MBAUniverse.com presents inspiring success stories of CAT toppers who triumphed in securing admissions to top institutions. Gain motivation from their well-planned preparation strategies, valuable insights on MBA entrance exam readiness, Personal Interviews, and MBA college selection.
Today, we present the motivational interview with Patna boy, Prateek Kumar Rai, from a modest and educated family. His father is an officer in Indian Railways in Jabalpur and his mother is a housewife. His sister is studying at IIT Dhanbad. Prateek cracked CAT 2022 with 99.80 percentile and is pursuing PGDM from SPJIMR Mumbai. Prateek is a B.Tech in Electrical Engineering from IIT Patna and has work experience of 2 years with MathWorks.
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Prateeks’s CAT preparation journey has a lot of lessons. For instance how did he overcome his weakness in VARC section and how did he maximise on his strengths. Prateek sacrificed his leisure time and followed a very disciplined plan while preparing for CAT. To avoid any kind of distraction, Prateek uninstalled all social media platforms from his phone to focus only on CAT preparation. Prateek loves to interact with people and likes to play Badminton.
With this introduction, let us read Prateek’s responses to MBAUniverse.com questions
Q: What challenges you faced during your CAT preparation? How did you come out of them?
A: The main challenge I faced in my preparation was to manage my work and CAT preparation at the same time. It was tough to be motivated throughout the preparation and manage both of them diligently. However, the urge to be the best of the best kept me motivated.
Q: What Steps did you take to Focus on your CAT Preparation Journey?
A: For my preparation, I sacrificed my leisure time as well as uninstalled social media platforms like Facebook & Instagram. Even I took it to another level and uninstalled YouTube from my phone to avoid wasting time watching reels (if I needed YouTube, I was using my laptop for that).
Q: How did the uninstalling of Social Media Platforms help you?
A: I realized that uninstalling saved my time and also increased my concentration which in turn increased my productivity. Also, I made two types of plans to follow: the short plan where I decided on which sets to practice and the long plan where I decided on a monthly basis as to which topics to cover.
Q: How did you perform in CAT exam 2022?
A: I scored 99.80 overall percentile in CAT 2022. Coming to sectional scores, I scored 84.98%ile in VARC, 99.82%ile in DILR and 99.90%ile in QA.
Q: Did you take any other exam apart from CAT?
A: Apart from CAT, I did not appear in any other exam.
Q: What was your overall preparation strategy for CAT?
A: I had a pretty hectic schedule since I was working for full time. Hence, I started my preparation little early from February. On week days, I made a strict schedule where I was working from 9 to 6 followed by attending online CAT preparation classes from 6:30 to 8:30. After class, I used to sit from 9 pm till 1 am for revising the notes and practicing the questions. On weekends, I prefer practicing as many questions as I can and was focusing more on learning tips & tricks which really came in handy at the actual D-day. In the last months before CAT, I solved a lot of mocks as it was giving some sense of experience on what the actual CAT day would look like.
Q: Please share your sectional preparation strategy for CAT? How did you prepare for VARC?
A: I think it is very important for you to first self-introspect on which section is your strength and which is your weakness. I knew that VARC could be a tough nut to crack for me and hence I planned to allot a fixed number of hours for VARC daily. I used to solve 5 questions each of para-jumbles, para-summary, and odd-one-out on a daily basis. Also, I used to solve atleast 1 reading comprehension question daily. Apart from that, I started creating a reading habit by reading newspapers daily.
Q: How did you prepare for DILR?
A: For DILR, first of all, it is important to realize that there is no fixed syllabus for this section. No matter how many questions you have seen, you will be definitely getting surprises in the CAT with a whole new problem. However, solving a lot of problems enhance your confidence and that helps you in solving the new problem which appears in the exam. Firstly, I made sure that I solved all the standard problems. Secondly, I looked at the previous problems of CAT and solved them thoroughly. After I completed the standard and previous year's questions, I started looking at new problems as well as problems from mocks.
Q: How did you prepare for QA?
A: Quantitative Ability was the section that was my personal favourite as I loved Maths since my school days. I knew that Maths was my strength and I might score higher even with little preparation. However, I had a different plan for that. I decided to work on my strength and improve it further. And so I did. I spent a considerable amount of time on my QA preparation daily and learned various tips and tricks to solve problems faster. I even learned basic stuff like tables, squares up to 20, and cubes up to 15. These small things really helped me make a large difference in CAT and hence I was able to score 99.90 percentile in the QA section.
Q: Was there any particular section/area that you were weak at? How did you overcome this challenge?
A: I was weak in the verbal section as I never had reading habits. So first, I started developing my reading habits by reading articles and newspapers daily. At start, I felt that it would not help me much but after some days, my comprehension speed really increased. Apart from that as stated above, I allotted a fixed amount of time for VARC prep daily where I was solving all possible types of questions asked in CAT.
Q: What role did Mocks play in your success? How many mocks did you attempt before the exam?
A: Mocks played a crucial role in my preparation. In my initial preparation, I was solving mocks twice a week. From August, I started solving one mock per week. And in my last month before CAT, I started giving mocks daily. Secondly, introspecting mock is very important as you will learn what mistakes you should avoid in the actual exam.
Q: Did you self-prepare for CAT Exam or did you attend a Coaching Centre and why?
A: I took online coaching for my CAT preparation. The logic was simple, I did not want to spend my energy on finding good study materials or planning which chapters to learn first. I believe that coaching centres are doing that for years and hence I attended coaching for my preparation.
