How Alappuzha Girl and NIT Calicut Graduate Sruthy cracked CAT with 97.71%ile and got into IIM Lucknow for MBA 2020!

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Updated on September 8, 2020
Sruthy S Kumar, CAT 2019 topper from Alappuzha, cracked the exam with 97.71 percentile and has converted number of top B-schools including IIM Lucknow. A graduate from NIT Calicut, Sruthy belongs to a modest service class family. While preparing for CAT exam, she earned 2½ years of working experience in Reliance Industries. Read her CAT preparation strategy and success mantra
Sruthy S Kumar CAT 2019 Topper

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 Sruthy S Kumar, and IIM Lucknow student of 2020-22 batch 

Coming from the small town of Alappuzha  in Kerala, Sruthy S Kumar cracked CAT 2019 with  97.71 percentile and has converted number of top B-schools including IIM Lucknow. A B-Tech in Chemical Engineering from NIT Calicut, Sruthy belongs to a modest retired service class family. While preparing for CAT exam, she earned 2½ years of working experience in Reliance Industries.

With a firm confidence and planned preparation strategy, Sruthy was confident to crack CAT 2019 with high score and get into her dream IIM. She did not appear in any other MBA entrance test apart from CAT.

Sruthy likes Sketching, playing sudoku, watching series. The city she lives in, is famous for back waters cruises, snake boat races, scenic beauty, temples and is a major tourist attraction. invited Sruthy to share her preparation and exam taking strategy, GD-PI experience. Read on for her views and success mantras. 

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Q: How did you perform in CAT 2019?
A: I scored 97.71 overall percentile in CAT 2019; 95.23 percentile in VARC section; 98.68 in DILR Section and 93.42 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: Apart from getting final admission offer from IIM Lucknow, I converted IIM Kozhikode, IIM Indore, IIM Shillong, all the CAP participating IIMs, NITIE, SPJIMR and MDI Gurgaon. I finally decided to join IIM Lucknow

Q: What have been your academics and family back ground? Do you have some work experience as well?
A: I am a B. Tech. from NIT Calicut in Chemical Engineering. I have 29 months of work experience in Reliance Industries Limited. I belong to a small family of four. Mom and Dad are both retired government employees. I have a sister who is married and is now settled in Hyderabad.

Q: What was your overall preparation strategy for CAT?
A: As a working professional I was very well aware that I had to use my time very judiciously to crack CAT. I started my preparations by going through IMS books to refresh the basics. Then mostly, I concentrated on taking as many mocks as possible. I enrolled for IMS test series and I religiously took all the mock tests and evaluated them at length. I also kept a tab on my performance by making a chart and writing down my score and percentage after each test. I had a habit of noting some good/tricky questions in a book for future reference.

Q:  Please share your sectional preparation strategy for VARC in CAT
A: After skimming through Norman Lewis book I stuck to online test series for improving my VARC score. I was a moderate performer in my VARC section from the time I started taking the mock tests. Reading the newspaper editorials is a good way to ace this section and also the general awareness will be very useful for the interviews after the CAT. I took sectional tests to get more grip on solving RC passages. In my mock tests, my scores oscillated between 45 and 75 in this section.

Q:  Please share your preparation strategy for DILR Section
A:  I wasn’t particularly good with DILR when I started with my preparations. The major reason was the lack of strategy. Choosing the right set is the key in this section. I had to try out different patterns for choosing sets and I eventually found a strategy that worked for me. And to my surprise, I scored the highest in DILR in my actual CAT test.

Q:  Please share your preparation strategy for Quant Section
A:  I kept a notebook for writing down all the important formulas. Coming from an engineering background Quant wasn't that difficult to crack for me but I had to work a lot to design a strategy as to which questions to attempt first, which questions to be left and which ones to be visited later.

I usually started with solving easy ones right away and then would bookmark easy questions which would take more time and then in my second round I would try to solve these. This strategy worked best for me as I was able to go through the entire section and hence there wasn't a chance that I would miss any easy questions. And also, I was well aware that to get a good score I wouldn't have to answer each and every question. All I tried to do was maximize my score in the given time frame. I concentrated more on Arithmetic and Geometry as maximum questions used to come from these topics. I regularly took sectionals and found my weak points and worked on it. I didn't leave any topic untouched because there are chances that easy questions could come from hard topics. Hence practice is the key in the Quant section.

