CAT 2021 Topper Interview: IIM Ahmedabad declared the CAT 2021 Result for the national-level entrance exam on 2nd January 2022. With the CAT Results declared now, it’s time to meet the CAT 2021 Toppers, who have put up stellar performances and emerged in the elite 1% of the students who will bag the seats to the premier B-schools of the country. One such candidate, Shraman Jain – a Mechanical Engineering Graduate has shared his journey from being a CAT aspirant to a successful candidate with us in an exclusive interview. So, let’s hear it from Shraman, who shares with us how he improved upon his weaknesses and mastered his strengths to ‘Bell the CAT’ this year.
Excerpts from the Interview!
Question 1: Congratulations on cracking CAT 2021! What are your overall and sectional scores in CAT 2021?
Thank you so much. I have scored an overall percentile of 99.43 at an overall score of 104.76. Section wise, I have scored 98.04 percentile at a scaled score of 98.04 in VARC, 99.25 percentile at a scaled score of 34.33 in DILR, and 97.59 percentile at a scaled score of 29.34 in QA.
Question 2: When did you start your CAT 2021 Preparation? What is the ideal time required to complete the CAT syllabus before the exam?
For CAT 2021, I could not devote as much time as I had devoted for CAT 2020 but since this was my 3rd attempt and the fact that I had recently appeared for GMAT in August 2021, I was good to go. In the week prior to CAT, I spent some time revising a few formulas and concepts and boosted my confidence by giving a sectional mock just a day before CAT. To cover the extensive CAT syllabus, one needs to put in sincere efforts for at least 5-6 months.
Question 3: What was your overall preparation strategy for CAT 2021?
Since this was my 3rd attempt, I had already finished up my syllabus a while ago and was well aware of my strengths and weaknesses. I focused on maximising my accuracy by only mastering the areas I was already confident about. Ideally, I would have liked to give a mock each day for up to 30 days prior to CAT but my commitments at work prevented me from doing so.
Question 4: Was there any particular section/area that you were weak at? How did you overcome this challenge? What strategies did you adopt to master that section?
Last year, I did not perform well in DILR despite attempting 100s of practice sets and I concluded that mastering DILR requires not only rigorous practice but also a right state of mind (calm and composed). So, in CAT 2021, the right temperament allowed me to choose the sets properly, which I believe is very important. Once I was clear about the sets I was going to attempt, I backed myself and started solving, only to find out that it had been 20 minutes in the section, and I have not attempted even a single question. At this moment, staying calm is extremely important and instead of panicking, I worked on the sets with a positive mindset and ended the section with 10 correct attempts and only 1 negative, thereby bagging 99.25 percentile in the section.
Question 5: Tell us something about yourself, your family and your interests beyond academics?
I am a Mechanical Engineering graduate from SRM Institute of Science and Technology, Chennai and I am currently working as a Project Manager in my family business which revolves around steel fabrication. Both of my parents are Engineers, while my twin sister is a nutritionist. Beyond academics, I am very passionate about automobiles and love to spend my free time reading or writing content about cars.
Question 6: Were you a part of any coaching institute? Do you think coaching is necessary to ace CAT?
For CAT 2020, I joined Time coaching and took mock tests package from Bulls Eye. However, this year I did not join any coaching and studied by myself. If one is self-disciplined and determined to crack cat, I do not think that coaching is necessary at all since a lot of content is available for free; however, I do recommend taking up a mock test package and giving as many mocks as possible.
Question 7: Any particular book or study material that helped you gain an edge over other candidates?
No, I cannot recommend any one specific book.
Question 8: How can an aspirant avoid negative marking?
In my opinion, accuracy is extremely important and to avoid negative marking, one needs to play the game by their own strengths and thereby bring the ball in their own court. For example, I mastered only 2 areas in quants i.e., Arithmetic and Geometry and wasn’t confident at all for the other areas. Then during the test, I only attempted 9 questions in QA and got all of them correct. In fact, I also left 1 complete RC set in VARC because I was not comfortable with the content and the writing style. But then the result speaks for itself, I had only 2 negatives in the entire CAT 2021 (1each in DILR and VARC). To conclude, one should focus on their strong areas and not waste time on the question which they don’t feel comfortable about.
Question 9: What role did Mocks play in your success? How many mocks did you attempt before the exam?
Mock tests played an extremely important role in identifying my weaknesses and the areas which required attention. Due to time constraints, I was not able to give many mocks for CAT 2021, however I attempted around 50+ mocks for CAT 2020.
Question 10: Please share your exam-day strategy for the CAT 2021. What was your last- minute preparation? How did you plan your CAT test taking?
My test centre was about 70kms away from my place and since I had been allotted the evening slot, I spent my morning in a relaxed manner, and I stayed away from cramming any formulas on the final day. I reached the centre about 2 hours in advance, to avoid any last-minute panic. I planned on attempting the test with a relaxed mind and without any performance stress whatsoever.
Question 11: Do you think academic background plays an important role in CAT Prep and Why?
In my opinion, candidates who did not take up Mathematics in 12th are at a slight disadvantage, not because the CAT quantitative is hard but because they are out of touch and require some amount of efforts to bring back confidence while solving questions. Other than that, CAT provides a fair chance for any candidate to excel.
Question 12: Which institutes have you applied to admission and why did you opt for them particularly?
Apart from the IIMS, I have applied to FMS, IIT Bombay and IIT Delhi as these are the top ranked B- schools in the country and would help propel my professional career forward.
Question 13: How are you preparing for GD – PI and WAT rounds of the selection process?
I haven’t started my GD-PI preparation yet, but I intend upon giving a lot of mock interviews and keep myself updated with the current affairs.
Question 14: What is your message for CAT aspirants? One crucial piece of advice that you would like them to follow and wish you had known.
Preparing and appearing for CAT is an extensive and exhaustive process and since cracking CAT may require more than one attempt, I recommend aspirants to not give up and work hard towards improving their weaker sections and mastering their strong areas. The rigorous practice would help solve the questions while staying in your comfort zone and thereby maintaining the right temperament.
Question 15: What is your dream career choice after completing your MBA?
Post MBA, I would like to build a career as a management consultant where I am constantly challenged by new problems and get industry exposure before starting my own venture few years down the line.