Expanding the Horizons: B-School Admits Part-2
“Be not afraid of growing slowly, be afraid only of standing still”.
Bagging a seat in the Top Business Schools of India, i.e., the IIMs, MDI Gurgaon, NITIE Mumbai, is the dream for all students. This requires a tremendous amount of sacrifice, determination, focus, and commitment. NIT Rourkela has always been where individuals develop, explore and grow themselves into highly focussed and committed individuals.
In the second issue of B School Admits, Team Monday Morning had the opportunity to interact with these individuals who managed to crack one of the toughest exams of the country and bagged a seat in some of the most prestigious B schools of the country. Read on to garner an insight into their preparation strategy, challenges, and many more.
Yash Sharma (IIM Lucknow):-
Yash Sharma a graduate of the Department of Electrical Engineering from the batch of 2018 has managed to bag a seat in the Indian Institute of Management, Lucknow, by cracking the CAT examination. He has had vast work experience at ZS Associates.
Life at NITR:-
The time I have spend in NIT Rourkela, was the best period of my life. I was fortunate enough to stay there for five years since I was a dual degree student. A very famous quote in the office says, “I wish there was a way to know you were in the good old days before you actually left them”. So, that’s something I totally resonate with. NIT Rourkela is close to me, and I miss it a lot.
The story behind pursuing CAT:-
During my days at NIT Rourkela, I realized that pursuing a career in the domain of core Electrical Engineering was not for me. So, I wanted to explore different domains, and in my fourth year, I was working at a part-time job and was working as a Market Research Intern at one of the Indian firms. It was there where I got exposed to market research, business strategies, etc. This field interested me, so I opted for Consultancy in my fifth year and bagged a job at ZS. After two years of working at the ZS, I realized that I should go outside and get my MBA to broaden my perspective on business problems.
Switching from a job:-
I joined the ZS after I graduated in 2018, and I worked in the market research and consumer insights domain. For the first couple of years, it was good; I was learning things every day. But after a couple of years, I realized that I was not learning anymore. I wanted to increase my perspective and the way I look at things. So, I realized that it is the best time to do an MBA since I knew business fundamentals and what companies in that domain think.
Pros and Cons of Work Experience:-
In my personal opinion, a candidate should join a business school only if they have some work experience. If you don't have work experience, you will miss out on many aspects which will be taught in the class. There are some subjects like organizational behavior, business ethics, designing workspaces. So unless you have not worked in a firm, you won’t know the hierarchical structure and how different stakeholders think and act. If you don't have any work experience, you wouldn’t be able to contribute to these classes. For me, it’s essential to have work experience; otherwise, it would be similar to your B.Tech, where you don't know what to opt for and would be missing out on various points.
I only see one con, i.e., someone who works in a workspace has already made up one perception about how things work, so it’s tough sometimes to break the perceptions and try to unlearn things.
Executive MBA or Foreign B Schools:-
Executive MBAs are of two types: a one-year degree, where you go to college and get the degree in one year, or a two-year degree, where you go on weekends and give exams. I did not want to do either of them because my whole reason for doing an MBA was to meet people from different backgrounds and regions and understand what they think about problems.
I didn’t go to foreign schools because I wanted to stay closer to my roots in India, and it doesn’t make sense to spend euros and dollars for a couple of years, and then you come back to India.
I started preparing for the CAT in July 2020, and the exam was in November 2020. Since I worked at ZS Associates it was initially challenging to find a schedule that suits me best. It isn’t easy to study after continuously working for twelve to fourteen hours, so I used to study in the morning hours for a couple of hours. CAT doesn’t require six to seven hours of study every day, a couple of hours anytime in the day would suffice the cause.
I got myself enrolled in the TIME classes, and they provided me with the materials required. I kept things very simple and didn’t go across multiple resources because the fundamentals will repeat. So, pick one material and go across all the fundamentals thoroughly. I also gave the mock test series from TIME itself. So, I didn’t go anywhere else apart from these resources.
In CAT, you don't have to study for six to eight hours every day. Studying a couple of hours for two to three months is fine if you are smart enough. I kept things simple and didn’t want to overdo things.
