CAT 2017 Topper Interview: Jot down your learnings in a notebook after each mock test and revise them daily, says IIM Calcutta student Ankit Gupta
Aditi Garg, 30 Jul 2018, #CAT

CAT 2017 Topper Interview - For Ankit Gupta, the mantra to secure 99.91 in CAT was simple – to practice a lot in a timed manner, analyse the questions and learn from his mistakes so that he doesn’t repeat them. In this CAT 2017 topper interview with Careers360, Ankit shares that CAT is all about practising and keeping a check on mistakes to avoid repeating them in the future.

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Being  a working professional with an experience of 36 months, Ankit started preparing while he was working. Additionally, he tried to utilise whatever free time he had – in office, while travelling and at home - to revise notes, do some quick sums, or even do an RC. He also allotted atleast 10-12 hours on weekends which yielded a successful result. He finally quit his job with four months to go to dedicate all his time and energy into preparation. With extreme rigour, he devised his own preparation strategy in a way that accuracy and time management go hand in hand.

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Besides CAT 2017 which was Ankit’s second attempt at the exam, he also appeared for other management exams like GMAT and IIFT where he aced with impressive results. Ankit also recommends the best study material for CAT 2018 preparation and explains how to keep your focus intact during the peak of your preparation and last few days. Read this CAT 2017 topper interview to know the tips and preparation strategy for CAT 2018.


Excerpts from the interview:


Careers360: What was your CAT 2017 overall and sectional percentile? Apart from CAT, which other entrances you appeared for and what were your percentiles?

Ankit: I appeared for CAT 2017 and my scores were:

Overall percentile: 99.91

Section 1 (VARC): 99.80

Section 2 (DILR): 98.92

Section 3 (QA): 99.54


IIFT 2017 : 99.70 percentile

GMAT (taken on January 3, 2018): 730 (QA-50, VA-40)


Careers360: What was your preparation strategy? Please share section-wise (QA, VARC and DILR) strategy in detail.

Ankit: In short, my preparation strategy was to practice a lot in a timed manner, analyse the questions and learn from mistakes so that I don’t repeat them.


CAT doesn’t require much learning of things per se but rather the application of it. So, it’s better to practice questions of varied type as much as possible and keep a check of your mistakes, so as not to repeat them in future. Any conceptual doubts or new things will get cleared as you keep solving questions. Just keep practising on a daily basis.


VARC: Focus on RCs as they form the chunk of this section. Practice as many RCs, with varying themes, as you can. Keep a tab for the types you are particularly struggling with (say, art/science/literature etc.) and bookmark those RCs. Revisit those after some time and find common things or themes repeating. Google those terms, get a hang of them so as to obtain some background. It becomes easier to read and interpret these RCs then and overtime you improve a lot.

Also, reading newspapers and articles will not help you as much as solving RCs will since you solve questions as well while doing RCs. I am not suggesting not to read papers but RCs are a better sourcebn for practice, in my opinion.


DILR: No such recurring theme here. Just practice a lot of varied sets and start to choose sets as well as questions within to attempt. Don’t worry if you choose a tough set or question, just move on when you realise it’s tough or too time consuming. With practice, you will get better at this.


QA: Easiest section to improve upon in my opinion and one where you can stretch your score. Just practice a lot, jot down your mistakes in a notebook, revise it daily and repeat. You will definitely improve.


Careers360: How did you prepare – Self-study or Coaching?

Ankit: I opted for self study. However, the main benefit of coaching in my opinion is that it equips one with discipline and guidance. I made it a habit to practice on a daily basis, so as to enforce a schedule. I was also fortunate enough to have friends who had excelled in CAT and other competitive exams earlier, this helped a lot with guidance. Apart from this, I also found many good resources online to refer to in case of help.


Careers360: When did you start with CAT preparation? Please share in detail your month-wise preparation strategy for CAT in terms of 3 months, 2 months, 1 month and last minute strategy you followed.

Ankit: I started my preparation in around March/April, 2017. For reference, I had given CAT in 2016 as well but couldn’t perform well.

I didn’t have a month-wise preparation strategy per se. My focus was to practice a lot. As exam came closer, I moved from individual questions to sectionals to full mocks, but the intention was same, to practice questions in a timed manner so as to simulate the exam feel, whenever I practice. For the last 40-45 days, I gave one mock per day along with random questions and maybe a sectional test. That helped a lot in keeping things fresh in my mind.

