XAT 2021 Topper (99.99%ile) Utkarsh Gupta shares how COVID 19 and IMS Coaching helped him crack XAT

MBAUniverse.com News Desk |
February 6, 2021
With a keen interest in Football, Technology and Coffee Preparation, XAT 2021 topper Utkarsh Gupta, a B.Tech from ICT Mumbai and working professional at ZS, cracked the exam with 99.9963 percentile and plans to get admission in XLRI-BM 2021-23 batch. Read this exclusive inspiring interview of Utkarsh with MBAUniverse.com to understand his XAT preparation strategy, plans to crack XLRI Jamshedpur interview and more
XAT 2021 Topper  Utkarsh Gupta

Discharging duties at work place and yet cracking XAT with high percentile, is not an easy task-that too in Covid-19 pandemic situation. On the top of it making all out preparation to get admission in one of the top B-Schools of India – XLRI Jamshedpur keeps you on your toes till the final admission offer is rolled out. This is what Utkarsh Gupta, a B.Tech in Pharmaceutical Chemistry and Technology from ICT Mumbai and working professional at ZS managed to do balancing between his job and preparation. Utkarsh scored 99.9963 percentile in XAT 2021 and plans to get admission in XLRI-BM 2021-23 batch. Utkarsh belongs to Delhi but has lived in many cities of India like Pune, Aurangabad and Ahmedabad  due to his studies and job. Of course, his journey wasn’t a cakewalk. It required persistence, focus and ability to effectively juggle multiple roles. 

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MBAUniverse.com invited Utkarsh to understand his XAT preparation plans, how he plans to crack XLRI Jamshedpur interview and more.

Q: Please tell us about yourself…
A: I am from Delhi, and have lived in Pune and Aurangabad previously. I moved to Ahmedabad 3 years ago. I have completed B.Tech (Pharmaceutical Chemistry and Technology) from ICT Mumbai. My dad runs a startup Contract research organization and my Mom's a teacher. I have completed 18 months of work at ZS. Football, Technology, Food, and Coffee Preparation.

Q: What was your overall preparation strategy for XAT?
A: Everyone remembers 2020 as the year of COVID, which took a lot from us but also gave us some. Lockdown situation allowed me to be at home, save time on traveling, laundry, food etc. Nonetheless, it was challenging staying disciplined with my current job, as on average I would work for 11 hours a day,

To stay disciplined I joined an IMS batch, which had recap workshops every weekend. To optimize my exam strategy, I would usually take 2 mocks every weekend. I developed new disciplines like waking up early, reading newspaper articles, solving sudoku and puzzles, and taking sectional tests whenever I found time during my working days. 

Q: So, how did IMS XAT preparation course help?
A. I was part of a batch in which aspirants had formerly prepared/appeared for CAT/XAT. I felt the course was perfectly structured, as it allowed me to brush up wide range of concepts in an efficient manner. The mocks provided were also of top quality, and the analysis interface is just perfect. I believe I may have spent more time on the analysis tab for many of my mocks compared to the actual mocks. Faculty support in the name of mentorship is worth mentioning here, as it's because of these interactions I was able to focus on the right aspects of my test tacking ability. The course really gave me the confidence going into XAT that I had covered a major chunk of what this exam could ask of me.  

Q: Please share your VARC preparation strategy for XAT?
Ans. VARC Preparation - I have struggled with achieving consistency in my VARC performance. My VARC performance in CAT 2020 gave me a reality check. In the month between XAT and CAT, I decided I have to change that. On a friend's recommendation, I made it a point to read at a stretch for 45 mins daily from sites like aeon and The Guardian. I also practiced CR from GMAT Club and CR bible. VARC prep has a lot to do with your baseline and the same things might not work for everyone, but practicing CR should be a helpful exercise for anyone looking to strengthen their verbal ability. 

Q: What about DM preparation strategy for XAT?
A: IMS and Cracku have some great DM content where they usually take past year caselets and discuss how one can go about solving those. Past year DM papers have been my go-to resource for DM prep. Solving all past year DM papers gives you an understanding of the expectations the paper setter has from the answers. It helps to do tests like - 'newspaper test' and 'family test' while selecting your answers in DM.

