Here’s How I went from low scores and 44%ile in XAT to the XLRI 2015 batch…

XLRI(HR)Batch of 2013-2015: How I went about the interview preparation.

7 April 2013

At the outset,I am going to warn you that this post is going to be long and tedious.I am writing this piece not for my personal satisfaction,but for thousands of aspirants who are mediocre like me;who ruined their high school/graduation academics,and did not achieve anything significant in last 20 odd years of existence.I just want to tell you,all of you,who are reading this post is that YOU CAN MAKE IT if you are mad enough to burn yourself. I owe my success to many(MMDT-12 members: Sid,Rishi,Om,Harshil;Patrick Sir,Kamath Sir, Raghunath Sir),and it is my obligation to do my bit for others.

@Omkarp , @retry , @rishi1415 , @sid2222000 , @PatrickDsouza 

These are the people who made it possible for me.Their names should be here as well.

Hope,it helps…Giving back to PG.


A brief introduction about myself-

Name-Akshay Gupta
10th-79.6% (CBSE)
12th-67.6% (CBSE)
Graduation(SRM University,Chennai)–CGPA of 8.911 out of 10(Worked very hard in college;Hit gold here)-ECE Engineering.

I have no extracurricular activities to justify my High school debacle.It took me 2.5-3 years of extreme efforts to crack XAT entrance test(98.83%)—I will write a post later on how a person with 0 aptitude and no foundation cracked the toughest MBA entrance exam on earth.It’s a myth that one can’t learn aptitude.Infact,one can learn any Goddamn thing on this earth if one is motivated enough,and willing to go under fire.Now words come cheap,so let’s have some statistics-

XAT 2011-44.22%

XAT 2013-98.83%

Once I reached this far ,I promised myself that I will force them to think 100 times before they reject me in an interview.

XLRI interview shortlist came on 17 Jan 2013.I was in Goa;I heard myself getting shortlisted for both interviews(BM and HRM).I left my friends,and came back to Mumbai the same day.Next 2-3 days,I was very tense on how to go about preparing for the interviews.There were millions of things to be covered,and I knew I have to give an exceptional interview if I have the slightest chance of making to the hallowed portals of XLRI. The ratio for XLRI convert always has been around 1:10 (For 120 seats in HR, they call 1200 people for interview). Also, this year because of goof up in marks, the ratio went on to become 1:13! 

Firstly,I benefitted immensely from keeler.drummer/Implex post on IIM C conversion(Pagalguy).I got in touch with few XLRI seniors,but it was rather demotivating because they all were special in some way or the other.I had to walk alone,and I had to find something special about myself.On 20 Jan 2013,I started preparing and asked one of our Mumbai Maverick Dream Team 2012,Harshil(Retry) to collaborate our efforts.

Material Used-

I made a fat notebook(Around 200 pages or more I really don’t know but it really is fat! ),and everything that I used to see,read,hear…Any relevant detail,I used to put it in that diary.It had numbers,figures,charts,quotes,drew India Maps,world Maps,electronics diagrams,equations,world capitals,major sports…Some strange idea or thought.Everything.It was one thing that I kept with me even when I slept.The purpose was to devote last week on revising that diary.I answered 18 straight questions in numbers,figures and quotes in the HR Interview bcz I revised that diary 6 times.

General Reading–

Took last 8-9 editions of The Chronicle(IAS preparatory material,monthy magazine used by IAS aspirants),and marked all the important articles that can be talked about.Read each important article twice…Wrote all the numbers,figures,and made a small summary of each in my above mentioned diary. & Political Weekly) : It is a website which has extremely high quality content.The website uses articles by Phds(Doctorates) on their thesis.It can extremely taxing to read articles by them but you have to…Again numbers,figures,quotes in my diary of every article that I read.Wrote summaries.My each good article used to take me 30 mins in making notes,summaries,diagrams,charts,learning author names for references etc.

-The Hindu,The Indian express,Business Standard:
 I used to read Indian express and Business Standard completely everyday…Devoted 2 hours on these 2 papers everyday,and editorials in The Hindu…Again the same notes,quotes,numbers etc. I can cite one particular example-James H Buchanan died recently at that time,and I was reading about his obituary.I made notes about his economic and political theories,his nobel prize etc and I talked about him in my interview when we discussed corruption in India.

The Economist,Project Syndicate,India today,TIME,BBC etc- I used to use my TCS library to read articles in these magazines and make notes when I was tired doing the normal stuff…This exercise was mainly focused on international world.

TIME,Career Launcher etc
-I collaborated material with my friends from TIME institute,Career launcher etc,and used their material as well.

Competition Success Review year book 2013
-Marked all the major events and relevant static GK,and put it in my diary.My HR GD Topic was-UN the security council.I was the only one in 13 people who was throwing numbers about when it was formed,how it was formed,why it was formed,how many current members,General assembly etc etc…For eg-UN formed in 1942,during the 2nd World war,during the time of Winston Churchill(England PM) with 193 countries in general assembly,the latest being South Sudan comprises of 5 permanent veto powers etc etc…

I cannot remember or write what all I read and from where but I read,read and read till my eyes hurt to the point of watering and not opening.I hardly slept for 45 nights.

