A former engineering student and now a first year PGDM student at IIM Shillong, Subhrajyoti was all smiles after bagging 99.64 percentile in Common Aptitude Test (CAT) 2016. Forced to juggle his academic and management entrance exam preparations like many other candidates, Subhrajyoti successfully managed to strike the perfect balance. He believes that his high CAT percentile is an outcome of regular practice and multiple mock tests. Recalling his success journey, Subhrajyoti mentions how practicing with time constraints helped him manage his schedule during the exam. He started his preparation journey in July 2016 with the help of previous years' question papers and mock tests.
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In this interview with Careers360, CAT 2016 topper Subhrajyoti Saha shares his preparation strategy and how he overcame his weak areas, tips which can prove valuable for CAT 2017 aspirants. He also shares his detailed section-wise preparation and exam day strategy which helped him to not only manage time but ensure accuracy as well.
Read the full interview below:
Careers360: Congratulations on your admission to IIM Shillong. What was your overall and sectional score in CAT 2016? Which other entrances did you appear for and what were your scores?
Subhrajyoti: Thank you for your kind wishes. Apart from CAT, I also appeared for NMAT and SNAP. My scores are as below -
Overall Score - 171.75
Verbal and Reading Comprehension (VARC) - 84.10
Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning (DI & LR) - 43.44
Quantitative Ability (QA) - 44.21
NMAT 2016 - Overall Score 204
SNAP 2016 - Overall percentile 98.92
Careers360: Please share more about your preparation journey. How did you strike a balance between your graduation studies and preparation for CAT and other entrance exams?
Subhrajyoti: I started my preparation from March 2016 onwards but could not give much time because of academic and college activities. My main practice started from July after my final semester exams were over. Between the period of March to July, I tried to go through the basics of all the three sections. After July, I started practicing questions and previous years' papers along with regular mock tests. As I said, I could not give much time during my college days as I had exams and project work to focus on so my main preparation started only from July. Regular practice along with mock tests helped me a lot. All the mock tests should be analysed by aspirants so that the shortcomings can be identified and worked upon. I worked majorly on my weak areas to improve them along with sufficient practice on the strong areas. Mock tests are an integral part of preparation as one would not be able to judge their preparation without them. Solving questions under time constraints should be done regularly. Along with full length mock tests, I gave chapter-wise tests and sectional tests on the areas which I was not comfortable with.
Careers360: Please share your specific section wise strategy for VARC, DI & LR and QA.
Subhrajyoti: VARC section strategy- The most important part of VARC in CAT is RC. There were 25 questions from RC out of a total of 35 questions. So to score well in VARC one has to be good in RC. In the RC section, I practiced a lot of questions from the book and also from online resources. One needs to develop an intuition to solve the questions because it is never possible to be sure of the answers of the RC questions except maybe two or three. Most of the questions were inference-based and a few were fact-based. Also, another strategy which I applied was option elimination which enabled me to narrow down my choices and made the job easier. I tried to solve all the 25 questions from RC and devoted around 45 minutes to 50 minutes to do so. In the VA part, the questions were of non-MCQ type which made it little risky. I avoided the arrangement questions as it was impossible to get them correct. I focused on summary and sentence completion questions and tried to solve five of them in 10 to 15 minutes. In this way, I divided my time so that I could attempt 30 questions to a high accuracy level out of the 35 questions.
DILR section strategy - In DILR, my strategy was to attempt four sets by allotting 15 minutes for each set. For DILR, one needs to practice a lot of different type of questions so that one can get accustomed with the type of caselets. In this section, I glanced through the eight caselets within the first two to three minutes so that it becomes easier for me to choose the four caselets which are easier to solve.
