Jul 30, 2021|12 minutes
The Common Admission Test(CAT) is a computer-based test for admission in a graduate management program. Lakhs of students appear for this competitive examination every year and strive to be admitted to the prestigious Business schools of India, namely, the Indian Institutes of Management(IIMs), Xavier School of Management (XLRI), Management Development Institute (MDI), Faculty of Management Studies (FMS), etc. These are the dream colleges for many of the aspirants in the country.
NIT Rourkela has always been instrumental in giving bright and efficient minds to the world. So, continuing the legacy, many deserving students of this prestigious institute got themselves admitted to various Business schools or the B schools of India.
In this 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.
Appearing CAT exam was not a part of my immediate plan of action. My initial plan was to get a job and gain some work experience before attending business school. I was offered my first placement offer in August 2020. Since I had nothing else to do at that point of time, I started preparing for CAT. I was very casual in my preparation and wanted to appear to get an idea of the examination pattern.
Preparing for the CAT exam took me back to the time when I prepared for JEE. I struggled to grasp some of the concepts I had studied long back during my 11th and 12th grades. The Verbal Ability section was also something I struggled with initially, given that I had lost the habit of reading. Time is a major constraint in competitive exams like CAT. It was a challenge to grasp the concepts and solve the questions efficiently. When it came to solving mock tests on online platforms, I faced some difficulties. I was used to solving on pen and paper. Online mode was not comfortable for me in the beginning. These were some of the challenges I was confronted with during my preparation.
I referred to McGraw-Hill publication’s CAT books during my preparation. Referring to a single publication’s books for all the sections helped me maintain uniformity in the presented content. Apart from this, I followed 30 years of CAT Exam Papers by Arihant Publication. Like mentioned before, I did not enrol myself in any institute for my preparation. However, for the GD and personal interview, I joined catking. in. Coming from a tech background, I had little to zero knowledge about the business and management world. To garner an insight into this field, I sought help from the institute friends.
I started my preparation in August and had four months until the CAT examination. Since this attempt was supposed to give me an idea of the examination process, I hadn’t enrolled in any coaching institute. I bought the books commonly followed by CAT aspirants and started my preparation. I was more confident in the Quantitative Ability(QA) section than the others; hence I focussed on it first. Then, I moved onto Verbal Ability. I had ample time to make my reading efficient and work on my language skills for this particular section. I kept the Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning part towards the end.
During November, I appeared for a couple of mock tests to enhance my preparation. Initially, I was not comfortable with the online platform and used to solve on pen and paper. Also, my performance was not up to the mark. After solving a good amount of question sets, I realised that there are certain patterns of questions that are repeated over the years. During practice tests, I would first look for such questions and solve them first. On top of that, we have several online resources that provide quick formulae, shortcuts and tricks to solve the questions faster. After sufficient practice, I no longer required much brainstorming and could solve problems easily.
With the course of catking. in for my GD and personal interview preparation, I had found clarity in not only my concepts but also why I should go ahead in the management field, by the end of the course. The study material was well structured and the teachers were quite helpful. Slowly, I found myself confident in the concepts of management and business. They trained us on how to present ourselves in front of the interviewer and how to write SOPs which are required for admission in certain institutes. We would also have mock GD sessions with our peers. The whole experience with the course helped me do well in my GD and personal interview.
Luckily, I did not face many difficulties tackling both my academics and CAT preparation. The course’s classes were all scheduled in the second half so there were never any timing clashes with my college class timings. There were assignments and lab activities that needed my attention but I somehow managed to sail through. However, when we returned to the campus in mid-February, I faced difficulty now and then. We would have presentations that required me to prepare for them the night before. It led to me missing out on a couple of night classes. Other than that, it was a smooth process for me.
One of the major reasons for me to start preparing was since this was an online academic year, I barely had anything to do. Hence, CAT preparation was where I decided to invest my time and efforts. So, the online mode was definitely a boon for me. Things are convenient where classes are online. In offline mode, you barely get free time for your preparation. Most of your time is spent juggling between classes, friends and club activities. Also, since this was my final year, most of my time might have been spent making memories with my friends. Of course, I would never know what it would have been in an offline setup but the online mode worked well for me to focus on my preparation wholeheartedly.
