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A B.Tech graduate from IIT Delhi and an avid novel reader, Anandu S Mukundan decided to pursue MBA during his graduation. Hence, he decided to appear for the Common Aptitude Test (CAT) and started preparations well in advance by enrolling for coaching. Anandu, who secured 99.74 percentile in CAT 2016, credits his success to consistent preparation through mock tests and coaching classes. He also shares how his engineering background helped him in sections like Quantitative Ability. Since he had aimed to join one of the IIMs, he only appeared for CAT and fully dedicated himself to preparing for the exam by identifying his strengths and weaknesses and customising his strategy accordingly.
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MBA aspirants planning to appear for CAT 2017 will find it useful to note the preparation strategy followed by CAT toppers of previous years. In this interview with Careers360, Anandu, a first-year student of IIM Kashipur, explains his preparation strategy and describes how coaching classes and mock tests played a vital role in his success.
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Careers360: Congratulations on your admission to IIM. Was there any other exam you had appeared for? If yes, please share your score from the same.
Anandu: I had only appeared for CAT as my main goal was to make it into an IIM. I obtained an overall score of 99.74 percentile in CAT 2016.
Careers360: Please share your preparation journey. How did you strike a balance between your academic and professional life and preparation for an entrance exam?
Anandu: I consider myself to be someone with good Quantitative Ability and with my engineering background, I did not have to prepare much for the QA section. I made sure I read as many English novels as I could to increase my reading speed. Fortunately, it was easy for me to balance my academics and entrance exam preparations as I recognised my strengths and weaknesses very early and knew exactly which area required more attention and which required the least.
Careers360: Which were the most challenging and easiest sections in the test?
Anandu: If your preparation strategy is weighty enough, then half the work is done. According to me, the most challenging section was Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning as it was quite lengthy, while the easiest was Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension.
Careers360: Did you take any coaching? Do you think coaching is necessary for aspirants to bag the top rank?
Anandu: I enrolled at T.I.M.E. Delhi for CAT coaching. Their exam series was very helpful for me to achieve my current percentile. I would not say coaching is necessary but I would suggest aspirants first recognise their weak areas and then make their decision. If you ask me, I will suggest opting for coaching classes only if you are weak in the QA and DI & LR sections. Otherwise, it is not really necessary.
Careers360: Please share your specific section-wise strategy for VARC, DI & LR and QA.
Anandu: I did not follow any specific strategy for any section. Instead, I followed the simple ritual of solving question after question for the QA and DI & LR sections. For the VARC section, I just read a lot of English novels to help with my reading speed and the parajumbles portion, as I realised RC takes up a huge chunk in that particular section.
Careers360: What is the contribution of mock tests in your success? When did you start taking mock tests and what was the frequency?
Anandu: I would say my CAT preparation would have been incomplete without the mock tests, as I started taking mocks six months prior to the exam. Apart from that, I solved at least one sectional mock test daily and took a full-length mock test once a week. Mock tests gave me a lot of insights into the mistakes I was making. I was wasting a lot of time on questions that I couldn’t find the solutions to. So I started giving each question a defined time within which I tried to solve them. If I could not solve it within the designated duration, I skipped the question and would go back later if there was time left.
Careers360: What was your time management strategy for section-wise preparation?
Anandu: I basically invested a lot of time in VARC and DI & LR sections. In the former, because I identified it as my weak point, and in the latter because I wanted to enhance the speed with which I was solving DI & LR problems.
Careers360: How did you utilise the features like calculator and non-MCQs in CAT?
Anandu: I did not use the on-screen calculator as I felt it was more time consuming than manual calculation. And there was no particular strategy for non-MCQs other than to attempt all of them as they carried no negative marking.
Careers360: Please share your detailed experience of WAT/GD and PI.
Anandu: My WAT experience was really good and I believe concluding all your points within the limited time is important in the case of WAT. I didn’t have to give GD. I would say I underperformed in the Personal Interview and I am still trying to work on my interview performance for the future.
Careers360: What were the topics of WAT and GD at B-schools you had appeared for? Also, mention the PI questions you were asked.
Anandu: Differentiating strategy and execution for United Nations was one of the topics for WAT. Whereas for the Personal Interview, I was asked questions related to my reasons to join IIM, my hobbies and general awareness among others.
Careers360: Any suggestions that you would like to share with CAT 2017 aspirants?
Anandu: I would just suggest that they recognize their strengths and weaknesses and work accordingly on each of them. If they can master that, then nothing is out of their reach. I wish every aspirant who will be appearing for CAT 2017 the very best of luck.
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Dear Akshat, CAT is exclusively conducted by the IIMs. So the selection for admission to any of the 20 IIMs is through CAT exam. Unfortunately no other score except for CAT score is accepted for IIM Ahmedabad. You can check their selection process at:
Dear Sai, IIMs look for Diversity factor in Academics. They have a special rating scale for Professional courses like MBBS,BDS, CA, etc. We shall help you with the admission process of IIM Ahmedabad just as an example to show how does the selection process work. There are 3 sections in CAT: QA, DILR, VRC. IIM A has released its 2019 cut off percentiles. Only those Candidates who have scored this percentiles will be shortlisted for further rounds. The cut offs are as follows:
VRC DILR QA Overall
General 70 70 70 80
OBC-Transgender 65 65 65 75
SC 60 60 60 70
ST 50 50 50 60
PWD 60 60 60 70
PWD-ST 50 50 50 60
On an average IIMs need a cut off 90 percentile and more for admission to their colleges. You can check the complete selection process of IIM A at:
Now based on these cut offs top 5 percentile from each Category will be short listed for WAT and PI. So inorder to be able to score these cut offs, you need to know the exam pattern and marking scheme. CAT exam paper can be Categorised into 3 parts:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
NIFT has nothing to do with CAT or GAT. Those are the exams for MBA. NIFT is for admission in fashion courses.
The eligibilitiy is just marks of your 10th and intermediate. The main point is the candidate must have qualified both from a recognised board and must be having PCM as the compulsory subject.
The exam has an age limit to be 23 and there is 5 years relaxation for category reserved candidates.
For more information please check the article:-
Hope it helps!
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