QA section strategy - In this section, one needs to practice a lot of different types of questions from all the chapters. During the exam, I attempted the paper in three steps. In the first step, I solved all the questions which I could do at one go till the end. In the second step, I attempted those questions which I thought I would be able to do after giving it a try. After attempting all such questions, if there was some time left, I attempted those which I thought were the hardest for me. In this section, I solved all the questions which I could. If one goes question by question, then there might be a scenario where one gets stuck at a particular question which could lead to missing out on some easier questions at the end. In QA, there are a lot of questions which can be solved by going through the options or checking with some values whether the condition is satisfied or not. This approach saves a lot of time rather than proceeding in a conventional way.
Careers360: How did you tackle the sections and topics which were most challenging for you?
Subhrajyoti: For the challenging sections, I practiced a lot with the help of the given examples and solved exercises to get a better understanding of the topics. I tried to figure out the parts which I was comfortable with and focused on those. A good score maximisation strategy to follow is to attempt all the doable questions and leave out the tougher ones. I left the ones which I felt were very tough for me and concentrated on my strong areas as I was confident of solving the questions from those areas.
Careers360: Mention the section-wise books and study materials you had referred.
Subhrajyoti: VARC section and DILR section – Career Launcher study materials and previous years' papers.
QA section- Arun Sharma Quantitative Aptitude, Career Launcher study materials and previous years' papers.
Careers360: What is the significance of mock tests in your success? When did you start taking mock tests and what was the frequency?
Subhrajyoti: Mock tests played an important role and helped me immensely during preparations. They mainly helped with time management and in finalising strategy before attempting the exam. I could find out my weak areas through the mock tests and was able to work more intensely upon them.
I started taking mock tests from August. For the first two months, I took one mock each week. Then from October, I took two to three mock tests per week till the date of the exam.
Careers360: How did you get the mock tests analysed and how did you modify your strategy after that?
Subhrajyoti: For analysing the mock tests, I first watched videos of the tests being solved by experts in a real-time scenario. Watching the experts solve the paper helped me in developing my strategy and learning various shortcuts. It also helped me in improving my thinking process in case of RC questions. Apart from that, I also went through the solutions of the questions which I could not solve or which I thought were wrong. Whenever possible, I glanced through the QA questions which I had gotten correct to see if there was any shorter way to solve them. I could modify my strategy through the mock test analysis as I could identify my weak areas and work upon them. The main positive outcome from this was the time division strategy I could develop. Mock tests helped me in implementing my strategy well under time constraints and made me more comfortable while attempting any of the sections.
Careers360: What was your time management strategy for section-wise preparation vis-à-vis exam day?
Subhrajyoti: In case of VARC, my aim was to solve the 25 questions of RC in 45-50 minutes. Then I tried to solve five VA questions in 10 to 15 minutes. In the DILR section, I tried to solve one caselet in 15 minutes so that I could solve four cases in one hour in that section. In QA, I had no specific target but I aimed at maximising the number of attempts in the three-step strategy. I tried to finish the first step within half an hour. Then I gave 20 minutes for step two and in the last 10 minutes I tried to solve questions from the third step.
Careers360: How did you utilise the features like calculator and non-MCQs in CAT?
Subhrajyoti: I used the calculator only when complex calculations were involved. I did the basic calculations by myself as using the onscreen calculator is quite time-consuming. In the VARC section I attempted five non-MCQs and guessed the rest. In the DILR section I tried to attempt caselets with lesser number of non-MCQ questions as otherwise it becomes difficult to get the correct answer. In my opinion, MCQ questions are easier to solve. In the QA section, I did not give any special attention to non-MCQ questions and attempted them only when I was sure of solving them. Though the non-MCQ questions did not have negative marking, it took more time as I was not sure whether my responses were correct or not.
Careers360: What is your advice for CAT 2017 aspirants?
Subhrajyoti: The main suggestion I would like to share with aspirants is to concentrate on the preparation and not think about the result. Giving mock tests is very important and so is analysing them. Mock tests make one mentally strong to tackle the paper for three hours. One must keep calm on the exam day so that they can give their best in the exam. I wish all aspirants good luck.
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