In the Topper’s Interview Series, I am going to introduce you to someone who converted IIM-A call recently. His name is Aravindh. Aravindh is from IIT-Madras. He worked as a Software Engineer for 2 years.
He scored 99.92%ile in CAT 2014. He converted IIM-A, B, C calls along with IIFT and SP-Jain.
Aravindh is very humble, sincere and down to earth guy. He is extremely hard working individual.
You might think for a moment that he received such a great percentile just because he belongs to IIT. I want to tell you something important. “Aravindh didn’t score 99.92%ile because of he was pure genius but he attributes his high score to his dedication, consistency and willing to do few things which most students won’t ever do.”
Initially we decided to chat only for half an hour but we soon ended up chatting for almost 2 hours, I tried to squeeze every possible information I could from his mind using all the penetrating questions.
He shared a lot of great insights about CAT Preparation but most importantly he did few things which can be modeled by almost everybody, not blindly though to increase your score, percentile, attempts and accuracy.
Aravindh joined Vistamind Online Coaching Classes for his CAT Preparation and joined GD/WAT/PI Revolution for his Interview Preparation along with Vistamind offline coaching classes.
Now, let’s learn nuances of Cracking CAT from Horse’ Mouth.
It was my first attempt. I started Vistamind online classes. I joined it mostly because classroom was nearer to my place, so I thought they will be more helpful for my interview preparation.
I joined online classes because I couldn’t attend offline classes as I had to work till 8-30 or 9 PM, these classes started at 9-30 and ended at 11-30 PM.
I joined Bulls Eye Mock Test Series. They have 15 free mock tests. I joined their program. If you score certain percentile or rank, they will give you free upgrade to their test series, so I had totally 36 mocks for Bulls Eye and 21 mocks for Vistamind.
I also used Pagalguy. I was not actively involved in the discussions but I used to get chat/interview/college updates.
Time Management during Paper
I used to be good in section 2. Especially in LR but not that good in VA.
I always had this trouble while starting out. I couldn’t solve more than 2-3 questions in first 10 minutes. I used to get into rhythm. I would start with Quant first. You have 35 questions, 15-20 are pretty easy. I would go through questions as fast as possible. I would solve it if I knew how to solve. I used to take 30-35 seconds on each question.
I used to identify which questions I should leave and I should solve, based on the practice I did previously. If I sensed that I can’t solve this question in 30-35 seconds but I can solve this question later, I would mark it so that I can come back to it later. If I sensed I can’t solve a particular question, I wouldn’t mark it.
I used to take 35-40 minutes on Quant, I made sure I read as much questions as possible and solve all easy questions. First 35 minutes, 20 questions is a good thing. Initially that number was 10, as I started solving more and more mocks, I increased that number. 15-20 is good number. In first initial few minutes, if you solve more questions, you will carry the confidence to the rest of paper. You end up attempting more.
If I see a DI question in between and if it’s very easy, I would solve it. If it seems not that easy, I would keep that part for the later. First 10 minutes, I was very bad at calculations so I would never attempt difficult questions.
Then I would move to section 2. I tried to complete the section.
I didn’t follow any pattern. Initially I started with question 51 to 100. I will solve all the easy problems and then I would come back from 100 to 50.
Later, I was able to solve everything in the flow.
If there are 4 RC sets, I won’t be able to do 4 RC sets as I would get tired. After practice, I was able to do 4 RCs in a single row.
I never used to put RCs at the end as you tend to do a lot of mistakes. When you are in a time crunch, when you are in last few minutes, you would do Quant problems better than RC.
For every RC, I used to read passage first, if language is very difficult I would just leave it.
If passage is long and difficult to comprehend and there are only 3 questions, I would realize that it is going to take longer amount of time to understand and answer those questions, I would leave and move to next session.
If RC is short and relatively simple, I used to attempt all the questions.
I would read passage and answer easy questions, if I understood the passage, I would answer medium and difficult level question then and there.
In CAT paper, 2 RCs are very easy. If I complete 2-3 RCs, I would be very happy.
For LR being my strong area. I always tried as much as possible in LR section.
I would take 60-70 minutes there in section 2.
Last 1 hour, I would complete as much as QA & DI questions possible. I would come to leftover questions in section 1, in final 30 minutes, I would try to solve all marked questions.
I was equally good in QA & LR. I would never end with LR. As it requires more concentration, if you get it, you can solve all 5 questions and if not, entire time is wasted. I used to solve LR during middle and not at the start.
