CAT Topper Balkesh shares his ‘Strategy Building’ technique for CAT 2015
Urvashi Dalal, 24 Aug 2015, #CAT
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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.


Also Check:

CAT 2016

CAT 2015 Exam Pattern

Expert Interview on CAT 2015

CAT 2014 Topper Strategies

CAT 2015 Convenor Interview


Other B-school Features:

MBA Internship experiences 2015

B-school Life @ Campus

B-school Placements Reports


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Good Mba colleges with cat cutoff 80 to 90 percentile

Mayank Chowdhary 17th Nov, 2019

Yes I'll enlist down some of the top institutes for MBA whose cutoffs are between 80 to 90 percentile.

  1. Tapmi Institute Manipal, CAT cutoff was 80 percentile.
  2. KJ Somaiya Institute of Management And research, Mumbai,, 85 was the cutoff percentile -
  3. IIM DELHI - cutoff percentile for cat exam was 90
  4. BIMM Pune - cutoff 80
  5. IIM Ghaziabad - cutoff 90

Thank-you. Best wishes.


how to calculate std10,12and CAT exam persantage/persantile rank for IIM entership?

Priyaanka Sarkar Student Expert 16th Nov, 2019
IIMs shortlist candidates for the interview stage based on their own criteria, which may be independent of each other. The process may include Written Ability Test, Group Discussion, and Personal Interviews. Performance in the CAT examination is an important component in the admission process. IIMs may additionally use other factors such as the previous academic performance of the candidates, relevant work experience, gender and academic diversity and other similar inputs in shortlisting and ranking of candidates at various stages of the admission process. The processes, academic cut-offs and the weights allocated to the evaluation parameters may vary across IIMs. For example, IIM Ahmedabad folliws the following rating scale:

IIM Ahmedabad:


QA       DLR        VARC Overall
General: 70         70         70              80
NC-OBC/Trans: 65         65 65              75
SC: 60         60           60 70
ST: 50         50            50 60
PwD-UR,OBC,SC: 60         60   60            70
PwD: ST: 50         50          50             60

10th Rating:

Percent score        Rating Score

<= 55           1

> 55 and <= 60          2

> 60 and <= 70           3

> 70 and <= 80            5

> 80 and <= 90            8

> 90              10

The same rating score is used for 12th Science /Commerce Streams. For Arts/Humanities:

Percent score     Rating Score

<= 45         1
> 45 and <= 50        2
> 50 and <= 60         3
> 60 and <= 70         5
> 70 and <= 85         8
> 85        10
Minimum cut offs for Average percent of marks scores:
Stream in 12th UR NC- OBC/Trans SC ST PWD PWD -ST

Science 80            75 70 65   70 65

Commerce 77            72    67 62   67 62

Arts & Humanities 75       70 64  59    64 59

From each Academic sectors top 5% from each stream and each Category will be short listed. It might look like:

Category   Upper Limit

General   100

NC-OBC-cum-transgender   57

SC      32

ST    16

PwD    6

After shortlisting the Candidates, the selected Candidates will have to go through WAT and PI rounds. Selection at this stage will strictly be based on the shortlisting of the candidates done separately for each Category ) on the basis of their Final Composite Score. . The numbers selected in different reservation categories will be in proportions mandated by law.

Personal Interview Multiplication Factor (PIF) = 0.50

AWT Multiplication Factor (AWTF) = 0.10

CAT Score Multiplication Factor for Final Composite Score (CATF_FCS) = 0.25

Application Rating Multiplication Factor for Final Composite Score (ARF_FCS) = 0.15

After the AWT & PI round, admission offers are made by IIMA to successful candidates. The final selection is based on a diverse set of attributes which includes performance in CAT, performance in AWT & PI, academic, co-curricular and extra-curricular achievements, work experience, etc.


how to prepare for cat entrance examination

Priyaanka Sarkar Student Expert 16th Nov, 2019
CAT is an online examination of 3 hours duration.The questions in the exam will be of MCQ and TITA type totaling 100 questions. MCQ are multiple choice questions, for which candidates get multiple answer choices. Each Question has 3 marks and a wrong answer takes away 1 mark. However Type in the Answer questions are exempted from Negative Marking.

