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Congratulations on your success. How your experience was and what is your take on that?
YK: Foremost, hearty thanks for letting me share my experience. Frankly, the overall result did surprise me because I certainly wasn’t expecting a percentile in the high 99s. The entire journey from preparation to examination and the result has been gratifying and mostly smooth barring a few crests and troughs. It has been a great learning passage which has instilled a sense of ‘can –do’ spirit in me and faith in the future. But the fact remains, the battle is only half won and an equally enriching experience awaits me.
How did friends and family react?
YK: My parents were, expectedly proud but there was a sense of incredulity as the result started to sink in. My friends had more confidence in me than I had and they shared my joy equally but with the usual forewarnings of a heavy beating.
What was your preparation strategy for CAT? How did you approach the test?
YK: My approach to CAT was to take it as an aptitude based test and not a knowledge based test i.e. one does not have to learn, but has to be alert. Right in the initial stages I had decided never to burden myself with the preparations for 2-3 hrs everyday. I made sure that I was in touch with the recent concepts taught at coaching by practicing 20-30 questions per week (that’s hardly 30 mins daily) be it quant/verbal/LRDI.
Most importantly, I shunned the fear of the CAT and the hype from my mind and thus always felt positive regarding the test. In this regard the mock tests (around 25) were of an immense help and gave me the room for experimenting with strategies.
When did you start preparing for CAT? And how serious were you about it? Share us with us some insights of those preparation days.
YK: I feel the key to be in a relaxed state of mind for preparation is to start early so that one is not overburdened at any stage. I started coaching 15 months before the CAT and classes for 4 hrs/week were more than manageable.
Initially, CAT was not my sole aim and I was uncertain whether to prepare for GRE/GMAT or go for work-ex and then do an MBA. But with the placement season not unfolding as expected and dwindling interest in GRE, I had to pin my hopes on CAT. But fortunately I was not all at sea as I had been appearing for the mocks and had been brushing up the major topics in quant, which was my weaker section. Thus I decided to go full throttle in the last 70-80 days leading up to the CAT.
How is this Online format of CAT different from the pen-and-paper format? Did you face any hassles moving from pen and paper to a computer-based test?
YK: Well it was my first experience of taking the CAT, so I cannot comment on the change in the format of testing. Since we frequently use computers, there should be no hassles during the test. In fact, the entire session was glitch-free and all procedures were carried out by the Prometric staff in an organized and professional manner. So no need to harbor these kind of worries on the day of the test, just focus on the 140 minutes of testing.
Which coaching institute did you join (if any)? How did coaching help?
YK: I joined Career Launcher (CP) for the weekend sessions in the morning. Coaching is of great help, especially for a final year graduate student or those appearing for the first time. CAT is all about practicing and developing strategies, herein the coaching institutes are important. Loads of practice resources (online+offline), wise and easy to remember shortcuts and guidance of experienced faculty members were some of the attributes of joining coaching.
However the biggest positive was the exposure to the varied levels of mock tests.
How many test series you took?
YK: I gave 11 tests in the proctored format (at the centre) and 15 in the un-proctored format spanning over a period of nearly 5 months.
What other books did you refer to apart from the coaching centre’s learning resources?
YK: I did not refer to any other individual book for my preparations but reverting back to cl. IX and cl. X books by RD Sharma were helpful for questions on geometry. As for the verbal section, no single book can suffice the purpose.
Of all the sections in CAT, which one came across as most challenging to you?
YK: During my preparations, I found the quantitative aptitude section most challenging because my time per question was high and I was able to attempt only a few questions (with high accuracy, though). But practicing varied levels and type of questions helped on the actual test day as I could come up with a methodology to solve the question in a very short time.
On the actual day, verbal section came as a surprise because it was very tricky, not difficult though. With 2-3 seemingly similar options, the section took many by surprise. However questions from RCs, parajumbles and sentence completions were doable and comprehending the exact sense of the question or choosing a logical option was similar to those encountered in questions in previous year CATs (pre 2009).
What were your strategies for preparing for Quantitative Ability, Verbal Ability and Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning? Please share in detail (separately for all four).
YK: Quant requires arduous and intelligent practice so that one can develop strategies/shortcuts/formulae to suit oneself. I found RD Sharma (cl X-XII) very helpful in geometry, permutations and combinations and progressions. For arithmetic and algebra the material provided by CL sufficed.
Vedic Maths was helpful in calculation intensive Data Interpretation questions. Practicing approximations, comparisons of ratios and learning squares/cubes/square roots/reciprocals of 1- 30 was a regular feature that I incorporated in my DI preparation. With DI, one needs to be fast and careful as well because one miscalculation can spoil the whole question set. Also it is important to identify the easier, less calculation intensive questions in a set and attempt those if time is scarce and they will always be present in a caselet.
Logical Reasoning is undoubtedly the easiest section of the four in terms of practice as well as attempting in the paper. There is only a handful variety of questions and only a few approaches are required which can be applied to the entire gamut of cases. The key is to represent the data in any pictorial form one finds suitable –like tables, flow charts, negation diagrams etc. Some cases may be convoluted but patience pays rich dividends as 3-4 questions can be readily solved.
I approached the VA section in a manner such that I would attempt the RC passages interspersed in between the grammar questions. I read the entire passage first and then attempted the questions in order to tackle the reasoning and inference based questions which required an understanding of the entire passage. Eclectic reading helped me to approach the summary based questions and some RCs and reading articles on ‘aldaily.com’ gave a good exposure. Vocabulary was not a cause of worry as CAT tests only the usage of words which can be deciphered in context, not the absolute meaning.
What should be the overall strategy for CAT 2012 preparation with regards to time management?
YK: There is no definite time frame to set the preparation plan – it can be 15 weeks or it can be 15 months. If someone is confident of his preparation beforehand and just needs brushing up, then only appear for the mock tests. If one needs to start from scratch, then a gradual and honest preparation is required, with self-learning 5-7 hours on a weekly basis. Taking time out of college routine is not a herculean task and if we plan accordingly, it does wonders in the long run.
Now that you have cracked CAT, what will be your strategy for the GD, PI & Essay writing preparation? Please share in detail.
YK: As of now I am developing a strategy that focuses on engineering academics, current economic, social and political issues and above all, self- introspection. I am comfortable with regards to communicating and writing but it is the interview that is the acid test. I just hope to maintain my composure as I have done so far and thus scale the peak.
What is your advice to the CAT 2012 candidates? What last-minute tips would you give to students aspiring for CAT?
YashBe confident in your abilities and have faith in the future. Be composed but eager in your approach, relaxed but not lax in your attitude. Chalk out a plan unique to you and identify your strong and weak topics because it is not necessary to attempt all the questions – what is important is to do the things correctly. During the last minute never change your approach or try to develop a new strategy. Always maintain your daily schedule and never confine yourselves in a shell. Remember CAT is not a barrier in life, but a threshold to new vistas.
What are your future plans?
YK: MBA followed by an experience in the financial services industry or FMCG based companies is what I hope to achieve.
Any other information or message you would like to share with us?
YK: SEIZE THE MOMENT, SEIZE THE OPPORTUNITY, SEIZE THE WORLD!!