A B.Tech in Textile Technology from IIT Delhi, Shivam cracked CAT 2017 with 99.75 percentile. Before joining IIM Calcutta, Shivam has worked with a professor, on a business idea, from the atmospheric sciences department at IIT Delhi. Later, worked at Geo Miller, an EPC firm, in the Mechanical department as an engineer.
Shivam belongs to Delhi. His father is a Cardiologist, currently practicing in Delhi at Max Hospital, Saket and mother is a house maker
Q. What was your overall preparation strategy for CAT? `
A. My strategy for CAT preparation was plain and simple, acing the mock tests and doing whatever might be required in achieving that. The first thing I thought of doing was figuring out my strengths and weaknesses. The best way to do that, in my opinion, was to take a mock test and try to understand my position on the preparation ladder and I did exactly that.
The test obviously didn't go well at all since I was completely new to this, but I got a vague idea about what all I need to put my hard work in. Thereafter, I bought some reputed study material and started solving problems from a wide array of topics from each section, to give myself a feel of what all I can be tested on. Time to time, I increased the difficulty level of the problems I was dealing with. While doing all this, I made sure I never missed a single mock test, and I also took some timed basic sectional tests online to keep myself out of the comfort zone of untimed problem solving. Even at work, if I got a break for lunch, I would make sure to complete at least one half-hour sectional test to keep my momentum going. This also helped me unwind from office stress.
Slowly but steadily I saw improvements in my mock test scores but I made sure to not get overconfident and worked even harder thereafter. I analysed each question, including the ones I got correct, from every mock test. This helped me build strategies on how to get more answers correct, and solve the correct ones a bit faster. All of this helped me make sure, that my CAT examination day was just like any other test day, wherein I focussed on my core strategies and kept my nerves calm.
Q. Please share your sectional preparation strategy for VARC in CAT
A. The first and foremost thing I did in VARC was reading. By reading I mean reading any article on any topic that I could get my hands on to. I realised what CAT is trying to test us on is not just our English language but rather our understanding of varied topics and the way we are able to comprehend and interpret new readings from all domains such as philosophy, economics, art, history and science among others. I used to read newspapers, editorials, magazines and other types of non fiction material. I did this from the very beginning and in a few months I could see improvements in my VARC scores. I also solved a lot of sectional tests, especially in the reading comprehension part, to increase my speed. Overall, I tried keeping myself calm before each mock, so that there aren't too many thoughts in my mind that may end up dragging my attention away from the RC sets, which happens with a lot of test takers.
Q. What was your preparation strategy for Quantitative Ability (QA) section?
A. Quant was more on the stronger side for me as compared to the other two sections. But that doesn't mean I took it lightly, at all. I made sure to complete all the topic problems from my study material but I did all of them timed. This helped me boost my performance further in quant, which gave the most crucial jump to my overall CAT score in the final examination. Thus, in a way, I worked hard on my weaknesses, but harder on my strengths.
Q. How did you prepare for Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning (DILR)?
A. DILR is the most tricky and unpredictable section in CAT. No one can ever know what kinds of new problem sets are going to appear in this year's exam. Therefore, what I thought of doing is setting quantitative goals in this section. I thought of completing 200-250 varied problem sets by the time my preparation was complete. And I analysed more and more papers, sometimes the same questions twice, to see the differences in my approach towards the set versus the expert solution, given along the tests. This helped me understand how to go about solving any kind of problem set I might come across.
Q. Was there any particular section/area that you were weak at? How did you overcome this challenge?
A. Yes, I was relatively weak in the DILR section, reason being that I was relatively new to such questions. Initially I had extremely low scores in this section. It was a little demoralising at first, but then I consulted some of my friends who had taken CAT the last year, and they said that a similar thing happened with them as well. This motivated me to work harder and harder in this section. I made sure that I solved DILR sets on a daily basis and gave this section double the amount of time as compared to the other sections. I analysed the solutions to each set and kept improvising my strategy for these sets. After a couple of tests I could see improvement in my accuracy level in the DILR section. I made it a point to read all questions carefully, thereby avoiding any careless errors that might cost me the whole four question set, and lead to negative marking. While analysing, I made sure not to leave out the tougher problems, which many students do as they feel they don't need to attempt them. But as we can't predict the difficulty level that we might have to face, it is best to be fully prepared. By the time CAT came closer, I was feeling more confident in this area.
Q. What role did Mocks play in your success? How many mocks did you attempt before the exam?
A. I feel like mock tests are the most important in one's CAT preparation journey. Firstly, these mock tests are the only way to give ourselves an almost real-like CAT taking experience, provided we take them seriously. When we give an invigilated mock test it helps simulating the actual examination hall scenario, thereby enabling us to get accustomed to it. It definitely helped me on the final day because I was calm and composed before starting the test. Secondly, mock tests give us a chance to try all types of strategies that may occur to us. This helps us in optimising the basics such as how many questions to attempt and which ones to avoid. Finally these tests are in themselves a form of study material. As we are exposed to a hundred new questions in every test, it amounts to more than two thousand total questions, if we consider the average number of tests taken by a serious aspirant. Thus, students who are good with the basic concepts of all sections or others who are repeating CAT, may not need any material other than the mock tests. I attempted about 22 full mocks before the final exam, but I spaced them out evenly so as to give myself some time and scope for improvement. Other than these I took about 20-30 sectional mocks of varying difficulty levels in each domain. I think these should suffice for most aspirants, but others may to need to vary these numbers according to their preparation levels. `
Q. Did you self-prepare or attend a coaching centre and why?
A: I joined a coaching centre close to my house to help me with my CAT preparation. One of the main reasons I did this was to get some regularity in my studies. As I was working, my classes were scheduled on the weekends mostly. This helped me stay in the preparation zone week after week and did not let me slip away. Also, these classes help you understand where you stand among other students that might be preparing for the same exams. If someone is falling behind, they can take inspiration from other students and try to work harder, instead of getting demoralised. And if someone is in front, they can be more confident towards their results in the final exam. I benefited a lot in both ways. Also, if I had any doubts in any areas I could consult the faculty on how to approach those areas. Though everyone might not like classroom coaching as much and may want to prepare at their own pace, but I personally found it quite beneficial.