Here we bring you CAT Topper, IIM Udaipur, Prateek Samantaray. Prateek is a B.Tech Graduate from Veer Surendra Sai University of Technology, Odisha, Burla. His CAT percentile was 99.42 ( VA-99.98, QA-96.91, LR-93.78).
How was your experience of CAT, since the pattern changed, when the calculator was introduced?
This being my first attempt, the change in pattern did not affect me as much as it would have affected the repeat aspirants. A combined section wouldn’t really affect your performance if you have prepared well enough. While there were a lot of apprehensions regarding the new pattern, I felt that the introduction of calculators actually made it easier for the aspirants. There were no over the top questions that required complex calculations as such, and a calculator only made the problems faster to solve. Of course, there were a few hassles regarding the use of an on screen calculator, but in the end, I felt that the pros were greater than the cons.
What made you pursue MBA, and why IIM and not any other top B-School?
As a graduate fresh from engineering, I had 3 options: go directly for a job, pursue a further specialization in my field, or go for an MBA. I felt that an MBA degree would certainly have a greater value addition to my profile. In addition, I had this inherent interest in general management and more specifically, marketing.
The USP that distinguishes IIMs from other B- Schools is the brand value and the focus on academic excellence attached with it, which is probably the reason why I chose to be a part of the IIM fraternity.
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 pretty late, somewhere in July. I had decided on not taking up any formal coaching as such, and my strategy mostly centered around having a clear idea about the type of questions asked in CAT, and the approach to be followed while tackling each separate section. With a few inputs from my seniors, I drew up a plan, which involved taking up each section one by one, and getting a hold of the concepts involved and the types of questions asked.
While the change in pattern did come as a surprise, I had to stick to my own plan of preparation, because I felt that while the pattern of questions and time duration had changed, the crux still remained the same. I decided on giving full series tests only after I had been thorough with my preparations, and that was probably something which clicked for me.
What was your strong/weak section and what was your overall test taking strategy?
From the beginning of my preparation, I had come to know that VA was one of my big positives, because of my reading habits, while I was a bit slow at LR. So, I planned on increasing my focus on LR, so as to manage a reasonable score in that section. To keep in touch with VA , I solved at least 2 passages daily, along with one QA exercise, and 2 LRDI exercises.
What was your strategy for individual sections (Quant/Verbal/Data Interpretation/Reading Comprehension)?
I knew that VA would be my strong point, because, being an avid reader, I had a flair for sentence structuring and comprehending passages. The most viable approach for handling the Verbal Section, according to me, lies in going through as many books and articles as you can during your leisure hours. This helps your mind acclimatize to the general layout and structures of sentences, and also helps in getting you acquainted with handling passage wise information.
As regards QA, I considered it as a neutral playing field. The approach I followed was a thorough brushing up of the general concepts and practicing basic and intermediate level questions.
LR/DI was a different ball game altogether. I considered myself quite slow at solving LR questions, and continually worked on improving my speed by solving at least 2 practice sets a day. In addition to that , there are a lot of helpful video channels on YouTube that offer short tutorial videos on how to approach more advanced problems with different approaches. These videos did serve as a great help during my preparation.
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)?
The one thing that I felt was right on my part was not trying too hard to solve the questions I couldn’t. It is usually the case with many aspirants that they get stuck in that one particular question, especially in the LRDI section, and end up doing badly in the other questions too. My engineering background was a definite positive in the quant section. Of course, there was not much help in the subsequent rounds, but some part of my GD did consist of very basic questions on electronics.
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?
Since I started late, I didn’t have much time at hand, and needed to go over a vast course outlay. I spent the first 20 odd days going over the concepts, and solving basic level questions. One of the major mistakes that aspirants commit while preparing is practicing problems from all possible material and books, without really comprehending the concepts that they cover. This serves as a major deterrent for them, given the unique, concept based questions that CAT manages to throw up every time. The next one and a half months were spent practicing intermediate and advanced level problems. As regards VA, my strategy involved a regular reading of articles from quality newspapers and magazines like the Hindu and TIME.
How did you manage to prepare for CAT and other exams within the same time frame?
My strategy regarding MBA entrances was somewhat unconventional, in that I had only filled up the CAT form. Of course, in case of preparations for other entrances in tandem with CAT, there is always a similar core syllabus for all such exams, and one needs to only make slight changes in one’s strategy while preparing.
What was your strategy for the D-Day? How did you plan your CAT test taking?
As mentioned previously, I knew that VA could make or break my day. I had an evening slot exam. So, I did some light fiction reading in the morning hours. One of the major mistakes that aspirants tend to commit is preparing till the last minute. For CAT, this is a strict no-no.
During the test, my main strategy was finishing up the questions which could be easily solved first, and then moving on to the slightly tougher ones. I had a set time frame set for every 5 questions, and tried to live up to that limit.
What resources you used to refer while preparing for the essay writing? (Please mention the topic)
While there is no single source for essay writing, a daily reading of the newspaper (I’d recommend the Hindu) would serve as a definite positive for your preparations. The topics asked mostly revolve around general issues. My essay topic was on whether the existing appraisal system in companies should be replaced by a system based on peer, junior, and senior reviews.
How was the interview experience like? What was your preparation strategy and how did the interview turn out to be?
The interviews turned out to be more of an informal conversation setting, with general questions to gauge my knowledge about a variety of things, including my educational background. The interviewers rarely intend to put one in much stress, and that was exactly what transpired during my interviews. Most of the questions were based on my hobbies, and some on the general happenings in India and the world. Overall, it was a pleasant experience, and would not be much of a hassle if you have a confident bearing.
Any message you would like to share with the candidates preparing for CAT 2016.
If you come to think about it, with some smart work and dedication, CAT is not really a tough nut to crack. Since there are a few days left to go for your CATs, there is hardly any reason to panic, even if you think that you haven’t prepared well enough. That being said, do review your previous mocks one more time, and do a brief revision of the topics that you do not feel confident dealing with. A cool mind and some dedication is all it would take for you to crack your CATs. All the best!