In August, I was placed at a company called John Deere. I appeared for my CAT exam in November. During this time, I was offered my second job offer i.e. I got placed in Barclays. It offered me a better package. So, my initial plan was to take up the job. Even if I got a good percentile, I was doubtful of clearing the PI. After I got selected in IIM Bangalore, it was a tough decision to let go of the job offers and get into business school. After thoroughly analysing the pros and cons of both the options available to me, I have decided to go for an MBA.
It has been a few months since my classes have commenced. My peers come from different backgrounds so everyone has something to offer. It is an exciting phase of my life. Every day is a new day to learn something about myself. I am currently exploring all the possible fields out there and deciding which works the best for me. The world is my oyster, so I would just like to explore and see what works best.
I would like to say that one must always keep their options open. Do not be adamant about a particular option without analyzing all the options open for you. Be sure to ask the right questions to the right people to decide what works right for you. Make decisions after you have multiple perspectives. It is convenient to always go for the easier options but choose what would be essential to your growth. It is okay to let go of the plans that you have made. Sometimes, you should let life surprise you and embrace the experience.
When I joined as a fresher, I was oblivious of the opportunities out there. I started exploring different things. As a result, I joined E-Cell. We organised webinars, workshops and a lot more. My time in this club enhanced my management skills. I stood up in the elections for the Games and Sports Society under Student Activity Centre. This was a transition period for me as I was discovering myself and realised how important peer groups can be. I won the election. After that, I got involved in managing various events, fests and day-to-day sports activities. I also served as a Prefect in ICS in my final year. Apart from all these, I managed my academics pretty well. My entire journey in NITR was formative in giving me clarity to pursue management. When COVID struck in March 2020, I was in a dilemma whether to pursue higher studies or go for a career in management or go for a job. After some introspection, I decided to start my CAT preparation in July last year. I had a 5 month until the time I had to appear for the exam.
I enrolled myself in iQuanta for my CAT preparation. The organisation provided us with practice question sets, study resources and many more. Apart from this, I followed Arun Sharma CAT books. For the Verbal Ability section, Aeon articles helped me immensely. For the Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning section, I followed 100 sets for LRDI. Coming to the Quantitative Ability section, I followed the study materials and question sets provided by my coaching institute.
The most challenging section for me was Verbal Ability. Coming from an engineering background, the other sections were comparatively easier to handle. For Verbal Ability, initially, I struggled a lot. Aeon articles were a boon for me to enhance my language and reading skills. My mentors also advised me to try reading newspapers and comprehending them fast.
Talking of Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning, time was a major factor. Initially, I would solve 1-2 sets daily. As the day of the examination came closer, I jumped to solving 3-4 sets daily. For Quantitative Ability, my class materials and a few online resources were enough for me to have a good hold on it.
I practised several mock tests on iQuanta.Apart from this, I enrolled myself in Hitbullseye for the mock tests. Taking up tests from these two different platforms definitely helped me polish my preparation. Initially, I gave 3 hours of mock tests. However, when the pattern changed to 2 hours paper, it took me some time to adjust my strategies. Since I was used to one type of pattern, switching to another was hectic. However, with time, I worked on it. There would be times when I would score low and times when I would score high. However, every mock test was a chance for me to analyze my shortcomings and work on them.
According to me, the CAT exam is quite easier as compared to GD and interview part. A few minutes of the interview can decide whether you will be getting into a business school or not. My mentors and a few of my seniors guided me throughout to crack the interview. Since anything can be questioned in the interview, one needs to be prepared thoroughly. I strengthened my knowledge of current affairs, my core subject, a few management subjects. Newspapers and materials from my coaching institutes and mentors were sufficient resources. Preparing for the GD and PI was enriching as I gained insight into a lot of things.
