MBAUniverse.com has published a series of articles on CAT preparation plan & strategy adopted by CAT Toppers to help the aspirants preparing for CAT exam. Next in the series, is an Interview with CAT Topper Ekansh Gupta who is an IIM Calcutta student of MBA 2021-23 batch.
A Poet and Book lover, Ekansh Gupta has done his B. Tech in Metallurgy and Materials from NIT Jamshedpur. He has earned 22 months of work experience with with EXL services as a risk analyst for an US bank in their credit card domain while preparing for CAT 2020 and before joining IIM Calcutta for MBA 2021-23 batch. An inspiration for CAT aspirants, Ekansh cracked CAT 2020 with 99.91 percentile with his self-preparation. Apart from IIM Calcutta, Ekansh converted IIM Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Lucknow, Kozhikode, Indore, FMS Delhi, MDI Gurgaon among others. Ekansh also appeared in XAT 2021, scored 99.69 percentile. However, he preferred to join IIM Calcutta.
Remaining consistent in his CAT preparation, Ekansh adopted the strategy of keeping a balanced combination of hard-work and smart-work and meticulously followed a daily self-study schedule followed by mock tests. This also ensured a work-life balance. With a firm confidence and planned preparation strategy, Ekansh was confident to crack CAT 2020 with high score and get into his dream IIM. He focused on managing the time during the exam to bell the CAT.
MBAUniverse.com invited Ekansh Gupta to share his preparation and exam taking strategy, GD-PI experience. Read the text Interview on his CAT preparation strategy and success mantra for CAT aspirants
Q: Apart from IIM Calcutta, which were the other top B-schools that shortlisted you for final selection round?
A: I was shortlisted by IIM Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Lucknow, Kozhikode, Indore, FMS Delhi, MDI Gurgaon apart from IIM Calcutta
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 Calcutta, I converted IIM Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Lucknow, Kozhikode, Indore, FMS Delhi, MDI Gurgaon. I finally decided to join IIM Calcutta
Q: What motivated you to choose IIM Calcutta over other B-schools? Please share a few top reasons
A: As I converted IIM Ahmedabad in the first list and was having a convertible waitlist at IIM Calcutta, the dilemma was whether I should go with the most obvious choice i.e Ahmedabad or should I think about other factors too. So I talked to a lot of seniors from both the B schools and one piece of advice that was obvious at both places was to choose anyone and you will not regret your decision that's for sure. So, I started looking at other factors which were like being compatible with campus culture where I find that I'm more aligned to join IIM Calcutta over IIM Ahmedabad.
Q: How did you perform in CAT 2020?
A: It was my third CAT experience and I am happy that I cracked CAT 2020 and got IIM Calcutta. I scored 99.91 overall percentile in CAT 2020; 99.94 percentile in VARC section; 97.26 in DILR Section and 99.63 percentile in Quantitative Ability section.
Q. Apart from CAT, did you appear in any other MBA entrance exam? How did you perform in it?
A: Apart from CAT, I appeared in XAT 2021 and scored 99.69 percentile.
Q: What have been your academic and family back ground? Do you have some work experience as well?
A: I have done B.Tech in Metallurgy and Materials engineering with 77.71% from NIT Jamshedpur. I scored 95% marks in class 10 and 94.8% marks in class 12. I belong to a middle class family of Moradabad. My father is a business man and I have a younger brother. I have
22 months working experience with EXL services as a risk analyst for an US bank in their credit card domain
Q: What was your overall preparation strategy for CAT?
A: I have appeared for two CATs before so I was well aware of the paper pattern and what is required in what particular section to excel it. My experiences from the past two CAT attempts thought me that you can’t rely on your whole expertise in 1 or 2 sections. I know people have done that in past but for myself, I realized that a better strategy is to focus on all sections equally and try to maximize score wherever possible. One change from the 2019 attempt was to shift major focus on mocks and their analysis. As I was working, so weekdays used to be tough. So I lived up with the formula of two mocks on each weekend. Although, whole this WFH thing was a little breather as I shifted to my hometown, so weekends were fully utilized.
Q: Please share your sectional preparation strategy for VARC in CAT?
A: This was my Achilles heel in the last two attempts so I decided to start with the basic read 10 books in a period of 2 months. Post that I started with CR exercises from GMAT Club and other free resources. This was followed by practice from past mocks. I also enrolled for GEJO VARC 1000 which I found quite useful.
Q: Please share your sectional preparation strategy for DILR in CAT?
