I will walk through my preparation strategy section by section – Quantitative Ability According to the general belief, non-engineers struggle with QA & DILR while they are good at VARC but in my case, it was the opposite. I was comfortable with the numbers and hence this section did not pose much of a problem. I started my preparation in the month of July and for 1.5 months just focused on brushing up on the concepts and making notes. I would also attempt practice problems from the IMS material after going through the concepts. I made a habit of revising my notes every weekend so that I don’t forget the concepts and formulas. Post this, I started giving mocks & sectionals and analyzed them religiously. I would try again the questions which I was not able to answer or answered incorrectly and then look at the solutions.
For the questions I answered correctly, I would look at the solutions to find a faster method. I used to maintain a notebook specifically for the mocks/ sectionals where I solved each & every question and marked the ones which were important. Apart from this, in case I saw a pattern that I was not able to answer questions from one specific chapter then I would go back to my notes and solve the questions specific to that chapter from the previous year mocks. During the last 15 days, my focus shifted to the basics and I used the IMS portal to listen to the basic concept videos & solve the basic exercises along with going through the bookmarked questions of the mocks & the sectionals. Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning My preparation for DILR mostly revolved around mocks/ sectionals. I started with solving questions from the IMS material, though only the ones I found most relevant. I used to have a stopwatch from the beginning and I consciously decided to leave the question if I was not able to make anything out of it.
Developing these habits from the beginning help in avoiding the mistake of sticking to one question & not moving on in the exam and helps you perform your best under time pressure. Post this, it was mostly about mocks & sectionals. I would re-attempt the questions I couldn’t attempt or wasn’t able to solve. I would also look at faster ways to solve the question. One important rule I followed was that I would revisit the questions I did wrong or couldn’t attempt every week and would try to solve them without looking at the solution and under a time limit. If I wasn’t able to solve them again, then I would look at the solution and then again revisit the question in the subsequent week. Apart from this, I would try to maintain consistency in DILR. Mocks are a great source because you develop the ability to choose the right sets while practicing. During the final stage, I used the previous year's papers as sectionals. Actual CAT PYQs are a great source and must be solved, preferably as sectionals.
Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension This was my weakest section and the one in which I struggled the most. I started with understanding how to read a reading comprehension; this is an art in itself! I also went through the different types of questions asked and where to look for the solution in a passage. For example, in a question asking for interpretation, you look at the statement and read two lines above and the two below, etc. Post this, I decided to go slow with it as initially I used to solve RCs without a timer and the focus was accuracy, slowly I started putting a timer and eventually reduced the time taken to solve the RC while maintaining a certain level of accuracy. The trick is to match the reason for choosing/ eliminating a particular option with the one suggested in the solutions.
This reminds me of using the technique of elimination to the most. I tried to maintain consistency in solving the RCs. I paid attention to the other part called Verbal Ability and after brushing up on the concepts/ techniques/ tricks of solving parajumbles/ para-summaries, I solved them regularly in the mocks & sectionals. In my case, practicing worked more than reading, I focused more on practicing than reading which is what most people suggest. In November, I solved 1 sectional every day specifically for this section. I also enrolled into Bodhee Prep (for VARC) which turned out to be one of the best decisions.
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According to you, what is the most important aspect of preparation?
The most important aspect of the preparation is definitely the mocks. And it does not end there, the analysis is the most crucial part. Mocks are important because: 1. If you take up decent mocks then they can be a source of good-quality questions. The type of questions in the mocks is quite similar to the ones asked. 2. You develop the ability to perform your best under time pressure. 3. You can experiment with different strategies and finalize the one which maximizes your score. 4. You can track your preparation and look for strengths & weaknesses. Note - Don't stress too much on the mock percentiles as they are based on a very small sample as compared to the actual number of students who attempt CAT. I used to track my scores and not percentiles.
Which mock series did you enrol for?
I enrolled in the IMS (The Best) and TIME (Didn't use much, but good).
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How many mock tests did you take, and how did they help you prepare for the actual test?
I took around 30 mocks and many sectionals (I don't have a number). The number of mocks is not as important as the amount of time you spend analyzing it thoroughly. Most of my preparation was around mocks & sectionals only, so they were the most important resource I have used.
Which section was your Achilles heel? How did you overcome that?
As already stated, VARC. I had to write CAT again only because of this section. I went from a mere 55 percentile in this section last year to a 97.84 percentile this year.
I believe the reason I was able to bring this change is because I shifted my focus. Last year my focus was on reading articles, as many suggest in their strategy but this time my focus was practice and I gave a lot of sectionals. Also, last year I focused a lot on RC section completely ignoring VA which is a huge mistake. Both should be given equal importance. I also joined Bodhee Prep for this section where the video lectures and the course structure was great. The best part was the regular guidance I received from sir, he was just a text away.
What was your lowest point in your preparation journey?
There was not one but many. Lots of times when I couldn't score well in mocks or when I was haunted by the possibility of not performing well on the actual day etc. Being an overthinker added to the misery as I have spent hours cribbing about my profile, mock scores, and a lot more. My advice to another aspirant would be to find a friend, one who is patient enough to listen to you and can relate to you!
Also Read→ From 20%ile In Mocks A Month Before CAT To 99.93%ile In CAT 2020 | Kaivalya Shah, IIM Ahmedabad '23
Ishika, many congratulations on being able to finally ace CAT 2022 on your second attempt! We'd like to know the interview calls that you received.
My calls were IIM A, C, L, K, I, S, CAP, MDI, FMS, IMT, IIFT, and NMIMS Mumbai
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How did you prepare for the interviews?
I divided my preparation into three parts:
2. Current Affairs
3. HR Questions/ Hobbies
I prepared for the three parts as I used youtube videos to brush up the academics & made notes. I prepared 3 of my graduation subjects in-depth and the rest were touched upon too. For HR Questions, I sat down and formed my answers which were true, nicely written & in sync. For current affairs, I made my notes from the internet, youtube & UPSC current affairs magazines are great resources.
The most important part of the PI preparation is the mock interviews. I gave a couple of them. I owe a lot to my mentor at IMS who not only explained to be what this stage is all about but also offered me great feedback post the mock PIs.
Can you describe your institute interview experience?
I can safely say that the interviews are weird. They can touch upon anything and everything but what one should always carry is their confidence. They will laugh at you, shout at you, or may even make you feel unworthy but all to sway your confidence. My Calcutta interview was not a cake-walk, there were hills & valleys but what worked for me is probably the confidence and the smile I carried through the valleys. At one point, I was laughed at, but I joined them and it turned out to be great. They are just trying to remove that plaster off you and see the real you. In fact, in my FMS interview which was a rapid-fire round, I was countered on my reason to do an MBA but I confidently stood at my point and respectfully disagreed with them.