Q: How did you prepare for QADI section for XAT?
A: When I started my exam prep this year, I was doing really bad in QA, neither did I have a decent pace nor good accuracy. But I believe the key to my performance in QADI can be attributed to the range and accuracy I developed over the course of my preparation. After every mock I attempted, I would spend a lot of time going back to the solutions, and making note of my weaker reas, analyzing mistakes, looking for smarter solutions. And by the end of my preparation, I could not say that I had any weaker topic in QADI. It is now evident to me that accuracy comes before pace. As even though I attempted 23 Qs in QADI, getting them all right helped me get a top percentile.  

Q: Was there any particular section/area that you were weak at? How did you overcome this challenge? 
A: I have struggled with achieving consistency in my VARC performance. My VARC performance in CAT 2020 gave me a really good reality check. In the month between XAT and CAT I decided I have to change that. On a friend's recommendation, I made it a point to read at a stretch for 45 mins daily. I also practiced CR from GMAT Club and CR bible. VARC prep has a lot to do with your baseline and same things might not work for all people, but CR practice seems like a good idea since more and more questions are seen of CR type.  

Q: What role did Mocks play in your success? 
A: Since I have previously appeared for CAT and XAT, my preparation was highly mock centric. I felt that I have a basic understanding of all concepts and just needed to optimize my test performance. Hence I have focused a lot more on timed tests.  In the build to CAT, I took ~35 complete mocks. For XAT, I took past 4 year papers as mocks, and 5 IMS mocks.  I also solved the DM of past 10 year papers in a 45 mins window. 

Q: Please share your strategy for the XAT Day.
A: I usually have a hard time getting sound sleep the night before any critical events. The excitement and anxiousness usually keep me up and XAT was no different. Although, I thought of XAT day as just another day and didn't stress myself about the lack of sleep. It helped to reach the center early and to settle in and get acclimatized to the setup. Writing tables and thinking about my happy places in life helped me be in a great test-taking temperament.

Regarding Test Taking, Time management in XAT is critical due to the lack of sectional time limits. Referencing past year question papers, I realized that 14Qs per section with good accuracy may be sufficient to clear cutoffs. Hence, I decided to initially attempt only 14Qs each from VARC / DM / QADI sections. And once I was done with these Qs I could then maximize my marks in my stronger section i,e, QADI. 

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Q: Which program at XLRI you would prefer? Which are your other dream B-schools? 
A. I am looking forward to converting the XLRI Business Management call. Based on my research on Indian b-schools, I learned that XLRI BM has one of the best courses for consulting and is a great option for my interests. In other dream bschools, I would wish to explore admission opportunities in India B-schools like IIM ABC, ISB, and international B-schools like INSEAD and HEC. 

Q: To whom you would like to give credit to your Success in XAT 2021?
A: I have immense gratitude towards my family for my success in XAT 2021, they made sure that I could focus on my preparation for the exam and made my life much simpler. I think, being able to WFH due to COVID has had its say in it as well. Preparing for competitive exams can be really tiring mentally and psychologically, having a few friends who are also in the same grind as you is extremely comforting. 

Q: How are you preparing for GD-PI rounds?
A: The first thing I decided to do after my XAT was to go on a vacation with my college friends! I believe this will help me release some of the stress and strain that has built up in the past 10 months preparing and working from home. I've started keeping myself up to date with the current affairs and reading into interview experiences of past applicants. I have also started consuming some of the IMS PI prep content and plan to take the personal interview mocks to make sure I understand and bridge my knowledge gaps. 

Q. How did MBAUniverse.com help you in your entrance exam and MBA admission journey?
A: MBAUniverse.com has been a useful source of college reviews/rankings and has been quick to inform about results/forms being released. It also helped to read some success stories of past applicants, as they also leave you with the drive and inspiration to go on.  

Q: Finally, what is your message and tips for candidates preparing for XAT 2022?
A: The unique thing about XAT 2021 was that it allowed candidates a lot more time per question compared to CAT 2020 or other management aptitude tests. If this pattern suits you more, learn to use this to your advantage. If this pattern continues, you will have the opportunity to go slightly slower, make fewer mistakes and do more reasoned question selection. The one thing I did right in my preparation was to develop a good range and accuracy. It helps to have a good range in XAT since you attempt a higher percentage of questions in this exam due to the longer format. 

Stay tuned to MBAUniverse.com to read more inspiring stories from XAT exam toppers