Konreddy Varun, a first year student of MDI Gurgaon, attributes his CAT result to a persistent preparation strategy and a 'never give up' attitude. A BITS Pilani graduate with a degree in BE Manufacturing Engineering, Konreddy had already tried his hand at a couple of startups, following which he decided to pursue MBA and appeared for CAT, securing 99.84 percentile in the process. He began his preparation four months prior to taking CAT 2016. The first two months were dedicated to solving three sectional tests of 30 minutes duration each every day, while the other two months were dedicated to writing full length mock tests every week. The fact that Konreddy did not join any coaching institute and still bagged a high percentile is a success story in itself.
Prospective applicants will gain an insight on the CAT 2017 preparation strategy with the CAT topper interviews. In this interview with Careers360, Konreddy Varun shares his preparation strategy and what enabled him to crack one of India's most competitive entrance exams.
Read the full interview below.
Careers360: Congratulations on your admission to MDI. What was your overall and sectional score in CAT 2016? Were there any other exams you had appeared for? If yes, please share the score for the same.
Konreddy: Thank you so much. I had only appeared for CAT. The following are my sectional scores and percentiles in CAT 2016.
Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension (VARC) - 71.53 (98.33)
Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning (DI & LR) - 50.15 (99.32)
Quantitative Aptitude (QA) - 62.26 (99.71)
Overall - 183.94 (99.84)
Careers360: Talking of sections, which were the most challenging and easiest sections in the test for you?
Konreddy: I personally felt that DILR was the trickiest among all the sections this year. I was comfortable with Quant and I felt that QA was the easiest of all. The VA section was of moderate difficulty level this year.
Careers360: Please share more about your preparation journey. How did you strike a balance between your professional life and preparing for an entrance exam?
Konreddy: I started my preparation four months before the exam. For the first two months, I was solving three sectional tests of 30 minutes duration each every day to brush up my basics. In the last two months, I took two mock tests every week. In the first two months, I used to allot two to three hours a day for preparation. In the next two months, I took two full length mock tests on the weekends and analysed them over the week.
Careers360: Did you join any coaching institute? Do you think coaching is necessary for aspirants to bag the top rank?
Konreddy: I didn’t join any classroom coaching as such. According to me, coaching is not necessary to bag a top rank but it certainly is useful. Apart from getting your concepts clear by the faculty members, you also tend to meet a lot of individuals who are aiming for a top rank. Having this kind of a peer group around keeps you motivated and fosters a spirit of healthy competition. Also, the instructions of coaching institutes help a lot through the GD-PI rounds.
Careers360: Please share your specific section wise strategy for VARC, DI & LR and QA.
Konreddy: For the VARC section, I realised that the RC part was my strength and Verbal Reasoning, particularly para-jumbles was my weak area. During the exam I tried to attempt the 24 questions of RC section first. After that I moved on to the Verbal Reasoning part.
Between DI & LR, the latter is my strong area and I attempted it first. For DI, I normally used to do the calculation intensive sets towards the end. However, in this CAT paper, there were hardly any DI sets that were purely calculation intensive. Every set had a lttle bit of both – the logic part and the interpretation part. That is what made this section tricky. What I did was pick a set I thought was easy based on a cursory read, and then attempt questions from it. Don’t try to solve all questions from a particular set. Solve the ones you can and move on to the next set. This strategy helped me score well in this section.
QA was my strength and I didn’t have any strategy as such. One thing I followed was to stick to the two minute rule. If you can’t solve a question within two minutes, move on to the next one. Practicing a lot of questions helps for Quant in the sense that it becomes easy to decide which question is doable and which one is not.
Careers360: How did you tackle the sections and topics which were challenging for you?
Konreddy: I was comfortable with QA and just practiced it from the mocks. I initially faced some problems with VA. My accuracy with RCs used to dwindle a lot. However, with practice, it got stabilised. Para-jumbles remained a weak area till the end and I attempted it last in the exam.
In the DILR section, the toughest part is picking the right set based on a scan of the data given. One wrong choice of set can have an adverse impact on your performance. Even within the sets, if you are not able to solve all the questions, its OK. Move on to the next set.
Careers360: Please mention the section-wise books and study materials you referred.
Konreddy: Materials provided by the coaching institutes usually prove to be sufficient for understanding all the requisite concepts. After that, solving sectional tests help. Since these are time-bound, they go a long way in improv\ing your speed. Also, with the sectional tests, you can experiment with different strategies, something that people are apprehensive of doing in a full-fledged mock.
Careers360: What is the significance of mock tests in your success? When did you start taking mock tests and what was the frequency?
Konreddy: Mocks help you in identifying your weak and strong areas, which in turn help in devising a strategy that suits you. Apart from exposing you to a wide array of questions, mocks also help you in improving your strategy and test-taking mentality.
I started taking mocks two months before CAT. I used to take two mocks a week and analyse them thoroughly. If there was a certain area of weakness, I used to work on it before attempting the next mock. I personally feel that giving 20 mocks should suffice.
Careers360: How did you get the mock tests analysed and how did you modify your strategy after that?
Konreddy: I used to go through the solution of each and every question irrespective of whether I answered them correctly or not. It exposes you to different ways of approaching the same question. I used to keep a tab on my accuracy on each topic so that I could invest some time on my weak areas and increase the accuracy going forward.
Careers360: What was your time management strategy for section-wise preparation vis-à-vis exam day?
Konreddy: As far as VA is concerned, I used to allot the first 40 minutes for the RCs and the rest for Verbal Reasoning. The strategy during the preparation was to increase the accuracy where I lagged and maintain the accuracy where I was strong.
In the case of DILR, I used to identify the easier LR sets first and solve them. After the easier LR sets were done, I looked for the easier DI sets and then went for the tougher ones.
In the case of QA, I made sure that I do not lose marks on the easy questions and don't waste time on the difficult questions.
Careers360: How did you utilise features like calculator and non-MCQs in CAT?
Konreddy: Calculator use varies from person to person. I personally feel using the onscreen calculator consumes a lot of time. In CAT 2016, there was no set that required a lot of calculation. As for the non-MCQs, since there is no negative marking, even if you can’t attempt do try to solve them.
Careers360: Any other tips or suggestions that you would like to share with aspirants?
Konreddy: CAT is not as difficult as it is made out to be. Prepare a time-table that suits your work timings/academic rigor and religiously follow it. Be motivated and consistent throughout the preparation. Do not let your mock scores have an influence over your preparation. Mocks are only to practice a variety of problems and to devise a strategy for the final exam. Remember the fact that the paper is the same for everyone and do not panic in the exam. Have mock interviews before the actual ones and improve yourself based on the feedback.
Stay tuned to bschool.careers360.com for more information on CAT 2016 toppers
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