Sejal Sahni is a PGP 2021-23 batch student at IIM Ahmedabad. Growing up in Bangalore, she pursued Integrated Program in Management at IIM Indore, where she graduated with a BA (Foundations of Management) degree. He attempted CAT 2020 during his final year of graduation, and secured 99.67% ile with 99.97% ile in VARC section. She also secured 99.13% ile in the XAT exam. Subsequently, he was offered admission by IIM Ahmedabad, IIM Calcutta and XLRI Jamshedpur (BM Programme). She loves to play basketball, and has a keen interest in calligraphy and handwriting.
My decision to give CAT was natural. A student of Integrated Program in Management at IIM Indore, doing MBA was the next logical step for me. But the competition with over 2.2 lakh candidates, many with many years of experience, can leave anyone nervous.
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my cat 2020 story
I started my preparation during the summer vacation, just before the start of my final year. On the advice of my superiors, my first step was to: Attempt previous years papers – with zero preparation. To test where I stood, and in which direction I needed to direct my efforts.
I understood my strengths – VARC, what I can work on – DILR and my nightmare – QA. In the QA section of that first mock, I hardly got 30% Ile. I was devastated.
but this process helped me Recognize my strengths and weaknesses. Till date, I am sure that that first mock shaped my preparation strategy, and that is the reason I got the score I deserved.
For the next two months, I focused all my efforts on clear my conceptsn quantity. I borrowed a time module from a senior and made a chapter-wise timetable for my preparation. For each chapter, I read through the formulas in the book, making a note in one of them. concept notebook, and then solved the exercises. If I was struggling to solve the questions of a particular chapter, I watched YouTube videos to clear my concepts, and then attempted the exercises. I did not take any coaching class. Being a college student, my timing for classes and exams was unpredictable. However, I identified 3 friends who were also preparing for CAT, and I had a small study group with them. We shared the questions we stuck with each other on, and that made us all know about a more diverse array of questions.
After college started around June, I enrolled for AIMCAT test series and test series from Career Launcher till Time. Every week, I attempted AIMCAT on Sunday, and analyzed it in depth When the results came on Thursday. I made sure I kept compatibility Irrespective of the examinations or extra-curricular activities that take place in the college. During the week, I will attempt and analyze sectional tests and mocks from Career Launcher. I will also focus on working on the weaknesses identified during my analysis.
Since Career Launcher mocks can be given at one’s convenience and do not give pan-India scores, I used them to experiment with different strategies. Some strategies worked for me. Some went catastrophically wrong. but it was necessary Experiment With all of them to understand perfect for me. For the DILR section, in particular, it took me a long time to figure out how to identify the correct sets that would be easy to solve.
In the midst of this mock-taking process, it was announced that the duration of CAT exam has been reduced from 3 hours to 2 hours. It shattered all my strategic preparation, and I had to come up with a new strategy from the beginning. It was a very demotivating process, which makes weeks of effort seem futile. But I didn’t let that change my rhythm. I constantly attempted and analyzed mocks even though my score was falling drastically. Eventually, the score was back on track.
As the exam approached, around the end of September, I started attempting mocks more often – 3 or 4 a week. I will write a mock (preferably in the same time slot as the actual exam – from 4.30 to 6.30) and analyze it on alternate days. Simultaneously, I started revising my preparation and the concept notebooks made through mocks.
I stopped giving mocks three days before CAT 2020. I knew that if I scored a little low on them, my confidence would be affected. Instead, I re-read my concept notebook and spent time with my family.
I was very nervous on the day of exam. The first section – VARC – which had consistently been my strong section, seemed a bit long and it bothered me. I was able to complete it on time.
I entered the DILR section exhausted and worried. In 25 minutes, I had not been able to solve a single set. I thought this was the end. I thought my IIM dreams had come crashing down.
I closed my eyes for a minute and told myself I still had half the paper left. I took a deep breath, sipped some water and tried to set again. in this calm state of mind, I was able to solve 1.5 sets just before the start of Quants section.
During this final section, I put away all the ideas from the previous sections, and focused on robotically following the strategy I devised, as if it were just a joke.
I realized later that the DILR section was tough for everyone and my calmness during the exam helped me make sure that I didn’t let my anxiety or nervousness affect my performance.
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my exam strategy
This is the strategy which I have devised after taking many mocks. However, this is no way Rights strategy is not Rights strategy. Different strategies work for different people. It worked for me.
I attempted Reading Comprehension questions first as I was confident in my reading speed. Usually, I was done with RC in 25 minutes or so, and then attempted verbal aptitude questions in the last 15 minutes. However, if I was not done with the RC by the 30th minute, I left the RC and went to the VA section.
I spent the first 7-8 minutes scanning through the sets and options, marking them as easy, medium and difficult (depending on my intuition and the nature of the choices – questions with options like ‘cannot be determined’) are usually more difficult to solve). Then I attempted the questions in ascending order of difficulty. If I was stuck on one set for too long – more than 15 minutes, I would skip it and move on to another.
I read every question, and if the steps to the solution seemed to me right away, I solved it. Had I known that I could solve the question, but it required some thinking, I would have marked it for review and moved on to the next question. If the question seemed impossible to solve, I left it. Once I had solved all the simple questions, I revisited the questions marked for review and attempted as many of them as possible.
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Key Preparation Tips
1. Identify your strengths and weaknesses at the very beginning of your preparation. This ensures that you focus your efforts where they are needed and waste no time.
2. Maintain a concept notebook with formulas, tips and tricks, and update it regularly. It reduces last minute stress and helps in revision.
3. Don’t confuse yourself by accessing too many resources. Focus on buying a set of books, and 2-3 test series and solve them thoroughly. It keeps your preparation focused and makes sure that you do not miss out on any important concept.
4. Make sure your basic concepts are strong. The CAT does not test you on extremely high-difficulty questions. It is a test of time management and strategy.
5. Create a small study group with friends. It keeps your motivation high, and gives you access to a wide variety of questions.
6. Analyze each mock thoroughly. Spend as much time analyzing the mock as you spend giving it. Look at each question, its solution, and revisit your thought process as you attempt that question. This will help you understand what went wrong and work on it in the next mock.
7. Don’t get discouraged by low mock scores. Just try and be consistent in analysis. It sounds easier than it is to implement, but remind yourself that mocks are made for your learning. Everyone has low-scoring mocks. It is better to fail in mock than in actual exam. CAT preparation tests your consistency, and those who keep their spirits high are the ones who succeed.
8. Don’t be afraid to experiment with new strategies in mocks.
9. Be calm during the exam. It’s not the end of the world. If you find it difficult, let many other people do the same. Treat it like a joke, and don’t lose half your confidence.
10. During the whole process, remember to be happy. Eat well, drink plenty of water, sleep well and talk to friends and family whenever you feel like it. Happy people always do better!
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