YES, this engineer from IIT-Bombay who currently works with Morgan Stanley is no bookworm, discovers Nitin Jindal from Careers360 during a telephonic interview. Shashank shares his CAT and life strategies.
Q. Why did you give only two mocks for your preparation? Were you not serious?
A. I had prepared for CAT in 2008 and had a clear idea that I would do well. The mock test was a way of knowing where I stand because the format had changed; 2008 was the last paper-based CAT after which it went online. A couple of mock tests helped me get a clear idea that I was in a position to do well. Then in the last two days I brushed up verbal skills such as vocabulary.
Q. How can you brush up those skills in two days?
A. I think two days are more than enough. You get to solve 10-15 paragraphs and the type of questions are limited. It’s not like zillion types of questions, there are only 10-15 standard types. If you set your mind on that it becomes easy.
Q. To what or whom would you credit your success to?
A. I would credit myself definitely. Then IMS, which provided me some good feedback through the mock tests and last-minute studies. Then definitely there is an element of luck. Also my parents.
Q. Why do you say luck is involved?
A. Since it is an objective test, it depends on a lot of factors like how you perform on that day, what sort of questions you get? Do they match with your strengths? So the luck factor is also involved. Apart from that I would say it is also the kind of grooming you get; lots of competitive exams which I took right from my childhood days, my schooling, my parents etc.
Q. Which competitive exams did you take before?
A. There was National Talent Search Exam (NTSE). Then there is a local version of that known as BCTS, the Maharashtra state exam known as State Scholarship Examination. I came second in the All India Maths Olympiad in 2004 and was in the top 10 in the Physics Olympiad in 2005.
Q. Why didn’t you give CAT in 2009?
A. It is good to enter IIMs either as a fresher or with two years of work experience because there are certain companies, which hire you only if you have more than 22 months of work experience. There’s no point in just having one year of work experience. I got to know this from seniors of IIT-Bombay who are already at the IIMs.
Q. From Quant, Data Interpretation (DI) and Verbal Ability, which were your problem areas and how did you cope?
A. Quant was my strongest area because I was very good at Maths, so on any given day I knew I would score more than 99.95 percentile in Quant. DI is all about fast computation and I am very good at fast computation, but sometimes you make a small mistake and lose out on the whole set. Sometimes things like that happen. So my score varied a little but it was still one of my stronger areas. I was weaker at Verbal because in certain areas like grammar and vocabulary I wasn’t that sure, it really depended on how well I performed on that particular day. So my score was volatile. Reading Comprehension, I have always been very good at reading paragraphs and writing.
Q. Is it because of a good reading habit?
A. I would say yes. I spend around 30-40 minutes reading newspapers religiously every day. I read the Times of India and the Economic Times regularly. I like reading blogs, too. I used to read books by Jeffrey Archer earlier but now I read more financial books.
Q. Elaborate more on how you coped with Verbal Ability?
A. By giving various mocks, I identified that my weak area was grammar and vocabulary within Verbal Ability. So I did more problem solving from these areas and also worked on grammar rules for a day from Wren & Martin. Further, I decided that if there was a grammar question I was not sure about, I would not attempt it.
Q. How did you prepare in 2008?
A. I took four to five tests, and in the very first mock test which I had taken without any preparation I scored 99.92 percentile and it became clear that I could do this. I kept on giving mock tests. I never attended any classroom coaching and just went through the material provided to me to see what kind of questions are there.
Q. So you think coaching is not required for cracking CAT?
A. Most subjects covered by CAT are already done by engineering students. When you appear for an exam like IIT-JEE, you have done most of the Maths part already. DI is about developing the ability to interpret data rather than learning something. Verbal is something I was good at because I had given GRE earlier.
Q. How did you prepare for GRE?
A. I used the standard Barron’s book.
Q. Do you generally study only one day before your exams?
A. Yes, you see that’s an IITian habit. In fact I think all engineers who stay in hostel study only one day before the exam because you have so many fun activities going on in life other than studies.
Q. So how do you spend your leisure time?
A. The thing I like most is hanging out with my friends. All my life I have been in Mumbai, so I have a lot of my friends here including those from IIT-Bombay. We go to restaurants, malls, play games. I’m also learning Spanish and salsa. I like to travel a lot whenever I get time. Three countries which I’ve visited recently are: South Africa to see the football World Cup as I’m very fond of football, New York on work and Thailand with friends.
Q. You seem to be a very fun loving guy!
A. I also like adventure sports like Scuba-diving, Paragliding, etc. Of course, I do these only when I go out of India.
Q. Any tips for CAT aspirants?
A. Try to identify your strengths and weaknesses as early as possible and work towards converting your weaknesses into your strengths. That is the key, knowing what your strength is, what your weakness is and what you can change. The general mistake people make is focusing on just one section. The format has changed significantly; back in 2008 you could not attempt all questions. This time around I attempted 59 questions of a total of 60. I had five minutes to solve the last question but I could not solve it. I thought it was wrong because I could not get any of the given options as the answer. So this time around people could solve all the questions and I don’t think you can now afford to leave or skip many questions.
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