Rajat Srivastava, joined IIM Calcutta this year. He graduated in 2017 from IIT Kharagpur after completing integrated Masters. He worked for ONGC for 27 months as a field officer, had 90.2% in Xth, 84.8% in XIIth, and a CGPA of 8.23 during his UG. He is also a CFA L2 candidate and was successful to score 184.52 in CAT with 99.78%ile ( VARC, 62.51, 98.69 | LRDI, 43.88, 97.14 | QA, 78.13, 99.85). Here is how Rajat’s journey to crack 99.78%ile looked like.
How much did your score in your previous attempt(s)?
2018 - 154.86, 98.99 | VARC, 69.56, 97.89 | LRDI, 42.04, 98.23 | QA, 43.27, 97.01
There are many aspirants who will attempt for the second (or even third or fourth) time. What'd be your advice to them?
For candidates reattempting CAT - "If your cat score is above 97%ile that means that you are comfortable with at least two sections, I would suggest hitting the weakest topic and prep it hard, and give lots of mocks around 35 and analyze each one of them well. CAT is a game of strategy so you just need to keep your motivation high and work your way through mocks."
How did you prepare – Self-study or Coaching? Which one do you think is better?
I did self-study - did not enroll for any online or offline coaching. I had TIME packages which I solved and I purchased mocks and sectionals series from three coaching institutes. To the next part I would say coaching for CAT is not required at all, the things asked in the exam can be easily prepared on your own. Self-study allows you to pace your studies and give your preparation control. Having said that different strategies and things work for different candidates.
According to you, what is the most important aspect of preparation?
The most important part of CAT preparation is to understand the exam itself, understand where you lie, and be clear of your goals. CAT is a game of strategy and unlike IIT JEE it’s not that hard. The more you understand the paper the better are your chances of scoring good percentiles. Having said that you want to where you stand like if you are already scoring north of 97%, means prepare your weak topics and give as many mocks as possible if you’re below 95%, then you need to get back to the basics. Apart from that,+ you need to understand your goals like if you are a candidate aspiring to be at IIM C then getting content with 97 percentile in mocks is not enough. Having said all that, CAT preparation usually takes place over an extended period of time, and keeping your motivation and fire in your belly is really important.
Which mock series did you enroll for?
TIME, IMS, Career Launcher
How many full-length mock tests did you take?
How many sectional mock tests did you take?
VARC - 20, LRDI - 20, QA - 20
What was your approach while taking mocks?
While taking mocks I experimented with quite a few different strategies and used the earlier mocks in the months of August and September for this. Once I was comfortable I used the month of October to fine-tune it and the month of November to perfect it. For example- VARC - I used to solve the Odd sentence and summary questions first then go for RC and hit the para jumbles in the end as it was my weak topic. For RC I used to very quickly skim through the passage once and read the questions and come back to the passage for answers.
How do you think the mock tests helped you in your preparation?
I started my preparation for CAT 2019 in the month of August. Having already scored decent enough in CAT 2018, I jumped straight into mocks and sectionals. For CAT 2019 I actually gave only mocks and analyzed them thoroughly. I fine-tuned my strategy quite well. I used to bookmark questions for later revision and used to be very critical about my attempts. I used to maintain an excel sheet with lots of heads like correctly attempted, should not have attempted, silly mistakes, etc.
Which section were you strong in? Since you were strong in that section, how did you focus on the other sections?
I was actually good at the Quants section. During my preparation, I never favored any section that gave adequate time to all of them. I will know my calls would depend upon my final scaled scores so I just had to make sure that I do decent in my weak section, good in my average section, and excellent in my strongest section
Which section was your Achilles heel? How did you overcome that?
Definitely LRDI. Since school days I was not good at maintaining data drawing tables and overall writing stuff. LRDI required all these things, I was super slow when it came to solving sets and 4 months of preparation was not enough to overcome my shortcomings in the section. So I decided to set my target to 4 sets and gave at least 10 minutes at the start of the section just reading all the sets and ranking them according to the ease of solving. I quickly saw that I was doing ok in mocks which were enough for me.
How much time did you devote to preparation on a regular basis?
Since September I was giving at least 2 mocks and 4 sectionals in a week. I always had this rule that your analysis should never be less than the duration of the exam. So all in all I was giving around 22 hours a week for the preparation. Time management was a major issue for me because of the nature of my work. I was working as a field officer so my timings of work would be very random, sometimes I would go for a shift at 3 am, sometimes at 12 pm and sometimes in the evening, shifts usually lasted for 12 hours. So working on a routine was totally impossible, I finally decided to study whenever I used to get time. I used to write mocks at 12 am 4 am sometimes at 5 pm whenever I used to get time.
Tell us about the lowest point in your preparation journey and how did you overcome that?
My CAT preparation was quite a smooth ride. My mocks marks rose well throughout my preparation. At the start getting 99.5+ seemed a daunting task to me but with preparation, I became pretty confident that I will get at least one call from BLACKI FMS XL.
Do you believe that an engineer gets an added advantage in the management entrance exams?
Well for me engineers do not get any advantage over the counterparts. People say the QA section comes naturally to engineers well it might be true to some extent but the QA sections are of low difficulty and its just tenth standard maths. Even if the engineers are at an advantage to non-engineers, their advantage in the QA sections is easily offset by the VARC section.
What resources would you suggest to 2020 aspirants?
VARC - just start reading, read Economic times or Hindu, and complete a novel every 15 days. This will help in the longer run. Besides that previous year CAT paper RC questions is a must, you can also try the TIME RC material/ package.
LRDI - If you are a beginner start with Arun Sharma LRDI book, then to previous year CAT papers, and then to mocks. Mocks LRDI sets are the best resource for LRDI.
QA - Start with TIME material, read the theory, and solve as many questions as you can, sectionals, and then mocks.
MOCKS - TIME IMS CL ( buy all of them if you time )
Online question portal - CL or IMS
Offline Material - TIME
Sectionals - TIME IMS CL
What according to you are the DOs and DON'Ts of CAT preparation?
- Give as many mocks as possible and start as early as possible.
- Give at least an hour for analyzing a section. Analysis of mocks is very important.
- Make an excel sheet tracking your progress.
- Get a hobby, for me, I used to play guitar and football on weekends.
- Read great writers.
- Once your slot is out try giving mocks in that time window.
- Get a group of candidates who are doing better than you and discuss mocks etc with them - PagalGuy is the place where you go for that.
- Do not collect lots of material. Material from one institute is enough.
- In Quant do not leave any topic.
- Do not micromanage your schedule, it will frustrate you.
Which mock series would you like to suggest to CAT 2020 aspirants? Is one mock series sufficient or do you suggest a combination of 2 different mock series?
For mocks my suggestion would be TIME> IMS> CL. I would always suggest buying at least two of them and if you have time to go for all of them. The reason I am suggesting the above three is that these mocks are taken by lots of students and you will get a fair idea where you stand.
What would be your final advice to CAT 2020 Aspirants?
In the end, I would say CAT is just an exam and if you are true to your preparation you will nail it. If you are sincere and come back to your study table every day no one can stop you. In down times always try to remember why you started the preparation for CAT in the first place. Get some posters of your dream college, this will motivate you a lot.