CAT 2019 Topper Interview- “If it fell in my wheelhouse of comfort, I'd attempt it immediately”, Says Ronit
Updated on Jan 9, 2020 - 11:39 a.m. IST by Shruti.garg
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CAT 2019 Topper Interview - Ronit Banerjea who has always been scholastically inclined since his school days has topped CAT 2019 by securing 99.80 percentile. Ronit along with his interest in poetry and sitcoms and also being the senior member of the dramatics society of IIT Kharagpur, started his preparation an year in advance. By devoting not more than 2-3 hours during weekdays, CAT 2019 topper Ronit kept his academic pursuits in control through his consistency and adequate head start. In his interview with Careers360 he shares his exam day experience and preparation strategy to tackle weak points. Further, CAT 2019 topper Ronit believes that with the help of study material from various coaching institutes it helped him streamlining his preparation with consistency. Ronit has another feather added to his cap as he was also among the IIFT toppers. In the IIFT 2020 exam he had scored 99.98 percentile. Read this interview of Ronit Banerjea as he sums up his entire journey of CAT preparation into few key virtues.

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Careers360: Congratulations on securing 99.80 percentile in CAT 2019! What was your reaction? Were you expecting this?

Ronit Banerjea: Thank you! At the beginning of November I'd hoped to score around this much (if not more), so pre-CAT Ronit wouldn't be too surprised! However, the constant onslaught of pessimistic grumbling coupled with creeping self-doubts made the eventual result feel a good deal sweeter!

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Careers360: What are your overall and sectional percentile and scaled scores?

Ronit Banerjea: My scores are as follows -

VARC: 61.51 (98.52%ile)

DILR: 49.42 (98.58%ile)

QA: 75.05 (99.78%ile)

OA: 185.98 (99.80%ile)

Careers360: Tell us something about your background.

Ronit Banerjea: I've always been fairly scholastically inclined, as evinced by my scores of above 90% in each year of school - although, to be fair, CBSE does reward reasonable work quite handsomely. I was able to keep this trend going through grades 10 and 12, and the entrance exam season thereafter, securing an admission in IIT Kharagpur. I'm currently in my final year of a Dual Degree course, enrolled in the department of Mechanical Engineering, and have a GPA of 9.07.

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Careers360: How was your exam day experience?

Ronit Banerjea: Unlike many other students in my slot (slot 2), I was blissfully unaware of the complexity of the VARC section. Thus, my first hour was spent frantically trying to muster up a decent number of attempts in the section. DILR came around as a bit of a relief thereafter, as it was a notch below 2018's paper. QA, slightly unfortunately for me, was a rather straightforward section - but was a distinct relief for all the aspirants after the gruelling first couple of hours.

Besides the exam itself, my center was well-equipped with staff and facilities to coordinate the entire examination, and the screening process was thorough but quick. Management was efficient, and all personal effects were generally accounted for.

Careers360: What was your preparation strategy for CAT?

Ronit Banerjea: I've always had an inclination for maths, so my journey started with joining a couple of the most prominent Facebook groups (such as iQuanta, ElitesGrid and Quantifiers), in September 2018, and going through all the questions and solutions posted by previous year's aspirants. I spent a lot of time analysing the shortcuts mentioned, and rigorously dissecting their mathematical robustness. The 2-3 months I spent re-introducing myself to mathematical concepts untouched since my JEE days were crucial to my eventual confidence and consistency in this particular section.

I joined TIME in December, and began working on the material provided by them - both to practice methods understood and retained from the months prior, as well as to learn newer and more efficient approaches and enhance my speed. I was also regular with my attendance of scheduled mocks and attempting of sectional mocks, which help boost my performances in all 3 sections. I had an edge in VARC owing to my general comfort in the language, but a constant fear of the LRDI section ensured I was regular with my practice.

Careers360: What according to you were the toughest and easiest sections?

Ronit Banerjea: In CAT 2019, I felt the VARC portion was the most challenging simply because most of us (certainly I) weren't prepared to tackle a complex English section. This was reflected in many top scorers performing better in LRDI despite the latter historically being the least amenable to reasonable scores. As for the easiest, QA was unanimously considered a relieving palate-cleanser after the initial 2 hour upward trudge!

Careers360: How did you tackle your strong and weak areas?

Ronit Banerjea: QA in general has been my forté, and my natural proclivity for mathematical puzzles allowed me to spend endless hours solving tricky but relevant questions.

DILR, however, has always been my bete noire - and my approach to this involved covering the DI portions of the section first, before moving on to the LR topics I was more comfortable with (like arrangements and selections). I avoided any sets that appeared new, a feature that is a staple of CAT papers, and like in most cases encountered during mocks, I benefited from that approach in the actual exam. In QA, geometry was a bit of a sore spot for me. So, I would keep those questions for the end, and ensure I covered the other topics in the paper first before picking off the sitters from here.

Careers360: What was your time management strategy with respect to preparation as well as exam day?

