How did you prepare – Self-study or Coaching? Which one do you think is better?
I did self-study. I did not take any online/offline coaching at all. It was just TIME's mock test series and an Arun Sharma Quants PDF. As I did not work, I opted not to spend a lot of money on coaching classes. I took some mock tests of previous papers and decided that I didn't need coaching classes especially as the coaching centers around here were not worth the money.
According to you, what is the most important aspect of preparation?
The single most important thing you could do during your CAT preps is Taking Mocks & analyzing them. If you could do only one thing, then it's this. Taking mocks and analyzing it thoroughly - where you went right, wrong, why you picked that option, why you didn't, you have to understand the reasoning behind your choices and regularly adapt so as to maximize your score. Perseverance and self-motivation got to be the most important mental skills you need to have. Never lose hope, always keep your guns blazing and there should be consistency in devoting your time for the preparation and you should not slack off. Books and online videos can complement your preparation really well. But don't go for too much content and burn out. Keep it simple, keep it compact. Understand the fundamentals well and study only what you need. Further, solving puzzles and sudokus, meditation, and practicing under pressure can help you a lot.
Which mock series did you enroll for?
How many full-length mock tests did you take?
How many sectional mock tests did you take?
VARC - 5 DILR - 5 QA - 5
What was your approach while taking mocks?
I experimented with different approaches across a cluster and average them out so as to avoid outliers. Zeroed in on what worked best for me. In my VARC, I tried different strategies - RC then VA, VA then RC, etc and I finally found what worked best for me and this can differ for different people so it depends on the person. I figured out that my concentration levels were low at the beginning. So I'd do random calculations in my head before the test to rev the brain up and order the RCs according to my level of comfort after skimming through the first paragraphs of each and then go for 2-3 VAs (para conclusion mostly) and then come back to the RCs, skim through the questions of the set at first and then I'd read the set and try to answer those questions. After RC, I'd go for the remaining VAs for which I would give at least 5mins as this strategy was seen to get me top marks. For DILR, I finalized my strategy to solve questions rather than complete sets. And this method has given me a major boost as this was the section I usually fare poorly. For QA, it was always the round approach. Read it, think I could solve in 2 mins, do it else come back later. Also, I'd divide the 34 questions into 4 clusters and would skip a cluster if I spent more than 15mins on it. QA actually used to be my better section, but maybe the mind got overworked due to the high-level VARC that took a toll and also I believe I was short of 5-10 full-length mocks which would have helped better my mental stamina.
How do you think the mock tests helped you in your preparation?
It's the single most important thing in my opinion. The video explanations I got with the mocks were basically my coaching classes I would say. It helped me understand what works best for me and thus form an effective personal strategy, built up my mental stamina, and eased the pressure on the D-Day.
Which section were you strong in? Since you were strong in that section, how did you focus on the other sections?
VARC was my strongest. I used to read football articles and watch English movies a lot. Comprehension was kind of natural for me. I did read editorial sections every day, which also helped me with my general knowledge. DILR I knew there are gonna be new sets, which are usually easier than the established sets. So I focused on improving my mental ability a lot by playing Sudokus and Brain games on PlayStore which were actually really fun and felt like taking rest in between the preparations. QA I first worked on the fundamentals getting my basics right and extensively solved Arun Sharma's book, made notes on important formulas, and practiced and devoted around 60-70% of my total preparation time to this section alone.
Which section was your Achilles heel? How did you overcome that?
DILR was my Achilles heel. I extensively solved puzzles, sudokus, played 'Brain Wars' on phone, and changed my false approach of solving sets to one of solving questions, which really boosted my scores.
How much time did you devote to preparation on a regular basis?
4 months, around 8hrs of studying per day. Time was not an issue as I took a gap year and was preparing at home. I only studied when I was in the mood and never forced myself when I was not. That is an important thing, you have to enjoy it, the efficiency improves a lot. I do help with the households and was learning a language in parallel while also finding a decent time for socializing, which keeps you mentally healthy which I think is very important.
Tell us about the lowest point in your preparation journey and how did you overcome that?
3 weeks before CAT, I scored around 55 percentile in one of the mocks. I was so devastated. The fear of underperforming, the fear of failure. I was tumbling at the final hurdles, all my preparation are going in vain it seemed. Then I talked to some people and deeply introspected why I started to prepare for CAT. It was then and there I realized how much I really wanted it. When you are giving up on something, it always helps to think about why you started it. I put confidence in myself, did some self-motivation using the mirror because self-motivation is the only motivation that will last. The fire has to come from within. Then I held my confidence up and decided to give it my best shot and thought if it doesn't work out, fine there's always next year and anyway, the world is full of opportunities. CAT isn't everything, there are more important things in life, so I gathered the courage and eased the pressure on myself and reminded myself that at the end of the day it's just an entrance test. And that moment when I lost the fear of underperforming, I began to win. I scored really well in the previous year paper mocks that I left for last and finally as I sat there on the D-Day, I gave it my all without fearing it and that's when you perform at your best.
Do you believe that an engineer gets an added advantage in the management entrance exams?
Generally, an engineer finds the Maths section easier than their non-engineer counterparts. It is evident from the percentage split between the toppers of the tests. However, since B-Schools have included academic diversity points for others, I believe it's level playing ground. Complaining that you can't crack the test because you're not an engineer is also not acceptable as a non-engineer has equal chances of scoring as much as an engineer in the other sections. Ultimately, we see toppers usually from engineering background because most school toppers (who are generally better at aptitude) opt for engineering and not because the entrance tests skew heavily in their favor.
What resources would you suggest to 2020 aspirants?
TIME & IMS Mock Test Series. Previous Year Papers. Free Youtube videos. Sectionals.
VARC:- Daily Editorial of Newspapers (The Hindu, ET,..) Books and articles of different genres.
DILR:- Sudoku and other Puzzle games. Brain Wars mobile game. QA:- Arun Sharma Quants. Formulae capsules.
What according to you are the DOs and DON'Ts of CAT preparation?
DO's: Regular studying, Regular revision, Perseverance, Self Motivation, Will to crack
DONT's : Procrastination, Giving up, too many resources, unwilling forced studying, self-doubt
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?
I think a combination of TIME's and IMS' mock test series would be good enough along with taking one-off tests from CL as you near the D-Day.
What would be your final advice to CAT 2020 Aspirants?
Keep yourself motivated. Stay calm, stay focused. You got this. Cracking the test would present you with a shortcut to success, but at the end of the day, it's just an entrance test so stay calm and give it your best shot. If it doesn't work out, then there's always next year. But if it does work out, that's your gateway to a world of limitless opportunities :-)