Though Radhika Mohta had registered for the CAT exam in 2019, she didn’t even make it to the exam centre. Only to have admits from FMS, IIM A, IIM B, IIM C, IIM L, IIM K, and IIM I in 2022. With a 95+ in both 10th and 12th, she knew that someday MBA would be the path she would likely opt for, just the timing was uncertain. And she considers herself blessed to have had the luxury of working from home for the past year. Without the constant support of parents, family, and friends, the Red building of dreams would never have become a reality. Read our interview with Radhika, where she shares her CAT preparation strategy and her advice for future CAT takers!
Q) Please Share Your Score And Percentile With Our Readers.
Overall score 111.05 Overall percentile 99.65 VARC 46.68 (99.20) DILR 38.31 (99.75) QA 26.06 (96.41)
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Q) Shed light on why and how did you decide to take the exam in 2021?
In 2019, when I joined my first organization straight out of college, I was overwhelmed. It was a pure software development role, and I used to be surrounded by some of the most intelligent brains working on tech stacks which I might have heard for the first time. There was immense learning and I enjoyed the work. I would have likely continued with this career path had it not been for the pandemic in 2020. That slowed down the pace of work for me and gave me time to think about what I wanted to do 10 years down the line. And while I used to actively code on Leetcode and attend hackathons on technologies, I still wanted to be a manager at my heart.
And that’s how in 2021, just one fine day in April, I decided to go all-in for CAT 2021. -While deciding to appear for the exams, who did you take guidance from? If I talk about my family, it has one IITian (my brother) and two IIFTians (my sister and the one she met in IIFT). When I was unsure about whether or not should I appear for CAT, all they told me was, do not run after results, appear for it and see for yourself how do you fare. At least you would never have the regret of not even trying. And what if it does not work out? Then you have a job already. Nothing to lose, right?
Q) How did you prepare? self-study, self-paced courses, or coaching?
It was self-preparation to say so.
But nothing is possible without guidance. So, I had this study group called CAT 2021 with random people with pseudo names initially. I remember naming myself Missy Cooper (from Big Bang Theory who has an intelligent brother called Sheldon). The group had a variety of people, first-time and 2nd and 3rd-time test takers. And it was the perfect sort of peer learning that used to happen, doubts from one and solutions from others, strategy sharing, tips and tricks, things not to do, and traps to avoid, everyone had something to contribute to the discussion.
Q)While preparing, what were some regular hurdles in the way and how did you overcome them?
I would not say a hurdle, but time was not something I had in plenty. I had to strike a balance between my work front and study front.
To overcome this, I made a timetable, and never stuck to it. I now feel things like timetables do not work at all. Every day is different and that is how we should treat them. Make goals of staying true to your preparation, and turning up for it no matter how difficult a day it has been. The bare minimum I would do every day was the first two hours in the morning before starting work and the last two before I would sleep.
Q)What is the most important aspect of preparing?
Consistency is the key. And I have lived by it. You can study more or less but do not skip a day. There were days when I had been very busy and couldn’t study but I made up for it during the night. There were days I slept at 6 am and woke up at 9 am for the office again. If I traveled or was out, then I was reading something from Psyche or Aeon or watching a Youtube video that taught a concept for QA.
Q)Talk about your personal struggles, if any.
On a personal level, being an overthinker, I went through a lot of ups and downs analyzing mocks cores and whether or not to give CAT. Also given the fact I am quite a social person, I could not keep in touch with my people during this phase was something that was difficult for me.
Q) Tell us about your D-Day experience and how you felt about your months of preparation after the exam?
I got the morning slot and a far-from-home center. The night before I was attending a last-minute live revision session. And it was freaking me out because every now and then something would crop up for which I did not know the formula. I told this to a friend. He made me turn off the video and sleep early for the next day. D-Day was a calm one, I was actually not thinking about anything. I went on a scooter to the center, so there were no last-minute revisions or even chit-chatting. I just thought, “If it’s meant to be, it will be”. I’m done with whatever preparation I could possibly be doing. Now is the time to just repeat the mock exercise like every day, this time for real.
Q) Today when you look back at your journey, Is there anything you would do differently or advise the upcoming aspirants against it?
I would not do a single thing differently actually. Every single thing that I did wrong taught me a great deal. For upcoming aspirants, I have a single line of advice, Stay low move fast kill first die last one shot one kill no luck pure skill. Know that each question fetches you equal marks, choose wisely. Know that it’s not just a knowledge test, but a test of your management skills. Know that every minute is important, and the sooner you start, the better off you are.
Q) What was your lowest point during the preparation journey?
Low mock scores can break anyone. I myself am an example of this. So VARC was the section that used to be my strength when it was an hour-long section. That same section backfired when it was a 40-minute-long section. There was one particular mock in which I scored negative in VARC. I did not want to give CAT anymore. And I did not give a mock for about a month post that. Every day I would read articles to up my speed. And keep practicing logical sets and my quants. But I could not bring myself to give a mock.