For my verbal ability, I used to read four to five articles every day. In CAT, you get different articles; no two essays or paragraphs are the same. So, it would help if you were well versed with history, technology, sports, philosophy, literature or any article you can think of. I referred to The Hindu, The New York Times, and Aeon.com (for essays). For Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning, I used to solve the set of questions for CAT every day.
For quantitative ability, I used to spend an hour or so. That way, I used to spend two to three hours a day, nothing more than that.
Since I had three-four months in my hand, I did not give the mock tests initially. I focused on giving sectional tests because I wanted to understand my strengths and weaknesses and know which section I needed to focus on. Once I gained confidence in the sectional tests, I started giving mock tests in mid-August. Since I hadn’t completed my entire course, I was scoring somewhere between eighty percentiles, but I knew that was fine since I hadn’t finished my course yet. But I kept giving the tests, and even if you score less, you should keep giving the tests because whatever happens in the mock tests is very different from whatever happens on the D-day. Unless you are analyzing mock tests, there is no point in giving it. If you are giving three hours mock tests, you should analyze for at least four hours.
In my case, there was no GD this time in the pandemic situation, so it was only personal interviews. I was interviewed for the selection into various IIMs. Sharing the experience of IIM Lucknow, when I entered the panel, they asked me about life in ZS. So, if you are a working professional, be thorough with what you have worked on and where you have worked. Since I was from consulting background, we spent a good five to six minutes discussing what kind of work I do and I was asked about the market research, the competitors, etc. Fortunately, the interviewer was a football fan, and I was a football fan, so we discussed about Liverpool, and it was not having a good time at that point in time. He asked me how Liverpool’s problem could be solved that season. Then there were a couple of questions about the controversy around Tandav and the Farm laws.
Managing professional life with the preparation:-
At ZS, you are expected to work fourteen hours a day. Our day starts at eleven in the morning, so we get the whole morning, and I used to study for two to three hours in the morning. I kept it simple and just kept it two-three hours and never stressed a lot about it.
Work from home:- A boon or bane
It was advantageous for me since I didn’t have to travel, and much time was saved. I had nothing else to do; I didn’t have to go to the gym and was at home the entire day.
Future Goals and aims:-
I am inclined towards public policymaking. Given that I have experience in business strategies and consulting people, I want to do things in a similar domain but on a larger scale this time. I want to work in the public domain, where I’ll be a consultant and work with organizations like the United Nations (UN), World Health Organisation (WHO), NITI Aayog. That’s my plan and goal as of now.
Words to the Wise:-
If you have figured out what you want to do after working for a couple of years, don't do it right after your college days, in my personal opinion. I want people to explore how companies work, what domains are challenging in a particular organisation, and what interests you. First, figure out what you want and don't, then go for an MBA.
Swastik Panda (IIM Bangalore)
Swastik Panda, a graduate from the Department of Biotechnology, has two years of experience at the Capgemini, is set to pursue his PGP at the highly reputed B School i.e. Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore.
Life at NITR:-
It was a great experience; I was a part of the Biotechnology department. The first year started with a reputation in my mind thinking about what lies ahead in life. Four years down the line, I can say that it was a huge curve of learning for me. NIT Rourkela was not only about learning; it was more about exploring myself. It helped me know what I needed and what I am. For me, I was a part of a lot of clubs and a lot of events that helped me explore various domains.
The Story behind Pursuing CAT:-
There are two parts to the story. The first one is where you have a lot of peer pressure, and everyone around you is preparing. The second is when you realize that you need to do this, and that’s where the original preparation starts for you. First, when I started in 2018, I had an inclination for management studies, I gave the exam with two weeks of preparation, and it did not go that well. In 2019, I was a bit serious but again couldn’t make it. After one and half years of work experience, I realized that management studies are essential, and this is the field where I see myself in the next five to six years. That’s when I became serious about CAT 2020 around May 2020 and sat down and thought about what I should do for the preparation.
Switching from Job:-
I don't believe this is switching from the job; I think it is getting yourself at a position where you want yourself to be. Management studies are not anymore the single simple rule that it was ten or fifteen years back. It’s now more of a cross-functional techno-managerial role where you have to understand what you are going to do and how you will manage a lot of variables that come in. I would put it as upgrading myself, where I was just a worker to be a better contributor to the organization and a better functional part.
