Team minglebox caught up with Mr. Anand Ramachandran, IIM-C alumnus, CAT 2008 Topper for a volley of words on How to crack CAT, Changes that can be expected in CAT 2009 due to its Online format and other such queries.
1. Please tell us something about yourself.
I was regularly in the top 3 in my class upto 10th. My scores were 89.8 % in 10th, 72.2% in 11th, 82.2% in 12th.
I studied in a KV all my life. I have no (other) academic achievements to speak of. These scores turned out to be very important as the IIMs consider 10th and 12th marks in slabs while giving out GD/PI calls.
2. What did you do your undergraduate degree in and in which institute was it?
B.Tech in Mechanical Engineering from SVNIT, Surat.
3. What made you choose IIM C? What were the other institutes that you were considering?
I applied to MDI, Gurgaon as backup But did not appear for any other test. I felt that if I could not get into an IIM on my first try, the work-experience until I got in could only be beneficial.
IIM-C specifically - though B-school Rankings played an important part, the reviews of alumni on online forums and personal accounts of other seniors about their life in different IIMs played a greater role in my choosing IIM-C.
From what I knew back then, IIM-C had a more student driven culture, whereas IIM-A & B were more corporatized. At IIM-A and IIM-B, they outsource work they feel is not in the core of an event, initiative or a competition they organize – the design, infrastructure etc. For me, I felt the hands-on experience at IIM-C would be a value-add and more beneficial.
4. Did you go to a coaching institute to prepare? If yes, which one and what were your reasons for choosing it?
Yes. IMS, Surat. Surat had a choice of 4 coaching institutes – Pinnacle Turorials(PT), IMS, T.I.M.E and FuturiSM.
T.I.M.E and FuturiSM were relatively new in Surat and lacked the credibility (without a proven track record) and more importantly, faculty. Their ads focused more on the cost savings and freebies they offered than the core-product we sought. Any educational institute which needs to advertise associated benefits is not worth joining - That's a thumb rule I bear in mind while making such crucial choices.
Even though PT had produced a 100%iler the batch previous to mine, experiences of seniors and a few open classes they held convinced me that IMS had superior faculty. PT did not offer a separate section/timing for NIT students, which meant we would have local students from Surat in our class. We felt this would slow the pace of teaching in our class.
5. How did you prepare for CAT? What were your strong and weak areas? How much time did you allocate for your preparation?
I was relatively proficient in English and maths, and cleared the cut-offs regularly in the SimCATs. DI was a problem area but I did not focus completely on it until 2 weeks before the actual CAT. I was a registered member of online preparatory forums. Whenever I felt tired of solving questions on paper, I would log in and solve and practice online.
6. Tell us in detail how you prepared for each section.
Preparation time for Quant was spent memorizing formulae and looking up math puzzle books. I found that solving puzzles improved my speed more than questions specifically prepared for CAT preparation. It also improved my ability to interpret a question in such a manner as to get an easy answer out of it.
English was easy as I was an avid reader of books. Vocabulary was never a problem, and all practice papers seemed only to boost my confidence. Grammar was an issue as I had never had a formal class in it, and had to rely on my “instinct” to frame correct sentences. Prep for grammar was harder but was eventually worth the trouble.
DI was the problem area for me as I had never cleared a cut-off until the actual CAT. There are a few standard question types and a few standard operations to perform to get the answer. I practiced these to increase my speed slightly, and spent the last 2 weeks before CAT in a marathon DI session with a little Quant and English thrown in.
Quant was easier than English as it was concrete. I was an Engineering student, so I took Quant lightly. I spent lots of time mentally working out problems, since working them out on paper would be easier. This greatly increased my speed as I recognized and used shortcuts to solve questions.
7. How would you advice CAT 2009 aspirants to prepare for each section?
It would depend on each person's strengths. There is no specific advice that will help unless their circumstances were extremely similar to mine .
8. As CAT 2009 will be a computer-based test, do you think the exam format will change?
Other than the media the questions are visible on, there is probably going to be no other change. A landslide change is not possible in a single edition of an exam.
9. Do you feel that the pen and paper test was better or wish that you could have appeared for the CBT format?
The CBT exam would have been more modern and apt for the CAT, but I also have no complaints regarding the Paper test other than the fact that releasing the scores takes months. On the whole, I would have liked to experience the modern format of the CAT.
10. Do you think the individual sections would vary this year considering it’s a CBT? If so, how do you see them varying?
The predictability will be the same as it was the years before, but I feel English will be more important than the other sections, considering that the IIMs are happy with the increased intake of girls and the much better profiles(as compared to last years) required to get into the IIMs this year.
11. Can you tell us what are the mistakes commonly made by CAT candidates while preparing and while actually taking the test?
While preparing – asking your seniors what they did and copying them will not work for a candidate. Each candidate has his own circumstances, strengths and weaknesses, interests and motivations. A candidate can only know what will work for him after writing multiple Simulated CATs and adjusting his strategy accordingly to the Results obtained.
On the day of the exam – solve problems for 10-15 minutes at home before leaving for the test center. Helps to kick start your brain.
12. What would you advice a CAT 2009 aspirant to focus on while preparing for the exam?
Solving a lot of questions improves speed and also decreases the number of questions that may surprise you. Focus on Solving a LOT of questions as practice before you attempt the real test.
13. Now that you have made it to a B-School, how do you find it? Has MBA turned out the way you thought it will be?
The institute is more than what I expected it to be. People say it’s competitive, but you dismiss it as a buzzword until you get here. The chance for personality development here is immense. I actually learn more from my classmates than in classes. Assignments here are focused on learning rather than scoring, which is great.
14. In your opinion what is the right time to do an MBA? Should economic climate drive an individual’s MBA plans?
Being in India, given the rate of growth of companies and registering of new ones, any chance to do an MBA from a reputed college should be seized, taking into account the individual’s own interests, of course. The economic climate should preferably not be a factor in deciding his plans, but it may serve to accelerate the decision making process.
Team minglebox thanks you for your time - Anand and Wishes you Good luck!