Countdown to CAT 2021: IIM Calcutta Student Nandan Goel shares CAT Preparation Strategy & Key Tips

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Updated on October 28, 2021
Nandan Goel, CAT 2020 topper from Delhi, cracked the exam with 99.95 percentile and has converted number of top B-schools including IIM Calcutta. A BMS graduate from Shaheed Sukhdev College of Business Studies, DU, Nandan is a dancer and equity investor. He earned ten months of work experience at DE Shaw while preparing for CAT exam. Read his CAT preparation strategy and success mantra
Nandan Goel CAT topper 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 Nandan Goel who is an IIM Calcutta student of MBA 2021-23 batch.

A Dancer and Equity Investor, Nandan Goel has done his Bachelors of Management Studies (Finance) from Shaheed Sukhdev College of Business Studies, Delhi University. He has earned 10 months of work experience with DE Shaw while preparing for CAT 2020 and before joining IIM Calcutta for MBA 2021-23 batch. An inspiration for CAT aspirants, Nandan cracked CAT 2020 with 99.95 percentile with his self-preparation. Apart from IIM Calcutta, Nandan converted

IIM Lucknow, IIM Kozhikode, IIM Indore, FMS Delhi among other top B-schools. Nandan also appeared in XAT 2020, scored 99.47 percentile and converted XLRI as well. However, he preferred to join IIM Calcutta. 

Remaining consistent in his CAT preparation, Nandan adopted the strategy of keeping a balanced combination of hard-work and smart-work and meticulously followed a daily self-study schedule of 2 to 2½ hours followed by mock exams on weekends. This also ensured a work-life balance. With a firm confidence and planned preparation strategy, Nandan 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. invited Nandan Goel 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 all IIMs, FMS, and XLRI for the final selection round.

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 Lucknow, IIM Kozhikode, IIM Indore, FMS Delhi.  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: IIM Calcutta was the best brand name among my converted colleges. I am interested in Finance and IIMC being a finance campus made more sense to me. Moreover, it has a CEMS program by which we can get an MiM degree in the 5th term.

Q: How did you perform in CAT 2020?
A: It was my second CAT experience and I am happy that I cracked CAT 2020 and got IIM Calcutta. I scored 99.95 overall percentile in CAT 2020; 98.7 percentile in VARC section; 99.37 in DILR Section and 99.94 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 2020 and scored 99.47 percentile. I converted XLRI but did not join.

Q: What have been your academic and family back ground? Do you have some work experience as well?
A: I have done Bachelors of Management Studies (Finance) from Shaheed Sukhdev College of Business Studies of Delhi University. I belong to Delhi. My father is a Businessman, Mother is Homemaker and my brother is a CA Aspirant.  I worked for 10 months at DE Shaw (US-based Hedge Fund) before joining IIM Calcutta

Q: What was your overall preparation strategy for CAT?
A: My main strategy was to be regular and maintain a peaceful state of mind throughout the preparation. I started preparing in July but made sure that there was no phase in between which made me casual about the preparation. I went into the study phase with a strong mind regarding my decision to give CAT and pursue an MBA and made sure that the thought remains intact throughout the journey. To achieve that, I tried talking less to people who would instil negative thoughts in my mind about the difficulty of CAT, usefulness of an MBA, etc. I had a clear schedule to follow: around 2-2.5hr of daily self-study and mock exams on weekends. This also ensured a work-life balance , thus helping in avoiding any kind of stress associated with entrance exams. 

Q: Please share your sectional preparation strategy for VARC in CAT?
A: I believe VARC is one section which requires existing acumen and little of current preparation. Hence, I solely focused on mocks and sectional tests. But again, I completed them in their entirety. I made a point of attempting every question in this section, unless I cant understand the meaning of a problem.

Q: Please share your sectional preparation strategy for DILR in CAT?
A:  I refined my basics using the material I had by attempting some questions from some chapters. But the major practice came through sectional tests and mock exams. There was no test in my student portal which was not attempted by me. They gave a glimpse of the actual questions which we can see in CAT.