In the personal interview, they asked me about my background and why I want to pursue MBA. These are one of the obvious questions asked hence, I had prepared my answers beforehand. I elaborated on my journey so far, adding value to the course I would take up and what I am expecting to learn from the course. All in all, it was a good experience for me throughout the course of the interview.
My college classes were scheduled in the morning hours and my CAT preparation classes were in the evening hours. Hence, I never faced any clashes, as such. During my free time, I used to solve practice question sets rigorously. It is all about utilising your time well.
The online semester was definitely a boon for me. I could focus on preparation wholeheartedly from the comfort of my home. Had it been an offline academic year, a lot of my time would have been wasted away in attending classes, going to and fro hostels and being on campus.
I feel that Plan B is for people who are not confident about their Plan A. The options available to me apart from management were taking up a job and GATE. I was not interested in taking up a job in my core profile. After a thorough analysis, I decided to prepare for CAT and then there was no looking back.
Since I was new to the industry, I was looking forward to learning and expanding my boundaries. I will be focussing on upskilling and learning from my peer groups. Consultancy interests me so, it is a job profile I will be looking forward to in the future.
To achieve anything, you must devote sufficient time to it and be consistent. Realise what your strengths are and work on them accordingly. Whatever weaknesses you face, be sure to tackle them as soon as possible. Last but not the least, you must believe in yourself and start working towards your goals.
I was pursuing my bachelors in the Department of Industrial Design. Most of our subjects in the curriculum were based on product designing, product management, analysing the data we gather from surveys and understanding customer expectations. I interned at IIT Guwahati, and it was a design-related internship, so most of my work usually revolved around conducting surveys, analysing the data or understanding the customer expectation. After the training, I developed a sense of interest in this particular field of design. Then I researched the career opportunities in this specific field and came across the CAT exam. So, I just wanted to give it a shot; I just wanted to see it because it was something I was interested in.
The CAT exams were held in November and I started preparing for CAT in February 2020. So since the institute closed in March, thinking that the lockdown would be for a short period, I left all my books in the hostel. The real challenge for me was Data Interpretation and logical reasoning; in the initial times, it was challenging to find out the correct set of questions that needed to be solved. I had bought some books but could not study them since I had left them in my hostel room. So, I referred to previous year’s CAT question papers and four to five mock tests for practising and getting accustomed to the pattern of questions.
For verbal ability and reading comprehension, I used to perform well and had the confidence that with time I would improve. But, data interpretation was something that I wasn’t very confident about and had fear in it till the day of examination.I didn’t take any coaching as I wanted to go easy as I had placement preparations too. I took a mock series but could appear only five to six since I was performing pretty bad in those. So, these were some of my resources. But I would recommend a person should at least take a full-fledged test series while preparing for the CAT.
I gave only five to six mock tests, but a person should practise more than that. After referring to various articles related to CAT, I had made this basic rule of solving the previous year CAT questions first because that will tell us the proper standard of the questions. So after this, one can attempt the mock tests from various institutions, but the main motto should be to try and solve the question papers diligently. Initially, the marks would be low, but “Diligence is the key”, and one should try their best not to be demotivated by the low scores.
After the declaration of CAT results, we got our interview calls. Some of my good calls were from IIM Ahmedabad, IIM Indore, IIM Shillong, XLRI Jamshedpur and MDI Gurgaon. Since it was in virtual mode, no GDs were conducted since it would be pretty unfair in online mode. So, only personal interviews were conducted. For the Personal Interview round, I focused a lot on my current affairs. I gathered the essential information about my place, the state I belong to, my alma mater and all the associated things.
Managing the B.Tech curriculum with my preparations was a great task for me since I had to maintain my CGPA as it is also considered for admission into B Schools. For this, I had to attend all the lectures, tests and complete all assignments on time. After the classes were over, I devoted all my time to the CAT preparation and attempted the mock tests in the night.
Had it been in offline mode, I would have exhausted all my energies attending classes, going to the mess, etc. So, attending the courses in online mode acted as a boon for me.