A: Previous mocks in a time-based environment was my strategy to tackle this section. By time-based environment I mean one should set a timer according to their prep level before starting a particular set. This helps us to better re-create a mock or actual CAT environment. Two YouTube resources that I followed were the LRDI master and Anastasis Shankar.
Q: Please share your sectional preparation strategy for QA in CAT?
A: Master individual topics and practice them as extensively as you can. For QA I relied on the Cracku study room used to practice there a lot. I was also active in some FB groups such as Elites Grid, Quantifiiers where I used to do freely available mixed practice sets.
Q: Was there any particular section/area that you were weak at? How did you overcome this challenge?
A: As I already mentioned above that VARC was something which I considered as my weakest section because my score in the past two CAT attempts was in 90-92 %ile range in that section. I figured out this after my CAT'19 score card that if I have to dream of a top B school this section needs special attention. I talked to some seniors who scored well in past years and all of them suggested reading as a habit to ace VARC. So, I started with 10 books, a mix of fiction and nonfiction books. Post that I switched to CR practice over free resources like the GMAT club. After spending some time there, I started practicing VARC from previous year mocks, past CAT papers. There were some telegram groups I was part of which use to provide free VARC practice resources like RC a day or google form-based tests. Along with all this, I also enrolled for GEJO's VARC 1000 that helped me know the techniques or strategies I was missing. Also, it was a great practice resource too.
Q: What role did Mocks play in your success? How many mocks did you attempt before the exam?
A: Mocks were a very important part of my preparation strategy and starting from April'20 I gave around 40 full-length mocks till Nov'20. The main advantage that mocks provide you is to get habitual of the emotions that one faces during an exam. For example, if your one section was bad then mocks give you ample opportunity to learn from mistakes and how to control your emotions in the next sections. This was something that helped me a lot as I was not happy with my LRDI performance in CAT but that doesn't affect my QA section and this attitude was build through mocks only. One other benefit that mock provide you if you are enrolled for two three mock series is a real-time analysis of your competition in actual CAT.
Q: Did you self-prepare or attend a coaching centre and why?
A: I self-prepared for CAT in all 3 attempts however was enrolled at two resources as mentioned above for practice. The reason why I never enrolled for any particular coaching was that I believe there is a lot of content available over the internet we just need to find that out. Finding content is just 1 part of the story we also need to be self motivated enough to pursue that dream without any coaching.
Q: Please share your strategy for the CAT Day. What was your last-minute preparation? How did you plan your CAT test taking?
A: This year my slot was 3rd for CAT i.e. I was exactly sure about the paper pattern and number of questions, unlike the first slot. This also means that I was about to get 100s of reviews from both the slots as social media will be flooded. So two things that I tried to do was the first to talk to only my friends who will tell me about the paper pattern but not about the difficulty level of the exam. Second, to stay away from social media, till I was done with my slot. Few of them worked and few didn't, so before writing my exam I was having a rough idea of difficulty level of slots. Although, my past experiences have taught me difficulty level of one slot is not related to other slots in any way. So without giving much thought, I appeared for the exam by trying to keep my calm and maintain the strategy I was having for D day.
Q: How did you prepare for IIM Calcutta GD/PI/WAT?
A: This year's B-school process was mainly considered for PI except for Bangalore where WAT was part of the process and AWT for Ahmedabad. My experience with the Interview process taught me that you need to know yourself very well your answers should be framed well and you should have hands-on current affairs with opinions on them. All this process within a span of 2-3 months requires good mentors. I found one in the form of Arvind Shankar sir, was enrolled with him for the GDPI course with him and he helped me a lot during the preparation. Along with this, I was also part of a group where some seniors from IIM C and IIM B were helping us with interview prep.
Q: In this pandemic situation, was your PI-WAT conducted in person or was conducted Online? How was your PI-WAT experience?
A: My all PIs were online except for Ahmedabad where it was online but in a proctored environment. My experience with all PIs was good. In the process, I have learned a lot and enjoyed it. I managed to have some good conversations in my PIs that I believe helped me to convert my all calls. One thing that I really liked about the PI process was very good nature of some Profs during the interview where they try to bring us in comfort zones before asking us the main questions.
Q: Your final message and tips for candidates preparing for CAT 2021
A: Some tips that helped me during my CAT journey:
- Be adaptive to the new challenges
- Get a peer group that will help you to keep pace.
- There will be a lot of highs and lows during various mocks staying consistent and calm help you during that phase.
- Things might change on the D Day so in case you are scoring well don't let it cover your head in case you are not scoring up to your expectations please keep putting in effort.
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