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MBA prep experience: CAT 2015 99.73%iler on converting 9/9 top B-school calls

MBA prep experience: CAT 2015 99.73%iler on converting 9/9 top B-school calls

TestFunda ,  01-Jun-16
Wasim Khan Pathan born and brought up in Jaipur completed his schooling from Jaipur itself. He scored 93.6% and 91% in 10th and 12th CBSE Boards in 2008 and 2010 respectively. Wasim also cracked JEE in his first attempt (2010) and thereafter completed his B.Tech (Chemical Engineering) in 2014 from IIT Gandhinagar with a CPI of 7.5 (in a 10 point scale). He scored 99.73%ile in CAT 2015 and got calls from 10 top B-schools. He attended the next step of selection process in 9 out of these 10 B-schools and converted all 9 calls!

Wasim Khan's story in his words:

During my stay at IIT Gandhinagar, I handled several positions of responsibilities. I was the Sports Secretary of IIT Gandhinagar and represented my institute in several sports tournaments. I was also a Senate member for students Senate at IIT Gandhinagar. Overall it was really a great learning opportunity for me to be a part of such a prestigious institute. 

Just after my graduation, I got placed at Polyplex Corporation Ltd, where I was working in the R&D department. I was working on a global project in a team of two and we had been assigned a project on inter-unit benchmarking for five different locations globally: Turkey, Thailand, America and two locations in India. I was directly reporting to the vice president of the organization. As days went by, I realised that for the roles that I was keen to work in, just technical knowledge was not sufficient. The projects that intrigued me, required a skill set that could be gained from a formal management degree. It is always important to gain a holistic approach to business, to climb the ladder in an organization, so I decided to pursue an MBA program. I resigned from the job since I was not finding enough time to prepare after my working hours and I thought of concentrating on preparing for CAT. 

As I had been good at Quant I joined a coaching institute as a Quant faculty in June 2015 and I had 4-5 months to prepare for CAT. My course for Quant was almost done and I required sheer practice so I gave extra time to Verbal section. I also started taking online tests. For a few months, I took only sectional tests and it was August when I thought of starting full length mocks. When I took my first mock, the pattern for CAT 2015 was not declared and the mocks were designed as per the previous pattern, i.e. two sections only; first, Quant & DI and second, Verbal & LR. In my first mock I scored 99.67%ile in Quant & DI but my second section was just around 80%ile which was because of LR. After a few mock tests, my performance increased significantly and I was consistently getting somewhere around 90-95%ile in Verbal section and maintaining 99+%ile in Quant. 

When the new pattern was announced, I was a bit sceptical of my performance since the LR section was separated from the Verbal section. Due to this fear, I couldn't score well in the Verbal section of the first mock based on the new pattern. My scores were; Quant(99+%ile), DI & LR(98+%ile) and Verbal (73%ile). I started taking 2-3 mocks every week and after some weeks I was being able to manage 90-95%ile in Verbal (with 97%ile being my highest and 88%ile being the lowest) consistently. This continued till the last two weeks before CAT and when just two weeks were left, I felt the need to change my strategy. So, I took a mock daily in the last 10-12 days and just focused on the basic concepts and methods during that period.

The D-day was just about to arrive and I was almost prepared for the exam getting 99+%ile consistently in mocks. I had stopped taking mocks 3 days before the exam. I spent time with my friends, went out for movies, dinner and spoke to my family in the last 2-3days.

Finally it was 30th November and the second slot (2-5 PM) it was. I started the exam with confidence and I attempted quite a good number of questions in Verbal, 6 sets out of 8 in LRDI and 29 questions in Quant. I was slightly disappointed with my Quant performance as I had expected to attempt at least 30 questions and I knew only these 1-2 questions were going to make a difference. Overall I was just satisfied with my performance.

Just after CAT I started to relax and I had XAT 20 days after I got back to my normal routine. But after CAT got over I was quite relaxed as there was not anything new to prepare for, it was just a matter of practice. I just needed to revise whatever I had studied so far. The pattern of XAT was also revised so I just thoroughly understood the changes and adapted the strategy accordingly. So, XAT also went well and I scored 99.53%ile. 

While preparing, I observed that students go for learning some useless formulas to solve problems, as a result they have a plethora of formulas to remember. I have always emphasized on the basics and advised students to learn the concepts behind the formulas. CAT has never asked any such problem that requires some complex formula (as per my experience). The Quant section must be dealt with carefully as there is immense material available online. Just be cautious while using such resources because many a times you will end up learning some useless formulas and concepts. Learning new things isn't bad but it must not come at some cost. So it's better to invest that time in solving some sets of LR/DI or Verbal section. LRDI is all about practice, the more you practice, more are the chances that you will end up with a similar set in CAT. I would advise each aspirant to solve at least one set each of LR and DI daily, and to increase the numbers to three each in the last one month. To give you my very own example, out of the 8 sets in the test I encountered 4-5 sets that I had already solved at some point of time.

