Recently we spoke to Sanajana Rout, who scored 99.75%ile in CAT 2019 and will be joining IIM Calcutta this year. During the conversation, Sanjana has detailed out her exam preparation strategy, how she made time for her preparation, her advice to CAT 2020 aspirants and how an online CAT class had a massive impact on her attitude throughout her entire preparation journey. Read on!
Team InsideIIM: Hi Sanjana, Congratulations on scoring 99.75%ile in CAT 2019 and on making it to IIM Calcutta! Please share your academic background, overall score and sectional scores with our readers.
Xth: 97.83% (ICSE) | XIIth: 94.8% (CBSE, Science) | Graduation: B.A. in Economics, Political Science and Sociology 9.1 CGPA (first 5 semesters)
Overall Score: 181.99, Overall Percentile: 99.75%ile
Sectional Score and Percentile -
VARC: - Score: 64.52, Percentile: 98.97%ile
DILR: - Score: 51.63, Percentile: 98.91%ile
QA: - Score 65.84, Percentile 99.33%ile
Sanjana's CAT Preparation Journey!
TI: You had opted for online CAT classes. What made you join Elites Grid? In hindsight, do you think the decision has paid off?
S: I had joined offline coaching some months before joining ElitesGrid and it did not really help me at all. The classes were limited, covered limited topics and I could never feel motivated enough to actually engage in any self-study. All of this changed when I joined EG, at the recommendation of my brother who was a former student himself. At EG, the same topics which I'd earlier learnt at my offline coaching were covered in much more detail, starting right from the very basics and covering all and any prospective questions. Not just that, we were also often required to solve assignments on our own which were subsequently discussed in class to clear our doubts and this is something which helped me practice solving questions and maintaining a strict schedule. The faculty members were very knowledgeable sure, but they were also very approachable and encouraging, and they had a massive impact on my attitude throughout my entire preparation journey.
TI: According to you, what is the most important aspect of preparation?
S: Practice, revision and not giving up. These are the most important aspects of preparation I feel. Without continuous practice it's not really possible to keep in touch with all the vast concepts we're required to be good at. Revising frequently helps to register everything properly so that we don't forget important concepts on the day of the exam. Not giving up and continuously striving to put forth our best efforts matters a lot, because we often come across hurdles which may seem insurmountable but in reality, we're the only ones stopping ourselves from achieving our goals.
TI: What was your approach while taking mock tests?
S: I always tried to take the mock tests in a serious manner, like I would appear for the actual CAT. During the few initial mocks, I tried to change my strategy in every mock, experimenting until I found the right match which suited me well. Thereafter, I continued taking mocks in that manner which worked the best for me, with no more major changes. After taking any mock, I made sure to set aside adequate time to analyse the mock thoroughly. This included going through every question again, trying to solve it myself again before checking the solution provided by the coaching centre. I also noted down any new methods, concepts or formulae that I came across in mocks, along with new questions I felt I need to revise again.
TI: How do you think the mock tests helped you in your preparation?
S: Mock tests have certainly been one of the major helpers in my preparation. CAT isn't just an exam which tests how much we know; it also tests how well we are able to apply the things we know and not let the things we don't know defeat us. Taking mock tests allowed me to get an idea of how the actual CAT is going to be. I learnt how to tackle various questions, which ones to skip, which ones to mark for review and how to solve accurately in the least possible times. These skills are very important for CAT and without taking mocks it would be difficult to get an accurate idea about the exact exam scenario.
TI: Which mock series did you enrol for? And, how many mock tests did you take?
S: I had enrolled for the mock test series provided by TIME and IMS (AIMCAT and SIMCAT). I took 24 full-length mock tests and around 25 sectional mock tests (QA: 10, VARC: 10, DILR: 4-5)
TI: Which section were you strong in? Since you were strong in that section, how did you focus on the other sections?
