How to prepare for CAT 2018 - Soumyajit Ghosh holds the distinction of securing a high percentile in CAT 2017 and secured himself a seat in IIM Bangalore. Having secured 94.3 percentile in CAT, the topper also sat for other premier entrances like IIFT, SNAP, XAT and shares his success mantras for the same.
An engineer from Kolkata with an work experience of around four years, Soumyajit envisages to become an entrepreneur after gaining the right skills from his B-school. Speaking on how to prepare for CAT 2018, Soumyajit shares that he made sure to read newspaper daily, took sufficient mock test, and most importantly he analysed his performance. He made sure that he wrote everything relevant in the SOP. He also took aid from mainly three books by Arun Sharma. Since his workplace was at a remote location, he followed recorded videos from an online course he enrolled in.
To add icing to the cake, Soumyajit also got shortlisted at SIBM, IIFT, FMS, IIM Bangalore, IIM Lucknow, IIM Kozhikode, IIM Indore and all the new IIMs under CAP, DMS IIT-Delhi, VGSoM IIT Kharagpur and SJMSoM IIT Bombay and NITIE. He attended interviews at most of these campuses which is the reason why he has a rich and unique experience to share. Read on to know about the topper’s journey from how to prepare for CAT to interview rounds until he converted the call from IIM Bangalore.
Excerpts from the interview:
Careers360: Tell us about yourself in terms of your academic and family background, work experience etc.
Soumyajit: I belong to Kolkata. After completing B.E. in Chemical Engineering in 2014 from Jadavpur University, West Bengal, I joined GAIL (India) Ltd in July 2014. Currently I am working as a Senior Engineer here. I was involved in the commissioning of the then India’s largest gas cracker plant in Pata, Uttar Pradesh. My father is a retired state government employee. My mother is a homemaker. My sister is working at ITC Limited after she completed her M. Tech in Food Technology.
Careers360: Why and when did you decide to pursue MBA?
Soumyajit: At the end of 2016, I realised that going up the ladder in a company requires strong management knowledge. Also, I felt the strong urge to work as an entrepreneur and to be a successful businessman in future. This led me to try for MBA.
Careers360: Which MBA entrances did you appear for and what are your scores and percentiles?
Soumyajit: I appeared for CAT, IIFT, SNAP, XAT
My scores are:
Careers360: Which B-schools have shortlisted you for the WAT/GD PI rounds? How many calls did you convert?
Soumyajit: I got shortlisted at SIBM, IIFT, FMS, IIM B, L, K, I and all new IIMs under CAP, IIT-Delhi, KGP Mumbai, and NITIE
I attended the interviews at IIFT, IIM B, L, K, I, SJMSoM IIT Bombay and NITIE Mumbai.
Out of these, I converted IIM Bangalore and am still awaiting results of IIFT, IIM L, K, I, IIT-Mumbai and NITIE
Careers360: Which B-School have you decided to take admission in and why?
Soumyajit: I have decided to take admission in IIM Bangalore because of its enviable fame, their curriculum, and it is known to be a hub for entrepreneurs.
Careers360: What was your strategy for cracking the entrances? From when did you start preparing and what was your approach?
Soumyajit: I started preparing from May 2017.
I just tried to strengthen my capability of solving more and more quantitative questions, Logical Reasoning & Data Interpretation questions and Reading Comprehensions.
QA was my strongest part and I kept improvising on it. I learned quick tricks to save time and practiced a lot to increase my speed and to reduce errors.
LR and DI is the hardest part of CAT. I made it a habit to solve lots of such questions on a daily basis.
The major part in RC section consists of the verbal part. I used to practice RCs of various lengths every day.
I resorted mainly to Arun Sharma’s three books. Since my workplace is at a remote location, I took an online course. I used to follow their recorded videos. I gave numerous topic tests and from August I started giving mock tests every week. But merely giving the test yields no result if it is not properly analysed for performance evaluation. So I gave enough good time to analyse my weaknesses and strengths.
Careers360: How did you balance time between your job and studies?
Soumyajit: I tried to read and practice for five to six hours on days when I had an off and minimum of two hours on a weekday.
Careers360: Did you follow a specific strategy for CAT vis a vis IIFT or other exams you appeared for?
Soumyajit: No, not really. I gave importance to the basics. I only read current affairs for last 6 months for IIFT, XAT, SNAP and practiced decision making questions for XAT.