Q) Please Share Your Month-Wise Preparation Insights For Upcoming Aspirants.
I began my preparation in April. I was justifying this to myself with something Google results were throwing at me for April, “A balanced equilibrium. It's a time of growth and moving forward in new and positive ways. With psychic energy in abundance...” Basically, I bought my mocks that month, and only then could my preparation begin. -What did you do in your initial months of preparation? January to April, I was traveling to get myself a break. And that was the exact time when I used to read a lot of blogs. Be it InsideIIM, 2IIM, HandaKaFunda, PagalGuy, TheCatWriter, 100PercentileClub, or NonEngineer, I had gone through a lot of stuff over the internet. I wanted to understand what does CAT test is, the best resource could be PYP (previous year papers). I used to sit with a timer on and solve them. Testing the waters in the true sense, just to understand what it requires, and where I stand.
Q)Do you think you needed more time to prepare?
Haha! You can give one an eternity to prepare, but that does not ensure a 100 percentile. Or it can be as less as a month, but you could get a decent enough percentile to crack into the top B schools. For me, I guess the preparation had to be managed with my job, and by end of October, I wanted to appear for CAT and go back to my normal life doing things that I haven’t done for long.
Q) Which month was most crucial for you during the preparation season. Please elaborate.
Definitely September. That is the month when most of them would give up. When the mock scores still remain low and that comparison and peer pressure makes you feel that you can’t make it. And that was when I had some hand-holding which let me get back on track. You do need to surround yourself with people who would pick you up and dust you off and put you back in the saddle.
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Q) Please Talk About The Role Of Mock Tests While Preparing.
Simcats and Cracku were the ones I had taken. But again, in your study circle, stress the importance of mocks from various sources. So, in a way, we discussed questions from all of Simcats and Aimcats and the cl ones and Cracku ones because each one of them has a USP and each one has a drawback. There is no point in being scared of excessively tough VARC or doing QA that one would encounter only in an exam like JEE. So, while one mock might claim one of the sections is exactly like CAT, it is better to have a good knowledge of all of them. And if your peer group has a healthy doubts discussion forum, trust me you are in good company.
How many Mock Tests did you take? For mock tests, the numbers do not mean anything unless you do not analyze them well. So, while I took close to 40-45 of them, the single most important thing was analysis.
Q) Do you think taking sectionals are necessary? How many did you take?
Sectionals are not necessary but I feel they kept me on the go always. I could not sit with an entire 2-hour mock plus the analysis part on weekdays. Sectionals were a savior because you can give them whenever you find a little time off. I took them a lot more than full-fledged mocks. About 25-30 for each of them. Also, the good thing is, that many institutes offer say about 5-6 of them. You can take them from a number of sources and it makes you face a lot of variety. Cracku, Hitbullseye, Anastasis, 2IIM, Iquanta, Catway, I took them from wherever I could and it helped me out immensely.
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Q) If You Wish, You Can Talk About Any Section In Particular?
VARC was the section that had to be my strongest because my dream B school FMS pays 40% weightage to VARC and 30% each to DILR and QA. So from day 1, the one area which had to be perfect in my preparation was VARC. VARC was my Strongest section which turned weakest and went back to being the strongest again. I used to be an avid reader of books and felt pretty confident about my VARC. But the truth hit me hard when I realized reading books and acing VARC are not the same things.
Q) Did you stick to this one strategy throughout or changed it during preparation?
VARC strategy was the most difficult one to sort out. I used to discuss with two of my closest friends how they went about this section. One went all out answering each and every question and maintaining accuracy of 95%. But I did not have that kind of accuracy with my answers. The other banked on leaving out 1 passage. Again, that was not an option because it cuts down on the attempts. The last one I stuck with was that I’ll go with all the RCs and leave out the questions I’m unsure of. That used to save me from the trap of falling for difficult questions and I did not have the fear of not seeing the easy ones.
Recommended Reading For You: I Couldn’t Believe My Eyes When I Saw A 100%ile Against The VARC Section, Ft. Aditya Doiphode, CAT’21 VARC 100%iler
Q) Is There Anything Else That You'd Like To Add?
“CAT is not the destination. The destination is not even the B School. So, you making it to FMS or ABC or LKI or for that matter any b school, is a defining moment, but what you do in the B school, is what will define you.” Haha. And that’s how random quotes on the internet inspire us and we keep on the grind. Do not let just anything influence your views. Before you start the prep, do ask yourself, Why MBA? Answering this can help you sort out your priorities and make wise choices instead of you doing what anyone would have done in your place. But yeah, parting thoughts, do not focus on destinations, the journey is life, and make it memorable. Because, “Safar, khoobsoorat hai manzil se bhi”