Pros and Cons of Work Experience:-
For a Master's in Management, it involves a lot of knowledge and some quality technical stuff. The base plan is you are learning something so that you can manage people. So, having some amount of work experience helps to understand the professional part of the study. The disadvantage lies in the fact that since you have worked two years at an organization, you have some perceptions of how things work, and you cannot be molded quickly into a different kind of work environment.
Executive MBA or Foreign B-Schools:-
MBA is not just a study for me; it is an experience of two years. In an executive MBA, you have to go for a specified field where you have expertise while working in an organization. But the two years management study gives you the freedom to explore a lot of other areas. For the foreign university part, it becomes very tricky, and it’s a personal choice. You have to think of certain factors like a return to investors and others before going there.
It was more about shifting the schedules. I was working for ten to twelve hours during the COVID period. I did my preparation in the COVID period, and maintaining the work-life balance was a bit difficult. So, I made a proper schedule and dealt with it.
I was a student of Unacademy Plus. It's a platform where you have the freedom of learning. For the test series, I utilized the TIME and The SimCAT test series.
Verbal ability is more about comprehension, so I used to read passages. For different parts of verbal ability, like the philosophy, economy, and others, you should be knowledgeable in all the areas.
Quants are something that requires a bit of hard work and has vast things to be covered. For the LR-DI, it is essential to understand the concepts first. This is where many people lack.
For the mock tests, it is a simple strategy. Take a mock test a week. I started my mock tests in August. I took twenty to thirty mock tests in total. What’s important is the analysis of mock tests. I had this strategy of “2+4”, i.e., if the examination is of X hours, you should keep the analysis of 2X hours. That's the basic logic. For analysis, you need to understand where and why you went wrong at a specific place and what you can do next to improve it. You have to chalk out the questions you should not attempt.
GD / Personal Interview:-
I got shortlisted for around fourteen universities for the interviews. All the universities have their interviews, and they find out which aspect of your life makes you fit in their institute. They look for certain qualities like managerial quality, how you react in a pressure situation, etc. They will point out your resume’s faults and try to wallop you and observe how you deal with pressurized problems. They judge your leadership qualities, decision-making, etc.
Managing professional life with the preparation:-
It was hectic for me. But I had prepared a fixed schedule for myself. On weekends I used to stretch my study time. So, I followed a proper plan which helped me prepare.
Work from home:- A boon or bane
It was advantageous for the CAT preparation in terms of not travelling and not going to the office. It was also disadvantageous because the amount of work we were provided increased, and the workload increased and transformed in the digital environment.
Future Goals and aims:-
I am a person who takes one thing at a time. I have some vision where I want to see myself in the next five years, but it’s not set and stone. The major vision I have is passing out from an institute like NIT Rourkela; we have the potential and capability to make a difference in society. It’s not just about getting a good job or doing it just for the sake of it.
Words to the Wise:-
The message I would like to give to the people preparing is that you need to be chill and calm when you prepare and have an alternative option. For the NITR junta, you are now in one of the best institutes, so you must have a vision of what you want to do next and please enjoy your time at NIT Rourkela by making good friends. Moreover explore as much as possible in this period of studying at NIT Rourkela because they will not return.
Anurag Chaturvedi (MDI Gurgaon-FPM Scholar)
Anurag Chaturvedi, an alumnus from the School of Management, has bagged the prestigious Fellow Programme Management (FPM) at Management Development Institute (MDI), Gurgaon. Team Monday Morning got the opportunity to have an interactive session with him.
Life at NITR:-
I joined MBA after my engineering. My specialization was in Human Resources and Finance. NIT Rourkela was a perfect platform for me to explore the domain of research, and all the professors at NIT Rourkela were very supportive. Especially I should thank a few researchers like Dr. Binita Tiwari, who was my guide and gave me an insight into the Pan International Management Conference, where I went through her guidance. I would also like to thank researcher Akati Choubey, she enhanced my research base, and through her, I landed up a research internship at NABARD regional office, Raipur. So, this fundamental and my basics at NIT Rourkela were instrumental in getting me the FPM Programme. I learned a lot from NIT Rourkela, and it was an enriching experience for me.
The Story behind Management Life:-
Though I had my degree in Electronics and Instrumentation engineering, I had my interest in management. During the third year of engineering, I had MEFA (Managing Economics and Financial Accounting) and entrepreneurship. In these two subjects, I scored the highest in my batch back in Hyderabad, and it gave me an understanding that there is a separate branch of study called management where I can make a difference. I also got a campus placement at Bunique, an e-commerce company in Bangalore, where I was more inclined to become a manager. It was back then when I decided to switch from the engineering field to management.