Careers360: Please share your exam day experiences in terms of difficulty level, time management, technical glitches (if any) etc.
Soumyajit: This was the most important day. For two days before CAT, I read nothing to keep myself tension-free. I watched movies and tried to make myself realise that this was not the last exam of my life.
Verbal section was good. I skipped Para Jumble questions as per my strategy (because of high probability of error and time consuming). I attempted all RCs but took enough time to revise. This is because I had very bad experience of getting low marks in English in mocks.
The LR DI portion was very tough. I kept my head cool and tried to solve the questions without error. I could answer 12-13 questions only. Math was easy. But I kept getting stuck in two easy questions which consumed some of my time. I would suggest avoiding this. In some questions, options were very near-so one should take care of it.
Careers360: Please share your WAT-PI experience of IIM Bangalore in detail.
Soumyajit: There were two lady panellists (one professor and one alumni) and one male panellist (professor) in the panel. They were asking questions from my SOP mainly. I had written about my willingness to be an entrepreneur. So they asked a lot from it. They asked me whether I had any projects or not. They asked me about my work experience, the company, its functions, location etc.
Careers360: Were there any questions which you have not been able to answer? How did you tackle them?
Soumyajit: The male panellist asked me about Convex set and method of linearisation. I had no idea about convex set and confessed it clearly. I also told them that I have forgotten the method of linearisation. They were smiling. I was able to answer the rest.
Careers360: Any interesting question or incident which you enjoyed answering?
Soumyajit: After just entering the room, one of the female panellists said “See, we’re very bored. You are 6th in the panel. So tell me anything interesting about you that might raise our interest.”
This was like a bouncer for me. I told them that I know Graphology and they became interested. They also discussed about it with me for quite sometime.
Careers360: How did you prepare for these rounds?
Soumyajit: I used to read newspaper and specially the editorial part a lot. I believed that these help in building writing skills and provide useful data, which might be very helpful in WAT, GD and PI. I maintained an exercise book for that. And before every interview, I used to go through that. It proved to be very useful indeed for me.
Candidates might be asked about any topic – be it of national or international importance. So it is important to follow every type of topic.
Reading storybooks may also help in WAT from the writing skill perspective.
Careers360: How did you prepare your SOP?
Soumyajit: I wrote everything I felt relevant in the SOP. I did not lie about anything. I gave a brief introduction of my family, my achievements, the type of work experience I have and its relevance to MBA, my future plans, and my dreams. I also mentioned the name of the specialisation in which I want to pursue MBA.
IIM B’s interview is fully based on SOP. So one should carefully write that. I would advise aspirants to avoid any type of canvassing in SOP because it might backfire during the interview.
Careers360: What was your WAT topic and how did you structure it?
Soumyajit: My WAT topic- “The fear of being politically incorrect is restricting the expression of true feelings.” (The exact arrangement of words might be different)
The topic was completely unfamiliar to me. I tried to understand the meaning of the phrase ‘politically incorrect; first. After getting some idea, I started with two lines from the poem “Where the mind is without fear” by Rabindranath Tagore. I took the decision to go write in a positive sense about the topic and tried to quote two to three examples. I also gave brief measures to tackle it.
Careers360: What was your overall experience about the process at IIM Bangalore? After the PI round, did you have a positive intuition about converting the call?
Soumyajit: I was happy after my experience. Although the WAT was not at par with expectation, the interview was satisfactory-at least I had conveyed what I intended to.
But given the uncertainty of converting any call in any IIM, I was never sure about it and just prayed to the almighty.
Careers360: What are your career goals post completion of MBA?
Soumyajit: I would like to work in a company where I get to learn many things. After four to five years, I am planning to start my own business – although nothing is fixed.
The first year of MBA is going to play a major role in this because many of our plans and ideas get shaped there.
Careers360: What is your advice to the MBA aspirants preparing for next year’s CAT and other tests?
Soumyajit: I will advise all aspirants to try hard for CAT but not to take it as a burden. One failure cannot decide our life path. One should give sufficient mocks and analyze the output. One should regularly read newspaper. It really helps during WAT-PI process.
For PI, keep a smile all the time on the face – it matters a lot. They basically see your confidence and determination.
I wish all future aspirants of CAT 2018 all the best and success!