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Interview with Vishal Pandit, MDI, CAT 2007 Topper

Published On: 31 Jul 2009 | Last Updated On: 15 Sep 2009
Vishal Pandit is a second year student at MDI, Gurgaon . He has taken up the International Management course at MDI and is presently at ESCP Europe Business School in Paris as a part of the course. Prior to joining MDI, Vishal worked with IBM India. He graduated in 2006 with a Bachelor’s degree in Electronics Engineering from SVNIT Surat. In his free time, he likes to travel and meet interesting people.

Team minglebox caught up with Mr. Vishal Pandit, M.D.I alumnus, CAT 2007 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 am a typical Indian. Pursued engineering but then realized that it is not the field I would like to work in, So I chose the then glamorous looking world of IT. After a couple of years in IBM, I decided that a desk job wasn’t my idea of a satisfying career and so decided to take up management. I was lucky to get into a good course from a decent school, MDI. Exploring new countries and cultures was one of my dreams. Right now I am a marketing intern in Paris.

2. What branch did you do your Under-Graduate degree in and From which institute was it?
I did my Electronics Engineering from Sardar Vallabhbhai National Institute of Technology, Surat.

3. What made you choose MDI? What were the other institutes that you were considering?
I was very keen on the International Management course of MDI. Quite frankly, I was drawn more by the course structure and the possibilities that it presented. The fact that it was by a respected school like MDI just contributed to its attraction. I was also offered admission in IIFT, IMT and SCMHRD. But the PGPIM course at MDI was always the one that I hoped to get through.

4. How did you prepare for CAT? How much time did you allocate for your preparation?
I was working full time when I decided to give a serious shot at management. Most of my preparation was through online websites. I was lucky to have friends preparing along with me and on hindsight, this was one of the most important reasons for my being in MDI. A good group goes a long way not just for practice but also for maintaining a positive attitude throughout. I also gave tests by coaching institutes to ensure that I was having enough practice and work on my weaker areas.

5. Did you go to a coaching institute to prepare? If yes, which one and what were your reasons for choosing it?
I just took up the test series of TIME. I found their tests the most competitive among the various coaching institutes. However, the most competitive tests are not necessarily the best for every aspirant. Each coaching institute has its pros and cons and it is up to the aspirant to choose the one best suited to him/her. I think the free tests offered by each coaching institute are a good reference for judgment.

6. What were your strong and weak areas?
I considered the Verbal section as my strong area and usually banked on it to take my overall score above the cutoff. I usually fared well in DI&LR but the Quantitative section was my personal nightmare.

7. Tell us in detail how you prepared for each section.
I spent most of my preparation time taking tests to improve my speed in the Quantitative section. Unfortunately there isn’t much else that can be done to improve this section.
I worked on the LR and Verbal sections of GMAT papers. I found these very useful. Also looking at previous CAT papers is something many aspirants forget.  It is surprising to see the number of repeated concepts and ideas. A thorough preparation must ideally begin with previous CAT papers. I realized this pretty late and frankly was not devoted enough to spend time on it.

8. As CAT 2009 will be a computer-based test, do you think the exam format will change?
I guess this is a question where anybody’s guess is as good as mine. I don’t think here will be any major changes that an aspirant will have to worry about. As long as one has an open mind, I don’t foresee any difficulties.

9. How would you advice CAT 2009 aspirants to prepare for each section?
Identifying strong and weak areas is crucial to use your preparation time effectively. Find like-minded people preparing for CAT and form informal study groups. You will be surprised with how effective this is in all stages and moods. Knowing why you want to do management is the greatest motivator. So I suggest any aspirant to speak to practicing managers and MBA students to get a feel for what they are getting themselves into. Finally, CAT preparation is not an end in itself. So don’t sacrifice your interests and hobbies just for that coveted seat in your dream institute.

10. Do you feel that the pen and paper test was better or wish that you could have appeared for the CBT format?
I personally am very comfortable with computers and would have preferred the CBT format given the choice.

11. Do you think the individual sections would vary this year considering it’s a CBT? If so, how do you see them varying?
I guess this is a question where anybody’s guess is as good as mine. I don’t think here will be any major changes that an aspirant will have to worry about. As long as one has an open mind, I don’t foresee any difficulties.
12. Can you tell us what are the mistakes commonly made by CAT candidates while preparing and while actually taking the test?
Spending too much time on one section has troubled most test takers. The tendency to attempt a predetermined number of questions is usually the reason. A way to counter this is to train yourself to attempt sections keeping time constraints and a buffer time at the end. Many aspirants are also scared of the RC passages and truthfully, I was one of them too. But I was lucky to realize pretty early on that the RC passages are great ways to increase your score with a relatively high level of accuracy. Many aspirants panic during the test when they see something unexpected. Beat the crowd by staying open minded. Remember that every aspirant is going through similar emotions but the ones that will hold their head are the ones that come out on top.

13. What would you advice a CAT 2009 aspirant to focus on while preparing for the exam?
In my opinion the CAT is becoming more like the international management entrance tests. So it would be a good idea to look at the various patterns and benefit from them. Be positive and don’t forget how much fun the test is. During your preparation time, there are bound to be phases when you feel that you aren’t going to make it to your dream school and course. Recognize these ruts. Stay focused on why you want to do your MBA or take a break. Discuss it with your friends and loved ones if possible. You are definitely going to come out of the rut; it is just a matter of time.  Read some the success stories to motivate yourself or talk to an MBA student who has made it.

14. 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?
I expected a very diverse peer group who would open my eyes to new ideas and thoughts. On this front, the international management course of MDI has far exceeded my expectations. Close interactions with international students coming from diverse educational backgrounds like political relations, psychology and philosophy have lead to very interesting conversations on a regular basis. The competence of the professors has also impressed me not just on theoretical aspects but also on their plethora of insights from the industry. It is very difficult for any MBA course to meet all expectations more so because any aspirant sets the bar very high after a grueling time to get into a course. Surprisingly though, MDI has met most and exceeded on others. One of my expectations was a comfortable sailing throughout the course. But an MBA turned out to be much more hectic than I expected. Uncertainty and pressure of time are at every turn of the course.

15. In your opinion what is the right time to do an MBA? Should economic climate drive an individual’s MBA plans?
The right time to do an MBA depends on an individual’s plans and pressures. The internationally accepted idea of work experience being a prerequisite is something I also agree with. I have found students with even a year of work experience identifying with the concepts and ideas more easily. It may be a good idea to study when the economy isn’t doing very well if he/she is sure that an MBA is something that will help achieve his/her ambition. However, a troubled economy brings with it lesser opportunities for quality commercial experience (internships, company projects and placements). It should be remembered that a business school is not a means to high profile jobs and inflated salaries. It is what the student takes from the course that equips him/her with wide range of skills and experiences. So it is upon the aspirant to consider the various factors and then make an informed decision.

Team minglebox thanks you - Vishal for sharing your story and Wishes you Good Luck!

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