Sabyasachi is a Resident of Berhampur, Orissa. He has done his schooling from St. Vincent's Convent School, Berhampur and Higher Secondary from Khallikote College Berhampur and Engineering from MIT, Manipal. He has taken part and won a lot of prizes in extracurricular activities like Cricket, Table Tennis, Pool, Drawing and painting. He has worked for Infosys, Alacatel Lucent and is currently working with Motorola as a Lead Engineer. He appeared for CAT 2009, 2011 and XAT 2012 and scored 99.15, 99.71 and 99.83 percentile respectively
1. Which exams did you appear for last year?
CAT and XAT
2. When did you start your preparations?
I had prepared for CAT 2009 quite well and as a result a week’s preparation was sufficient for CAT 2011. Right from the beginning I knew that like many other students, between Quantitative and Verbal ability, the latter was my weak area. I think identifying one’s weakness from the beginning is very important. I had started preparing from July but ideally one should start preparing from May / June. Starting even earlier around January / February is ideal but the challenge is to maintain the intensity. I think that if one starts around February, then 5-6 hours a week are sufficient till June / July, post which one needs to spend more time on the course.
3. Did you have any separate strategy for the other exams apart from CAT?
All exams follow the same pattern on a broad level. We need to take care of 3 things:
Speed, accuracy and moving on in case of questions that are not working out. So, I did not have a specific strategy for any exam but kept these three aspects in mind and prioritized within each depending on the exam that I was taking.
4. Which was your strongest section and how did you prepare for it?
Since my school days I have been good at Maths and the credit goes to my mother. I did my schooling from an ICSE medium, where the standard of Maths wasn’t that great. In order to help me gain better knowledge of the same, my mother used to teach me Maths from other boards and even from higher classes. This helped me a lot and all I had to do was take care of Verbal Ability.
But the main challenge here was to try and not get too relaxed. The idea is to be cautious with every bit of calculation and not presume what a question means without reading it correctly.
5. Which was your weakest section? What challenges did you face and how did you overcome them?
Verbal ability was my biggest challenge. Reading newspaper editorials definitely helps, but it can become a bit boring for someone who has just started taking interest in reading. That is why I picked up some best sellers in fiction. My aim was to finish a book as soon as possible and to gain an understanding of most of what I read. Later I started reading just about anything and not just something that interested me. Also I would regularly go through TestFunda’s questions and courseware whenever I was online.
6. If you were a working professional, how did you manage your time?
I believe that all of us can definitely find time for something that we are extremely passionate about despite extreme conditions or situations. I am a software professional with nearly 5 years of work-ex. I work for a top MNC listed in Forbes Top 100; work has definitely been a bit hectic but I try and manage my time well. I wake up at around 7 am, read a bit (a newspaper or a novel) till 8:30 am. I then go to the gym, have breakfast and reach office by 10:30. I generally try to reach home by 7pm. I then sit down to study from 7:30 till 10 pm. After studying I have dinner and then surf the net or watch movies for an hour or 2 and off to bed by 12.
7. If you were in your final year while preparing, how did you balance academics and MBA exam preparation?
I have taken CAT twice. The first time was when I was in my final year. At that time I used to devote around 1.5 hours for academics and 1 hour for CAT in the months of July and August. Over the weekends I used to spend around 2.5 hours towards preparing for CAT in the morning and 2 hours towards Academics in the evening. Preparation for CAT gradually took precedence over academics in the last 1 month of preparation. I used to dedicate around 3 – 3.5 hours for CAT and 1 hour for academics. The main aim was basically to keep a track of the amount of knowledge I gathered, not the amount of time I spent. It’s definitely motivating if one keeps some small rewards if one achieves certain targets. May be dinner outside / watch a cricket match / buy a cake if one finishes a particular amount of self-assigned work on time.
8. When did you start taking mock CATs and how many mock CATs did you take?
Taking Mock CATs is really very important according to me. Students learn much more from Mock Tests than from the actual preparation. This year I did not take any mocks but while preparing for CAT 2009 I took close to 20 mocks. The number of mocks does not really matter, it’s the analysis after the mock that matters. I feel one should ideally take around 5 – 20 mocks. I started with the mocks only in the month of August. I initially gave myself 1 week’s time to analyze my last mock. My analysis included not just the questions I got wrong but I would also check if there was a better way of solving the questions I answered correctly. I would then write down all the new formulae / shortcuts and have a strategy in place for the next mock. The frequency of taking Mock tests gradually increased as the actual test approached. I took my last mock 3 days prior to the actual exam.
9. What question selection strategy did you follow in the actual examinations?
Quantitative Ability: I first used to attempt all the easy questions focusing on speed. I kept 15 minutes for this. Within this time span I used to scan through the entire section and generally managed to complete 25 – 40 % of the section. This way I could make sure that I don’t miss out on a sitter which might have been asked towards the end of the section. After this I would gradually decrease my speed and go back to the beginning of the section and try to solve questions of medium level of difficulty. At no point should one relax. I would generally go for a final 3rd round to deal with the tougher ones if time permits.
Verbal Ability: I generally used to spend the initial 5 minutes on easy questions. Then I would start with a comparatively easier RC (I would get an idea about the level of difficulty by glancing at the first line of the 1st and 2nd paragraphs) followed by another RC in quick succession. After that I used to try and solve para-jumbles or analytical reasoning questions as fillers. Then I would go through the next RC and again would go through some non RC questions as fillers. It helped me increase my concentration level for the next set of RCs. Some people try to go for a tougher RC in the beginning believing that their concentration power is more in the beginning than in the end; it differs from person to person. I feel if I got stuck with a very tough RC then I would not be sure about the answers and eventually would get tense and my confidence level would drop drastically.
10. How did you manage the QA + DI combination in section I and what attempt strategy did you follow?
I would generally attempt the easy Quants sitter and DI questions. I would then attempt the Quants and DI questions with Medium difficulty level. And finally I would answer the toughest questions from Quants and DI
Quants sitter -> DI sitter -> Quants Medium -> DI Medium -> Quants tougher -> DI tougher
11. How did you manage the VA + LR combination in section II and what attempt strategy did you follow?
Just like in case of QA and DI I would attempt the easy questions from LR and the easier RCs first. I would then move onto RCs and LRs of medium difficulty level. After that I would attempt other VA questions and if time permitted, the toughest RC towards the end.
LR easy -> RC easy -> RC Medium -> LR Medium -> RC -> VA others -> RC toughest (if time permits)
12. How did you prepare for the online RCs and DI sets?
Luckily online DI sets weren’t not as tough to handle as I thought.
There are 2 reasons for it:
(1) The level of complexity was decreased and
(2) Most of the DI questions fitted the page exactly and I did not have to scroll up or down.
Reading a lot of online materials has helped as far as RCs are concerned. Highlighting certain portions of RCs helped us concentrate better while reading. Most importantly one needs to practice taking tests online to get used to it. This is where online training portals are quite helpful.
13. What were your reading habits, if any?
I Started with Fiction and General entertainment news, and then started reading Financial News and Editorials. Initially I had some trouble reading and then comprehending what I read. But now I can read and comprehend whatever I come across. I guess it is just a mind-set.
14. How did you prepare for the GD-PI?
The preparation for the GDPI has to start even before CAT. In order to prepare for it I read newspapers daily and would watch news and follow important discussions which I continue to do even today. Having a group with whom you can have discussions on various topics is of immense help. But unfortunately I did not have any such group.
15. How did you prepare for written assessment/essay?
Reading current topics and some abstract topics, and most importantly writing it on a paper helped me.