That's great! Can you walk us through your preparation strategy?
a) VARC - I was not much of a reader so I heavily focused on practice. I made it a habit to solve 2-4 RCs + 4-5 VA questions daily and analyze my mistakes. I used to challenge myself with tough-looking RCs on diverse topics. I might not get the questions right but what I developed was familiarity with different topics. As a result, I was not intimidated by a tough RC and always believed that I can work my way through the same. For choosing the right answer option, my approach was to eliminate wrong answer choices on the BANET principle where B-Broad(in relation to the question/passage), A-Alien(to the topic/passage), N-Narrow(in relation to the question/passage), E-Extreme(in relation to the author's position/passage), T-True, but(true in the passage's context but not applicable to the question). And almost always I would arrive at an answer which was correct. As Sherlock Holmes said, "when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth". I have borrowed the BANET principle from Gejo Sir's VARC1000 course which I took in my 2nd attempt.
b) DILR - According to me, there is no pattern or set guidelines for DILR preparation. So you just practice, practice and practice again. I used to solve and analyze 2-4 sets daily. The only thing here to pay attention to is that you don't practice just for the sake of it. You should be able to make mental processes around how you approach a particular set. CAT has never repeated a set in DILR so it's highly unlikely that you will get a familiar set. So what's important is to develop a knack for solving DILR questions so that you can work your way through an unknown set which might be the easiest set of the paper. Set selection is of utmost importance as 1-2 right sets and you end up with a very high percentile and one wrong set and your paper is almost done. You will get an idea of set selection once you have practiced a good number of sectional tests and mocks.
c) QA - This is the only section in CAT that has a knowledge component to it. Follow any coaching institute materials or famous book, cover the basics of all the topics and start practicing. Slowly and steadily you will see your scores improving in this section. According to me, this is the only section where one can be certain of getting a set number of questions correct almost every time
How did you manage your CAT preparation along with a full-time job?
On weekdays I used to study for 2-3 hours in the morning before starting office work. On weekends and holidays, I gave 6-8 hours. WFH was a blessing in disguise for me.
Which mock series did you enroll for?
I enrolled in the mock series of Career Launcher and IMS.
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How many mock tests did you take, and how did they help you prepare for CAT 2022?
80-100 across my 3 attempts. Around 20-25 in my latest 2022 attempt.
Mocks are a little subjective, I know people who have given less than 5 mocks and have scored 99+ %ile, and people who have given 30-40 mocks still hardly get a 90%ile. I have given a lot of mocks because I had prepared for 3 years.
Which section was your Achilles heel? How did you overcome that?
My scores were inconsistent in both VARC and DILR. All I did was practice. Lots and lots of RCs and DILR sets. With time and effort, I achieved a level of comfort with these sections.
What was the lowest point in your preparation journey?
Failing to clear LRDI sectionals on my second attempt. I had worked really hard for my 2021 attempt but on the D-day messed up the DILR section. The next few days were very difficult. I took some time off and then started preparing for CAT 2022 and cracked it with a 99.9 percentile.
Do you mind sharing your CAT 2021 and CAT 2020 scores and percentile with our readers?
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What would be your advice to future CAT takers? How should they approach the exam?
1) Know your enemy - Solve a paper from last year's CAT. Take your time and understand what the test demands of you. Past CAT papers are your best friend, always keep them near and dear to you. Solve all the past year's papers that are available in the market, especially the papers from the last 3 years.
2) Once you have a fair bit of understanding of the test, go ahead and enroll yourself with a coaching institute. They will give structure to your preparation and it takes a lot of burden off of your shoulders. If you can't, then you need to do a little extra work in managing the preparation but you still can make it. I have only practiced using the materials provided by the coaching institute I was enrolled in.
3) Think of mocks as a tool and not as a resource to be exhausted. Learn from the mistakes you committed in previous mocks and try to avoid them in future mocks. Mocks will help you build a strategy of how you want to approach and time the paper in order to maximize your score.
4) Don't be overconfident about any section if you're good at it. Keep on practicing. Consistency is the key.
5) Final Suggestion - Not to demotivate you but to make you aware. Even after all this, you can still end up with an unsatisfactory performance on the D-Day for N number of reasons and it's totally fine as long as you have given your best. Take a break, analyze what went wrong, and then come back stronger. Yes, there is a luck factor involved but hey "luck favors the prepared".
According to you, how should CAT takers, especially repeaters, approach the CAT exam?
1) Analyze your previous attempt(s). Identify your weaknesses and strengths, and what went wrong.
2) Work on improving your weaknesses and becoming almost perfect in your strengths. Give sufficient time and effort to each section.
3) This is the most difficult one. Make a plan and stick to it. Start with an easy/doable plan and build your intensity gradually. I used to solve 1 RC set, 2-3 VA, 1 LR/DI set, 5-7 QA questions daily in the beginning. Consistency is the key.
4) Don’t just solve previous year papers, try to understand what this exam demands from you. Although there is no fixed syllabus for CAT, still you can judge the requirements of this exam.
5) Take regular breaks and engage in activities that help you relax.
6) Seek help from mentors or tutors if required. You don’t need to be a lone wolf.
Can CAT aspirants reach out to you if they have any doubts or if they need any guidance from you?
Yes. Future CAT aspirants can reach out to me on LinkedIn. Here's my profile.
Coming to the last question in this segment, can you please share some DON'Ts of CAT preparation?
1) Don’t run after a fixed target percentile. The entire paper is up for a grab. Try to maximize. S̵k̵y̵(198 marks) is the limit.
2) Don’t fall for “score X percentage marks, get N net correct and you will have Y %tile”. These equations can fail miserably if difficulty/pattern changes. Instead, try to maximize.
3) If you are the kind of person who works best when there is a fixed goal. Then set a goal 10-20% higher than your actual goal. This will make sure that you hit your initial target even if you underperform on the exam day.
4) Don’t try to predict the difficulty level of the exam. Assume you are going to get the most difficult CAT paper of all time and prepare accordingly.
5) Don’t appear for the exam with a fixed number of questions in mind. Instead, try to develop an understanding of how to judge the difficulty of a section and adjust targets accordingly. Try this in your mocks.
6) Don’t give excuses such as “I am from XYZ academic background, I am weak at section A so I will try to maximize section B or C”. If you are unlucky and your favorite section turns out to be the most difficult one then you lose the chance to maximize your overall score and get a good percentile. Or, if any of your weaker sections turns out to be the most difficult one then you have a risk of not even clearing sectional cutoffs of major B-schools. Instead, have a balanced approach toward all the 3 sections.
7) At the end of the day this is a relative exam, in order to succeed you need to work harder than your competition. And believe me people do work really hard so you need to be at the top of your game always.
Aditya, many congratulations on being able to finally ace CAT 2022 on your third attempt! We'd like to know the interview calls that you received.
I have calls from all the IIMs except IIM Shillong, other than that I have calls from XLRI, FMS, and IIFT. Didn't apply for SPJain, MDI and IITs.
Amazing! Please share how you prepared for the interviews.
I was enrolled with CL and IMS. I attended their knowledge session and appeared for 2 mock interviews. Majorly, I focused on my undergrad topics, work experience, current affairs, gk about my profile and the respective college.
How did your IIM Ahmedabad interview go? What according to you helped you convert the interview?
I had a very chill panel. The interview lasted for about 25 mins. Had multiple discussions of short duration like 3-4 mins. The panel was not simply asking questions but also contributing to the conversation. Which felt nice. It was around academics, hobbies, a few personality questions, current affairs, and discussion on some social issues. No questions from my work ex and standard HRQs.