S: I was strong in VARC from the beginning, so my strategy from the start was to focus more on the other two sections, especially working on QA because it had been a while since I worked with numbers and I was often committing avoidable errors. I made sure to devote most of my time practising and revising the important concepts of QA so as to not let it become a disadvantage for me in the final exam.
TI: Which section was your Achilles heel? How did you overcome that?
S: QA was my Achilles heel, not because I couldn't get the concepts right, but because I was prone to commit errors which could easily be avoided. I had trouble solving accurately in a time-constrained environment, and I also sometimes forgot important formulae. Due to this I focused most of my time trying to overcome this weakness, revising regularly and going through the errors I committed in mocks so that I could avoid them in the future. It was a rather slow process of improving, but finally, I was able to perform well on the D-day and ended up scoring 99.33%ile in QA.
TI: How much time did you devote to preparation on a regular basis?
S: Since I was a full-time college student, it was often difficult trying to strike a balance between college and CAT preparation. I used to have classes in college from 9:00-4:00 every day, which combined with a strict attendance policy and frequent assignments made it difficult to focus all my free time on CAT preparation. This is why I could never have a fixed schedule or time set out for CAT preparation--I tried my best to utilise any time I got for CAT prep, at least an hour every day, other than the time I spent attending live online classes. It was especially hard when I had exams in college--my end semester exams were incidentally just a month before CAT. I, however, made sure to prioritise CAT and attended live classes regularly even if I couldn't practise much on my own.
TI: Tell us about the lowest point in your preparation journey and how did you overcome that?
S: My lowest point in preparation came when I scored 82 %ile in a mock test--the first time my percentile had slipped below 90. It felt like the end of the road for me, I was ready to give up because it felt like CAT wasn't my cup of tea. I thought if I couldn't even score 90 in a mock test, how could I dream of scoring 99.5+ in the actual CAT? I didn't study anything for a couple of days, refusing to attend classes also because it felt pointless. At this juncture, I remember calling up my brother and breaking down, telling him how I can no longer go on. He is the one who instilled confidence in me again, telling me and reassuring me how one mock test does not mean anything and that mocks are designed just for us to learn from our mistakes. I think that one phone call really struck a chord somewhere inside me and after that, I started back on my journey, and I'll be eternally grateful to him for believing in me even when I myself didn't.
Sanjana's Advice To CAT 2020 Aspirants!
TI: Which resources would you suggest to 2020 aspirants?
S: I didn't really solve any mainstream resources. I stuck to the resources which were provided by Elites Grid, apart from taking mock tests.
TI: What according to you are the DO's and DON'Ts of CAT preparation?
DO's: Practise a lot. Focus more on weak areas. Learn from mistakes. Have a positive attitude to learn and try your best.
DON'Ts: Do not compare yourself to other students or blindly follow anyone else's strategy. What might have worked for someone else might not necessarily work out for you. I'd also suggest to stick to self-study instead of studying in groups as it often leads to unnecessary discussions or might bring down your morale. Everyone has their own different strengths, try your best to mobilise yours instead of feeling disheartened by others' progress.
TI: Which mock series would you like to suggest to MBA 2021-23 aspirants? Is one mock series sufficient or do you suggest a combination of 2 different mock series?
S: I had taken a combination of TIME and IMS mock series and I'd suggest the same to other MBA aspirants as well.
TI: What would be your final advice to CAT 2020 Aspirants?
S: Always keep in sight the end goal which you're preparing for and never discount yourself as not good enough. There's nothing that you cannot attain with hard work. Try to maintain a positive attitude all throughout this journey and give it your best shot. Something that Hunny Sir always used to say: "On the day of the exam, after getting out of the exam hall, you should be able to tell yourself that you performed your level best. If you cannot say that, there has been some shortcoming in your preparation." That said, make sure not to lose your mental peace and do not be too hard on yourself. At the end of the day, this is just an exam and failing it won't be the end of your life. There's always a next chance, or something else better in store for you. Good luck! :)
Thank you for your time, Sanjana! We wish you all the very best!
You May Also Be Interested In Reading: