The Common Admission Test (CAT) is one of the most popular entrance exams in India, specifically designed to clear the greatest of the institutions: the IIMs of the country. Students generally start their preparations for CAT, from the second year of their graduation college. While some go for coaching, most do on their own. While students try to decode the myths, we thought to go to a current student at IIM Bangalore and see what they have to say about the actual preparation.
Karishma Bhura is a Chartered Accountant and a B.Com graduate from H.L. Institute of Commerce, the batch of 2014. Currently, she is a PGDM student at IIM Bangalore. A finance enthusiast, she enjoys reading, writing, and painting.
1. What kind of prep did it take you to prepare for CAT 2015?
I scored 178/300 in CAT ’15, which gave me a percentile of 98.94. As a B Com graduate and a CA Final student, it was a respectable score. I had cleared all the three sectional cutoffs and had a balanced score across them.
There was a change in the examination pattern in CAT ’15. There were GMAT style questions that had no negative marking.
Furthermore, CAT ’15 saw an easy verbal section, followed by an extremely difficult DILR, which broke the confidence of many students (including me). This meant that most, if not all, underperformed in QA. The key to cracking this paper was keeping your calm, anticipating tough questions seeing the level of Easy verbal ones, and restricting your attempts in DILR.
2. What were some of your strong subjects and what did you struggle with?
Verbal section and Analytical reasoning had been really strong points. I struggled with Quantitative Aptitude, but oodles of practice eased the pressure.
3. How is the GD like? How does one prepare oneself for the same?
GDs can be ruthless (MDI GD was really, really gruelling and gruesome), they can be really simple (a la IIFT) or they can be extremely random (IIM K). None of the other IIMs has a GD round, it’s only specific to IIFT, MDI and IIM K.
Preparation requires staying abreast with current affairs because the topics range from anything in the economic scenario to one’s views on a subject as sensitive as a mercy killing and regular practice of GD with as many new participants as possible. It takes a lot of time to get the right mix of aggression and calm in a GD.
4. How is the PI like? What preparations had you done for it?
PI is never as aggressive as candidates make up in their minds. Nevertheless, it requires some serious practice – one should always keep the basic questions really well prepared. This is because, say for example, if you can answer the question to “tell us something about yourself” interestingly enough, you stand a good chance of driving the interview to your desired direction. Once you have the direction, it is easier to crack a personal interview. This also means that in any SOP or questionnaire, you should be thorough with each and every word that you’ve written, or chose to use in a PI, because these words can be taken up and then fit into several different contexts.
5. Do you think there’s a little luck factor working here?
Selection criteria do change from year to year. Also, there is only so far luck can take you – maybe through CAT or GD or PI. It will be foolish to believe that luck helps through all the stages.
6. Who should go for IIM B and whom would IIM B go for?
IIM B is extremely gruelling. More so than most B-schools. Period.
It is a college meant for anyone who has the energy and the stamina to last the program, most important of all is the ability to accept the brilliance around you and humbly try to learn as much as you can from the extremely intelligent Ad crème de la crème of Indian youth.
These are also the traits IIMB looks for. While CAT percentile and performance in GD etc. are all important factors, in my opinion, the interviewers look for candidates they are sure can be are willing to learn, unlearn and relearn – students who are trainable.
7. How is Bangalore as a city for a student?
Bangalore has the most charming weather – it pours just about any time of the day, no warnings, nothing. The cool weather makes the frenzied life slightly easier. For those who like to drink and party, Bangalore is definitely better than Ahmedabad. But yes, you will miss the Ahmedabad food down here at IIMB. No comparisons and it might seem trivial right now, but when you need to see it day to day, it is difficult.
8. What kind of pressures will a student go through during preparation and how to cope with them?
There will always be a constant question of “Am I doing good enough” or “Will I be able to keep up this performance in the actual final attempt”. While these are genuine doubts and I faced them a lot, there comes a time for everyone when they realise that all they can do is go and give their best on the D-Day. What worked for me was that I constantly sought the guidance and help of faculties and friends, until I finally learned to calm my nerves myself.
9. Did you take coaching for CAT? Do you think one can do without it? What part does it play?
I took a crash course at Endeavor Careers, Ahmedabad. It was of a great help in the sense that:
- I did not have to do any research myself, be it about the form submission deadlines or the past records of questions.
- I had some problems in QA, and Endeavour helped me immensely- both the faculties and the material – it’s pure gold.
- I had plenty of practice from experienced people when it came to GD and PI preparation, and I’m pretty sure this mentoring played a very big role in cracking interviews and converting colleges.
10. How is the student life in the first few months of joining college?
The life is as you have never experienced it before. This is especially true for non-engineering students because we usually do not have the same level of college fests or committees at the undergraduate level. The schedule is literally packed – you have lectures in the morning, preparation for quizzes/ projects during the day, sports activities in the evening (or whenever you want them to be), networking with the right people, executing club responsibilities, volunteering for events, participating in competitions, taking care of yourself – time actually flies.
11. Any suggestions, comments for aspiring students
Every effort that you put here, pays back a thousand fold. MBA from a good college is an experience that people accredit as the best experience of their lives. That happens for a reason. The kind of people you get opportunities to work with, the scale of events that you are exposed to – here, bigger is better. Therefore, no pressure, but give your best. You surely don’t want to worry thinking if only you had worked harder, it could have been better. Once you have gone all in, the satisfaction of having given everything that you’ve got – it is an accomplishment.