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CAT 2018 Topper Interview: Once again, CAT 2018 has witnessed a handful of 100 percentilers who aced the exam with their perseverance, hard work and smart strategy. Niranjan Prasad, a Mechanical Engineering student from IIT Madras, has a whopping 100 percentile to his name in CAT 2018. The topper believes that there is no shortcut to the road of success in CAT. During his journey of preparation, he lived by two concepts - improvising subject knowledge and time management. Niranjan idolises the famous Indian business tycoon, Mukesh Ambani, and Indian economist and academician, Raghuram Rajan for their work. In this CAT Topper interview with Careers360, Niranjan shares his experience on the exam day along with how he struck the perfect balance between CAT preparation and college studies.
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Careers360: Congratulations on securing 100 percentile in CAT 2018! What was your reaction? Were you expecting this?
Niranjan: Thankyou. I was very happy when I got to know that I secured 100 percentile. However, I was not at all expecting a perfect 100, but this gives me a lot more options to choose from for admission in an MBA college. My parents were equally excited too.
Careers360: What are your overall and sectional percentile and scaled scores?
Niranjan: My overall and scales scores which led to 100 percentile are as follows:
Careers360: Please tell us something about yourself - Background. College, course, parents’ occupation, work experience etc.
Niranjan: My hometown is Udupi, Karnataka. I am a Mechanical Engineering student, currently pursuing my final year of graduation from IIT Madras. My mother is a Professor in Manipal University in the Information Systems Department. My father is the HOD of the MBA department in Mangalore Institute of Technology and Engineering. They have constantly supported me throughout my journey.
Careers360: How was your exam day experience?
Niranjan: All I remember from my exam day experience was that I was too focused on managing my time. I wanted to answer the exam in the given time limit. The Quant section seemed difficult as I did not get much time to practice much of it before the exam. This was because I had to devote substantial amount of time to my college exams as well. I kept in mind that I will first attempt and build my score on the topics which are my strongest and then move on to the weak ones. Since I was in my college hostel at the time of CAT, my centre was in Chennai itself.
Careers360: How did you prepare for CAT 2018? When did you start preparing? Please share your step by step preparation journey.
Niranjan: I started preparing from last year December-January. I did not take the coaching route and prepared fairly well by myself. I focused on mainly two things - first being subject knowledge and the second is time management. These two factors played a crucial role in my preparation. I had to work on my subject knowledge. Time management was not much of a problem as I adopt a similar test-taking strategies in all the exams I appear for.
Careers360: What according to you were the toughest and easiest sections?
Niranjan: My weakest section was VARC, while my strongest is DILR.
To build on my VA, I bought a couple of books online, from Amazon. I utilised Arun Sharma’s book on VARC which is very detailed and has lots of questions for practice. This helped me get a good hold on VARC.
For QA, I did not use much of study material. The questions are mostly high-school level. I utilised a few books lying around in my house.
Careers360: How did you tackle your strong and weak areas?
Niranjan: Quant proved to be the toughest for me during the exam as I did not have much practice. It seemed quite time-consuming. I started attempting the questions sequentially. DILR seemed to be very easy for me as most of the questions were logic-based. There was not many questions on data interpretation which involves a lot of numbers and consumes time. My style of going about VARC and DILR is to first look through the questions and start attempting from easy to difficult. DILR will have 5-6 paragraph/cases and there are questions based on it. So I go through the cases and pick the easiest ones first.
Careers360: What was your time management strategy with respect to preparation as well as exam day?
Niranjan: During preparation phase, I first found my weak points and focused my preparation around them. I kept trying to improve on them and then moved on to the areas I was strong at. I adopted the same strategy of going from easiest to toughest for VARC and DILR on exam day. For Quant, I went sequentially in order of the questions.
This scheme works for me, but for future aspirants, I suggest them to make their on strategy, as the same strategy may not work similarly for everyone.
Careers360: Did you take coaching? How helpful was it? Is it possible to succeed through self-study?
Niranjan: No I did not take coaching. I still have my college going on and prepared by myself. It is very much possible to succeed without coaching. Like I said, Quant is all about high-school mathematics while VARC and DILR is all about practice. Catch hold of some good books, such as the ones written by Arun Sharma. His books cover all the sections in CAT and prove to be quite useful. Besides that, it is also important to formulate one’s own time management strategy.
Careers360: What are the factors behind your success?
Niranjan: My parents of course are the main reason behind my success. They helped me at every step, in finding the right study material, financially and emotional support.
Another major factor is hard work. There is no substitute for it and it is extremely important here. It is vital to use one’s time efficiently during preparation.
Simply putting in 12 hours of study everyday is not enough, and not even required. Whatever time is invested, it must be utilised in the most optimum manner to build on one’s weak areas.
Careers360: What next? Have you started preparing for GD/PI/WAT?
Niranjan: Yes, I am all set to prepare for GD/PI/WAT. I have spoken to IMS Learning coaching institute and they are ready to help me out with it. I have been assigned a mentor who will guide me throughout. They have years of experience and I am sure they will guide me well.
Besides, I will also talk to some of my seniors from college who have gone through GD/PI/WAT and seek their guidance.
Careers360: Which other MBA entrance exam have you appeared/appearing for?
Niranjan: I have not appeared for any other entrances, except for CAT.
Careers360: What is your dream B-School? After that, what career do you want to pursue?
Niranjan: My dream B-school is of course IIM Ahmedabad. I aim to make a career in Finance or Corporate Strategy.
Careers360: What are your hobbies?
Niranjan: Well, I like to play chess and swim. When I need to relax, I listen to music and read thriller novels.
Careers360: Do you have any idol who you follow?
Niranjan: Yes, I do. I really like Mukesh Ambani and Raghuram Rajan for their work.
Careers360: What is your message for next year's CAT takers?
Niranjan: I advise all CAT takers to start early and have a ‘subject knowledge-time management’ plan. Like I said, time management and subject knowledge are very important, and these two concepts must be kept in mind at all times while preparing for an exam like CAT.
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