How CA Anushree Naik juggled her finance job in Mumbai, and yet cracked CAT 2019 to get into IIMA! Interview

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September 12, 2020
Anushree Naik, A Chartered Accountant and Graphologist doing full time Finance Job cracked CAT 2019 with 98.20 percentile in her first attempt and got into IIM Ahmedabad PGP 2020-22 batch. She also converted number of other top B-schools including IIM Bangalore, IIM Kozhikode, IIM Indore, IIM Shillong, SPJIMR Mumbai. Read how she managed time, what was her CAT preparation strategy and what is her success mantra
CAT 2019 Topper Anushree Naik

CAT 2020 exam date is Sunday, November 29, 2020. To help the aspirants preparing for CAT 2020, has published a series of articles on CAT preparation plan & strategy adopted by CAT toppers studying at IIM Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Calcutta, Lucknow, MDI Gurgaon among others. Below are shared the interview excerpts with CAT preparation tips by CAT Topper Anushree Naik, and IIM Ahmedabad student of 2020-22 batch 

It is not easy to juggle a full-time finance job, travel in Mumbai trains for 4 hours every day, and yet crack CAT, one of the toughest exams in India, in your first attempt! But that’s what Anushree Naik, a CA and working professional from Mumbai, managed to do – and with ease. Anushree scored 98.20 percentile in CAT 2019, got interview call from IIMA, IIMB, IIMC and almost all other IIMs, and converted IIM Ahmedabad, a dream of every MBA aspirant! Of course, her journey wasn’t a cakewalk. It required persistence, focus and ability to effectively juggle multiple roles. spoke to Anushree to understand her CAT preparation plans, how she cracked IIM Ahmedabad interview and more. We were delighted to know that Anushree was an avid reader on for her GDPI preparation. 

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First a little about Anushree so that you know her well. Coming from the family of Chartered Accountants in Mumbai, Anushree is not only a Chartered Accountant, but is also a Graphologist, Painter and Traveller. She worked in the Internal Control and Risk Management under Corporate Finance for one year with Blue Star Limited. Anushree Naik was a classroom student at IMS Learning, Thane. She converted number of top B-schools including IIM Ahmedabad, IIM Bangalore, IIM Kozhikode, IIM Indore, IIM Shillong, SPJIMR Mumbai among others. However, she has chosen IIM Ahmedabad over all others.

Anushree’s story and journey will leave you inspired and ready for taking your CAT challenge! So, read on.

Q: How did you perform in CAT 2019?
A: I scored 98.20 overall percentile in CAT 2019; 96.88 percentile in VARC section; 95.89 in DILR Section and 97.11 percentile in Quantitative Ability section.

Q: Apart from CAT 2019, which other exams did you appear?
A: I did not appear in any other exam as I focused on CAT only.

Q: Which top B-schools have offered you admission and which one you have finally chosen?
A: I converted IIM Ahmedabad, IIM Bangalore, IIM Kozhikode, IIM Indore, IIM Shillong, all baby and new IIMs and SPJIMR Mumbai

Q: What have been your academics & family background? Do you have some work experience as well?
A: I am a Chartered Accountant with a B. Com from R.A. Podar College of Commerce & Economics, Mumbai and M.Com from V.G. Vaze College of Arts, Commerce & Science, Mumbai. I have one year of work experience in Internal Control and Risk Management under Corporate Finance with Blue Star Limited from March 2019 to March 2020.

I was born and brought up in Mumbai in an upper middle class family. My father is a practicing Chartered Accountant and a professor, and my mother is a homemaker and an artist. My elder sister is a Surgeon. I stay with my parents and grandparents.

Q: What was your overall preparation strategy for CAT?
A: I started by joining IMS, a coaching institute in my city. I took a mock test in the very beginning to understand my strengths and weaknesses and decided to focus on conceptual understanding for the Quantitative Aptitude (QA) section.

I studied for about 3 hours on week days by solving QA sectional tests, practicing a lot of data interpretation and logical reasoning (DILR) sets and utilised my travel time to work in reading books, building a vocabulary and solving math quizzes on my phone.

My weekends were dedicated to attending classes, covering major chunk of the portion, solving mock tests and analysing my strengths and weaknesses through them.

Q:  Please share your sectional preparation strategy for VARC in CAT
A: I had a very simple strategy for solving RC section. I tried to understand what I read in the very first reading and tried not to return to the passage while solving questions unless required.  I always read the entire passage first and then moved to the questions. I attempted the easiest 4 passages first, then moved to the Verbal Ability questions and finally returned to that one last difficult RC.

I am not a reader so I resorted to solving 6 RCs every day. I set a timer for myself and tried to solve 6 RCs in one hour. Always time yourself while solving RC questions. On the day of the CAT I solved 4 and a half out of 5 RCs and attempted 8 out of 10 verbal ability questions.

Q:  Please share your preparation strategy for DILR Section
A: I usually practiced solving DI and LR sets early in the morning as it was the time when I was very attentive. I analysed my mocks well and found out ways to solve the sets faster. I really enjoyed solving LR sets hence I also used my travel time to solve them. For the DI sets I practiced mental maths like tables and important formulae to increase the speed of calculations.

Q:  Please share your preparation strategy for Quant Section
A:  I used the following study material for QA:

  • Tutorials Study Material (IMS- Classwork and Homework)
  • Arun Sharma QA Book (I used it for some chapters but if you can finish the entire book, nothing like it)
  • Sectional Tests (IMS, TIME)
  • CAT 100 Percentile Blog

After taking a lot of mock tests and practicing various types of strategies I boiled down onto mine for QA. My strategy was to attempt the easiest QA sums first and only mark the answer when I was more than a 75% sure of the answer. I realised that this method helped me maintain my calm throughout and solve questions with better accuracy, thus increasing my total score. I practiced to solve the entire QA section in one round itself, of course while not wasting much time on a single question. One of the most important steps in this process is to have the courage to leave a particular question if you are not able to crack it in about 2 minutes.