About myself(THE WHOLE UNIVERSE SURROUNDING ME)–Used Wikipedia and google maps to read about India and world in DETAIL and make notes(I drew India Maps and world maps to remember what all places are where)…Our History,all civilizations-Vedic,Indus Valley,Mughals,British,Mauryas etc etc…Geography-Rivers,lakes,Mountains,terrain,oceans,weather,temperature,winds etc.

Politics-NDA,Congress,PMs,Presidents,Parliaments,Upper house and lower house…Its no of members,How they are chosen,States assembly etc.Our neighbours,Our area,Human development Index,Asia,World…Everything.

-My name,My family,History of Guptas,History of ChandraGuptas,Kalidas,Aryabhatta…Keep branching out.Each link will take you to the next link.From Guptas to history of Chandraguptas to Kalidasa(During this empire,he wrote),from kalidasa to his works,from his works to why he was special,to Ajanta and Ellora,from there to Allahabad ,from Allahabad to Kumbh Mela from kumbh Mela to its size,no of people,area,recent news etc,from Kumbh details to Mythology/religion,from religion to Islam,Buddhism,Science…Wars……………..PHEW!Keep branching out,and anticipate questions what else can be asked.

-My job,TCS,TATA…Tata sons,their history,remembering each year and name,Major businesses,Which countries and what,How,Recent developments,Major competitors etc…Everything

-HR-HR verticals,companies,HR course structure,favourite subjects,How HR works,Major HR professionals,Recent HR trends,learnt everything about best HR firm in the world ie. MERCER-how,when,why,what,who etc…Numbers and figures.Everything.

Hobbies-I developed reading habit to improve my verbal in last 3 years or so.I had read 75 plus books,and I researched each and every book and categorized it into fiction and non-fiction,and put the list in my interview folder.Also,I read a large number of good non-fiction books(Around 32 non-fiction books) i.e Amartya Sen,Mohd. Yunus(I converted HR bcz of this),CK Prahalad,Malcom Gladwell,VS Naipaul,Joseph Glitz,Frijita Kapra,Stephen Hawking,Larry Collins etc.This had to be my strength…Something special about me.I wanted to drive interview on my reading habit,so I prepared it like crazy.

Academics-My engineering scores are mind boggling after my 12th ,so it appears to be a farce.I bought a foundation book on Electronics and Communication engineering,and prepared from there.I had great difficulties initially but by the end,I was thorough on major areas. 

I am tired of writing all this,but this is not even 1% of what all I did…I was so so so desperate to make it that I could have died preparing for XL.I left nothing on luck,and I was a time bomb waiting to be exploded

Just to give you a brief glimpse of my interview:

-Prof1-Akshay,we made you wait so long for this interview.You are the last person…You must have been very bored and tired by waiting for more than 3 hours.

Me-No,Sir.I am feeling very upbeat.I was preoccupied with the newspaper,so it was not an issue at all.

Prof1-What newspaper were you reading?Was it provided in the reading hall?

Me-Sir,newspapers were provided in the waiting hall but I used Business Standard that I brought from my home.

Prof1(Hmmm)So is BS your favourite newspaper?

Me-Sir,I try to keep myself abreast of the latest happenings in the world.

Profs 1,2,3 together…K,so what did you read today?

Me-CAG reprimanding UPA for a new scam.

Profs 1,2,3 together…This CAG is a foolish organization.They have brought the whole country to a halt.They make exaggerated claims.Bureaucrats fear making decisions…Nothing is happening in this country.

Me(Took Chairman name because I wanted to show my knowlesge) Sir,You are talking about Vinod Rai ,the chairman or CAG all together?


Me-Sir,They estimated 1.28 lakh crore loss based on the 3G auctions that took place in 2010…Sir,their claims are not of out thin air or notional.

Prof2-But the country is not able to work.

Me-Sir,then you would say the same thing about judiciary…The current judicial activism.You cannot use corrupt means to get things going.Everyone is quiet in room.

Prof3-First they said 1.28 lakh crore loss then they changed to 2000 crore loss…What is this?

Me-I thought for 5-10 seconds…Sir,irrespective of the figures and numbers,there was something wrong that happened.If CAG wouldn’t have brought it out in notice then things would have gone the same way.This cannot be the excuse for civil servants not to work.

Profs 1,2,3(Impressed).

Prof2-This essay of your’s on India…What are you trying to say?

Me-Sir,It is not the corruption;the bureaucracy;the red tape that affects our country…It is our attitude.For eg: I am a 24 year old boy who has not voted even once.So Am I correct on my part to blame others?We should look within ourselves before looking outside.

Prof3(Staring at me-Interested and curious)

Etc etc etc…I cannot write everything……….