Last day or last minute wise, I would suggest to just relax a little. Whatever you could do, has been done by this point of time. Now, just sit back, be comfortable and don’t think too much about it. Empty your mind.


Careers360: How did you balance your preparation with studies or job? Please share your time table.

Ankit: I was a working professional with an experience of 36 months overall. Till March to July, I was preparing while I was working. I tried to utilise whatever free time I had to revise my notes, do some quick sums, Do an RC, whatever. This could be during travelling, office hours, anything. Upon returning home, I tried to give at least 2 hours daily towards practice and 10- 12 on weekends.


My work was demanding and it got tough for me to keep up with my regime. The above stated hours were my goals, which I failed to hit many a times. I tried to balance but ultimately, I wasn’t able to devote sufficient time for prep. That’s when I decided to quit. I left my job in August to prepare full time for CAT.


Leaving one’s job to prepare for CAT is a risky decision. You need to think of the opportunities, the back up plan, finances and all. But it can be done. It is a personal call. I wouldn’t outright suggest anyone to do the same but evaluate their position and then decide.


Careers360: What was the one thing that you did consistently during your preparation? Or What do you think one should do consistently during the preparation of CAT? According to you, what is the most important aspect of preparation?

Ankit: Practice daily. Even if you do only a few questions. It helps maintain a flow which carries you through tough days.


To list out a few must do things, I would say, practice daily and practice in a timed manner. By that I mean, say have 20 minutes. Set a target of 15 questions within this time and try to maximise your score in this given time. After you are done, analyse each and every question and jot down whatever new thing/trick/method you learnt in a notebook. Revise it as frequently as you can. This provides you learning and course correction. That’s it!


Careers360: What are the best study materials for CAT or other exams?

Ankit: Lot of material is out there for CAT. It doesn’t really matter much where you practice from, in my opinion. Coaching modules, online questions, all are mostly similar. Difference is there for DILR section questions, for that only relevant questions I found were in mocks and past year papers.


Some sources which I personally referred to,

Phone Apps: Testfunda, CL and IMS apps

Test Series: CL, IMS

Online platforms:, Takshila videos on YouTube,

Quora:Prep advice by past toppers such as Deepak Mehta, Aviral Bhatnagar, Rohan

Jain, Prateek Bajpai etc. to name a few.

Past year papers


Careers360: When did you start taking mock test and what was the frequency? How did you get it analysed and integrate it in your preparation?

Ankit: I started full length mocks in August end. Initially, my frequency was once a week, which I gradually increased to one mock a day.


After giving every mock, most important thing is to analyse it. Otherwise there’s no learning from it. Now, I checked the solution of each and every question, and not just the ones I did wrong/didn’t attempt. Afterwards, I wrote down my learnings in shorthand in my notebook and kept revising this on a daily basis. At the end I had a compendium of learnings which spanned over more than 5000 questions and since I was revising it daily, it was fresh in my mind. This helped a lot.


Careers360: How one with non-English background should prepare him/herself for the exam as the mode of the exam is only English?

Ankit: It’s tough for me to answer this, since I am from an English background. However, I would suggest a non-English background person to get comfortable with English and start quite early, with respect to English only (2-3 years ideally), so as to get a command over the same. Utilize any and all measures here, read a lot, watch English shows and movies. It all helps towards getting the hang of it.


Careers360: What was your exam day strategy in terms of question selection, time management, accuracy and sectional attempts/cutoffs?

Ankit: I didn’t have a set target in mind for any section as to how many questions I must attempt (this particular thing led to the downfall of many, especially in DILR).

My goal was to maximise my number of attempts as per the difficulty level of exam. I was focused on remaining calm & composed during my exam and gave my best.


Careers360: Preparing for CAT is a long and tiring process. How do you suggest one should keep his/her calm and confidence?

Ankit: There will be ups and downs during your prep. I say, detach yourself from the result and focus on the learning. It’s quite easy to say and incredibly tough to implement. But, it works. Just remember, why you have decided to go down this path. It will help you keep your drive.


Careers360: What is your message for CAT 2018 aspirants?

Ankit: Around 130 days are left for CAT as I am writing this. This looks quite small a time to make an impact, especially if your current preparation is shaky now. But trust me, all you need is an attitude shift. It’s enough time to hit that dream score you want. Just keep pushing, keep persevering. Focus on the learnings and the results will follow!

All the best!

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