Ronit Banerjea: Due to my constant commitment to college activities, I knew, I wouldn't have more than 2-3 hours to spare for preparation on the weekdays, so I attempted to account for that by starting my preparation more than a year in advance and being regular with my studies on a daily basis. Consistency and an adequate headstart helped me keep both of my academic pursuits under complete control.

Talking about D-Day, as VARC took me by surprise, so I had to ditch my initial plan of finishing RCs before moving onto the VA portion. I instead spent 40 minutes on the RC section and skipped the set on British Colonialism, before finishing the VA portion and coming back to that set. For DILR, I proceeded set-by-set, studying each of them and understanding which topic the set belonged to. If it fell in my wheelhouse of comfort, I'd attempt it immediately before proceeding to the next. If not, I'd skip it for later. I also made the decision to skip the novel set in the section because of the variables involved, which proved to be the right decision. For QA, I didn't have a particular strategy in mind. I was confident in this section, so I proceeded question by question unless I found any of them excessively long (found only one of that variety).

Careers360: How helpful was your coaching institute for you? Is it possible to succeed through self-study?

Ronit Banerjea: I was part of the TIME Classroom Programme and also enrolled with Career Launcher for their mock test series. Having not attended a single class due to college commitments (we got the classroom programme at an enviable discount owing to a tie-up between TIME and my college, IIT Kharagpur), I was virtually preparing through self-studies and online resources. However, I do believe it's important to gain access to study materials provided by at least one of TIME/IMS/CL to help streamline your preparation and eliminate diversions due to inadequate knowledge on the part of the aspirant themself. I also feel that interacting with fellow aspirants on online platforms can motivate one to study hard and perform consistently. The mocks and their subsequent analysis form the backbone of one's preparation, so I would say it's very important to join at least 1 if not 2 different test series - to test your relative performance across a variety of different kinds of papers, and critically analyse them to perfect your concepts and exam strategy.

Careers360: What are the factors behind your success?

Ronit Banerjea: I believe the entire year's journey can be boiled down to a few key virtues - drive, determination, hard-work, tenacity, perseverance, and a general liking for the key elements tested in the examination. The unshakeable support of my parents and the perennially reliable flattery of my friends definitely helped the ride feel a lot less singular.

Careers360: Have you started preparing for GD/PI/WAT?

Ronit Banerjea: Yes, I've enrolled with TIME already and will join IMS soon.

Careers360: Which other MBA entrance exam have you appeared/appearing for?

Ronit Banerjea: I've appeared for IIFT 2020 (99.98%ile) and XAT 2020 (results yet to be released).

Careers360: What is your dream B-School? After that, what career do you want to pursue?

Ronit Banerjea: My dream B-school(s), like everyone else's, is one of the Holy Trinity (IIM A, B and C). I have an interest in Marketing, Operations and Finance, and wish to explore these disciplines and their interrelationships - so as to develop a wholesome understanding of various critical elements of the business world, and use this holistic and rounded perspective to better drive the business ideals of the company I'm employed with.

Careers360: What were your relaxation and recreation methods you followed amidst preparation?

Ronit Banerjea: I enjoy any time I can spend away from studies, really! I'm a senior member of the college dramatics club, so I enjoy being on stage. I enjoy debating, and like to invest time in a little poetry when inspiration strikes. I also kill time watching sitcoms and action or horror movies, and surfing YouTube channels to entertain myself with both humour and scientific exploration.

Careers360: Do you have any idol who you follow?

Ronit Banerjea: There are many people I look up to, for the achievements they've made in fields that are of principal interest to me, as well as those who've risen againts oppression and adversity to carve their names in gold. However, there aren't any individuals in particular whom I place on a pedestal above all others.

Careers360: What is your message for next year's CAT takers?

Ronit Banerjea: A constant request I make to all my co-aspirants as well as future aspirants is to start your preparation as early as possible, and spend a lot of time developing a strong and unimpeachable mathematical foundation for the QA section. Many aspirants panic because of the limited number of months they leave themselves with, and are forced to memorize certain algorithms or shortcuts to solve specific questions. However, this approach backfired heavily in CAT 2018 and never works for tougher exams like XAT and IIFT. Thus, spend a couple of months just building up your mathematical foundation before completely immersing yourself into rigorous preparation.

Keep attempting mocks and sectional mocks, and analysing your performances and lacunae the entire way. Keep tinkering with your strategy so you can hit upon a winning combination, especially in exams like XAT and IIFT - where there are no sectional time limits, and one has to focus on maximising both attempts and performance in the stronger sections at the expense of the weaker ones.

Lastly, develop a concrete idea of your strengths and weaknesses but remain completely flexible to any systemic alterations to the actual question paper. Your flexibility, self-understanding and calmness under duress will determine your eventual performance during this entire competitive season.

The next year will be a long and often unforgiving period in your life, make no mistake about it. But the journey will be both self-instructive and transformative, and the light at the end of the tunnel will be worth the relentless trudge towards it.

ALL THE BEST TO YOU!

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Deepshikha Student Expert 22nd Feb, 2020
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