After the announcement of CAT 2019 result, it is time to meet the 100 percentiler and find out their journey to make it to one of the top IIMs of the country. Meet Somansh Chordia, who has invested 3-4 months of dedication and hard work to prepare for one of the toughest MBA entrance exams of India and secure a place among the top 11 contenders who have scored 100 percentile in CAT 2019. Let's explore from his exclusive interview his overall preparation strategy to bell the CAT with a perfect 100 score. Here is what it takes to get into IIMs:-
Excerpts from the Interview
Question 1: Congratulations on cracking CAT 2019! What are your overall and sectional scores in CAT 2019?
VARC: 80.54 (99.93),
DILR: 65.57 (99.88),
QA: 89.95 (99.98),
OVERALL: 236.06 (100)
Question 2: When did you start your CAT 2019 Preparation? What is the ideal time required to complete the CAT syllabus before the exam?
I had joined TIME in January, but for the initial 3-4 months I just gave the mocks and attended a few classes to understand the pattern of the exam. During summers, I was busy in my internship, so could not devote any time. From August, I began analysing the mocks and practice some of the weak areas. Finally in October I began focusing a lot and gave much more time towards CAT preparation. Towards the end (about 1-2 weeks before the exam) I dedicated almost all the time for this and solved some of the previous year CAT papers.
Since starting point and end goal is different for everyone, it depends on the individual and other commitments that they have during preparation period. And more than completing the syllabus, it’s the practice that requires most of the time, and this again varies greatly.
Question 3: What was your overall preparation strategy for CAT 2019?
My basic preparation strategy was to identify my weak areas and practice those topics extensively in a short time so that I am able to recognize the pattern of mistakes and then track my progress through mocks.
Question 4: Was there any particular section/area that you were weak at? How did you overcome this challenge? What strategies did you adopt to master that section?
VARC was my weakest section. In the beginning, methodology and tips that faculty at TIME shared were beneficial to understand how to approach these questions. After that I practiced a lot of similar questions together to understand the common types of mistakes that I am committing and this gave a major boost. I realized that answering questions in this section just required a change in the perspective with which you view the content. Thinking from examiner’s perspective and keeping in mind that these are objective and not subjective questions were crucial. After that I just practiced and analysed this section through mocks. Still even till the end I couldn’t get consistency in getting a good score but fortunately on the day of exam, this section about which I was the most concerned went very well, even better than any of the mocks.
Question 5: Tell us something about yourself, your family and your interests beyond academics?
I was born and brought up in Nagpur, Maharashtra and did my schooling including 11th and 12th there itself. I Then came to Mumbai and am currently pursuing B.Tech in mechanical engineering and am in my final (4th) year. My family consists of my parents and grandmother. My father is a proprietor and my mother is an ABACUS trainer. In my free time I like reading autobiographies/biographies and playing basketball and badminton with my friends.
Question 6: Were you a part of any coaching institute? Do you think coaching is necessary to ace CAT?
Yes, I had joined TIME. With so much content and guidance available online and CAT being a relatively easy exam in terms of the syllabus, I wouldn’t say coaching is necessary but it certainly saves a lot of time as the experienced faculties help you find out the common approaches taken by students so that you can easily discover what suits you the best. Other than this, what coaching institutes primarily offer is a competitive atmosphere which is necessary to remain motivated to push our limits. But how important this is again depends on the individual and if there are friends around you going through the same process, this might not be necessary.
Question 7: Any particular book or study material that helped you gain an edge over other candidates?
I just referred to TIME study material but in general on a deeper level, being trained in ABACUS helped me gain an edge over other candidates. And that’s not just in terms of faster arithmetic computations but other basic requirements like visualisation skill and concentration as well.
Question 8: How can an aspirant avoid negative marking?
I believe one cannot do away with negative thoughts while preparing for something big in life but has to learn to overcome those. Some things that might help are being clear about why you are doing what you are doing, introspection to know yourself better, being confident about your abilities, accepting that there will be some bad days along the journey and last but not the least, having faith in yourself or some other force which one might choose to believe in.
Question 9: What role did Mocks play in your success? How many mocks did you attempt before the exam?
Mocks were the most crucial ingredient in my preparation. It is only through the mocks that I was able to track my performance and whether I was moving in the right direction or not. Also, extensive analysis (which actually takes more time than taking a mock is extremely important and probably the most efficient way to improve. I had attempted around 20-25 mocks and a couple of previous year CAT papers before the final exam.
Question 10: Please share your exam-day strategy for the CAT 2019. What was your last-minute preparation? How did you plan your CAT test taking?
Since I was allotted slot 1, I knew I would be required to start the day early as the centre was also far from college. And being an engineering student it was exactly the time in which I usually slept so, a week prior the day of exam, I started waking up early so that I am able to maintain the required concentration level.
I knew that I could screw things up by being nervous but I wasn’t very confident about being able to perform on the day so I had decided to adopt a casual approach and just focus on giving my best without worrying about the result. Kind of looking at it as a question a moment and not the entire exam at a time.
Other than this, I had my strategies specific for the sections decided through the several mocks that I had solved. This is important but I knew that depending on the difficulty and type of questions I might be required to change my strategy on the spot so I was prepared for that as well.
Question 11: Do you think academic background plays an important role in CAT Prep and Why?
Being from an engineering background, I was a bit more comfortable with DILR and QA section. So, yes, I feel academic background plays an important role in terms of what sections of the exam one would be comfortable with but I don’t think that should be a matter of concern as it can be easily overcome.
Question 12: Which institutes have you applied to admission and why did you opt for them particularly?
I have applied for several IIMs and am aiming for the top ones.
Question 13: How are you preparing for GD – PI and WAT rounds of the selection process?
I haven’t started the preparation yet and will be taking the guidance from seniors and the faculty at TIME
Question 14: What is your message for CAT aspirants? One crucial piece of advice that you would like them to follow and wish you had known.
I loved the pattern and kind of questions that were asked in CAT. I had realised that the skills I would develop while preparing for the exam would actually be helpful in general in life as well and this had helped me a lot to remain motivated. It’s as simple as if you love what you do, you give your best.
My performance in mocks was not good enough to be extrapolated to a 100%ile finally but everything went too well on the day of exam. I was much more focused and that reduced my mistakes drastically. What I want to convey is that don’t underestimate yourself and keep believing in possibilities beyond logical comprehension.
Question 15: What is your dream career choice after completing your MBA?
I would like to gain some experience and then maybe start something of my own.