Q: Please share your sectional preparation strategy for QA in CAT?
A: My major focus was on this section. I completed the material (TIME books) and had for 3 times, attempted each and every question. This was followed by giving sectional tests on a regular basis. In short, I exploited all the material I had to a great extent.

Q: Was there any particular section/area that you were weak at? How did you overcome this challenge?
A: I considered myself weak at DILR because I constantly scored low in this section. Apart from the preparation, I made strategies on how would I go attempting the section. I would first give 3-4 mins to scan the entire section to identify what type of sets are there in the section. Then, I would make a priority list of which set I would attempt first. This saved my time by not wasting time on the sets which seem difficult to me. I attempted each question on a separate sheet of paper so that I can revisit any question later if it didn’t get solved in the first try. A calm state of mind was paramount for me especially for this section.

Q: What role did Mocks play in your success? How many mocks did you attempt before the exam?
A: Mocks played a really big role in my preparation. Around 40% of the time of my preparation went towards mocks. They gave me an idea about the different kind of questions and the level of stress which we can experience during the D-day. It taught me how to manage the time while attempting the questions and also gave checks to my state of preparation. I attempted around 45 full mocks (2-hr mocks) and around 200 sectional tests.

Q: Did you self-prepare or attend a coaching centre and why?
A:  I attended a coaching centre in 2019 but self-prepared in 2020. So, I had the books with me and I purchased a test series along with that. Both these resources were enough for me to prepare for CAT. I believed that the books were self-explanatory and if I stay motivated throughout, then I’ll be able to make it without any extra help.

Q: Please share your strategy for the CAT Day. What was your last-minute preparation? How did you plan your CAT test taking?
A: A day before CAT was full of parties for me. I didn’t even see my books on that day. On the day of CAT, I took an 8 hours sleep, reached the venue well before time and didn’t take any books along with me. I listened to songs and resorted to various other means to remain calm and not get scared of the competition which I can see in the form of hundreds of test takers in front of me. As far as the exam is concerned, I attempted all questions in serial order, except LRDI. Panic struck in when I saw a difficult LRDI section but I recovered from that state of mind by taking a 10-seconds pause and breathing deep. This helped me to sail through a very difficult section.

Q: How did you prepare for IIM Calcutta GD/PI/WAT?
A: I made a list of all the current affair topics which I could think of and started making one-page briefs about them. I revised 4-5 of my UG subjects which I thought would be relevant in the interview. I also made an excel about all potential HR type questions (strengths, weakness, etc.) and framed their answers individually. After framing an interesting introduction of myself, I pondered upon everything which I mentioned in that intro. For eg, if I said that I was from Delhi, I made a brief of common questions surrounding Delhi like number of districts, CM, monuments, favourite places, etc. I even had to research about Shaheed Sukhdev because my college name was Shaheed Sukhdev College of Business Studies. So that is the kind of deep knowledge required for an interview.

Some of the PI questions were:

  1. What all authors have you studied as a part of your UG?
  2. Does tropic of cancer pass through India?
  3. What are the assumptions of a regression process (I mentioned that I studied regression in UG)
  4. Give a stock recommendation (I mentioned about my interest in stock markets). Follow-up questions like why is Airtel priced above Voda despite both of them being subject to AGR? What is AGR? What all IPOs are out? Why is market going up during COVID?
  5. Who came first and why, in a competition? (In which I mentioned my achievement as Runners-Up)
  6. Why is Aam Aadmi Party so popular?
  7. Who were the allies in World War 2?

Q: In this pandemic situation, was your PI-WAT conducted in person or was conducted Online? How was your PI-WAT experience?
A: My PI-WAT was conducted online. It becomes more difficult in an online setting because you can express less from your body language. So, I had to work on my voice modulations to sound energetic and excited. The PI went smooth. I drove most of the conversation and was able to predict the incoming questions because of my preparation.

Q: Your final message and tips for candidates preparing for CAT 2021
A: For CAT 2021 aspirants, my message is:

  • Make up a strong mind to give CAT
  • Talk only to a few people regarding your plans and strategies
  • Be regular right from when you start till the end
  • Avoid stress/panicking at any moment, it does more damage than anything else
  • Remember that CAT is about 50% preparation and 50% state of mind. 

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