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CAT, with changes in its exam pattern surely, at times, bring pressure for students. It is a compulsion for CAT aspirants to develop and prepare a strategy as per the changes. As CAT had a few changes last year also, the toppers are the best guide to prepare you for CAT 2015. Careers360 presents ‘CAT Topper Strategies’, where CAT toppers share their strategies, success mantra, and how to crack CAT 2015 under new pattern pressure.
CAT 2014 Topper, Balkesh Narang, PGP Student at IIM Udaipur secured 96.39 percentile. Rather focusing on clearing his concepts, Balkesh focused on ‘Strategy Building’. His mantra for cracking CAT was taking as many ‘Mock tests’ in a day as possible for about 6 to 8 hours. An ex- engineer from TATA Motors, Balkesh practiced hard to overcome his weaknesses. For instance, he tackled his weakness of calculations by using approximations and vedic math tools and made his DI section strong by getting familiar with the versatile forms of data representation like pie chart, bar chart, line graph etc.
In this interview with Careers360, Balkesh shares his CAT Topper Strategy, along with the importance of Mock Tests. Read about his strategy on how to prepare for CAT changed exam pattern.
Careers360: How was the experience of CAT 2014? What was your preparation strategy as the pattern was changed?
Balkesh: I got acquainted with the previous formats from CAT 2013. But then there was news of change in the exam pattern. It was a big blow to my plans as I had submitted my resignation letter so as I can focus completely on my preparations. The new pattern moved towards more number of questions in lesser time with flexibility of choice for order of sections.
To score a good percentile in CAT, I had to shift my focus from building on ‘concept base’ to ‘strategy building’. I also referred to blogs of some coaching institutes reading their articles on CAT and other preparatory material.
The preparation journey was however tough, but what mattered in the end was my percentile. The experience was unique compared to other exams.
Careers360: Please share your preparation strategy for the Quantitative Ability & Data Interpretation and Verbal Ability & Logical Reasoning separately?
Balkesh: For QA: Being an engineer, I had a strong hold in this section. From Day 1 itself, I used the reverse strategy for it, took mock paper, tried to solve it with timer, and later analyzed it from solutions available. Hence, added the new concepts to my personal concept book. As the exam is completely application based, I tried to approach relevant tough quantitative puzzles. But after the pattern got changed, I focused more on building my speed and shortcuts.
For DI: I focused the most on being familiar with versatile forms of data representation like pie chart, bar chart, line graph, piled bar chart, spider chart and complex combinations of these. I was not very good at calculation speed, for tackling that I used approximations and some Vedic Math tools.
For VA: I was weak in Verbal Ability part because of not being a well-read person at all. I tried a few ways to enhance my vocabulary but every method was futile for me. Then I decided to focus only on those question types where comprehending the content was core requirement like Para-jumbles, RCs.
For LR: I have always been involved in some brainstorming activities like playing chess, minesweeper, Sudoku etc. There are certain problem types which require prior exposure because they involve a certain algorithm for solving which is time-consuming to decode on the spot. Practice for such problem-types is must. Apart from these, I did not put any specific efforts to improve this section.
Careers360: What was your Time Management formula for the CAT?
Balkesh: I improvised on time management by taking numerous mocks. VA requires a more composed mind as comprehending long RCs requires a short-term storage of all the information. Thus I chose to attempt VA first. I decided to first take a look at all questions and give a one-minute read to every RC. I jotted down the nature of RC i.e. a guesstimate of theme, length, number of questions, field of subject and nature of questions (whether factual or inferential) etc. and prepared a short table for same to have an eagle’s look at all RCs and compare. After deciding on priority order of attempting RCs and whether to attempt an RC or not, started solving it. Then I solved Grammar questions which I was always good at.
Then for other section, I solved QA section first and then DI.
Lastly, I solved LR. Reason behind solving LR was a few LR sets that I had problem solving in mock tests. So, I didn’t want to get stuck with those questions at the time of exam. So I decided to solve it last.
Careers360: What were your strong and weak areas? How did you tackle your weak area in the exam?
Balkesh: My weak area was Reading Comprehension. After realizing its importance I laid huge emphasis on it. I first tried reading newspaper and novels for improving. But improvement in reading RC was not good enough. Reason was difference between nature of what I was using for preparation and what I was preparing for. So I rather focused on RCs from mock papers or topic tests. Solving Daily RC Passages really provided ample content for it.
Careers360: After the exam, how did you prepare for the PI-WAT rounds?
Balkesh: WAT- There were two things I did for preparing for WAT. First, whenever I read an article or an RC, I tried to create a one-line summary of every para. This helped me a lot in looking at whole paragraph in one glance. I somewhat created a frame of whole para in mind on which different types of content were placed. This helped me in preparing in a subtle manner. Second, I picked a topic, thought randomly about it, and note down in rough whatever relevant came to my mind, categorized the points and later put them into a logical sequence as per the demand of the topic.
PI- PI tests many domain skills like current affairs, technical questions related to graduation subjects or work-ex as well as soft skills like how to craft your answers, how to pull the conversation in a desired direction etc.
For Current Affairs, I read The Indian Express. As I was never in a habit of reading news, I faced a little difficulty in it. But I had plenty of time as I had quit my job. I used to do good research from internet after reading an article from newspaper so as to understand the concept and nitty gritty behind the topic.
Careers360: What are the key factors that influenced your selection at PI stage?
Balkesh: The key factor behind my selection was my work experience. I worked in most turbulent phase of a factory i.e. its setup time which contributed heavily towards my learning. The questions asked at the PI round were related to my work experience and I was able to confidently share my practical exposure with the panel. I guess this was the factor that influenced my selection.
Careers360: What is your message for this year’s CAT aspirants?
Balkesh: Join some coaching institute in your area. It will help on various fronts. You will get the techniques and strategies on Day1 itself and you will not need to do time-consuming hit and trials for them. Spend minimum possible time in preparing on concepts and start taking mock tests on a very regular basis. The pattern of exam has been changed this year, so get familiarized with the new format in best possible manner.
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Yes I'll enlist down some of the top institutes for MBA whose cutoffs are between 80 to 90 percentile.
Thank-you. Best wishes.
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