Interview with CAT high scorers from DU

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Thousands of students aspire to crack what only a handful manage to – the Common Admission Test for India’s leading B-Schools. What does it take to be one of the handful? What sets them apart? We caught up with Arushi Jamar (99.78 percentile) of Shaheed Sukhdev College of Business Studies and Hardik Wadhwa (99.72 percentile) from Shri Ram College of Commerce and tried to find out. While Arushi says she cut down on parties in the last 3 months before the exam, Hardik says his strategy was to simply not have one.

Read on to find out more:

Q. When and how did you decide on going for MBA?

Arushi: My interest in finance and related fields lead me to take up a specialised course in finance, BFIA. But an undergraduate course is not really enough to pursue a career in finance. MBA is the natural choice. Moreover, understanding management is absolutely essential to understand the dynamics on which the financial world today works. I can’t point out exactly when I decided to pursue an MBA, but it has been on my mind for a long time.

Hardik: The choice for a masters degree was between an MBA and a masters in my major subject. The degree of Master of Business Administration is considered the terminal degree for any major, hence the interest in an MBA. But the primary reason for an MBA is to gain knowledge of the intricacies of thriving in the corporate world. Pursuing my graduation in Economics from SRCC has familiarised me with comprehensive theories and real world situations and MBA is the right platform to gain, experience and act as a learner and leader. Establishing myself as a management professional is my primary target to enhance my proven area of expertise and to develop new ones. Pursuing an MBA will lead to a steep successful growth in my formal education curve. My upward sloping knowledge curve will certainly get an inflexion point and increment at an accelerated pace after my successful completion of MBA.

“I remember carrying CAT material to college and solving exercises during any breaks I could get. I was taking one mock a day in the last few weeks” – Arushi Jamar

Q. What has been your preparation strategy? How are you preparing for the subsequent rounds?

Arushi: CAT is not just about understanding concepts and knowing the right answers, but also about how you attempt the test. My strategy was optimising the use of those 170 minutes. Attempting the right questions and ignoring the lengthy ones. I practised a lot. I was taking one mock almost every day in the last few weeks.
For the Personal Interview round, I’m planning to revise everything I have studied in the last 5 semesters. As yet, I am not doing anything in particular, just reading books and magazines, which I anyway read a lot.

Hardik: My preparation strategy was to never have one. The more one makes timetables and stringent schedules for studying such a wide and diverse course as CAT’s, the less is the flexibility with which one is able to prepare, thereby restricting analytical and logical thinking – elements which are tested in almost every question of the examination. Quantitative aptitude was one area which initially seemed frightening, but with time and practice, the scare turns into keenness to solve more and that is the stage where one should believe in oneself of being sufficiently ready for the exam.
For the subsequent rounds, I have an Academic Writing Test, for which I am yet to start any serious preparation. Qualification from that stage would get me the call for the personal interview, but it is all contingent on how the test goes.

Q. Which B-schools are you targeting?

Arushi: I am targeting IIM Ahmedabad, IIM Calcutta and IIM Bangalore.

Hardik: I am targeting all the eminent B-Schools of the country, an MBA degree from which would surely give a headstart to my career. These include particularly the IIM’s and FMS.

Q. How did you manage time between college and CAT preparation?

Arushi: It wasn’t easy. I usually had classes from 9 to 5 on weekdays, so CAT prep was mostly restricted to weekends. But I remember carrying CAT material to college and solving exercises during any breaks I could get. I cut down on parties and hangouts to save time, especially in the last 3 months.

Hardik: I have been truly blessed to be studying from some amazing professors in my college, hence the relative burden of my semester exams was less. I attended classes in college diligently and made it a point to grasp the concept in the class itself, so that the remaining time could be devoted to CAT preparation. Moreover, when my preparation used to accelerate during weekends. A long mid-semester break and the preparatory leaves towards the end also helped my cause and gave me sufficient time to prepare for both.

Q. Did you take coaching?

Arushi: Yes.

Hardik: Yes.

Q. What’s your take on the culture of coaching that is prevalent?

Arushi: These classes do help, more so because of the guidance they offer. It’s not like CAT is a test which requires coaching classes, but when there is so much competition that even one mistake can pull down your percentile drastically, it’s better to be safe.
Though, more than coaching, it’s the test series that helps. If anyone wants to brave the CAT without joining any institute, go ahead, it can be done, but make sure you subscribe to at least 2 test series and attempt as many mocks as you can. As clichéd as it sounds, practice is the key.

Hardik: The culture of coaching is a helpful mechanism for getting a good start for preparation. The real difference lies in how one perceives the environment around and takes it in which direction. Healthy competition is taken positively by some, who sense the opportunity knocking on the door. They work hard towards it and are able to accomplish their goals. The most significant aspect here is to go with an open mind and bend it in as positive a manner as possible. Grasping all that can be taken home is possible only when this flexibility exists. Coaching also nurtures an urge for self-study, which is what actually brings out the best in yourself. Unless the endeavour to make one’s own efforts doesn’t come from attending coaching classes, the preparation might be superficial and incomplete. That’s why coaching is a necessary, but not a sufficient condition for a good score.

“Herd behaviour is not what should guide choices, as doing what is most fulfilling to oneself has no substitute” – Hardik Wadhwa

Q. Having crossed the sea now, what tips would you like to give to MBA aspirants?

Arushi: Stay calm, don’t worry if you don’t score well in initial mocks. Don’t ever lose hope. Be sincere and consistent in your efforts. Don’t waste time in watching movies or TV series. Don’t gather unnecessary stress. Don’t pollute your mind. Minimise distractions. Stay focussed on CAT.
Also, take enough breaks while studying, go out, exercise, meet people, do things that refresh your mind, not stress it.
Remember your goal: Increase speed, reduce errors.

Hardik: The first hurdle that one needs to cross in this journey (and more importantly, at an early stage as well) is to let go of the fear of the exam. Until that persists, CAT will seem an impossible dream. Keeping the faith throughout is also important, especially in situations where the going gets tough and hope is lost. Consistent studying is extremely important, but what matters the most is enjoying the journey. Taking every failure in your stride will enable you to focus better, and being positive is what differentiates a rocky path from a smooth one.

Q. MBA is gradually becoming the most favoured PG choice for commerce students. Which factors do you think aspirants should weigh in before making a decision?

Arushi: You should think of want you want to do in life. Just follow your passion, whatever it is. Start a band, a travel company, a Youtube channel, a website, a mobile application or simply pursue a masters in your undergrad subject, whatever your passion leads you to. Try to picture where you see yourself in 5-10 years. And then decide whether an MBA fits into the picture. An MBA will give you a brand, a network and the necessary managerial skills. Whatever venture you start, it will be easier to manage its operations, find funding and build a brand, if you have an MBA backing you.

Hardik: Choosing a suitable career is an important decision in one’s life. Interest is the primary determining factor. It’s not enough for a subject to interest you, but the skills attached to it and the work environment that will be offered are also important factors influencing decisions. Future prospects are also taken into account. Herd behaviour is not what should guide choices, as doing what is most fulfilling to oneself has no substitute. Interacting with people already in those fields and learning from their experiences offers a new dimension to look at things. However ultimately the decision is one’s own, the wrong decision can bring as much misery as the joy and glory endowed by making the right choice.

EDM lover, photographer, big-time foodie, drummer, writer, reader, gamer (CS 1.6 and err, Flappy Bird only), a problem solver and not as Gambhir as alleged topped with Hollywood & English TV shows in my blood. In a million ways extremely unique and distinctive and at the same time just a normal guy. Can be reached at [email protected].

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