“It worked out for me because I wasn’t stressed and didn’t have any kind of pressure to clear CAT at that point of time, as I had a job and a backup plan”, says Prabu Sivaramakrishnan, an alumnus of CEG's Mechanical department, who had worked in Voltas for 2 years. As he was associated with the sales department in Voltas, he was exposed to a myriad of opportunities and disciplines related to management. This encouraged him to pursue an MBA course and advance his career in the same field.
With a few changes in the pattern this year, the CAT examination comprises 3 sections, testing your verbal and reading comprehension, data interpretation and logical reasoning, and lastly quantitative aptitude skills. He advises that it is sufficient for one to ace any 2 of these sections to score adequately. Though the number of candidates who perform well, is negligible compared to the multitude of people who attempt the test, Prabu scored an astounding percentile of 98.31 in his first attempt of CAT’19, and later went on to secure a brilliant 99.79 percentile in the XAT’20.
“It also depends on the question selection and how you approach the exam", says Prabu, whose strategy for cracking the exam with flying colours, was to attempt umpteen mock tests to get well versed with the exam pattern. He also referred to online programs like 2IIM which has a repository of all the previous years' question papers. He had also subscribed to IMS and Career Launcher mock series and insists on attempting mock exams at least 3 to 4 months before the actual test. He feels this tremendously helped him in the detailed analysis of his errors and the time spent on each question. He recommends any 2 of the many renowned institutes like TIME, IIM or Career Launcher in addition to one of the best selling books for Quantitative Aptitude by Arun Sharma. He also adds that if a person is determined to sit for hours of studying and has a well-devised strategy to approach the exam, one can even prepare at home, with the required resources. That being said, joining a coaching institute, he believes, helped him adhere to a structured study plan, whilst managing his work schedule as well. Ultimately, it all boils down to individual preferences.
As far as other management entrance tests like NMAT or IIFT are concerned, the syllabus is more or less the same, with minor variations in the number of questions and the test duration. For instance, instead of the DILR section of the CAT, his decision-making skills were evaluated through subjective real-life situations in the XAT.
Prabu strongly feels that having some work experience provides the aspirant a slight edge over the other candidates during the interview shortlisting. Though it is not mandatory, it makes a substantial difference when 2 lakh people compete for a limited number of seats in colleges. And as far as IIMs are concerned, they allocate almost 5-10 percent weightage to candidates who have had quality work experience in their respective fields of expertise.
Finally, he urges CAT aspirants to utilize their free time judiciously and start planning early during their undergrad years. Even if one is unable to clear the exam in the final year, he/she can always try for another attempt after securing a stable job.