An NGO Activist and BBA from Surat, Nikita cracked CAT with 99.22%ile; Preferred PGPM at MDI Gurgaon instead of IIMs

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Updated on July 14, 2020
Nikita Agarwal, CAT 2019 topper from Surat, cracked the exam with 99.22 percentile and has converted number of top B-schools but preferred MDI Gurgaon to the new IIMs. A BBA graduate from SDJIC Surat, Nikita has also taught at an NGO. Coming from a modest business family, Nikita cracked CAT in her first attempt. Read her CAT preparation strategy and success mantra
Surat CAT 2019 Topper NGO Activist BBA Surat Nikita Agarwal MDI Gurgaon

CAT 2020 exam date is Sunday, November 29, 2020. To help the aspirants preparing for CAT 2020, has published a series of articles on CAT preparation plan & strategy adopted by CAT toppers studying at IIM Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Calcutta, Lucknow, MDI Gurgaon among others. Below are shared the interview excerpts with CAT preparation tips by CAT Topper Nikita Agarwal, and MDI Gurgaon student of 2020-22 batch 

Small towns have no dearth of talent and can take your career on high growth trajectory. The notion is proved correct by Nikita Agarwal who is from Surat in Gujarat and has cracked CAT 2019 with 99.22 percentile in her first attempt. She prepare for CAT exam at Surat without looking for big cities like Delhi, Bangalore, Mumbai. Nikita has done BBA from SDJIC Surat and has taught at an NGO. She has converted number of top B-schools including New IIMs and MDI Gurgaon. Nikita belongs to a modest business class family. While preparing for CAT exam, she enjoyed her teaching at the NGO. In her view, there are two parts to CAT preparation - practice and mocks and both are equally important.

With a firm confidence and planned preparation strategy, Nikita was confident to crack CAT 2019 with high score and get into her dream B-school. Apart from CAT, she appeared in XAT 2020; SNAP 2020; NMAT 2020 and score 99+ percentile. 

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Nikita likes reading books, especially crime fiction and thrillers; enjoys teaching which inspired her to teach at NGO. invited Nikita to share her preparation and exam taking strategy, GD-PI experience. Read on for her views and success mantras.

Q: How did you perform in CAT 2019?
A: I scored 99.22 overall percentile in CAT 2019. My sectional score was 97.18 percentile in VARC section; 98.58 in DILR Section and 98.43 percentile in Quantitative Ability section.

Q: Apart from CAT 2019, which other exams did you appear?
A: I appeared in XAT 2020, SNAP 2020 and NMAT 2020. My score was 99.5 percentile in XAT; 99.7 in SNAP and 219/360 in NMAT

Q: Which top B-schools have offered you admission and which one you have finally chosen?
A: Apart from getting final admission offer from new IIMs, I converted MDI Gurgaon. I finally decided to join MDI Gurgaon

Q: What have been your academics and family back ground? Do you have some work experience as well?
A: I have done Bachelors of Business Administration from SDJ International College, Surat.  My father is a Businessman and my mother is a Homemaker. I have two siblings and I am the eldest child. Apart from teaching at NGO, I have no other work experience

Q: What was your overall preparation strategy for CAT?
A: So, there are two parts to CAT preparation, practice and mocks. I believe both are equally important, especially, if you’re preparing for the first time. I enrolled for the classroom program at IMS during the second year of my college, but my serious preparation started only in March 2019. I began by practicing IMS modules, which helped me in revising the basics.I started giving mocks in May, even though I was not done with a lot of portion. I used to give practice all the three sections consistently. I never skipped a particular section, say VARC, because I had to focus on Quants. Learning to strike a balance between three sections is really necessary.

Q: Please share your sectional preparation strategy for VARC in CAT
A: I began by practicing 4-5 passages per day and moved to 8-9 passages over  the time. My strategy for this section was to maximize my attempts, therefore, I always solved more than 28 question in this section. Since this section is a lot about your reading and grasping speed, I began reading newspapers and books, which helped me a lot. This section requires you to keep aside your prejudices and focus on what the author is trying to say. Since RCs were my strong area, I used to allocate 45-47 minutes for the same and remaining 13-15 minutes for VA.

Q:  Please share your preparation strategy for DILR Section
A:  This was the toughest section for me, personally. It took a lot of practice for me to get a hold of this section. I started by practicing the easier sets first and then moved on to difficult sets. Since there is not a lot of material available for this section, I solved the previous year mocks. I solved 4-5 sets per day. I began by solving without a time frame and slowly I started setting a time frame of say, 20 minutes to solve these sets. 

