Sarthak Gupta, from FMS Delhi's Co'24, had scored a perfect 100 percentile in the VARC section on CAT 2021, and an overall 99.93%ile. In this interview, he has detailed the strategy and the resources that helped him ace the VARC section and CAT in general. Read on!
Q) How to improve VARC score?
There's no shortcut as such. You need to-
a. Build your comprehension skills thoroughly through reading practice and mocks
b. For VA questions, I believe that when you save time during RCs, you can invest some 12-15 mins in VA, which gives you sufficient time to crack them (provided that you practice enough)
Above all, be calm while you're reading. If you can't understand the passage immediately within 2-3 mins, skip it.
Q) What should be the tentative number of attempts in all three sections to get the 99+ percentile in CAT?
I believe more in the concept of NET NUMBER OF ATTEMPTS than simply 'number of attempts' Suppose two candidates get 40/66 in QA in the same slot. Candidate A has attempted 18, with a correct/incorrect split of 14/4, with 2 of the incorrect questions being TITA. His net attempts are hence 14 - 2/3 = 13.33 (due to +3/-1 rule in CAT).
Candidate B has attempted all 22, with a correct/incorrect split of 15/7, with 2 incorrect being TITA. His net attempts are also 15 - 5/3 = 13.33. Both will get the same %ile score. Now, having explained that the NET ATTEMPTS for each section to get 99%ile are: VARC: 13-15 out of 24 DILR: 9-11 out of 20 QA: 10-12 out of 22.
Q) What if I start my cat preparation in mid-July and spend 6 to 7 hrs productively till the d-day. Would that be enough to score above the 95 percentile?
Radhika Mohta (a Batchmate of mine, who is a BLACKI convert) said it best in her InsideIIM article:
"Even an eternity to prepare won't ensure a 100%ile. However, 95%ile is achievable without 6-7 hours of study immediately. I won't stop you from doing that (unless it puts stress on your mental health)."
I, as a working professional, had a schedule of 2 hours per day during the weekdays, and 6-7 hours on the weekends for September to November (including mock taking and analysis).
Q) How should I optimally divide time between all the sections to secure a decent percentile and from when should I ideally begin with mocks?
1. Start taking mocks from NOW. Take 1 mock every two weeks till August, then a mock every week till November.
2. Syllabus-wise, start with QA now, as it has what I believe to be a substantial syllabus. Cover the basics: speed Vedic math, all the arithmetic/algebra/geometry during June-July. You can later simply solve sectional tests to boost your QA strategy.
3. At the same time, start solving DILR questions from mid-July to the end of August. I won't give you much advice here, as I'm not very good with DILR
4. For VARC, start in June by reading a book from a field that interests you to learn how to read patiently (eg: if you like cricket, read books on the history of cricket by Boria Majumdar). Later, solve sectional tests for building your RC skills and read from good sources (Aeon, The Ken, HBR, etc.)
5. Your week should look like this -
i. Take mock on Sunday (2), do analysis (4).
ii. Monday- 2 more hours of analysis
iii. Tuesday - 2 hours QA .
iv. Wed - 2 hr DILR
v. Thu - 2 hr VARC.
vi. Fri - 2hr of sectional tests (2 of QA, 1 of DILR)
vii. Sat - 2 hr of sectional tests (1 of DILR, 2 of VARC).
Apart from Sunday and Monday, you can mix all the other days as per your wish. However, be stringent in giving 2*6 +6 = 20 hours per week to CAT, starting from August latest.
Q) Since you have scored 99.93 percent you would've gotten at least one of IIM ABC, so what's the reason for choosing FMS? (apart from nominal fees which I've heard about)
I got interview calls from A and C, but they didn't even waitlist me after my PI. Get rid of this notion that a high percentile like mine means a definite BLACKI admission call. Your PI holds more than 50% weightage for almost all IIMs. Prepare better for your interviews than I did ;) That being said, I couldn't be happier that I am going to FMS! Paying the fee is not an issue for me (I have an IIML call); however, my reasons for choosing FMS are: Having done my graduation in an isolated Location like BITS Pilani, I wanted to have the experience of being able to do my MBA in an urban setting. Many friends of mine have started up their own companies in Delhi, and going there would give me the opportunity to collaborate with them seamlessly.
Q) Like how people read newspapers for improving GK, what should I impart in my daily routine in order to become more prepared for CAT? (I'll be writing CAT only after 3 years)
I would actually suggest you read the Hindu religiously for 1/2 hour every day if you can. There is no better way to build your GK and vocabulary than doing that. For DILR, you can solve puzzles like Sudoku and brain teasers from various books. For QA: Go through the Vedic Maths books by Rajesh Thakur.
Q) How to improve in VARC my reading speed is slow and my accuracy is also not up to the mark?
One line from his book is about how reading slow sometimes results in the reader going back through the passage repeatedly without understanding it. I don't need to explain how poor understanding will impact your accuracy I'll let you read this book and figure stuff out on your own. Trust me, it's worth the effort.
Wait for Ashish Yadav (another Batchmate who got 100%ile in DILR) to do something like this! He's the best guy to answer this. All I'll advise you to do while selecting sets is to invest 1-2 minutes in reading the problem and estimating if you can do it or not. For doubts, CATaholic (this server) is a great channel to discuss all these things. There are many channels on Telegram as well.
The only way to conquer your fears is to embrace them (Ra's Al Ghul, Batman Begins). For VARC, just read. Read endlessly, either through sectional tests/mocks or online/offline content. My mantra for RCs during CAT was: Enjoy the passage, understand what is written as if it's your own words, answer the questions, and then forget everything and move on to the next passage.
You can try to improve your knowledge about each section till October ends. But when November comes, let it all be as it is. Otherwise, stress from your poor section will result in you spoiling the whole exam for yourself.
Q) Sometimes, I get lost in the reading passage of VARC and then realize that I didn't understand the passage and it kills my time. How should I deal with it?
That's the major reason why people read slowly.
Q) While doing QA, I learn the concepts of a topic, solve a couple of questions and while giving sectionals or full mocks I get stuck. There seems to be a gap in the level while solving normal questions as compared to mocks, any suggestions on this particular aspect?
In my opinion, The Hindu has the best quality of editorials. UPSC aspirants read it for a very obvious reason: it's the best newspaper in India (honesty and all I don't know, but the content is neat and well-written).
Q) Which test series should we take?
Everybody (and me) says any two out of IMS/CL/TIME. I prefer CL because its AI analysis page is the best in the CAT prep industry.
After all, you can't control what you can't measure. In fact, solving less (1 mock and 1 sectional) with good analysis is enough for 99%ile.
Q) What was the major difficulty you faced and how did you overcome that?