I had a backup plan since all these examinations are pretty uncertain, and all our hopes cant lay on this. So, I was placed at Fractal Analytics through on-campus placements. If I could not have gotten into my aimed B school, I planned to continue with Fractal Analytics.
After two years, the ultimate aim is to see myself evolving both on a professional and personal front. On a personal front, I believe my strong point lies in good communication skills and good problem-solving skills, so I would like to enhance these skills. Professionally, I want to work in a company where I can thrive, enjoy working and use my skills to get things done.
To the aspirants out there, I would say diligence is the only key in the whole preparation. There may be low times due to less scores and pressure, but we have to make sure that we don't succumb to the pressure and rather be diligent and increase our effort to achieve the required goal and be there where we want to be.
The first inspiration for pursuing MBA was given to me by my roommate in my first year. So, I pursued MBA as I thought it would do better justice to my skills, and since I was not the one who had excellent coding skills, neither did I have a depth in understanding of topics related to Civil Engineering.I joined the TIME institute in my second year, but the full-fledged preparation started in lockdown itself, i.e. in my fourth year.
The major challenge I have been facing is the lack of motivation. Often it is difficult for me to focus on studies for long hours. I stayed alone at home during the daytime, and I misutilised that freedom quite a lot. So, here I would like to thank my parents, especially my mother for always being there and keeping me motivated throughout the journey.
I had joined the TIME institute, and they provided all the resources.
That was the only source of help for me since I firmly believe in the concept of solving a single book wholeheartedly rather than starting and being unable to complete numerous books.
Compared to other major exams, the CAT examination has a much lesser syllabus, and you need to be more accurate while solving the papers. Coming to the sectional preparation, there was a phase when I used to score much less in the verbal ability section. So I made it a point to give one English test daily, which helped me improve my scores. In Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning or DILR and quantitative section, anyone from the Science background would have encountered this section in their academic lives through NTSE, Olympiads, etc. So, in these two sections, I solved many mock tests to have a proper grasp.
Mock tests are pretty necessary because it gives you a simulation of the actual test. So, after each mock test, I made sure to go through all solutions to the questions. It is more important to analyse the mock tests rather than just giving the mock tests.
This year due to virtual mode, there was no GD. When it comes to the personal interview, it can be very random. So, you can never guess an interview. You can brush up on your previous courses and be updated with all the world’s happenings and surroundings.
Honestly speaking, had the exams been in the conventional mode, it would have been difficult to manage things as the timing of the seventh-semester exam and CAT examinations would have been clashed in the same month ie. in the month of November.
It’s a mix of both; it’s a boon because I got a lot of time to prepare. It’s a bane since we missed all the campus activities.
Honestly speaking, I am pretty optimistic and mainly thought that the examinations would go well, so I didn’t have any backup plan.
I am not someone who plans things a lot before, and I like to face whatever comes during the journey, more like one step at a time. I have not had any plans. I have thought of doing a few things in the future, and let’s see how things span out in the future.
There would be days when things won’t be going according to your plans, so the only thing you have to do is hang in there. You need to keep patience and be positive throughout the entire preparation journey without losing any hope.The most fantastic thing about time is that it changes, so have that believe in you that “Apna time aayega!”
The story behind me pursuing CAT started back when one of my seniors got admission to IIM Indore. Since I was more inclined towards management studies not included in the engineering curriculum, I contacted the senior to know more about the same. After deep research into various job profiles, I decided to appear for the CAT exam. My preparation was not started until the pandemic broke out. Basically, I had thought of taking offline coaching, but I switched to online mode for my preparation. My inclination towards the analytics and consulting sector was also one of the factors behind pursuing CAT. So, finally, I decided to pursue an MBA after engineering.