Q:  Please share your preparation strategy for Quant Section
A:  Since I am from a non-engineering background, I want to talk about the same. Since a lot of concepts were new to me, it took 3-4 months of hard work to get myself familiarised with various topics. However, once I was done with basics its all same for an engineer and non-engineer. Now for preparation strategy, I solved the topics I was strong in first. Since I was also the part of classroom program at, I made it a point to read about the topic beforehand, this helped me during the class. After the class, I used to solve advanced level questions of the same topic on the very same day. This helped me get a grasp of topics easily without wasting much of my time.

Q: Was there any particular section/area that you were weak at? How did you overcome this challenge?
A: The most challenging section for me was DILR. I was rarely able to solve more than 2 sets in the mocks. In order to overcome this, I began by solving the sets on my own during the practice, no matter how much time it took. Sometimes, I would spend 1-2 hours on just one set. I believed this helped me in development of intuitive ability for solving these sets. I also realised that this section is a lot about smart work. Selection of right sets is the key. There are always some easy questions, which can be solved in 3-5 minutes, without solving whole set. This guarantees you +3, without taking much of your time.

Q: What role did Mocks play in your success? How many mocks did you attempt before the exam?
A: Mocks are integral part of CAT preparation. Practice is only fruitful, if you take mocks.  I started giving mocks in May 2019. They helped me to identify my mistakes, weak areas and rectify the same. My first mock score was 62. It took me 4-5 mocks to achieve a score more than 100. Mocks helped me to improve my score gradually. I attempted around 45 mocks. Attempting more mocks helped me to develop an efficient strategy and helped me to get accustomed to the exam pattern of CAT.

Q: Did you self-prepare or attend a coaching centre and why?
A: I joined IMS during the second year of my college. Since, CAT required me to get familiarized with a lot of new concepts, joining a coaching was the most efficient solution for me. It also helped me to remain consistent in my CAT preparation.

Q: Please share your strategy for the CAT Day. What was your last-minute preparation? How did you plan your CAT test taking?
A:  The CAT day is the only thing that matters in the end. It is very important to have a calm mindset on D-day. Since I was in afternoon slot, I had this urge to get information online, from friends regarding the difficulty level of paper. But I realised that this is only going to affect my mindset, so I woke up, had a healthy breakfast, spent some time with family and left for the centre. I had stopped giving mocks a week ago before the CAT day. I only focused on revising the basics from the notes I had prepared, analysing my past mocks again and that’s it. On the D-day, the first section turned out to be a bit harder than expected. I was stuck on one RC for 15-17 minutes. This slowed me down and I panicked. I thought I couldn’t perform well in first section. DILR was already my weak section, but I knew I had to cover up for VARC, so I put all my efforts in this section. After solving 3 sets, I realised I couldn’t solve the whole another set, so I solved the questions without solving whole set. The last section was relatively very easy and well, it all worked out in the end. So yes, my strategy was to just do give my best without getting panicked if I mess up a particular section.

Q: How did you prepare for GD/PI/WAT. Please share your GD/WAT topics & PI questions?
A: I joined the GDPI program at IMS. Mock PI and GDs were really helpful in my preparation.

WAT Topics that I faced were:

IIM Ahmedabad: Statue of Unity, whether the fund could be spent in better way or was it a good step?

IIM Calcutta: Gen Z has been blaming the older generations for depletion of natural resources. Share your views on the same and also suggest the way how we can contribute to replenishment of natural resources of the earth.

IIM Kozhikode: Should student groups be affiliated with political parties?

IIM-CAP: Should the process of road constructions in a country be done by government or privatised?

PI Questions:

  1. Questions on academics like what is break-even point, net present value, mergers, acquisitions, etc.
  2. Why do you want to do MBA?
  3. As a fresher, you should get a work experience first and start your MBA later?
  4. History of the city I am from, what is it famous for, etc.
  5. Questions on current affairs, Chandrayan-2, cryptocurrency, bullet trains, etc.
  6. How my favourite subject, Organisation Behaviour was relevant to the working of OYO rooms?

Q: Your final message and tips for candidates preparing for CAT 2020.
A: Learn to utilise your time efficiently. CAT is a lot about smart work, which will happen only if you remain consistent in your practice. My advice is to just work hard, give your best, get ready for all the ups and downs in form of mock scores and very high competition along the way and just have faith in yourself!

This article is published in partnership with IMS Learning, India’s leading CAT Coaching Institute. To know more about their CAT 2020 Online Preparation & Test Series, and to get extra 10% Reader Discount, check details here

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