How to Deal with Fatigue ?
Practice more and more mocks to avoid fatigue.
I had very less time on weekdays, so I would start in morning on weekends, I will give one mock and then take half an hour break and take another mock. If you take 2 mocks for in 6 hours, you really know how to handle the fatigue. I don’t advise anyone to do this although someone who is serious in his/her cat prep wouldn’t mind giving 2 mocks in 6 hrs.
I always noticed that I used to be slow in first 20 or 30 minutes of the mock. Initially in some of the mocks, I started with section 2 but then I found the later pattern comfortable.
How to find which strategy works or not ?
You have to at least give 5 mocks to make sure whether your proposed strategy works or not. If you are scoring 110-120 and after using different strategy, you suddenly start seeing more score consistently. I would suggest going for another strategy.
I used to maintain excel sheet, I used to find what really went wrong. Initially, I started good, then I scored same for few mocks and then after them, my scores suddenly jumped and then there was no going back. I got comfortable with the pattern and attempt more.
This is the phase of unconscious competence.
I never gave IMS, CL and TIME mocks. I only concentrated on score. I always checked topper’s marks and see what could I have done better to top this mock. I used to see his individual scores.
How to increase attempts/accuracy over time ?
One month before, I took one week break from office. I really used to 12-14 hours every day. I found some types of questions where I was constantly making errors, parajumbles and certain types of LR questions. I practiced similar questions. I could really see improvement after that. I used to increase mocks I gave every week. Earlier I used to take 2 mocks every week then I started taking 3 and then 4 mocks every week. 1 week before CAT, I again took a break.
I solved all CAT previous papers 1999-2007 in that time. It had more questions to be solved in lesser time. Early 2000s had around 150 questions to be solved in 2 hrs or so. That increased my speed at which I used to solve the paper. Students can do those 3-4 weeks before CAT if possible.
How to improve Weaker Areas ?
I took only 2 mocks that week. I concentrated on weaker areas.
I solved 20-30 questions to get hang of it and then took test on the same topic.
Once I got hang of it, time I used to take on those questions reduced, I could focus on other areas in that time.
My attempts went from 70 and then attempts increased. My scores were good but I could sense dramatic improvement in my score.
How to Analyze Mocks ?
Take gradual increase in mocks you take. You can start solving modules, sectional tests. Take at least 1 mock a week as you start; you can know where you are making mistakes.
You should take at least 10-20 mocks.
Just increasing attempts won’t help if you are not good in all sections and good in accuracy.
I never used any other strategy to attempt mock tests. In first 35-40, I used to be very slow; I chose to solve Quant questions rather than RC or LR.
If you are good in Vocabulary and PJ, start with that and once they get forward momentum, they can switch between the sections.
Don’t start with RC or LR sets first. They occupy your time. Even when they are your strongest points.
QA and VA in first and last 20 minutes. Other questions in middle.
Did you have any specific no of attempts in your mind when you went for a Mock Test ?
I had no set number of attempts in my mind before CAT. Once you take 20 mocks, you know which mocks are difficult and when they are easy. When mock test is difficult, it’s advisable not to attempt too many questions.
60-70 in case of Difficult mocks
90 in case of Easy Mocks.
Attempt as many questions as possible. Take 2 mock test series, one is difficult and one is easy.
One of my friends took only TIME mock. He used to score good percentile by attempting only 60-70 questions. In actual CAT, he was able to solve only 60-70 questions. He used to get 95%ile in TIME mocks. He couldn’t cross even 90%ile because in his mind attempting 60-70 questions was a sign of good percentile.
I would consider Bulls Eye Easy and Vistamind Medium level.
I used to complete a mock and then and there I used to analyze it. I would start with 1st question, if I got it right and if there is short-cut, I would see whether I did same way or the other way. I would use it for next mock. The more practice you do, it’s easier to do.
In other cases, I used to write down a new method, I would go through that before the next mock. These were “specific kind of short-cuts”
I will try solving the mock again and find out where I got wrong, where I made mistakes.
If you are not able to attempt more questions, spend 1 hour more and solve remaining questions.
When you start solving mock test, if you find some of the questions very difficult, just move on. There is always easy question somewhere. I found out that in one mock, first 30 questions which were difficult, last 20 questions were easy but I moved to section 2, then came back to section 1 and got confidence back.
Things mentioned inside the Interview
2. Bulls Eye
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