As the first installment in our interview series with our IIM call getters, we present this interview with Abhinav Prakash who scored 99.98 percentile at CAT 2011 and got 9 IIM calls (Kolkata, Lucknow, Kozhikode, Raipur, Ranchi, Rohtak, Trichy, Udaipur and Kashipur)
Abhinav is a resident of Ara, Bihar and has done his schooling from DAV Public School (Ara) and his undergraduation from DAV Public School (Khagaul). Abhinav was selected as part of the Super-30 coaching batch and joined IIT-BHU in 2005. He joined Coal India Ltd as part of campus placements and later switched to ZS associates. Abhinav has appeared for CAT in 2010 and 2011 and scored 96 and 99.98 percentile respectively.
1. Which MBA entrance exams did you appear for in the 2011 season?
CAT and XAT only
2. When did you start your preparation?
I started slightly late i.e. on 1st July, 2011
3. Did you have any separate strategy for the other exams apart from CAT?
No. I had only CAT as my target and prepared accordingly. I worked on XAT after CAT.
4. Which was your strongest section and how did you prepare for it?
Verbal Ability has been my strongest section since a long time. Reading is my hobby and I like reading whatever comes my way. Hence, I did not have to do anything special or work on something radically different for Verbal Ability. I just took tests for Verbal Ability on Testfunda and that was enough. For grammar, the Manhattan SC guide as well as the Grammar lessons from the Testfunda online course helped me a lot.
5. Which was your weakest section? What challenges did you face and how did you overcome them?
DI has always been my nemesis. Last year my percentile plunged to 96 solely because of DI. To make amends this year, I started from scratch and practiced DI questions for at least an hour a day. I solved a number of past CAT DI questions from the Extra Practice section of Testfunda’s RankBooster. I also solved a lot of other DI sets whenever I could. I felt at the end that there is a limit to what format they can ask the question from, in DI. I felt that I had already covered all the formats of DI questions based on whatever I had worked on so far. Because of this, I needed nothing more than that.
6. If you were a working professional, how did you manage your time?
I cut down a bit on my sleeping time and involved myself in sedentary activities as opposed to too much physical exertion. I was motivated by a statement that being an engineer, if you have completed a semester course in just one day before the exam, you can surely get this stuff over with. Hence, after I came back from office at 8 or 9 in the night, I made it a point to devote the next 3 hours towards my study. That proved to be more than enough. I planned my weekly schedule beforehand using the Google calendar which helped me immensely. Also, whenever I used to have some idle time in office, I would check Quant threads on my machine.
7. If you were in your final year while preparing, how did you balance academics and MBA exam preparation?
8. When did you start taking mock CATs and how many mock CATs did you take?
I took 20 mocks in all, a lot of which were TestFunda’s iCATs.
9. What question selection strategy did you follow in the actual examinations?
In QA + DI, I used the first 5 minutes to skim through the whole section. Then I went ahead choosing easy questions which were around 17-18 out of 30. I solved those as fast as possible and then invested time in the moderately difficult ones. After I had finished 29 questions with 15 minutes remaining, I went for revision. In the last 5 minutes, when I had nothing to do, I tried my hand at the last question remaining which was on installments. But I finally left it, since it was a bit complicated and I was not sure of the answer. I had primarily gone for QA and then moved to DI.
Overall, I managed 57 questions out of 60, with 29 in QA+DI, and 28 in VA+LR. I was satisfied since I got time to revise both of the sections as well.
For VA+LR, I solved LR questions as early as possible and then moved on to VA. There were 2 questions in VA, which I was not very sure of. I decided not to take any risk and so did not mark them.
10. How did you manage the QA + DI combination in section I and what attempt strategy did you follow?
As mentioned earlier, I went through the entire section I by just skimming through it. Then I went ahead by attempting the easy questions from QA first and then switched to DI. Finally, I solved the moderately difficult QA questions left so far. I revised the paper at the end of the section but decided against guessing the answer for the last remaining question.
11. How did you prepare for the online RCs and DI sets?
I used to keep a clock in front of me and had a target to complete any RC set in 10 minutes. It is difficult, but given the fact that I am a voracious reader, I was able to do it easily. For DI, I targeted the same time limit, but I mainly focused on accuracy on DI rather than time consumed, since it was my weaker area.
12. What were your reading habits, if any?
I started off with fiction from my childhood. And I switched to non-fiction titles after I graduated. I read extensively and I found that reading non-fiction after lots of fiction titles is a good idea since your speed gets improved by fiction and then the understanding is honed by the non-fiction titles.
13. How did you prepare for the GD-PI?
I am preparing for it now. However, my reading habit surely helps.
14. How did you prepare for written assessment/essay?
Again, I am preparing for it now.