CAT 2020 Topper Interview – Shivanshu Pandey, A Formula1 enthusiast who cracked CAT with 99.85 percentile

It is interesting to read the success story of CAT 2020 toppers. Meet Shivanshu who is a basketball player and F1 Race Enthusiast. He has achieved 99+ percentile in the CAT 2020. Read all about his journey and know how to prepare for the CAT exam.

Created On: Jan 6, 2021 16:41 IST
CAT 2020 Topper Shivanshu
CAT 2020 Topper Shivanshu

CAT 2020 Toppers – To prepare for the CAT exam is a tough challenge especially when aspirants have to prepare from the periphery of their home without establishing any contact with the teachers and visiting physical classroom settings. However, this year, CAT 2020 aspirants have performed exceedingly. Meet one such stellar performer of CAT 2020, Shivanshu Pandey who is an IIT Kharagpur alumnus and is a basket ball player.

Find out all about the success story of Shivanshu Pandey to know key mantras that he adopted to bell the CAT. Know shortcuts and strategies that enabled Shivanshu score 99+ score in the CAT 2020 exam.

CAT 2020 Topper Interview – Shivanshu Pandey

Question 1: Congratulations on cracking CAT 2020! What are your overall and sectional scores in CAT 2020?

Thank you so much! I want to thank my parents, Sri Shashi Bhushan Pandey and Smt Vidhu Pandey, for their constant motivation and faith in me. I want to give a special mention to my elder brother, Shashwat Pandey, without whose guidance and support I would not have achieved this feat.

I appeared in Slot 3 for CAT 2020, and my overall scaled score is 127.19. My sectional scaled scores are 42.24 in VARC, 28.83 in DILR, and 56.12 in QA.





Verbal Ability &

Reading Comprehension

Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning

Quantitative Ability

Scaled Score


Scaled Score


Scaled Score


Overall Scaled Score

Overall Percentile









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 my CAT preparations in August 2020, studying around 10-12 hours a day. The ideal time for CAT preparation is very subjective, and it depends upon the target percentile and clarity of concepts beforehand. The ideal time for preparation can, therefore, range from half a year to one.

Question 3: What was your overall preparation strategy for CAT 2020?

I had only four months to prepare for the examination, so I planned to take it in steps. I attempted a CAT paper with no preparation at all. This exercise gave me an idea of where I stood and what my weak points were. I ironed out my weaknesses in steps: taking care of the concepts first and then my application ability and speed. Meanwhile, I kept attempting two mock tests each week, which helped me track my progress and gave me a realistic idea of where I stood and what I could achieve.

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?

Throughout the initial months, I found that I was decent at QA and DILR. However, VARC was especially tough for me. I could figure out that the critical reading portion was missing for me. I felt that I needed extra guidance to improve my performance. Therefore, I enrolled in the Career Launcher online classes for the same. The course helped me a lot in understanding the questions better and eliminating the wrong choices with confidence. In addition, it helped me a lot in achieving 99.05 percentile in VARC section in CAT 2020.

Question 5: Tell us something about yourself, your family and your interests beyond academics?

I am a chemical engineering graduate from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur. I am currently working full time at OYO Hotels and Homes Private Limited.  My father, Sri Shashi Bhushan Pandey, is an Assistant Audit Officer in the office of P.A.G. Prayagraj. My mother, Smt Vidhu Pandey, is a teacher in the Basic Shiksha Parishad, Uttar Pradesh. I have an elder brother, Shashwat Pandey, who also graduated from IIT Kharagpur in Electronics and Electrical Engineering. He completed his MBA from IIM Kozhikode.

As a closely knit medium class family, board games were always a great bonding experience. I developed an interest in the game of chess. I also play basketball and am a Formula1 enthusiast. I was a part of the Kharagpur RoboSoccer Students' Group at IIT Kharagpur, where we produced automated bots to play soccer. I am a yearly donor to the SMILE foundation to help educate poor children in India.

Question 6: Were you a part of any coaching institute? Do you think coaching is necessary to ace CAT?

Mock Tests are pivotal to the preparation for CAT. I enrolled in the Mock Test Series of Career Launcher and TIME. During my CAT preparation, my performance in VARC seemed to plateau. I, therefore, got enrolled in the VARC classes of Career Launcher to help me improve further. Again, just like the ideal time needed to prepare, the decision to opt for coaching or not is subjective. As a guidance tool, I feel that coaching can help fasten preparation.

Question 7: Any particular book or study material that helped you gain an edge over other candidates?

I did not opt for any book or study material.

Question 8: How can an aspirant avoid negative marking?

A candidate can only tackle Negative Marking if the concepts are clear. There is no other way to it in my point of view. I believe that any candidate should ensure proper basic concepts before trying to increase speed through formulas. Clear basic concepts and the ability to apply them in problems also help in making educated guesses in a few questions. The possibility of negative marking reduces manifolds. I noticed the difference in my performance in VARC once I could get my basics clear through the VARC course of Career Launcher.

Question 9: What role did Mocks play in your success? How many mocks did you attempt before the exam?

Mocks are essential and irreplaceable for CAT.  The practice of appearing for Mocks regularly and religiously helps a candidate track his/her progress. Mocks help in the formulation of a strategy for different circumstances. We need to lose some battles to win the war and mocks train students to do just that. Between August 1, 2020, and November 26, 2020, I attempted mocks every Saturday and Sunday. I attempted around 40 mock tests and analysed them thoroughly before I sat for the examination.

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?

The exam day strategy was to stay relaxed. Since my slot was the evening slot, I made sure not to eat too much but not be hungry either. I ensured that I had ample sleep to stay sharp in the examination hall.  My mocks had taught me I performed better in VARC if I go through a few comprehensions and para-jumbles beforehand. So, I solved a couple of comprehensions and a few para-jumbles right before I left for the examination hall. I was confident that I could touch all QA questions. For DILR, I spent the first moments going through the sets to spot the ones I could attempt. For VARC, I had made a note to shift to the Verbal Ability Section with 15 minutes remaining and then go back to Comprehensions. For me, the key was to be confident of myself and do the best I could with my four months of dedicated preparation.

Question 11: Do you think academic background plays an important role in CAT Prep and Why?

The academic background of a candidate plays some role in the preparation process. It determines which sections one has to give special attention. Since I am from an engineering background, QA was relatively easier for me as compared to VARC. It might be different for students from different backgrounds. However, if a candidate takes the right approach and works on clearing the concepts before anything else, he/she can easily overcome the challenges.

Question 12: Which institutes have you applied to admission and why did you opt for them particularly?

IIMs are among the best institutions in India and the world. I have applied for IIM Ahmedabad, IIM Bangalore, IIM Calcutta, IIM Lucknow, IIM Kozhikode, IIM Indore, IIM Shilong and IIM Ranchi. I have also applied for FMS Delhi, which is also among the leading MBA institutions in India. I have also submitted my applications for the DFS Delhi, IIT Bombay and IIT Kharagpur.

Question 13: What is your message for CAT aspirants? One crucial piece of advice that you would like them to follow and wish you had known.

Working on concepts before trying to increase speed using formulas is one mistake, I have seen many candidates do. Clear basic concepts are always helpful, no matter the level of difficulty of the examination paper. During the preparation process, I would suggest aspirants appear for regular Mock Tests and analyse them properly. Repeating this exercise diligently will provide them with excellent results.

Question 14: What is your dream career choice after completing your MBA?

I would like to get into a consulting role after I complete my MBA in a decent organisation.