How a CA and Asset Management Expert cracked CAT 2021 with 94.78%ile to get into IIM Ahmedabad

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November 7, 2022
An Asset Management Expert, a Chartered Accountant, CAT 2021 topper, Sumedha Srinivasan cracked the exam with 94.78 percentile with her self preparation and has converted number of top B-schools including IIM Ahmedabad. Before joining and improving the academic diversity at IIM Ahmedabad, she earned 42 months of working experience. Read her CAT preparation strategy and success mantra
SP Jain London School of Management

With a few days left for CAT 2022 exam, in its series of CAT toppers, brings before you success stories of such candidates who cracked CAT not with 100 percentile but could get into IIM Ahmedabad or other top IIMs with their own devised self-preparation strategy. One such candidate is a Chartered Accountant and Asset Management Expert, Sumedha Srinivasan, who took to self preparation for CAT 2021 and cracked the exam with 94.78 percentile with a 71.44 scaled score and has joined PGP 2022-24 batch at IIM Ahmedabad. A full time working professional in the area of Asset Management, Sumedha had to discharge multiple roles and had to balance between full time work and preparation for CAT. As such, due to time crunch, she preferred self preparation with the help of CAT books and Mocks instead of joining some coaching. Sumedha has earned 42 months of work experience before joining IIM Ahmedabad.

With a firm confidence and planned self preparation strategy, Sumedha prepared and appeared only for CAT exam. She cracked CAT 2021 and got into her dream IIM. invited Sumedha to share her preparation and CAT day strategy, how she cracked IIM Ahmedabad interview and more.

Q: Why did you decide to pursue an MBA program? What were the key motivators?
I was looking to shift gears in my career. While I enjoyed my profile and found it very enriching, I was exploring taking a step further and exploring careers in related domains. I felt that an MBA at this point in my career would provide me that relevant platform with wide opportunities. I was exploring options in India and abroad.

Q: Is prior work experience important for an MBA Student? How does it help during an MBA program?
In my case, I felt that my work experience played a role in boosting my profile. I would say the importance of having prior work experience would vary from person to person based on their expectation of their B-School journey and post MBA career path.

Q: Did you self-prepare for CAT or did attend a coaching centre?
I opted for Self Preparation and taking Mock Exams. Considering I was in a full-time job, going for a full-fledged coaching was not feasible for me. But more importantly, I am comfortable with self-preparation, being a CA, which is largely a self-study course.

Q: What was your overall preparation strategy for CAT?
I delved into mocks straightaway and this helped me identify my areas of improvement. I was able to isolate topics that I needed to focus more on and work some additional problems. I also analysed my strengths and tried to leverage that, by improving my speed on that. Most important is to have your goals clearly defined – realistic and achievable. I assessed my time and resources and accordingly set my target score. I had limited time to prepare so my goal for to get a score just enough and let the rest of my profile pull the weight.

Q: Please share your sectional preparation strategy for CAT?
A: I did not focus on any particular section but ensured overall practice with Mocks

Q: What role did Mocks play in your success? How many mocks did you attempt before CAT?
I attempted 10 Mocks. However, this number is not relevant as each person has a different level of comfort/confidence. So with practice you can become a good judge of your own level of preparedness.

Q: Please share your CAT Exam Day Strategy. How did you plan your test taking?
Winding down towards the end and trying not to cram things in the last minute was very important for me, to help have a calm mindset. I stopped all prep on T-1.

Q: What were the key components in final selection round at IIM Ahmedabad?
If you read interview transcripts, you would realise that there’s no standard interview component. So, the best strategy is to know yourself, identify your strengths and find the best way to showcase your best side in that 25-30 minutes that you get. Staying confident and remaining unperturbed by curve-balls is essential.

Q: How did you prepare for the final selection round?
Following are very important to get ready for final selection round:

  • Most important is to be thorough with your own resume, have a crisp introduction and make sure to have something interesting/unique in your introduction which could drive the conversation forward
  • General hygiene factors would be keeping yourself up-to-date on current affairs and any developments in the industry or sector which is related to your area of work, if any
  • Keep in mind that preparation scope is a never-ending ocean and you may drown trying to do / read about everything under the sun. So have a few areas where you are thorough and surface level / basic knowledge of other general topics
  • Most importantly, don’t get flustered by interview transcripts that you find on the net
  • Confidence is the key
  • Having a calm state of mind could be make or break!

Q: Please share some of the key questions asked in the Personal Interview?
My interview was largely around my work experience and connected topics. The interviewers were friendly and the interview was very conversational. There were some behavioural aspect questions, which were to test how firmly I stick by my stance or if I waver. I was the last interviewee of the day and my interviewers joked that they still have full energy at the end of a long day and don’t plan on going easy! I got a toffee at the end. I’ve been told that there’s no nexus between a toffee and an admit, but it is sure a feel-good factor – something to keep you going for more than a month and a half till the final offers are out!

Q: Now that you are in a top B-school, tell us your impressions of Life in a B-school!
It has been a roller coaster ride! Networking and mentorship are the biggest highlights for me. There are tough days, but there are enough and more people in campus willing to go out of the way to support you, if you ask for help.

Q: How is studying in an MBA program different from preparing for CAT? 
Very different. In CAT preparation, the only focus is cracking CAT. In an MBA program, studying is just a small piece of the larger pie. Asked if the courses here are hard to understand/crack? Maybe not. But the art lies in being able to juggle multiple things and pick your priorities – depending on what you want from your MBA journey.

Q: What is your message and tips for candidates preparing for CAT and other exams?
Mocks, mocks and more mocks – till you hit saturation and are comfortable/confident of handling any curve-ball that may be thrown at you. But take breaks, don’t feel guilty about cheat/break days – you’re preparing for a marathon, not a sprint! 

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