Further Studies after MBA:-
Though MBA is a platform where people continue into corporate life, and that’s what people perceive it to be. But right now, since more and more research is being conducted and the kind of experience which I got at NIT Rourkela and the exposure I got by attending international conferences, I didn’t apply for placements also and had made up my mind that I would go further higher studies and excel in it.
Process of getting into the fellow programme:-
Soon after graduating from NIT Rourkela, I had the experience of attending a Ph.D. interview at the Department of Management Studies, IIT Delhi. I learned that various IIMs and other B schools offer the same course called Fellow Programme in Management. That’s where I decided to apply for multiple institutes for the FPM.
Getting into the FPM at MDI Gurgaon:-
In this particular programme, you have to follow a specific process to get into. Firstly you have to qualify for the entrance examination, i.e. a CAT level examination. You have to either write the CAT examination, GRE examination or the GMAT examination. After qualifying this and getting a high percentile, you will be getting a call from all the IIMs. After all this, depending upon your educational background and the research experience you have, you are shortlisted for the further rounds. At MDI Gurgaon, we had three rounds, firstly the written ability test (WAT), the area interview, which includes the field you want to go into, and the last one being the cross-sectional area interview. You have to be consistent throughout the process to secure a position at top B Schools.
When we graduate, what we don't have is a good research base. To overcome this, I started applying for Research Assistants and other academic positions at various institutes like the IIMs, ISB Hyderabad. I was also working at MICA Ahmedabad, which is also a reputed B School. All these things enhanced my learning and understanding of what research is all about.
Managing the preparation with Professional life:-
At IIT Delhi, I was more inclined towards writing research papers. While writing the research papers, I related it to writing research proposals. So while applying for various B Schools, we have to write a research proposal as well. So, this experience at IIT Delhi helped to get into the doctoral programme. It was challenging for me, but at the same, it helped me a lot.
While preparing, I made a sheet of the perspectives of all the B Schools in India and abroad. I listed the requirements and qualities required for these business schools. I used to visit various sites and study the journey of multiple researchers who made it to the top B Schools.
Future Goals and aims:-
Though my coursework has already started, I aspire to do my post-doctoral studies from a top 10 QS World ranking college. I am preparing myself for it and want to make a meaningful impact on society. After my post-doctoral studies, I want to come back to India and become a professor at the prestigious institutes of India. I also want to contribute to NIT Rourkela, my alma mater, and would always like to help and nurture the students and fraternity of NIT Rourkela.
Words to the wise:-
I always thought there is always a second time, and we should never lose our hope and strive for our dreams. Never give up on your dreams. If you want it, you will achieve it. Your hard work and perseverance will take you a long run. You should always aim for the best in your life, nothing but the best.
Nishant Kumar Singh (NITIE Mumbai)
A weird blend of hard work, dedication, creativity, and approachability is precisely what makes this story worth admiring. One such person for whom even the above description sounds modest is Nishant Kumar Singh, a graduate from the Department of Chemical Engineering who is set to pursue his PGDIM in NITIE MUMBAI. He has an extensive work experience of 24 months at JSW STEEL with unparalleled skills thereby making him an achiever stepping ahead of odds.
Life at NITR:-
My initial days at NITR were very challenging because the environment was different from school life. The sudden transition to college life and deciding career goals worried me. The first year was very tough and stimulating because I was exposed to many activities happening inside the campus. Still, gradually, as time passed, I narrowed it down to particular things in which my interests were aligned. The college facilities were beneficial for students so, and I took advantage of them. I am a kind of fitness enthusiast so, during my second year, I started gyming and jogging; as a result, I developed the habit of waking up early. Overall the campus life was stunning, and I will always cherish those memories in life.
The Story Behind CAT:-
I am inclined towards the domain of management. I have done a lot of operational management tasks in the college but without jeopardizing my academics. I was in the Chemical Engineering department, so; academics was not too difficult for me. Then I decided to appear for the CAT exam. I started my preparation in the final year but couldn’t crack the first attempt. I bagged a job at JSW STEEL as Junior Manager in Manufacturing and Operations after my graduation. My craze for gaining skills in operations management was the driving force. Due to the hectic job schedule, I couldn’t prepare for the CAT exam in the first year of the job, so I took some time to prepare and finally cracked it in 2020.