Prof1-So you read?Do you know what is a booker prize?

Me-Sir,the first booker prize was given in year XXXX…Definition of Booker Prize…I started counting the names of Booker prize winners from 1971.

Prof1(Irritated)-No no no…What 1971?Tell us some latest Indian booker prize winners.

Me-In 2006 the booker prize was won by Kiran Desai for her work The inheritance of loss.She is the daughter of Anita Desai,another renowned author of Games at twilight. In 2008,Arvind Adiga won the booker prize for The White Tiger:it is a black humour genre;There is something also called as Booker of the booker prize which is given once in 25 years to the best of the booker prizes;It was won by Salman Rushdie who writes on Magical realism and is famed for Midnight’s children which is about post Indian independence condition till emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi.

Prof1- VS Naipaul,Salman Rushdie,Amartya Sen,Malcom Gladwell,George Orwell…You read all crazy authors.Starts laughing aloud.

Me- There is a very thin line demarcating a genius and a crazy person,Sir.


Prof1-Hmmm so you read a lot.What one book would you suggest as an HR?

Me-Sir,I would recommend,”Banker to the poor by Mohd. Yunus”.It is a book by a nobel prize winner who founded the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh.It is a book that tells you how a sustainable business can be developed from the section neglected by the corporate sector.For reference,we can use CK Prahlad work on Bottom of the pyramid theory or James H Buchanan about development economics.We can also talk about Amartya Sen paper on Nutrition and development that he presented in 1998. 

Prof2(Amazed)-What do you know about Microfinance (related to Grameen bank that I talked about in my last answer)?

Me-Sir,the 2005 Krishna crisis?

Prof2-No,something recent.

Me-Sir, the 2008 Malegaon report?

Prof2-No,something more recent.

Me-Sir,the SKS microfinance scandal in 2010?

Prof2(Disgusted and irritated)-No more recent.

Me-Sir,the 2011,Microfinance bill?

Prof2(Expression for is this guy mad?)-No more recent.

Me-Sir,the AP crisi s in 2012?

Prof2(Shocked)Yes…Tell me about it.

Me-Sir,the NABARD and state banks work…Cuts me in between.

Prof2(Gave in)-Quiet.He thought for 2 mins to ask me something that I wont be able to answer,and then asked me the rate of Microfinance that the institutes charge in India.

Me-Sir,I don’t know but can I make a logical guess?Proff3-Nods.Me-Sir,since the poor people have no option but to resort to the money lenders if Microfinance institutes don’t provide them money so,I think, they would take benefit of this position.The money lenders charge outrageously high interest,so MF too would charge something around 14-15%.As per the govt. priority sector lending norms,govt. banks are supposed to provide loan to poor without any collateral of about 10% out of their earnings but the banks hardly follow it.This gives MF to create a monopoly and charge high interest,failing the whole objective of microfinance.

All three professors show respect to me…

The portion that I have written above lasted for just 5-6 mins,and my interview was of 21-23 mins.I completely overwhelmed,all of them,all the time.They were shocked,impressed,irritated at the same time.

In the end,professor3 says to me(Very slowly and appreciatively),”Do you want to say something that would increase your chances of candidature?”

I thought for 30 seconds(bringing all the pain,all the insults,my parents’ faces,my disfigured body into my memory,the sacrifices that I have made,living every single day with the fear that I will never make it…I am not cut out for the cream),and said on the verge of tears,”Sir,I have made mistakes in my life…My 10th and 12th scores are very low,but…If you see my engineering scores…The kind of work that I have done…The kind of books that I have read…I have really improved in life,Sir…I have really improved.”

Colour of the Prof3 face changed,and he couldn’t speak anything for 2 mins…He just looked into my eyes,and NODDED!

I knew that I had nailed it at that very instant…Nothing could stop me.

Note-I was extremely fluent that day,and I used quality words and expressions because of extreme reading for 45 days.I wrote a poem on EUROZONE CRISIS 2 days before the interview to show my creativity and writing talent,and improved my essay on VS NAIPAUL that I had written 1 year back…They really liked both.My GD was exceptional too,and they talked about that in interview.I put in index in my folder,marked stickers of different colours,arranged things in a very organized and neat & clean way.I did everything that I could meticulously.Everyday around 8-9 hours and 15-16 hours on weekends saw an average guy getting through.

“When determination wins over fate,honour comes calling.” 

Aks Gupta,XLRI Batch of 2013-2015.

Some of my most motivating songs.Pay attention to their lyrics-

1) Eminem: Lose yourself

2) Fort Minor: Remember the name

3) Nike commercial: Rise and Shine

Amazing Inspirational Videos. It will motivate you like crazy-

1) Mateusz M on youtube (Dream, why do we fall etcetera)

2) Eric Thomas on youtube

[Note: This is a post on the user’s CAT journey that has been captured in his own words. We have not edited it in any way when publishing it as an article. Cover image is from]

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