‘I Read ‘The Hindu’ Everyday To Prepare For VARC’ – Mahakpreet Singh Bhatia – IIM Shillong

Mahakpreet Singh Bhatia, batch of 2016 IIM Shillong. After graduating from NIT Jamshedpur as a civil engineer in 2014, I joined Mu Sigma Inc. as a decision scientist. Post that, I joined the PGDM programme of IIM Shillong with an objective of excelling in my career path and hope to work for a reputable firm as a consultant. I am passionate about cricket and a die-hard fan of the Indian Cricket Team.


How was your experience of CAT, since the pattern changed, calculator was introduced?

The introduction of the calculator in the CAT exam demonstrated the focus that is laid upon concepts rather than calculations. For me, the introduction of the calculator in the exam did not bring a major change when it comes down to calculation ease as I am relatively comfortable when it comes down to calculations. One change that it brought in my preparation strategy was that I started focusing on solving the complete problem as the effectiveness of unconventional methods such as option elimination became neutralised by the introduction of calculators.


What made you pursue MBA, and why IIM and not any other top B-School?

I decided to pursue MBA as I saw it as a path to excel in my professional career. I was working with an analytics firm when I decided to pursue an MBA degree. My goal from the MBA program is to enhance my leadership skills and study courses which would help me to grow as a consultant.

I decided to pursue MBA from an IIM and not any other top B-School because of the environment and the exposure which an IIM would provide me compared to other B-Schools. The brand image associated with an IIM is an add-on and I believe that it would be associated with me in the long run.


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 for CAT four months before the exam. CAT as an exam requires dedication and perseverance. As I was working with an analytics firm when I decided to appear for CAT, I opted for self-study and took help from available online material and mock tests. I made it a point to prepare every day without fail for 4 months, with a focus on improving my accuracy, comprehension skills and most importantly, speed. The change in the pattern did not bring about any major change in my preparation strategy as the core focus areas of the CAT exams still remained the same.


What was your strong/weak section and what was your overall test taking strategy?

I was relatively weak at VARC. To overcome this, I started reading ‘The Hindu’ with a special focus on the editorial section. This served the dual purpose of enhancing my reading skills as well as keeping me updated with the latest news. Apart from this, I ensured that I practise at least one reading comprehension a day. Regular practice did pay off and I managed to overcome this difficulty and score well in the VARC section.

I was relatively comfortable in the other two sections. My overall test taking strategy was to consider all the three sections as three separate papers with equal importance. To excel in CAT, you have to focus on them equally and try to maximise your score in each of the section.


What was your strategy for individual sections (Quant/Verbal/Data Interpretation/Reading Comprehension)?

Every single section carries equal weight in determining your final CAT score and ultimately the B-School. For sectional preparation, my strategy was to focus equally on all the three sections. Coming from an engineering background, people generally tend to feel that QA would be a strong suite for them and so they should focus more on VARC. I did not make this mistake. I ensured that my preparation time was equally divided among the three sections. However, I focused on my weaker areas whenever necessary. For all the 3 sections, I used online material and used section-wise tests for practise questions.


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 preparation strategy primarily involved taking up lots of practice tests – mock tests, section-wise tests, and topic specific tests. I later used to analyse every single test taken by me and then used to plan my preparation accordingly. Even for the questions, I was able to solve, I used to check the solutions as I might learn an easier or faster alternate solution which would help in improving my speed and ultimately enhancing the overall performance. I believe that this strategy helped me a lot in my test preparation.

My educational background and my work experience did help me in the quants section but still you need to put in the effort to crack the exam.


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?

My overall strategy was centred around taking lots of tests – chapter wise tests as well as mock tests. During the last 15 days, my focus was limited to revising the basic concepts. I stopped taking tests 15 days before the exams and shifted my focus totally towards strengthening the basic concepts and practising related questions.


What was your strategy for the D-Day? How did you plan your CAT test taking?

My strategy for the CAT day was to stay calm and focused. I had given the required efforts leading up to the day. Now, what was required was to maintain my focus and try to execute all that I had learnt till that point.

The time before the start of the CAT exam, I chose to sit in a corner and avoid interacting with others. This helped me in achieving my focus and calm my nerves. You should do any activity which helps you in achieving this. During the exam, I skimmed through the section before starting to answer, in order to gain an idea of the difficulty level of paper and identify questions which I might find easier.
What resources you used to refer while preparing for the essay writing? 

I did not opt for any specific material for essay writing preparation. I used to read the editorial section of ‘The Hindu’ to prepare for Verbal section. This also helped me to remain updated with the latest news and also helped me with essay writing.

The topic which was asked in the IIM Shillong interview was: “You can catch more flies with honey than with Vinegar.”


How was the interview experience like? What was your preparation strategy and how did the interview turn out to be?

The interview experience for IIM Shillong was a pleasant one. It was more like a conversation which primarily revolved around my work experience. There were certain other questions related to my hobbies and interests and my education field.

My preparation strategy was to brush up my graduation subjects and the projects which I had done at my firm. I had also prepared about the latest global events and some basic HR questions.


Any message you would like to share with the candidates preparing for CAT 2016.

For candidates preparing for MBA, my advice would be to start focusing on building their profiles in addition to the preparation for CAT. CAT is definitely important, but a good profile would go a long way in determining the flow of the interview and ultimately deciding the results.

As for CAT preparation, start your preparations early. Two things you need to focus upon for doing well in CAT are improving your accuracy and speed. Finally, All the best to all MBA aspirants.