I always accepted the opportunities that came my way. I loved my job at JSW STEEL. Having 24 months of job experience is like having a trump card because it holds a weightage in the composite score. It also increases your credibility while candidates get shortlisted for summer internships. Besides this, one gains experience in professional life. E-MBA was a backup plan only if I wouldn’t have been able to crack the CAT exam in this attempt. Talking of foreign B-schools, honestly, I never wanted to go for them.
The distance between the JSW Steel plant and my house was almost about 40 km. I had to travel 80 km daily, due to which I got tired too much. I was unable to continue my preparations after working for 12 hours. Apart from this, I faced significant challenges in the subject matter. Though I started my preparations during my college period, I was fragile in the VARC section. I had to improve my English a lot. I needed to develop my own strategies for problem-solving. The most significant setback was poor mock-test scores. It always provokes demotivation, but one needs to stay calm and patient.
I had joined the TIMES coaching(offline) during my final year at NITR. I referred to the study materials provided by them. I got myself enrolled in the IMS for mock tests. I did not use much study materials because I had already developed the foundation in the final year of my college. For basics, initially, I referred to ARUN SHARMA books. Whenever I got stuck, I referred to the Youtube videos for short tricks to solve particular problems. For the VARC section, I read THE HINDU editorials regularly. For PI, I had registered for mock PIs in IMS, which helped boost my confidence.
VARC was my weakest section. I was not good at solving para-jumbles. Comprehending the RC passages was also very cumbersome for me. In order to improve my skills in this section, I started reading newspapers and articles and watching English TV series without subtitles. But I was good at the summary part. I improved by practicing a lot. LRDI AND QA seemed to be my cup of tea. I used to solve daily one set of each LRDI and QA to keep in touch with the subjects. I solved them from IMS materials and mock tests. For particular types of questions, I wrote their solving strategies in a notebook for future revision. To stay motivated and enthused, I watched motivational sessions conducted by IMS. I just made sure that my endurance and consistency remained intact throughout the preparation journey.
Attempting mock tests and post-analysis is an integral part of preparation. I have never forsaken mock tests. Due to my busy job schedule, I strategized to appear for mock tests on every alternate day. I used the gap between days to analyze my tests. I went through solutions to every question, whether I got it correct or not. In this way, I learned new methods of solving, thereby enhancing my efficiency. The crucial part was to maintain a balance in the timing while solving the three sections.
Managing Professional Life With Preparation:-
This was the most challenging part for me because I had to balance my preparation and job life. I sincerely followed my timetable and consistently adhered to it. My preparation hours were generally early morning because I was left too tired after returning from work at night. So, I used to prepare for 3 hours early in the morning.
Work From Home: Boon or Bane:-
It was a blessing in disguise. Due to work from home facility, I got more time to prepare and my time was also not wasted in traveling. I could give mock tests frequently. In my preparation aspect, it has proven to be beneficial.
The GD round was scrapped due to the pandemic. But for interview preparation, I was advised by one of the IMS motivational speaker thoughts which were “IT IS NEVER OVER TILL IT’S OVER,” that means don’t lose your heart if something goes wrong. So, I learned from my mistakes that I had done earlier interviews. PIs are very random because the knowledge bubble of the interviewer and yours may not overlap. I had covered all burning topics that were most probable to be asked. My PI, in some aspects, was technical. They asked me about my job experience, safety measures taken in the company, PPEs used in the company, and logistics and productivity of the company. Since the college(NITIE MUMBAI) is well known for its Operations Management and I was also from the same background, they asked me a few questions. Eventually, it went very well.
Future Goals and Aims:-
Operations Management is my niche. I am looking forward to getting a good summer internship offer from famous FMCG companies. I am targeting to achieve Operations or Supply Chain Management roles in good companies. Also, I would like to explore various fields in college. Hopefully, the college reopens soon so that I can experience campus life again.
Words to the Wise:-
If you started preparing for CAT, remember it is always a win-win situation because it enhances your personality. Your thoughts become more logical and structured no matter whether you crack the exam or not. Endurance and consistency should be your strength. Focus on your academics seriously. CGPA holds significance while getting shortlisted for B-Schools.