I generally followed various online websites like TIMES, IMS, Career Launcher. Besides these websites, some youtube channels were also very useful, like RODHA Academy, 2iim. For doubts, I had joined many online discussion forums on Telegram and Facebook. Though Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension(VARC) was my weakness, I focused a lot on reading articles and passages daily from ARTS AND LETTERS DAILY websites. This website has very lengthy articles with various backgrounds like botany, history, culture, mythology, psychology, etc. Reading and summarizing complex articles strengthened my VARC section. For Logical Reasoning Questions (LRDI), previous years' questions are very helpful. Apart from this, I referred few websites such as C2C, 2IIM, HitBullsEye. I gave a few mock tests on TIMES, IMS but attempted mainly on Career Launcher. Hence, I tried to replicate the exam-like environment while giving mock tests, that is, by giving full mock tests with only 3-4 rough sheets at a stretch without any distraction.
I started my preparation in mid-May. First, I gave a mock test without any preparation to know about my potential in three different sections and to calculate the time taken by me to solve questions.VARC was my weakest section. I had a good hold on the Quantitative Ability (QA) section. LRDI was my strength, but it was time-consuming. So, I had to increase my speed and efficiency.
For VARC, I had developed the habit of reading during the early days of my preparation because, in the exam, it is not easy to comprehend passages around 1000 words that are not interesting. For LRDI, I was strong at arrangements, numbers, puzzles. I had to work on missing data sets questions because they were time-consuming. For engineers, Quantitative Aptitude is always a favourite section. Thus, I used to solve questions by having a count-down timer by my side. Also, it was difficult for me to maintain a balance between academics and preparation. So, I scheduled all the mock tests for weekends and preparation, academics, vivas, projects for weekdays.
Post mock test analysis is very important. I never ignored to analyze my mock tests. To handle the stress, I kept myself occupied with work. I used to motivate myself by keeping the fact that I had to go for placements or crack the CAT exam. By doing such, the slacking part will be negligible. The essential thing to keep in mind is maintaining balance in speed and accuracy that can be solved by giving mock tests and analyzing them. I completely dedicated the last three months of preparation for mock tests and relied on them.
I got calls from all IIMs except IIM Ahmedabad. The selection process is slightly different for all IIMs. But they all keep a check on your communication and general awareness skills. This time the whole process was done online. Some IIMs had GD(Group Discussion) and WAT(Written Ability Test), but some IIMs instead integrated GD and PI(Personal Interview) into one PI. They would start asking about a random topic, and the discussion goes on. It means that they would test your communication,d discussion, and general awareness skills at any cost. Preparation for PI is not strategic. Generally, PIs are random, but you should have a good hold on the fundamentals of your undergrad subjects. You should have an excellent knowledge of your projects. Besides this, you should know about general knowledge, current affairs, budget, revenue, economy crisis during the pandemic, manufacturing sector, economy rebound, aviation sector, and national as well as international polity. One should not compromise with the business and current affairs section. They also asked a few questions about my hobbies and extracurricular activities.
The biggest challenge was dealing with academics along with the placement drive going on simultaneously in the institute. That puts immense pressure on the candidate because I had to prepare for specific companies in specific domains. I had to maintain balance in my CAT preparation during all of these because I had to attempt mock tests regularly. CAT exam was conducted in November. November was a peak time since I had to give many mock tests while companies visited for interviews. The company rejections are never easy to handle after clearing online tets and several technical rounds though it is very specific to me.
Online mode was also an issue for me because I was acquainted with offline coaching and attending cases. In online mode, many things weren't possible, like getting one-to-one interaction with the mentor. But I sustained all the difficulties and continued my preparation because it was the only option for me.
To be honest, I had no backup plans for myself because I was trying for placements too. I just had to push myself either to crack the CAT exam or to get placed in specific domains during the placement drive in the college. Though it is very specific to me, this was the driving force that helped me move ahead throughout this journey.
I want to explore various subjects in the first year thereby taking up my niche in the second year. I want to dive into various business profiles where my interest lies.
You need to have patience during the entire process. You need to believe in yourselves that you can do it. Just back yourselves and analyze your mock tests, thereby coming up with a solid strategy for exams. Take advantage of online mode and do not hesitate to connect with seniors whenever in need of help.