The day came when CAT results were announced and I had secured 99.73%ile. I had received calls from 10 B-schools (I really mean 10 here). The interviews were going to start in less than 15 days and I had started preparing on my own. As such I never had a fear of interviews right from my graduation, neither did I feel nervous for those 15 days. I practiced answers to the basic questions while on my way to office and on my way back home, while driving. I used to recite the answers, tried to evaluate them as a third person, cross-questioned myself, and repeated this process daily for the next two weeks. I did this until I myself was satisfied that I would be able to sell myself in those 30 minutes to the panelists. Yes, an interview is almost a market for the panelists where multiple salespersons (candidates) are trying to sell their products (themselves). So make sure that you strike that chord and make yourself stand apart from the others. Just be honest with whatever product (i.e. your biodata) you have got. Now let me start with my interview experiences in detail.

The first interview scheduled was at IIM-Ahmedabad (FABM). A case study was followed by the personal interview. The interview panel consisted of one professor and an alumni, both were quite friendly. I was asked few probability questions and I was able to answer almost all of those. Overall the interview was good, as I had ended the interview with the same tone that I had started with. I had been quite confident throughout the interview, though they tried to cross-question me on some answers I still kept calm and handled them.

The next interview was at NMIMS that I wanted to appear for, to increase my confidence. As expected my interview was really good and the panel was quite impressed with the way I had handled the questions. The interview boosted my confidence a lot and I understood the art of driving an interview. Yes! You can drive most of the interviews in the area that you are confident of and end up keeping the ball in your court. 

As I went through the interviews, I started gaining more confidence. Almost all of my interviews that followed, IIM S, IIM K, IIM L, IIM C, XLRI, FMS, IIM I, went as per my expectations. I was grilled a bit in the Kozhikode interview, but till the end I had been smiling and left the room exuding great confidence. 

In between these interviews, NMIMS results were out and I had secured merit (AIR 6). It proved to be a catalyst to my performance and I gave my best in all of those 15X15 rooms. I was done with all of my interviews by 14th April, FMS being the last one. I had received just one result of mine and was eagerly waiting for the Calcutta results to be announced. 

It was 15th April and in popular forums, discussions were on about the result of IIM Calcutta, since morning. Everyone was waiting for the result and it could be out at any moment of time. I had been refreshing the websites continuously, suddenly I saw a post on one of the forums that read ‘results are out!'. Literally I was shivering slightly when I read those three words, as this was my dream B-school call and all of my plans were dependent on it. 

I refreshed the website and it asked me to enter my CAT registration number to check the admission status. While entering the details a lot of thoughts ran through my mind and finally I took a deep breath and pressed enter. For a few seconds the page was loading. I was completely numb and praying to God, 'the force be with me'. The page loaded and I just skimmed through it hoping to see good news. And there it was! “Congratulations! You have been offered………..”.

I felt elated on seeing this and in a few seconds I had goosebumps that finally I had made it! I made a call to my parents and informed them, I could hear that happiness in their voice. They were quite happy that I had converted my dream call, so was I!

Then the other results followed and I converted all the 9 calls that I had. The list:

IIM-C, XLRI, FMS, IIM-A (FABM), IIM-L, IIM-K, IIM-I, IIM-S, NMIMS. I also had a call from S P Jain but I didn’t appear for it as it clashed with IIM-K (17th Feb) and I couldn’t manage to get it postponed. 

I would like to end this thread here with some basic tips:

See, first of all don’t worry if you don’t know something. You are not google, you are just a common man! There were quite a few questions during my interviews that I had no clue about, so I politely acknowledged that I was not aware of the topic. If you are not sure about any answer but still would like to make a guess, you can definitely take permission from them to make an educated guess. Overall it was a learning experience for me to appear in all these interviews as they gave me further insight into my strengths. 

IIM’s don’t need a nerd, they want a leader. Just exhibit your confidence before the panelists. If they ask you about your past, about your job responsibilities, your goals or be it any question, just reply with confidence and show them your eagerness to learn something new. Show them that you can overcome different kinds of challenges and surpass benchmarks where others cannot. 

Be clear with your reason of doing an MBA and ask yourself if your answer justifies your thoughts. Be cautious with your selection of words. This is what comes into play when I say ‘art of driving an interview’. Many a times, it's only your answers that are going to drive your interview. So set some format for your answers and it must not look like you mugged up the answer. Believe me, it is so easy to figure out whether one is throwing out some memorised answers or if they are one’s original thoughts. Maintain your pitch and tone throughout the interview, i.e. neither be too loud nor be too soft. Dress smartly and believe in yourself!
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