‘DILR Section Has Been The Game Changing Section Since 2015’ – Siddharth Kella, 99.15%ile, IIM Udaipur

1.    How was your experience of CAT, since the pattern changed, the calculator was introduced?

Overall experience was quite good since I was familiar with the pattern. The pattern had been same as that of CAT 2015 with three sections and 1 hour per section. The onscreen calculator was useful for questions involving decimal calculations. However, I used it very seldom since it consumes a healthy amount of time.

2.    What made you pursue MBA, and why IIM and not any other top b-school?

After spending considerable time, working as a trainee engineer, I wished to change the domain and enter the management area. Hence, I made up my mind to pursue MBA from a top management institute. IIMs are undoubtedly the most sought-after institutes when it comes to imparting management education. Also, when it comes to factors like the peer group, the faculty, the kind of exposure, etc., IIMs stay unbeaten.

3.    What was your strong/weak section and what was your overall test-taking strategy?

VARC was weakest whereas QA was my strongest section. I had used my past mock experiences while framing the overall strategy. I went with a uniform thought that I have to maximize the score with my strong areas. I focused on accuracy rather than the number of attempts. My CAT 2015 experience helped me a lot in gauging the difficulty level of the exam and number of attempts that would suffice to surpass that magic figure of 99.

4.    What was your strategy for individual sections (Quant/Verbal/Data Interpretation/Reading Comprehension)?

Quant section – I took a rounds approach to tackle this section. Dividing entire 60 minutes into three rounds of 20 minutes gave me certain swiftness in sifting through the questions. My strategy involved identifying all easy questions in the first round, moderate questions in the second, and difficult questions towards the end.

DILR section – This has been the game-changing section since CAT 2015. I knew my strengths and picked only those sets which were in my comfort zone. I ended up solving only four sets with 100% accuracy. DILR is mostly about the selection of sets and representing the data in a simple fashion. It is not essential to run for attempts if one is equipped with decent accuracy. So, I relied on accuracy and solved simpler sets.

VARC section – This was easier since RC was a major chunk with 24 questions. Hence, I solved all RCs from the beginning and then shifted to VA for summary based questions. There were some TITA questions which I didn’t touch to save the time for RCs.

5.    What do you think you did right during test prep? Did your educational background help you during test prep? Did it help you in subsequent rounds (WAT-GD-PI)?

There are many factors which shape the preparation phase. Right sources of test preparation, proper test series, and environment, right study group, self-motivation, etc. I believe that I was privileged to have many of the above factors attached to my preparation. Considering the educational background, I do not think it helped a lot. Educational background as such didn’t provide any edge since more than 1 lakh engineers were taking the same exam. It is about the right mindset, conceptual clarity, and smart work which can help anyone in this exam. I was asked more on technical aspects in IIMs interviews. Moreover, the institutes check the overall personality of the candidate rather than the stream of the candidate. Hence, the interviews and GD solely differ from candidate to candidate rather than having any specific background.

6.    What was your test prep strategy over the few months leading to CAT? (last few days). Was it a test series inclined one or a chapter by chapter strategy?

During last three months, I adhered to following a schedule rather than going haphazardly. Whatever time was available to me, I distributed equally to all sections so that I do not lose grip on any. This is essential because sectional balance is of the utmost importance when it comes to exams like CAT.  I took 2 mock tests a week in last 3 months which makes it close to 25-30 mocks in last 3 months. I had spent a good amount of time on analysing the mistakes rather than taking more number of mocks.

In the last week, I went through my past best performances in the test series. This was essential so as to develop the proper mindset which worked in those exams.

7.    How did you manage to prepare for CAT and other exams within the same time frame?

I sat for XAT, CAT, IIFT, SNAP, and NMAT. Except in XAT, I scored 99 and above 99 in every exam. Hence, the bottom-line is that the every aptitude exam checks the candidate on almost similar types of questions with the difference in difficulty levels. It is about the right test-taking strategy to clear all such exams.

I took 3-5 mocks for every other exam I had appeared for and got accustomed to the test pattern along with the style of questions.

8.    What was your strategy for the D-Day? How did you plan your CAT test taking?

I did not have any pre-planned strategy for the D-day. I just knew that I wanted to utilize the best of my abilities and hit the scoreboard. I did not go with any calculations in my mind as to how many questions I would do. Going with a resilient mind helped me in gauging what the exam truly required.

9.    What resources did you use to refer while preparing for the essay writing? 

I did not use any resource for essay writing preparation. I took help from two-three friends in evaluating the essays so that I could improve on writing skills. I read articles from aldaily.com, aeon, the point magazine, and newspapers. Apart from that, I have the habit of reading novels which helped me to a certain extent in framing the structure of essays.

10.    How was the interview experience like? What was your preparation strategy and how did the interview turn out to be?

Interview experience was amazing because with every interview I introspected myself more and more. This is essential since self-awareness is one of the crucial factors on which the candidate is being gauged. As a part of the preparation, I prepared for work experience, academics, and extracurricular activities part. Moreover, I had been reading newspapers way before CAT so current affairs were mostly covered during that phase.

My interviews went well however some of them tested me in a different area. I fumbled in some and mastered in many but on the whole, one needs proper self-awareness to clear the interviews.

11.    Any message you would like to share with the candidates preparing for CAT 2017?

I would like to tell one thing to CAT aspirants that do not keep any anxiety of CAT. This is because it may affect your mental and physical health which ultimately can hamper your D-day performance. Take ample sleep of 10-12 hours before CAT. Do not forget that it is still the game of stamina and will remain forever.  Just don’t give up and stay fighting for every extra mark to make it to your dream institute.

12.    What is the one thing that you like most about your b-school campus? How is pursuing your MBA going to help you with your overall career goals?

The most beautiful thing about any campus is its people. Considering IIM Udaipur, the sprawling campus is located amid hills. Moreover, the climate stays very pleasant during monsoon which makes it one of the best campuses in the country. The PGP program at IIM Udaipur gives an overall transformation in terms of the exposure that it provides through its rural immersion and international immersion programs

Considering the network I would be building here, it will be a valuable asset that would be helpful to me in the years to come. Moreover, the skill development and enhancement at IIM Udaipur will shape my vision in a refined fashion towards my goals in life.