I always wanted to pursue a career in the field of management and the business sector. I was not interested in pursuing a career in the field of metallurgy. From the third year, I was aligned towards CAT but was not decided since I felt that CAT is not a sure shot for beginners. So, GATE was also an option. After the pandemic broke out in March 2020, I eventually realized that GATE was not my cup of tea when I went into the depth of the syllabus. It was then when I started preparing for CAT.
I started my preparation around mid-April by referring to the videos of Inside IIM regarding both different preparation strategies along with what different career post-MBA looks like. In this way, I motivated myself of pursuing an MBA after my graduation from college. I used to prepare for QA and LRDI, topic by topic; for each topic, I would know the basic concepts, solve some solved examples and see the solution as well and finally practising some more questions. For VARC, I read articles from different sources and know the basic rules of Grammar and Reading Comprehensions(RC).
I had borrowed IMS study material from my sister, which she had at home. For QA, I covered basic concepts from Arun Sharma, and for concepts of LRDI, I referred to S. Chand, IMS study material, and youtube lectures. For VA, I read articles daily from THE HINDU because reading articles is very important as it increases your reading and summarizing skills. I also referred to Bharat's Reading List for RCs. Those questions were difficult for me. I used to revise the concepts by watching lectures from youtube. But most of the practice comes from solving previous year's questions and giving mock tests.
An aspirant must see Inside IIM youtube videos related to preparation strategy and post MBA career options to get motivated and aware of the hard work they have to do. For the test series, I would definitely suggest taking IMS. Don't take the TIME test series; it is way tougher and doesn't help that much with its video solutions. Someone can also try the Career Launcher test series, as giving two different test series prepares you well.
From July, I started giving IMS mock test series, both full length as well as sectional. For mocks, I found watching the solutions of both correct and incorrect answers was very important, and it also helped me to learn easier methods to solve, and I came through a wide variety of questions for each topic. In the verbal section, I also used to read the text solution to know why the three options are wrong and why that one option is correct, and to the logic, I used to compare and mine and correct myself on the points I was missing. I gave around 22-25 full-length mocks and four sectional mocks for each.
My scores fluctuated from 99.9 percentile to 75 percentile, but my initial high motivated spirit never allowed me to let my guard down. One of the lowest times was when I got to know about the pattern chapter basis. At first, I became very anxious and frightened, but then I comforted myself by explaining everyone would be in the same boat and what's matter much is how we manage time and how effectively we could solve the questions. I tried different ways of approaching each section to know for myself which method I must use for which section to yield the most results. I was good at LRDI, and to maintain that consistency, I used to practice various questions from each topic. I was poor at VARC, which I tried to overcome by trying to read articles daily. I used to give around 15-20 hours per week for preparation.
GD was scrapped from most B-School selection processes. Written Ability Test was also scrapped this time as many interviews didn’t happen offline due to COVID-19 restrictions. PI was conducted over the Zoom app in most cases. The experience wasn't the same as the offline interviews, but it served the purpose. I got calls from almost all IIMs except IIM KOZHIKODE and IIM LUCKNOW. They kept a check on our communication and speaking skills. Few questions were asked about my hobbies. I just remained calm during the entire process. It went smoothly with various discussions on the business sector and current affairs.
As for backup, I had it in my mind that I would go for taking up a job because I had already received an offer from Axxela Advisory Services in late August. So, I was less worried about my placements.
Regarding future goals, I want to accomplish skills in consulting and general management profiles. So keeping this in my mind, I will be looking forward to pursue a career in these fields in the future.
Don't get frightened by some low percentiles during mocks; keep in mind that you will excel for sure if you are learning something new every day. Do have the habit of reading newspapers daily, not on the phone but actually, as it will help you for the verbal section and the later interview prep stage. One advice I would surely give all the aspirants is to stick when the going gets tough and be mentally prepared, and try not to waste a lot of time on telegram groups; it just sucks away your time.
Team MM wishes all the achievers the best of luck in their future endeavours!
Stay tuned to Part-2 of this article, as we bring another set of CAT 2020 Achievers in our next issue!
Designs by – Alok Gouda
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