Q: Was there any particular section/area that you were weak at? How did you overcome this challenge?
A: DILR was the section I struggled with. I used to get bizarre scores in this section at the beginning and there was no specific pattern as I used to perform tremendously well in some mocks while I used to get really bad scores in others. I was under the impression that my performance in this section is completely upto luck and I couldn't control the outcome. But once you take amble number of mocks/sectionals you will start getting an idea as to which sets to choose and which sets to half attempt and which sets to completely ignore. I had to try out different strategies to find the one that worked for me. There are some strategies elaborated in IMS website which I found extremely useful for this section. They help you with different perspectives to solve DILR sets in the least time. In DILR section the key is to select the right sets. Five right sets will fetch you the percentage you are aiming for. At times it's very much advisable to solve half of a set rather than wasting more time on one/two calculation intensive questions in the set. So, choose judiciously, sometimes the usual kind of sets might be tricky or lengthy so always be cautious and keep an open mind while choosing/solving the sets.

Q: What role did Mocks play in your success? How many mocks did you attempt before the exam?
A: I cannot stress the importance of taking Mocks and analysing them. Everyone serious about CAT needs to take atleast 20+ mocks. Initially, taking a mock test and reviewing it used to take me almost an entire day and gradually I was able to analyse in 3 hours or so. As your learning curve progresses you will be able to do this faster. And try to replicate the environment of the CAT test at home while you are taking the test and be serious about it as this will help you ease your nervousness on the D day. I personally found the IMS online test series analysis videos very helpful. In quant & DILR section, tricks for solving a lengthy question/set in a fraction of time are discussed elaborately and this can help you with time management. The content quality and mock test platforms are top-notch.

Q: Did you self-prepare or attend a coaching centre and why?
A: I mostly resorted to online materials and IMS books as I was a working professional and it was really difficult to manage time for offline coaching. Mock tests are the best way to ensure a good CAT percentile because the syllabus for CAT has already been covered in your school days. You just need to put in more practice and you need to formulate a strategy for attempting the questions.

Q: Please share your strategy for the CAT Day. What was your last-minute preparation? How did you plan your CAT test taking?
A:  As the CAT exam approached, I began concentrating more on revising concepts and questions rather than taking more mock tests. During my mock analysis, I had bookmarked some important questions in each section and I stuck to solving these questions with a timer. One week before CAT I stopped taking mock tests but I regularly took VARC sectionals as it’s very important to keep the momentum.  And something I found very useful was the routine I followed. Once the CAT admit cards were out and I realised that I had a morning slot I started aligning my studies to fit the D-Day routine. I started walking up early morning and took all the mock tests in the morning slots and stuck to this schedule till the last day. This will really ease you come the CAT exam day.

Q: How did you prepare for GD/PI/WAT. Please share your GD/WAT topics & PI questions?
A: For your GD/PI/WAT preparations there are two parts:

  • One is self-preparation: This includes reading the newspaper, writing mock WAT and covering your undergrad basics.
  • The other is taking mock PI’s: Mock PI’s with faculties is really important as an interview includes so many hidden nuances that a candidate is unaware of; from your body language to your communication skills.
  • It’s not just what you are saying in an interview, but how you are saying it.
  • An experienced faculty can point out all the trivial mistakes that you are unconsciously making.
  • IMS Surat and National Achiever’s Workshop helped me with my WAT/PI preparations.
  • My PI experience was very different for each IIM. Some asked me general knowledge questions, while some asked me about my undergrad/workex.

Q: Your final message and tips for candidates preparing for CAT 2020.
A: My advice would be to take as many mocks as possible and religiously review the tests and correct your mistakes later. At times some mock test scores might be underwhelming but remember your aim is to get the best score you can on the D-day. So, don’t ever let your mock scores bog you down. And, stick to the strategy you have worked out for yourself.

Consistent efforts and perseverance will pave you the way.

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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