PaGaLGuY caught up with Common Admissions Test (CAT) 2011 topper Shashank Prabhu for an exclusive chat. Shashank, who is currently pursuing his MBA from the Faculty of Management Studies (FMS), University of Delhi, had worked with PaGaLGuY in its editorial team for a year before joining FMS. Incidentally Shashank had also topped the Maharashtra Common Entrance Test two years ago.
Congratulations! How does it feel to achieve a perfect 100 percentile in CAT 2011?
It feels great! It’s the dream of any CAT applicant to ace it. Though, having been eluded the first two times despite a serious amount of preparation, it also feels a bit strange to have cracked it the third time without having put in any preparation.
You are already studying at FMS, why did you take the CAT this year?
To be frank, it was on the back of my mind that I had scored nowhere close to my potential in the earlier attempts. For many serious CAT takers, the test becomes an addiction after some time. One of the major reasons of appearing for the CAT was this feeling of not having achieved something which I knew I deserved. To tell the truth, only a couple of people actually knew that I had appeared for the exam. And FMS, Delhi for me has a special place in my heart and is indeed one of the best schools one can ever get into.
What is the next step? Leave FMS and join IIM-A?
It’s a long way to go. I will have to consider my options before taking a decision. No doubt, on paper, it’s very easy to take a decision. But having invested a year at FMS, and having bagged a good summer internship, I am not sure it is that straightforward a decision to make.
You are a doctor — why did you leave medicine for MBA?
In college, I loved biology. It was indeed very difficult to let go of math-related education, but getting into a medical college of the caliber of Grant Medical College (Mumbai) was something very prestigious for me. As I made my way through my graduation, I realised that I would not make a good practicing doctor. The various political controversies surrounding medical students made the desire (to leave the profession) only stronger. I got a lifeline in the form of MBA. After discussing with people who had studied management, I felt that I could do better with an MBA than say, an MD or MS. So I decided to take the plunge and not hold my patients ransom by doing something which, although logically sound, was not something I would enjoy.
To what extent do you attribute the marks and percentiles to the normalisation process of the CAT this year? Is there a chance that they have got it right this time?
I had a decent slot this time around. I think I missed the last two times due to a bad choice of slots and some mistakes that I made during the paper. This time, I was confident of a good result. I had time on my hands to go through my answers again and I guess that helped.
Last year you scored something like 93 percentile — do you blame the normalisation process for it?
I scored 93.79 percentile to be precise. I would take the blame on myself than anything else. Yes, indeed it was a tough slot, but I think if I had kept my cool, I would have got a much better score. And in the computer based CAT, one slip is all it takes to go from a good score to a mediocre one. Normalisation has made accuracy all the more important. I am not sure how it is linked, but from whatever I have experienced over the last three years, accuracy is a major factor.
According to you, do tests such as CAT and CET really depict a person’s aptitude for higher education or MBA programs?
After getting into a b-school, it hardly matters what you had scored in the entrance test. Everyone possesses more or less a similar level of aptitude out here. You can fight your way to a 99.8 percentile. But anything above that requires a good amount of luck. Entrance tests might subliminally check an aspirant’s aptitude, ability to remain calm under pressure and a basic knowledge of mathematics and english. What they do not check is perseverance, hard work and the amount of odds against which an aspirant scores that percentile. There are some things you can’t quantify which can be checked in an interview, if you get a chance that is.
What does it take to top entrance tests not once, but twice? How can others replicate your success?
I am good at aptitude tests. It somehow comes naturally to me and is something I enjoy. I didn’t have to prepare too hard for my previous attempts too. For the last couple of attempts, I have only been solving mock tests sincerely (to the tune of around 100 a year or so). This time, I didn’t prepare for the test at all. The first semester at any b-school is hectic and hardly leaves you with any time to even think of appearing for the test, leave alone practicing for it.
Tell us something about your family.
My mother was extremely supportive. She has always stood by me regardless of the decisions I’ve taken. Getting into MBBS without exactly knowing how the future would pan out, deciding to go for an MBA, leaving JBIMS Mumbai and working with PaGaLGuY for a year, then taking up FMS Delhi and staying away from home, everything has been received well. I would like to dedicate whatever I have achieved to her and it would not have been possible without her support.
How has the response been like from friends and family since the CAT results?
Very few people actually knew that I had appeared for CAT 2011. And as I hadn’t put in any serious preparation, no one would have suspected. But the news has been very well received. Last year, I had quite a few people praying for me. I believe I have done justice to them. My friends at the hostel stayed up almost the entire night after learning about the result.
You seem to be keeping an unusually low profile even after scoring 100 percentile. Why so?
I usually prefer maintaining a low profile. Grabbing the limelight and commanding attention have never been my traits. Even my friends and interviewers have occasionally rebuked me for being soft-spoken. It is something I can’t change now.
What are your future plans? Where would you be after 10 years?
As of now, my only aim is to do well in my MBA and get the best possible experience out of it. There is a lot to learn from the people around you. I have my summer internship coming up with Tata Administrative Services, which I would love to continue with, given a chance. And 10 years is too long a time period to plan but I would like to do well in whatever I would be doing.
Any message to PaGaLGuY readers and future MBA aspirants, for whom you would be a role model now?
Never compromise on your dreams. You will definitely get the due some day. Life always gives you chances, it is up to you as to what you make of them. And as my signature on PaGaLGuY goes (which was taken from Rohit Gupta’s post), ‘Hard work won’t be unrewarded forever’.