MBAUniverse.com in its series of CAT toppers, brings before you success stories of such candidates who cracked CAT with high percentile and got into top IIMs or other top B-schools with their own devised self-preparation strategy. One such candidate is Soumik Banerjee, a B.E. in Mechanical Engineering from Jadavpur University and working professional since 2016 with Bharat Petroleum (BPCL), a Maharatna Public Sector Undertaking. Soumik took to self preparation for CAT 2022 and cracked the exam with 99.95 percentile. Soumik was shortlisted for final selection round by top IIMs including IIM Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Calcutta, Lucknow, Shillong, CAP participating IIMs and MDI Gurgaon. However, he has joined IIM Calcutta MBA 2023-25 batch.
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Soumik hails from Kolkata. His father is retired state government employee and mother is housewife. A football player and avid reader, Soumik had to discharge multiple roles and had to balance between full time work and preparation for CAT. As such, due to time crunch, he preferred self-preparation with the help of CAT books and online Mocks instead of joining some classroom coaching.
With a firm confidence and planned self-preparation strategy, Soumik prepared and appeared only for CAT exam. He converted IIMC, IIMB, IIML, IIM Amritsar, IIM Udaipur and MDI Gurgaon but preferred to join IIM Calcutta. MBAUniverse.com invited Soumik to share his preparation and CAT day strategy, how he cracked CAT 2022, how he prepared for GD/PI/WAT, what were the criteria to decide on joining IIM Calcutta and more.
Q: Why did you decide to pursue an MBA program? What were the key motivators?
A: I wanted to have a faster growth in my career and to take leadership positions in business. I realized that in any sector to leapfrog to leadership position a professional management degree is required. That’s why my motivation of doing MBA comes from.
Q: Which were the top B-schools that shortlisted you?
A: I was shortlisted for PI round by IIM Ahmedabad, IIM Bangalore, IIM Calcutta, IIM Lucknow, CAP participating IIMs, IIM Shillong and MDI Gurgaon.
Q: Before we discuss your CAT preparation strategy, please share which top B-schools you have converted?
A: I have converted IIM C, IIM B (PGPBA), IIM L, IIM Amritsar, IIM Udaipur and MDI (HR & IB)
Q: You have preferred to join IIM Calcutta. What are your top three criteria for finalising IIMC?
A: IIM Calcutta is one of my dream B-schools among top four IIMs. My sole deciding factor was the ranking of the institution.
Q. How did you perform in CAT 2022? What was your overall and sectional percentile?
A: I scored overall 99.95 percentile. My sectional percentile for VARC was 98.54; for DILR it was 99.55 and for Quant the percentile was 99.9. As I wanted to pursue MBA only from top IIMs, I did not appear in any other MBA entrance exam except CAT 2022
Q: What was your overall preparation strategy for CAT?
A: I started early, from January 2022. As I am a working professional, I had prepared month wise schedule for myself, to effectively utilize my time. I joined an online course in a coaching platform as well specifically for study materials and mock tests.
Q: Please share your sectional preparation strategy for CAT? How did you prepare for VARC?
A: I started reading paragraphs from old cat papers. I used to solve at least 4 paragraphs every week on consistent basis. apart from that I appeared in several sectional mock tests to enhance the accuracy in verbal ability. On the d-day my strategy was to complete the verbal questions first, then select 2 out of 4 RCs, which I could find easier than other. These two RCs were attempted with maximum accuracy giving required time. Even after that if time permits then I would go for third RC. Fortunately, I got some time and completed all three RCs as per my strategy.
Q: How did you prepare for DILR?
A: My strategy for DILR was to solve 2 out of 4 completely. I had to devote some time in order to completely solve these, instead of getting bogged down seeing the stop watch. We got a little surprise to see 5*4 questions instead of 6-4-6-4 questions of previous years. But I knew that there will always be an element of surprise in CAT. But following my strategy I selected 2 out of 4 and completed them, which left me around 6 minutes to attempt the third. I selected the one in which I can answer at least one or two questions. So, finally I could two and a half set in this section. The key was to devote time and attention in solving the sets. This was the toughest section, so holding breath was also very important.