SWAGAT KUMAR SHA (IIM Calcutta)
Life at NITR:-
My days at NITR are very memorable. I will always cherish the friendships that I had made in NIT Rourkela. Though the academics were rigorous throughout the course of 4 years, I still managed to explore various domains like being a part of Euphony was the best decision that I had made. I would advise and encourage everyone to join clubs and improve their networking skills during their time at NIT Rourkela.
The Story Behind CAT:-
After the end of my 3rd year of Engineering, the pandemic struck and I had a lot of time to think about my career. I realized that a career in the core Electrical domain is not something that I wanna pursue further and also the jobs in Software and IT Sector didn't attract me though I had done a lot of courses related to that. Then I realized that I needed to switch to something different and at that moment MBA came into my mind and I started preparing for it. I started my preparation after all my summer internships were over during June 2020.
The Major challenge which I faced was to take out time for preparation as final placements were also going on at that time. I realized that if I would prepare for both I won't land anywhere. So I started my full-fledged preparation for CAT. Due to which I didn't sit for many placements or couldn't give my best in the placements.
I just followed basic concepts from Arun Sharma's books and gave mocks religiously. Giving mocks regularly and religiously is the most important criteria for cracking the CAT exam. Also, I analyzed all my mock tests and noted my weakness, and prepared accordingly. I would suggest going for Cracku Mocks, as it is budget-friendly.
For VARC, I would advise reading as much as possible. It can be anything from newspapers to any article. Solve previous year's questions and remember commonly used jargon. For DILR, developing basic concepts are important. I solved Arun Sharma's books to get to know basic concepts. I gave more focus to the LR section as it was my weakness. For Quant, I solved sectional papers from which I got to know my weakness and prepare accordingly.
My approach for the mock test was to solve as many mocks and possible. I solved weekly one paper then increased it to two mocks per week and so on. Initially, the post mock analyzing part takes time but you will get used to it. Moreover, I would advise everyone not to miss scheduled mock tests.
My PI went quite well and was up to my expectation. PI generally is the make or break factor for entering any top B Schools. If your PI goes well, you will definitely bag a seat in a reputed IIM. I prepared GK questions mainly. The interviewers also sometimes ask branch-related questions like I was asked questions on topics related to Electrical Machines. Prepare as much as you can. Also, it is very important to give mock interviews.
Frankly saying I had no backup plans in my head but my decision to go into B School was very firm. I was wholeheartedly dedicated to it. I had a very strong belief that I would make it through. I had seen many lows in my life as I saw all of my friends were getting placed and I had no plan B at that point of time.
Future Goals and Aims:-
Since I have bagged a seat at IIM C, I have developed a keen interest in Product Management and hopefully will pursue a career in it in the future.
Words to the wise:-
My message to the aspirants will be to never give up on their dreams. No matter how tough a time you are going through, everything will end well. Have a strong belief in yourself and never compare yourself with anyone else's achievement. Focus on your goals and targets and you will ultimately achieve them.
Mitesh Mishra (IIM Ahmedabad)
Mitesh Mishra, a 2018 graduate from the Department of Mechanical Engineering and who was previously working with Kohler Co., has joined the prestigious IIM Ahmedabad after cracking the CAT examination. Here are a few excerpts from his interview.
Life at NITR:-
In my four years of engineering, I have explored various domains. I was a student from the Department of Mechanical Engineering with a CG of 8.7. Throughout my college life, I was a part of several clubs and engaged in activities in and around the campus. I was a part of ASME and the Senate. Also, I served as the Chief Coordinator of Monday Morning for the academic year 2016-17 and was a mentor and one of the founding members of Institute Counselling Services (ICS). All these played a pivotal role in not only making my college life memorable but also propelling me into pursuing MBA. In retrospect, if given another choice, I would choose to focus more on academics than extracurriculars. Having a good academic record is always preferable.