CAT exam paper can be Categorised into 3 parts:

Quantitative Ability
Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension
Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning

The Verbal Ability section and Reading Comprehension has 34 Questions, Data interpretation-Logical Reasoning section has 32 MCQ questions and Quantitative Ability has 34 MCQ questions totalling up to 100 questions. Each Question has 3 marks and a wrong answer takes away 1 mark.

First things first, know the syllabus. And go through the previous papers to analyse and prepare a comprehensive plan and set priorities according to the importance of different topics across sections.Customise your own study plan based on your strengths and weaknesses. Gauge your preparation from time to time by taking mock tests. Solve questions to check your levels of preparation but not to set any targets. Remember, its ok to have cheat days and relax. But make sure you have a plan and stick to it for the next few months because even Rome wasnt built in a day.

NCERT books will sharpen your basics and you need strong basics for preparing for any entrance examination. Once your basics are in place, because the time period for preparation is quite less, your preparation should be extensive and thorough.

Quantitative Aptitude covers almost 30% of the CAT question paper. QA can be categorised into Arithmetic, Algebra, Geometry and Advanced Mathematics. Practise chapter by chapter and develop mental calculations. Like practise more of basic summation, subtraction, fractions and tables. Numbers, Percentage, Profit and Loss, Simple and Compound Interest, Ratio, Proportionality, Time-Distance, Time-Work, Mixtures, Averages, Partnership, Permutation and Combinations, Probability, Set Theory, Progression and Series, Line, Angles, Triangles, Quadrilaterals, Polygon, Circles, Ares, Volume, Height and Distance, Coordinate Geometry, Basic Trigonometry are few important topics.

Preparation tips:

Because this section involves mathematics and takes most of your time, your focus should be on solving the problems efficiently in the beginning. Even if it takes time, practise upto perfection. Practise as many questions as you can in the conventional way. As and when you get a grip on the subject, you can go for short cuts. Memorise tables, square roots, cube roots, conversion from percent to fraction, etc. Solve sample papers on Mathematics. In the beginning, do not worry about the time it takes. As you practise, you will get the hang of the subject and it will be easier for you.

In Verbal Ability session, command on your English, Grammar, Vocabulary, Understanding of the given paragraph are of more importance. Reading English NewsPaper will also help you in your preparation.

Preparation tips:

Read articles from time to time. Follow newspapers, magazines, and watch the news channels and browse the internet to keep yourself updated. You will need a lot of reading to help you in the comprehension section. You will need speed to help you in this section and you can achieve that only by thorough practise and reading. Take time to understand the question because most answers are interlinked.

Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning needs to be practised as much as possible. Comparison of data, Data Analysis, taking clues, interpreting missing data, coming to conclusions and making future projections will be covered under this Category. The questions here are interlinked and so if you get one formula correct, cracking the next few questions will be easy. So it's important to memorise and practise formulae. You should cover topics like Data tables, Data Charts, Bar Diagrams, Pie Charts, Graphs, Data Comparison and Analysis.

Preparation tips:

As this is the most tricky section, this needs a lot of practise. Solve as many sample papers as possible to get the hang of the section. Make notes when required. Regular practise can help you understand and solve the questions easily as time goes on.

Overall,once you know the syllabus, it's easier from there on.Go through the previous papers to analyse and prepare a comprehensive plan and set priorities according to the importance of different topics across sections. Customise your own study plan based on your strengths and weaknesses. Gauge your preparation from time to time by taking mock tests. Solve questions to check your levels of preparation but not to set any targets. Remember, its ok to have cheat days and relax. But make sure you have a plan and stick to it for the next few months

We can recommend a few books for you:

NCERT books to cover the basics from 6th to 10th Class

Quantitative Aptitude for CAT by Nishit Saxena

Quantitative Aptitude Quantum for CAT by Sarvesh Sharma

How to prepare for Quantitative Aptitude for CAT by Arun Sharma

Quantitative Aptitude for Competitive Exams by Abhijit Guha

You can also download free downloadable e books at:


unsoveld and soveld cat exam question mba

Aditya kumar Student Expert 16th Nov, 2019

Hello there!


You can get CAT previous year question papers by going through our page for which link is provided below :-

By solving  previous question papers of CAT, candidates like you will  know about the type of questions, topics covered in the exam and the pattern of the exam. By solving the CAT question papers, you will be able to understand the marking scheme of the exam, syllabus, exam duration, etc.

By going through above link you can download CAT sample papers as well.


The question have been saved in answer later, you can access it from your profile anytime. Access now

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