Q: How did you prepare for QA?
A: As an engineer quants was my strong suit. First of all, I brushed up all the topics in initial few months. Then appeared in mock tests. My strategy for this section was to keep myself cool and not to get influenced by the performance in other two sections, as this being the last section, there are chances of mishap easy questions if other two sections have not gone well. I was doing one after another from start in sequence. My confidence grew with each questions I could solve and I left a few, which were time consuming. I was satisfied after the exam, because of my performance in QA section.
Q: Was there any particular section/area that you were weak at? How did you overcome this challenge?
A: Being an engineer VARC was my weakest area. So, I consistently read and solved RCs from very early. I started from January 2022. Study materials and solving sectional tests were also beneficial for me in preparation in this section.
Q: What role did Mocks play in your success? How many mocks did you attempt before the exam?
A: I have attempted at least 15 mock tests. Mock tests are very much essential in one’s preparation for CAT. They are key in detecting the flaws and weaknesses and very important tool in finalizing strategies for the final exam.
Q: Did you self-prepare for CAT Exam or did you attend a Coaching Centre and why?
A: mostly I prepare myself. However, I joined an online course in a coaching platform for the study materials and mock test platforms. As CAT gives score in percentile, so relative performance is the key, so in order to identify my position in monthly basis and to compete with several other candidates, joining the online coaching platform was very useful.
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 was allotted slot 1, so I reached the venue around 6.30 am. I strategy was to be relaxed, never keen on taking last minute notes. I knew verbal was my weak point, so I didn’t put a lot of effort in it, just went with the flow. I knew DILR was going to be tough this year as last two years it was easier section, my strategy was to give time and solve 2 sets out of 4. After completing VARC and DILR I was happy to implement my strategies. QA was easier for me, expectedly I had decent accuracy in this section. Overall, I was satisfied after the exam.
I don’t believe in last minute preparation. My idea is to prepare over a time consistently. More importantly, as I was in slot 1, I didn’t study at all on the exam day.
Q: How did you prepare for GD/PI/WAT Rounds?
A: Firstly, there is no definite way of preparation. According to my understanding MBA colleges look for people with better comprehension ability. During interview they mostly look at the way the person reacts to a situation. So, honestly I did not take any formal preparation as such. Still to enhance my writing skills searched for topics and tried to write the best within the stipulated time and word limit MBA colleges usually gives by myself. For, PI I brushed up my engineering knowledge a bit and that's it.
Q: What were the key components & weightages in IIM Calcutta selection Process?
A: Just like all top B schools IIMC had shortlist process based on CAT score, marks in 10th, 12th and work experience. Then there was WAT-PI simultaneously without elimination. Moreover academic diversity played a part to ensure diverse classroom. Based on performance of all of these they give weightage to each and every section, like CAT score-30, PI-48, WAT-8, Academic Diversity-6 and Work ex- 8. In most of the B schools it was Wat and PI, however in IIM shillong GD was there.
Q: How was your PI round? Please share a few glimpses
A: My PI Round Questions can be categorized in two ways- personality related questions- related to events of past, future goals, hobbies etc. and Technical- from engineering technicals, job specific and basic mathematics
Q: Is prior work experience important for an MBA Student? How does it help during an MBA program?
A: Honestly, till now in my preparation the work experience did not matter at all.
However, MBA teaches lot many topics, which as a working professional one already has some basic ideas. So, work experience is not mandatory, but it definitely gives an edge.
Q: Finally, your message and tips for candidates preparing for CAT 2023
A: I believe preparation for CAT is a journey for self. So, I want future candidates to ask their inner selves that whether they are prepared for the journey or not. Most importantly whether they really want to get into a top B school or not. Once the person is determined half the battle is won. Then they need to be consistent in their preparation. As it is an aptitude test, it does not test one’s knowledge, instead tests one ability to thrive in situations. So be prepared for one or two elements of surprise on the exam day. Don’t procrastinate, be confident and deep down inside believe you can do it.
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