Post CAT 2020 result, it’s time to congratulate the CAT 2020 toppers for their exemplary performance in the exam and who have achieved a mark by belling the CAT even during the COVID19 pendamic. This year has been a bit different from other years’ as aspirants were required to prepare for the exam from the periphery of their home only. It was only on the final D-day that aspirants were mandated to move to the test center to appear for CAT 2020.
One such aspirant, Shreya Pandey shares her experience of the CAT 2020 exam and how she managed to score 99+ percentile in the CAT exam this year to seek admission in one of the best colleges of the country. Find out from her by reading her interview as mentioned below:-
Question 1: Congratulations on cracking CAT 2020! What are your overall and sectional scores in CAT 2020?
My overall percentile is 99.84. Sectional percentiles for VARC, DILR and QA is 91.14, 99.94 and 99.67 respectively.
Question 2: When did you start your CAT 2020 Preparation? What is the ideal time required to complete the CAT syllabus before the exam?
I started preparing for CAT 2020 from mid August. I started my preparation quite late because I was not certain about what path to follow for higher studies and when to go for it amidst the COVID scenario. I would say the ideal time to prepare for CAT would be around 8-9 months. Syllabus can be completed in around 5-6 months and the remaining time can be used for practicing more questions and giving mocks. This time obviously varies on how ready one is for CAT and how much time one can devote every day. Go through the previous year question papers to understand where you stand and how much time you need to brush up your skills. CAT is an aptitude exam and doesn’t require subject specific knowledge. If you are good with your concepts, you only require practicing within time constraints.
Question 3: What was your overall preparation strategy for CAT 2020?
Since I didn’t have much time and my concepts were quite clear, I focused on practicing as many questions as possible. I did go through the quant syllabus at first to review the concepts but after that, it was mostly reviewing my mistakes and identifying my strengths and weaknesses.
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?
From the very beginning, I was quite skeptical about the DILR section. Mainly, because this section can be quite time taking and follows a set wise question pattern which can be a make or break for your final score. I went through the past year question papers and understood the key to selection of questions based on my strengths and which type of questions I cannot spend more time on. It all worked well to my surprise and I am quite happy with my DILR score.
Question 5: Tell us something about yourself, your family and your interests beyond academics?
I am a computer science graduate from BITS Pilani and have been working for the past 1.5 years as a developer. To describe myself, I would say that I am an ambivert and positive person and am quite close to those few people in life and rely on them to keep me sane. I like reading all sorts of things, like to be updated on all happenings around the world and am a stock market enthusiast.
Question 6: Were you a part of any coaching institute? Do you think coaching is necessary to ace CAT?
I wasn’t enrolled in any coaching institute for CAT preparation but did take mocks of three institutes to get used to the CAT exam like pressure. Coaching is not necessary if you are able to discipline your study hours by yourself at home.
Question 7: Any particular book or study material that helped you gain an edge over other candidates?
I thoroughly followed the CAT preparation books by Arun Sharma and Word Power Made Easy by Norman Lewis. These books are quite standard for preparation and most people aspirants would be knowing about them.
Question 8: How can an aspirant avoid negative marking?
I would say just don’t mark answers for questions which you are not sure about. It’s as simple as that. Do not take negative marking lightly. This becomes very crucial in VARC where you are confused among several options but understand the question properly and stick to the focal point.
Question 9: What role did Mocks play in your success? How many mocks did you attempt before the exam?
I would say mocks played a very crucial part in my preparation. I relied on them big time and had given over 40 mocks and 20 sectional tests. I wanted to be sure that I am comfortable with all kinds of questions and devoted most of my preparation time on these. Nonetheless, mocks are exhausting if you give them as frequently as me and there’s no point in giving mocks if your concepts are not clear.
Question 10: Please share your exam-day strategy for the CAT 2020. What was your last-minute preparation? How did you plan your CAT test taking?
I stopped studying a day before the exam, went through a DILR set to check if I could do it on time but decided to drop the idea midway as it would cause my spirits to dwindle if I wasn’t able to do the same. I had a good sleep, went through my QA formula sheet on the CAT day and had chocolate before the exam. I planned to not think much and made peace with the fact that if I am struggling with a question, then it’s a tough question for others as well. I faltered a little in the VARC section as I tried to focus more on the number of attempts than accuracy but made sure I didn’t carry on the anxiety to the next sections. I went with a positive attitude and skipped the questions I wasn’t comfortable with.
Question 11: Do you think academic background plays an important role in CAT Prep and Why?
Academic background doesn’t play an important role in CAT prep if you have enough time on hand. If you have 1 month to go for CAT, then obviously an engineer would be more comfortable with the QA section than a non-engineer as they have been more in touch with it. CAT is not a specialized exam and everything we encounter is from the high school syllabus which everyone has studied during their school time.
Question 12: Which institutes have you applied to admission and why did you opt for them particularly?
I applied for IIM Ahmedabad, Bangalore and Calcutta only. I am quite restrictive about the institutes I have applied to as I genuinely want to study in the top B Schools of India and have the right exposure.
Question 13: How are you preparing for GD – PI and WAT rounds of the selection process?
I am going through past interviews of IIM aspirants on the internet and keeping tracks of news and current affairs. As per my understanding, the interview is about presenting your true self and convincing the panel that you would be a right fit for their B School and you would be honoured if given that chance.
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 would say that focus on your strengths and what works for others might not work for you. Go through the past questions and understand where you have to work on. I wish I had known that CAT preparation could be done in less time as well; that would have saved me a lot of time when I got anxious and doubted my preparation.
Question 15: What is your dream career choice after completing your MBA?
I want to be at a place where I can bring about differences and make significant contributions to the world. More than anything, I aspire to find something which will give me joy every single day. I want to be well prepared and equipped to do so and I strongly believe in giving back to our mother nature.