Swaha worked as a Trainee Market Analyst, at Axxela Advisory, before taking up the admission offer from IIM Ahmedabad. She graduated from NIT Rourkela in 2020, with a B.Tech degree in Civil Engineering. Prior to that, she had successfully appeared for her 10th and 12th standard Board Exams; conducted by CBSE, in 2014 and 2016 respectively. In this interview, she talks about her CAT preparation journey and her advice to future aspirants.
Hi Swaha, please share your score and percentile with our readers.
Overall Score: 134.64, Overall Percentile: 99.92 | Section-wise: VARC, 47.4, 99.67; DILR, 38.78, 99.55; QA, 48.46, 99.5
How did you prepare – Self-study or Coaching? Which one do you think is better?
I studied on my own. I felt that worked for me, but it is a personal opinion. One has to look at one's capabilities and capacities before making this decision.
According to you, what is the most important aspect of preparation?
The most important aspect of preparation, according to me, is reviewing the mock tests. Reviewing a test, after you have appeared it helps you identify your mistakes. Based on this identification, a further plan can be developed. Reviewing also ensures that you remember the various questions that you find hard to solve. Thus, when you are faced with a similar question next, you would know how to go about it. This prevents one from making and repeating mistakes.
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Which section were you strong in? Since you were strong in that section, how did you focus on the other sections?
I was comparatively stronger at solving QA questions, than VARC and DILR. But I made sure that I did not neglect QA in my confidence. So I acquainted myself with every single type of question that was available to me from the resources that I followed. I kept practising daily, through mock tests and reviews, so as to not lose touch. I focused on practising for the other sections more. I gave more time to solve DILR sets and developed a steady and calm mindset to help me solve each set, so that I don't falter in the middle. I also tried to efficiently reduce the time that I took to solve each DI set by depending more on estimations rather than exact speed calculations.
I used to struggle with RC questions a bit. As an avid reader, I used to go through the section very fast, and have about 30% of free time in the end. So I decided to eliminate that, and decided to focus more on reducing the number of incorrect attempts. I took my time, went through the questions thoroughly and answered in a logical manner, without letting my judgement cloud my answers. I made sure to reason critically, while solving this section.
How much time did you devote to preparation on a regular basis?
My preparation time varied, depending on the time left for the CAT exam to take place. I usually gave 2-3 hours per day, while practising. In November, when I started appearing for mock tests daily, I devoted a steady 3 hours per day.
Which mock series did you enroll for?
I enrolled for AIMCATs (T.I.M.E.) and SIMCATs (IMS).
How many full-length mock tests and sectionals did you take?
I took all full-length AIMCATs and SIMCATs available. I, however, did not appear for any sectional test, as I believe it hampers the real-life test scenario that I attempt to create while taking the mocks.
What was your approach while taking mocks?
My approach to each mock was to stimulate the actual test day scenario, and to behave accordingly. I appeared for the mocks diligently, but I think the most important aspect was reviewing them. That helped my preparation immensely. I could remember the types of questions that usually trouble me, and I could remember how to tackle them. I would remember the types of mistakes that I was committing and I would commit to not repeating them. Practice made me ingrain these rules.
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Tell us about the lowest point in your preparation journey and how did you overcome that?
The lowest point was when I had to turn my back on my CAT 2019 performance and start anew. I had my family to motivate me, and that helped.
What according to you are the DO's and DON'Ts of CAT preparation?
i. Have a plan; what to follow, what not to follow, and reinforce it with a timeline, according to your capacity.
ii. Be disciplined; follow what you have planned, and adapt when you feel that a different course would be better.
iii. Give mock tests and review them diligently.
i. Don't try to follow all available materials and books.
ii. Don't think that your mock test marks and percentiles accurately predict your actual performance or form a pattern. They may fluctuate, depending on how you are handling the questions fielded.
iii. Do not panic; the purpose of giving multiple mock tests is to make the actual CAT test feel like yet another mock, so keep a steady head.
What resources would you suggest to 2021 aspirants?
I would suggest that aspirants stick to one book or a set of materials per subject, rather than trying to do it all, from many different sources. Stick to one source, but complete it thoroughly, make sure that you are aware of all types of possible question patterns as CAT has no set syllabus and make sure that you are satisfied with your performance. So, be it coaching material, or bestselling books; stick to one and try to grasp the concepts, problem and advice that it provides.
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Which mock series would you like to suggest to CAT 2021 aspirants? Is one mock series sufficient or do you suggest a combination of 2 different mock series?
After personally trying AIMCATs and SIMCATs, I feel that they are good for practice. They tend to provide questions that are a bit more difficult than the actual CAT level. The number of mock tests depends on the individual, as they might want to give less or more number of tests. But I would suggest that they do take up at least one mock test series, to help in their preparation.
There are many aspirants who will attempt for the second (or even third or fourth) time. What'd be your advice to them?
My advice would be to recognize and rectify the mistakes that one had made in one's previous attempt(s). Identifying the areas in which one needs improvement goes a long way to improve one's performance. This, combined with a strategy that helps you improve, can definitely help while appearing for further tests.
What would be your final advice to CAT 2021 Aspirants?
I would ask future aspirants to have faith in their abilities, play to their strengths and work on their weaknesses. It is also important to know that CAT is but a first step in the long process of obtaining an admission offer from a B-school. So working on one's holistic development would help them in this process. Give enough time to your work, coursework, hobbies and health; and don't feel burdened by the preparation.
Note From The Editor→
In this video, Swaha talks about her CAT preparation journey in details and how 99.9+%ilers approach CAT. Watch the video here!