The Story Behind CAT:-
I have given 3 attempts in CAT - 2018, 2019, and the final one, 2020. In 2018, I was casual in my preparation and appeared in it because my friends were doing so. In the first year of my work at Kohler Co., I was a Graduate Engineering Trainee till April 2019. After that, I got acquainted with the organization's structure, its functions, and my responsibilities as an Engineer. It brought into perspective how a degree can affect the way you move up the ladder and how it can help you make better decisions at work. There is a stark difference between people with a management degree and those without. Since I was an Operational Engineer, I realized the need for management skills for my work. There were options to pursue a distance learning management programme, but I wanted to opt for a full-time degree to get a well-rounded experience. However, in 2019, I was hospitalized a month prior to the examination for about two weeks. It was a major setback and my preparation took a backseat. In 2020, I was focused on my preparation for the whole year.
Switching from Job:-
In 2018, I was offered a job from Bharat Petroleum but couldn’t take it up because I failed the medical test - I was colorblind. I realized this after my four years of engineering. In the core sector, colorblindness is a major constraint. I had to let go of technical career options and focus on the other options available. Coming to the non-core career options, I was not inclined towards Analytics and wanted to get managerial positions. Building a career after an MBA degree would be great. Currently, I want to get into strategy & consulting or GenMan roles.
Pros and Cons of Work Experience:-
It depends entirely on the job roles you want to take up after your MBA. They are classified into broad categories - Strategy and Consulting, Finance, Marketing and Sales, Product Management, and Operations. Having work experience helps if you continue in the same field. However, if you are switching fields, it is not relevant and might pose some problems while applying for summer internships. Contrary to popular belief, being a fresher has far more advantages than being someone with work experience. As a fresher, you have to score higher as you won’t be getting additional points for work experience, however, you have an upper hand. Coming from an office setup, we are affected by the work culture. Freshers have a clear slate mind in this aspect and hence, have the inclination to explore more and can be trained better.
I enrolled myself in Unacademy’s 6 months programme for the CAT examination. I followed Time and IMS for the test series. Apart from these, Arun Sharma's books were great. I avoided online platforms as much as possible during my preparation as they were distracting. Also, there is a disparity in the level of preparation of you and others in these online groups. So, one might ask a question that is relatively simple for you and it might slow down your preparation. Hence, I avoided such platforms and groups at all costs and stuck to the above-mentioned resources.
As an engineer, people expect you to be good at Quantitative Ability. However, I was horrible with this section. On Unacademy, for Quantitative Ability, there is a comprehensive series of lectures by Bharat Gupta. I attended all the video lectures, made notes, solved the questions given by him in class as well as from Arun Sharma's books. I had a good hold over the Verbal Ability section. I read various books including the entire Harry Potter series, Khaled Hosseini, newspapers, and other resources. There’s a website called Arts & Letters Daily, whose articles helped me immensely. For Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning, one needs sufficient practice. I followed the Arun Sharma books, end to end, for the Logical Reasoning. Coming to Data Interpretation, involves the interpretation of charts. It was easier for me, given my work experience. Apart from these, for every section, I attempted section-wise mock tests which were a regular measure of my preparation level.
Initially, it was a challenge to sit through 3 hours and attempt the questions. The first few mock tests were all about sitting there and facing the questions. After that, I could identify my strengths and weaknesses. Initially, I would look for questions from my strong topics in each section. However, soon, I realized that tough questions can be asked from topics I am confident about. So, the aim was to choose the easy questions and get done with them right there. There would be certain questions that could be solved but need some more attention and time. Such would be marked for review and revisited after all the easy questions are done.
There is a misconception that you must attempt as many mocks as you can. I have attempted a maximum of 22 mock tests. During our time, the pattern of the examination also changed. Towards the end, I was more focused on sectional tests over full-length tests. I had to cope with the change in pattern and re-strategize the way I attempted the paper. 40 minutes had to be allotted to every section. Moreover, in the CAT examination, one section is always tougher than the other two. During the main exam, poor performance in one section affects the performance in the other two. Hence, I had to mentally condition myself that the three sections are independent. Hence, sectional tests propelled my preparation immensely.
Another key strategy I followed was to revisit the past mock tests I attempted after every 5 mock tests. It helped me analyze my frequent mistakes and revisit the concepts that needed attention. It made me detect what errors I made conceptually and strategy-wise. Post-analysis of mock tests is essential to boost your preparation as my marks drastically increased after analyzing my past performances.
