his preparation schedule. His fine balance between Speed and Accuracy brought his 99.87 percentile in CAT 2014. Sarthak is currently pursuing his studies at Shailesh J. Mehta School of Management,IIT Bombay.
A Computer Science engineer, Sarthak shares how his disciplined apporoach and consistency in preparation helped him achieve high CAT percentile.
Question : Why did you opt for an MBA degree?
Sarthak: In my third year of engineering, I had decided that I wanted to pursue higher studies. It has been a lifelong dream of mine to open my own personal computer enterprise some years down the line. Hence it was a logical decision to pursue MBA as it would certainly help me get skills and knowledge that would be necessary to set up my enterprise.
Question : How was the overall experience of appearing in CAT 2014 under the new pattern?
Sarthak: I learnt the value of time management and accuracy right from the beginning of my preparations. I used to give a lot of mock tests so that I would easily find from the test analysis about the areas that needed more work. I used to give some amount of time to preparation daily without fail.
The pattern changed in CAT 2014 from 60 questions in 140 minutes to 100 questions in 170 minutes. The change in pattern came as a surprise as the time to answer each question had been reduced by 38 seconds from 140 seconds to 102 seconds. This actually helped me manage time better as I tried to solve each question in that 102 second window allotted to it. To improve my accuracy and speed, I gave at least 2 mock tests per week, totalling over 50 tests in the new pattern, and my test results were quite consistent over the period.
Question : What was your percentile in Quantitative Ability & Data Interpretation and Verbal Ability & Logical Reasoning separately?
Sarthak: I had 99.84 percentile in Quantitative Ability & Data Interpretation Section and 99.14 percentile in Verbal Ability & Logical Reasoning Section.
Question : What was your preparation strategy for the two sections?
Sarthak: My strategy for Quantitative Ability & Data Interpretation Section was to learn concepts, understand and workout on simple examples, then attempt difficult questions. By learning concepts and understanding them through examples, it was easy to understand and attempt difficult questions. For Verbal Ability & Logical Reasoning Section, I did a lot of reading, especially newspapers and magazines for the Verbal Part. For the reasoning part, I resorted to the method of practicing as many different varieties of questions I used to get my hands on.
Question : Did you have any Time Management formula for CAT?
Sarthak: I worked a lot on time management. I allotted the average time of 102 seconds to solve each question I attempted so that I don’t waste more time on any question. I had the advantage of knowing almost all concepts in Quantitative Ability & Data Interpretation, which helped a lot in solving fast. I tried to save time in this section because the Verbal Ability & Logical Reasoning Section takes time to read and understand the questions which are mostly passages and paragraphs. So I used to finish the Quantitative Ability & Data Interpretation Section faster so that I would have more time for the Verbal Ability & Logical Reasoning Section.
Question : How did you tackle your weak area in the exam?
Sarthak: Quantitative Ability, Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning were my strong areas. Since school, I was good in mathematics and won various competitions related to mathematics, so I was quite strong in these sections.
Compared to this, I was a little weaker in Verbal Ability. I did lots of reading to improve my reading speed, vocabulary and grammar. For grammar, I followed many grammar books such as Wren and Martin. Along with this, I read newspaper editorials, which not only helped in my written tests but also interviews.
Question : After the exam, how did you prepare for the PI-WAT rounds?
Sarthak: I read and wrote on a lot of topics – ranging from current affairs to abstract topics. Knowledge about current affairs is very much necessary for both WAT and PI. I gave a lot of mock interviews so that when I went to the finals, I would have a clear idea and structure to any possible question that interviewer colud have asked. This certainly helped me build up my confidence before my final interviews.
Question : What are the key factors that influenced your selection at PI stage?
Sarthak: I used to read newspapers a lot, especially about the Union Budget because my interviews were scheduled during the budget session in February-March. One can be sure that the interview would go in one or more of the following three ways; either current affairs, hobbies and interests or culture.
Steering the interview in the direction which I was comfortable in, added to my advantage. There were various topics where I was little uncomfortable, but I always tried to impress them with the topics I was good at. Academic history is a big factor for selection at PI stage. I had a very good percentage in 10th, but my 12th and graduation marks were average. This was a deciding factor in many colleges. So, a person with good academics definitely has an edge over others.
Question : Your message to CAT 2015 aspirants?
Sarthak: Identify and work more on the areas you lack confidence. Your strong areas should require less work but don’t ignore them completely. Accuracy and time management are very important and cannot be compromised with. It is not necessary to attempt all questions, but you should not bluff about the answers and only attempt those which you are sure about. Negative marking should be avoided at any cost. Give some time daily to your preparations, even half an hour works miracles. And make sure to regularly evaluate yourself in mock tests and their analysis of your results.