Q: Which books did you refer during your preparation and how effective were they?
A: I generally referred to my coaching materials for the preparation. However, I bought Arun Sharma’s books on CAT and used them to solve some questions. Apart from that, to strong my vocabulary, I referred to “Word Power Made Easy” by Norman Lewis. I would say that you can refer to this if you want to enhance your vocabulary.
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 is where my mocks helped me much. I was able to try out various strategies in mocks and was able to learn which was working for me. For VARC, I followed that initially I will be solving only 3 RC sets and then use the rest of the time to solve VA questions. Also, I scanned all four RCs very quickly and decided on which 3 RCs to solve. For DILR, I scanned all the sets similar to how I did for VARC. Then, I focused on solving the two sets which I found to be on the easy side. Additionally, I planned that if time remains after solving 2 sets, then I will solve the third set. Luckily, in my case, I was able to get some time and I solved the third set as well. For QA, I used the solve-as-you-go approach where I started with the first question and was serially solving each question as I was moving ahead. Also, in this process, if I found that any question requires more time to solve, then I was simply leaving it with the idea that I can come back to the question at last.
Q: Which all B-schools shortlisted you for personal interview round? How did you prepare for it?
A: I was shortlisted by IIM Bangalore, IIM Calcutta, FMS Delhi, SPJIMR Mumbai, MDI Gurgaon and the CAP IIMs. To prepare for GD-PI-WAT, I took the coaching where I got the idea of how to prepare for the interview day.
Always remember that the second part of your selection process is also equally important as it is not just the CAT score that will land you in your dream B-school. For WAT, firstly I read a lot of current affairs (and this is where my reading newspaper has helped) and secondly, I started writing on some general topics daily. Writing is as important as reading since it helps you to organize your ideas and note them down in a structured manner. For GD and PI, I preferred giving mocks to get a glimpse of actual GD and PI. Also, it is very important to have a self-introspection since you can expect questions like (i) What do you really want to do in life? (ii) Where do you see yourself 5 years from now? (iii) What are your hobbies and what’s the latest news in the areas of your hobbies?
Q: Which B-schools you finally converted?
A: I converted SPJIMR Mumbai, MDI Gurgaon, CAP participating IIMs
Q: Do you have work experience? Please share how the work experience can help in MBA?
A: Yes, I have a work experience of 24 months as a software developer. There were two ways in which my work experience really helped. Firstly, the journey of preparing for one of the most competitive exams alongside my work taught me to prioritize things as well as taught me time and work management. Also, acing an exam like CAT along with my full-time work really boosted my self-confidence which is really important in the life ahead. Secondly, my work experience came in handy in my personal interviews since it gave me a lot of things to talk about at the time of my interviews. Also, whatever I was saying in my interviews, I could connect it with my work experience. That being said, it does not mean that freshers can’t ace their interviews. It is just that they have to prepare more thoroughly for their undergraduate college experience or atleast should have clear ideas in their mind to answer the questions.
Q: What motivated you to Join SPJIMR? What were your top three criteria?
A: I could easily list more than three criteria that motivated me to join SPJIMR. However, let me state the top three among them. Firstly, according to me, the diversity in profile which comes in SPJIMR is remarkable. You can find people from diverse work experiences, undergrad colleges, and age groups sitting and learning together for becoming future leaders. Secondly, the unique set of interviews that SPJIMR conducts makes sure that not only people with high IQ but also with high EQ (emotional quotient) join the batch which is most required for leaders nowadays. Thirdly, is the brand of SPJIMR. Everyone knows that SPJIMR is one of the best B-schools in our country and associating yourself with such a brand will always help in your career ahead. So, these were the top three criteria for me to select any B-school and hence I joined SPJIMR since it excels in all of my criteria.
Q: Whom you would like to give credit for your success? What role your family & friends played?
A: I read somewhere that if you are achieving something that does not mean that you only worked hard to achieve it, rather it means that “you along with your environment worked hard which in turn favoured the circumstances to achieve your success”. I totally relate to this and hence want to give credit for my success to my family and my friends. My family & friends always supported me and stood up with me in my hard times. They believed in me and motivated me throughout the CAT journey which helped me land in SPJIMR.
Q: According to you, how can B-schools make their MBA admission process less cumbersome for MBA applicants.
A: According to me, there are many ways a B school can make its MBA admission process less cumbersome. One could be to give a chance to candidates to opt between offline and online interviews. I know it is easy to choose people based on offline interviews but from a student perspective, it is tough to go to different cities for interviews while managing their work/undergrad college at the same time. Secondly, I think it is important that students should get results soon as the waiting time is very frustrating because of the uncertainty of their careers. Here, SPJIMR has an edge since SPJIMR declares its results way ahead of other B-schools in the country.
Q: Finally, your message and tips for candidates preparing for CAT 2023
A: My message is simple - Just prepare yourself smart and work hard. CAT is all about speed, practice, and hard work. If you really study seriously and strategize well for your preparation, you can easily excel CAT. Also, give a thought upon your strengths and weakness and plan for the exam accordingly. I certainly believe that if I can ace CAT’22 along with my full-time work, then anybody can do it with the right amount of effort fuelled with strong motivation to study in one of the top B schools in the country.
Team MBAUniverse.com hopes that this interview was truly inspiring for you! Don't miss out on the opportunity to explore more motivational stories from students who have made their mark at IIMs, IIFT, MDI, SPJIMR, XLRI, and beyond. Let their journeys ignite the fire within you…Success awaits you!
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