GD / PERSONAL INTERVIEW:-
CAT results were out in the first week of January and offer letters started pouring in, a week later. Till January end, we had to fill up forms as different institutes had different application processes and deadlines. Some ask for SOPs, some ask you to list your national and international achievements, regrets at your workplaces and many more. One might have a tough time answering all those questions as a lot is at stake and you want to get into a premier institution.
There are 6 categories namely your specialization, work experience, extracurricular activities, hobbies and interests, background, and general awareness. Different institutes prioritize different categories. As for my preparation, I referred to newspapers, articles and sources where relevant topics were mentioned. I had enrolled myself in the course by Patrick D. Souza, who has secured 6 times 100 percentile in the CAT examination. With them and IMS, I appeared for a couple of mock interviews which boosted up my confidence.
IIM Ahmedabad has AWT i.e. Analytical Writing Test while others have WAT i.e Written Ability Test. AWT is different from the usual WAT. They give you a certain scenario and using your critical reasoning, you have to find the flaw in the statement. Interviews start from the first week of February. My first interview was with IIM Ahmedabad, followed by 10 interviews. IIM Ahmedabad has an interview of about 20 to 30 minutes. They believe in providing a calm environment for you to speak and express yourself. They will guide you during your interview and make sure you are comfortable.
Most of the institutions do not have GDs these days, so I do not have much idea about that.
MANAGING PROFESSIONAL LIFE WITH THE PREPARATION:-
The COVID pandemic was a boon for me till May 2020. After that, I had to work for 14 hours for 2 months and 12 hours for the rest of the period. We were not allowed to take any leave because we already had a break of 2.5 months due to the pandemic. My classes were scheduled from 5:30 PM to 7:30 PM. I would return home by 7 PM. So, I had to miss the live classes. I made it a habit to cover the recorded lectures the same day itself. Being in the production unit, I had to sometimes work on Sundays. Most of the mock tests would be scheduled on Sundays, so there would be times when I had to miss the tests. Missing out on a live mock test meant I could not compare my performance with the rest of the aspirants. However, there were records of how the students performed even after the test has ended. So, I would compare with the data available and get an estimate of my overall performance.
Apart from that, physical fatigue was a challenge. After coming back from work at 7 in the evening, I used to be very tired. So, I would sleep from 8 till 4 in the morning. I would wake up early and get at least 3 hours of uninterrupted studying before I could leave for my work.
WORK FROM HOME:- A BOON OR BANE
The break that I got due to the lockdown was definitely a boon. Coming to my job role, I was in the production unit. So, I had to work for 12 hours daily mandatorily. As the COVID19 disaster struck, production was affected. Hence, my work hours were reduced to barely 2-3 hours a day. During the lockdown, I spent my time reading books, articles and newspapers to strengthen my hold over the Verbal Ability section. I solved a majority of questions from Arun Sharma books during this break. For Quantitative Ability, I had a 3000 Questions book from Arun Sharma. So, every day I would make it a point to solve 100 questions so, by the end of 30 days, I was done with the 3000 questions. Apart from these, I would attend the lectures. During this break, I would dedicate at least 8 hours daily to my CAT preparation.
Future Goals and Aims:-
I do not have a great academic record nor do I want to go back to operations management. As per my short-term goals, a summer internship in any consulting firm would be great. However, it is difficult since it requires 3 spikes in your CV which is something I don’t have. So, a decent internship is something I am hoping for so that I can experience the consulting culture and decide whether I want to pursue this full-time or not. Coming to long-term goals, I would like to perform well, academically and get a good career after the final placements. I would also like to explore all the fields out there so that I can make the best decision.
WORDS TO THE WISE:-
When you are preparing for CAT, focus solely on your preparation. Most candidates are scared of the fact that they do not have sufficient points in their CV to get them through the interview process. It does no good to shift your focus from the preparation to thinking about the interview process. Moreover, during your preparation, there will be times you score badly in your mock tests. Do not let a bad score hamper your preparation. Keep making an effort and try to identify where you are lacking.
There are doubts in the minds of aspirants that being engineers, they might not get enough opportunities. However, engineers are still in majority in all these institutions and there are plenty of opportunities out there. You must have a good enough reason why you want to pursue MBA. Just because you are capable enough to crack the CAT examination, do not do it unless you have clarity in why you would want to pursue it.
Team MM wishes all achievers the best of luck in their future endeavors!
Designs by – Alok Gouda