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Practice till you get addicted to it: Himanshu Sarin, CAT exam 99.80 percentiler
Sreetama Datta | 29 June 2009, 1856 hrs IST
Know how Himanshu Sarin made it to IIM Kozhikode and MDI in his first CAT exam attempt with 99.80 percentile
Himanshu Sarin is one of those exceptional MBA aspirants who cracked CAT exam in the very first attempt. Himanshu is fresh out of college after appearing for his final semester of B.Tech in CSE. He has cracked CAT exam brilliantly with a score of 159, leading to the percentile of 99.80. After getting through IIM Kozhikode and MDI Gurgaon, Himanshu decided to take final admission in IIM Kozhikode.
Q: What was your CAT exam percentile?
A: My CAT percentile was 99.80.
Q: Which are the MBA institutes that shortlisted you for GD PI and offered you final admissions?
A: I got calls from IIM Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Lucknow, Kozhikode, Indore, XLRI, FMS, MDI and other top MBA institutes that includes all IITs, Symbiosis colleges, XIMB, IMT and IMI.
I sat for interviews of only the IIMs, XLRI, FMS and MDI. I got through IIM Kozhikode and MDI. I think it is tough for freshers to get through the top MBA institutes except IIM Calcutta unless they have something exciting in their profile, e.g. great extra curricular activities, IIT, NIT, a top DU college tag etc.
Q: Which is the MBA institute that you have decided to take admission and why?
A: I chose to join IIM Kozhikode. I spoke to many people from the industry and alumni and given the choice I had, IIM Kozhikode was a unanimous answer. It has a very good record in terms of the people who visit the campus, job profiles offered and interaction with foreign universities.
Q: Which test prep institute did you go to? How did you make the selection? How should CAT exam 2009 aspirants make this decision?
A: I went to IMS for CAT exam preparation. I was highly influenced by a session held by them for all CAT exam aspirants in 2006. The session was named CAT Junoon. I wanted to join an institute in Rajouri Garden as my seniors told me that IMS faculty at Rajouri Garden is good.
Besides these issues, the CAT exam aspirants should enquire about the quality and coverage of the reading material available, and more importantly how the test series is conducted. Do the test series actually prepare you well for the final show? How good are the analysis of test results given, and how quickly are the results made available? I would like to underline the fact that the best views are given by ex students who had prepared seriously for CAT exam rather than the MBA institutes themselves.
Q: With just over five months to go, what is your advice to CAT exam 2009 aspirants?
A: Most probably, the exam will concentrate more on verbal ability as it was observed in CAT exam 2008 paper. The students who aren’t well versed with English should put in their best efforts to improve the vocabulary. Take any approach you want: read up novels, identify root words, then suffixes n prefixes or simply mug up the word lists. I lost quite a few marks during my exam since i had always ignored vocabulary.
Quantitative aptitude will require a lot of hard work if a student is not yet clear with basic concepts. After he is done with them, one should practice for DI and QA. If it becomes an addiction for you, a seat in an IIM is not far away. But please don’t go for mindless practice. Analyze the questions you couldn’t successfully solve very well and make sure whenever you encounter a question like that in future you can solve it.
Q: How should they plan their study on the basis of different sections in the paper and time management?
A: All IIMs have sectional cut-offs. As far as planning of study is concerned, once a student finishes the entire course from the reading material provided by the institute, he should take up a few mock tests, which should definitely be restrained by time limits, and find out the weak areas and try to strengthen them by referring to additional material. This shall ensure that no section remains weak.
Q: As you are aware, CAT exam 2009 will be a computer-based-test. In your view, how does this change the exam?
A: There are a number of changes that I feel will come in. The test takers need to develop the ability to sit and concentrate on a computer screen for two to three hours. Some students simply can not read on a screen for such a long duration. This can be developed with practice. Students can not underline anything in reading comprehension passages, so they would have to write down the important points in shorthand. Much of the information in DI questions is generally written down in parts of question e.g. if a table has been given with missing info, doing it on a separate paper will be uncomfortable. Marking answers is a lot simpler than filling up the bubbles, changing the answers is easier too. One is never comfortable looking up for a question, then solving it on a paper down, then looking up for some additional information.
Q: What is your take on this new format?
A: The test paper pattern will become predictable; I think the IIMs would have to provide it before the actual CAT exam.
Q: What should aspirants do to adjust to this new format?
A: whatever the changes are, they are for everyone, so a test where relative performance matters, students should not worry too much about the changes. Please ignore all the hype that has been created over it. They should simply take many online tests to make sure they are accustomed to the changes.
Q: Are you happy that you did not have to appear for this format or you feel that CBT form would have been better for you?
A: I personally have a habit of reading a lot online so I don’t think it would have been much of a problem, and as I said before, practicing well would have ensured I don’t have any problems.
Q: How should the candidates plan and prepare for CAT exam in the last months i.e. October and November?
A: By that time, the students should have taken several tests, and tried out various strategies and combinations to find out what suits them the best, like the order of the sections they will attempt, the type of questions they would like to attempt before the rest. Maybe the CAT online format restricts this flexibility a bit, but nonetheless the strategies matter a lot. In the last month, students should fix the strategy and practice at least five to seven tests using the strategy so that it is embedded in their way of test taking. Trying to fix up weaker areas or study vocabulary at the last hour is useless.