was part of the government-appointed team that cleaned up the Satyam mess and paved the way for the transition to Tech Mahindra. His keynote address was leavened with wisdom and had too many punchlines for me to re-count here but one of the things he said is spot on when it comes to the way we should deal with success and failure. He said… Read More