My name is Subham Bhowmick, a graduate in Civil Engineering from IIT Roorkee, 2012 batch. I’ve had 46 months of work ex in the construction sector, and decided to pursue an MBA to progress to a managerial/decision-making role, from a technical/executive role. 2015 was my 1st attempt at CAT, and I scored 99.46 percentile. Henceforth, I took admission in the PGDIM course at NITIE, Mumbai.
How was your experience of CAT, since the pattern changed, and the calculator was introduced?
The pattern change eased some concerns related to time-mismanagement, though it also meant an increased focus on speed for the QA/DI/LR sections, as well as ample preparation for the VA-RC section.
The calculator did certainly help in some heavy calculations in the DI sections, though I believe it wouldn’t be wise to rely on using the calculator too much. Up to a certain extent, calculating mentally and guesstimating are faster and less cumbersome than using the on-screen calculator.
What made you pursue MBA, and why IIM and not any other top B-School?
My job profiles till date had been limited to execution and site-level planning roles. I wanted to progress to more decision-making roles and learn the tools and concepts of developing and sustaining a business/enterprise. Hence I decided that an MBA would suit my inclinations the best.
When did you start preparing for CAT? What was your overall preparation strategy for CAT 2015? And did you change your preparation strategy after the announcement of the pattern change or you followed the same routine?
I started preparing from around March. My basic strategy/aim was to complete the syllabus by September/early October, and thereafter concentrate solely on giving Mock tests, identifying and improving on weak areas, and improve speed and accuracy. Since my work-ex was already on the higher side, the urgency to succeed at this attempt was an added impetus to my motivations, and I made sure to stick to the decided timeline.
The announcement of the new pattern didn’t change too many parameters, except making the speed and accuracy the differentiating factor in the QA/DI sections. We had to ensure maximum correct attempts, within the specified time frames, so for those of us who were banking on strong QA/DI performances, we had to be a little faster and more careful.
What was your strong/weak section and what was your overall test taking strategy?
Strong sections – Quant and LR. DI and VA/RC were a little troublesome for me earlier on, which I slowly improved with time.
My most important test-taking strategy was to not get bogged down with any particular question and to be able to let go and move to the next question, in case I got stuck. It was very important to be able to attempt as many questions as possible, and not miss out on easier questions at the end, in case they occurred.
What was your strategy for individual sections (Quant/Verbal/Data Interpretation/Reading Comprehension)?
VA- As it was a comparatively inconsistent and weaker section for me, I focused a lot on solving RC’s , with imposed time-limits, in order to improve. I also had to give ample time to solving para-jumbles and sentence ordering. Since VA-C was going to be the 1st section in the paper, I wanted to get the maximum marks from this section as possible.
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)?
My engineering background did certainly help me with the Quant, DI sections. Plus a longstanding habit of reading newspapers and occasional novels certainly helped with the VA-RC sections, where active-reading speed comes into play.
Newspaper reading also plays a significant part during GD-PI rounds, where current knowledge is checked and needed. So it’s a good habit to inculcate now, if not done already.
What was your test prep strategy over the few months leading to CAT? (Last 3 months, last month, last 15 days). Was it a test series inclined one or a chapter by chapter strategy?
Test series inclined, with the focus on weak performance areas.
How did you manage to prepare for CAT and other exams within the same time frame?
Since the core syllabus doesn’t vary much, it wasn’t much of a problem. The main difference between CAT and other exams is the presence of GK sections, so appropriate preparations need to be taken. That apart, I decided on which aspects syllabi differed for the tests that I had registered for, and prepared accordingly.
What was your strategy for the D-Day? How did you plan your CAT test taking?
Reaching the venue 15-20 minutes early, taking into account prevailing traffic conditions during the time of arrival. Keeping a cool head, and remember my test strategies, the primary of which was not to get bogged down with any particular questions. My slot was during the afternoon, so I had been timing my mock tests over the last month during the same time slot, as far as possible. It helped my body and mind to adjust and sustain maximum effort during that time period of the day.
How was the interview experience like? What was your preparation strategy and how did the interview turn out to be?
I had enrolled for CAT preparation with TIME, and our director ensured mock interviews and GDs during the month of December and January. So I was pretty well prepared with basic HR and job-related questions and brushed up with any areas lacking. However, due to the long academic break, I had to go through some core topics/subjects of my stream once again, and that took time.
The Interview Process was mostly similar, with basic HR questions like “Tell me about yourself, why MBA” etc. Due to my higher work ex, I was generally peppered with questions regarding my industry and job profile, which comprised a lion’s share of my interviews. I was also tested on my knowledge of current developments in my industry.
Any message you would like to share with the candidates preparing for CAT 2016.
Since CAT is only just a day away, it’s important not to stress out at this juncture, and take it easy. Go through some relevant formulae, which you feel important. Get plenty of sleep and rest, as you’ll need to be in top shape the next day. Good luck !!