Taking enough number of mock tests, in different environments, at different locations and at different hours of the day helped me immensely to get over the fatigue that accompanies the QA section. Another technique I adopted to ensure myself that there would be no way I would get mentally exhausted at the end of 3 hours is by solving 2 three hour mock tests in a day. I don’t recommend this to be done for all the mock tests that you take. But I did this about once a month in the last 3 months and about thrice in the last one month. This definitely boosted my confidence and I had absolutely no reason to worry about any fatigue during the examination.

I discussed methods to solve a particular sum with my friends, mentors and seniors. It helped me to know various methods of solving one particular sum.

I used to solve my friends’ QA doubts. I remember pouncing on every question that popped up in our Whatsapp groups. Solving a lot of mixed questions trained my mind to expect surprises. Moreover I always enjoyed attempting questions that someone else brought up. It helped me to build confidence and also instilled a lot of positive competitive spirit in me.

I asked my teacher to allow me to witness him solve a 3 hour test live. That helped me build up a strategy around which question to be picked up for solving and which ones to be avoided.

Q. How did you juggle your full-time finance job, travelling in Mumbai trains and CAT preparation
A. No doubt it was tough as time was short for me but I utilised the travelling time in trains by reading and decoding more RC passages. While moving on the platform, climbing and coming down the stairs at station, I revised the calculation process and formulae for Quant and DI. This helped me to speed up my CAT preparation.   

Q: Was there any particular section/area that you were weak at? How did you overcome this challenge?
A: On a clear analysis of my mock tests, I realised that I struggled in the QA section where as I was naturally and relatively better at solving the DILR sets. Hence, I spent most of my preparation time on steadily increasing the number of attempts and maximising my accuracy in Quantitative Aptitude (QA) section. I maintained a formula book and tried to do most of the calculations mentally by practicing tables, squares, cubes and prime numbers every day. I also tried to maintain a balance among all the three sections and started practicing 4-5 Reading Comprehensions every single day.

Q: What role did Mocks play in your success? How many mocks did you attempt before the exam?
A: I took about 35-40 mock tests before the CAT day. In my opinion, attempting mock tests is the most important part of the preparation. It helped me understand my weaknesses and the areas that needed more practice. It also helped me compare my speed with others’. A regular check on the scores and aiming at better scores in upcoming tests kept my motivation high till the very end.

Q: Did you self-prepare or attend a coaching centre and why?
A: I enrolled myself in the classroom sessions batch of IMS in their Thane centre. I wanted to have a strong hold over the Quantitative Aptitude section by learning the concepts of Mathematics in depth hence I thought a coaching centre would be beneficial. I alos took mock tests of IMS and TIME which were highly useful and gave me enough practice till the day of the CAT.

Q: Please share your strategy for the CAT Day. What was your last-minute preparation? How did you plan your CAT test taking?
A: I tried a lot of different approaches, strategies and tactics during your mock tests and finally decide on the one that suited my strengths the best for D-Day. But at the same time I made a mental note of the fact that I will also have to remain very flexible during the 3 hours of the test as CAT is popular for giving surprises.

I decided to not carry the burden of a difficult section on the next section. I decided that I would start a section with a fresh mind without worrying much of the previous section and not lose hope at any point during those 3 hours.

I relaxed two days prior to CAT and slept very well a night before D-Day. It is important for your brain to be active, fresh and most productive during the entire 3 hours of the exam

Q: How did you prepare for GD/PI/WAT. Please share your GD/WAT topics & PI questions?
A: I started preparing for interviews just a little before the CAT results were out (as the profile based SPJIRM interview calls were already out). I started by reading current affairs regularly and discussing it with my parents and friends. I read a lot of news on the internet and also GDPI prep websites like, Cracku and IMS.

As advised by my seniors and mentors, I also concentrated on analysing my own strengths, goals, life experiences and weaknesses in order to be ready to answer any questions on my life journey (HR questions).

I took about 20 mock interviews with different people ranging from my boss at work to my mentors, friends, ex-students, seniors, etc. I also practiced writing essays on various topics for increasing my writing ability, often tested in most of the IIM interviews.

All my personal interview questions were a mix of work experience, academics, extra-curriculars and general awareness questions.

Q: What role did play in your journey?
A: Unfortunately, I got introduced to after my CAT. But, the website helped me a lot during my interview preparation. I read content on a lot of general awareness and current affairs topics on the website that helped me form an opinion on those topics.

Q: Your final message and tips for candidates preparing for CAT 2020…

  • Don’t give up till the very end. Your best performance could be on the day of CAT itself.
  • There is no substitute to hard work so always give your best.
  • You should not neglect mock tests. Missing out on analysing mock tests thoroughly could be really disadvantageous.
  • Don’t compare yourself with others. Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses and thus a very unique journey. Always set targets for yourself and up your game.
  • Avoid believing in unnecessary assumptions and avoid having misconceptions. Don’t waste your precious time being pessimistic.
    Eg. Non-Engineers cannot ace the QA section, the verbal section is not scoring, it is not possible to attempt all 8 sets in the DILR section, etc are all misconceptions of the naysayers.
  • The interviewers want just one reason to select you. Give them that reason.

(This article is published in partnership with IMS Learning, India’s leading CAT Coaching Institute. To know more about their CAT 2020 Online Preparation & Test Series, and to get extra 10% Reader Discount, check details here.) 

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