With just a week remaining for CAT 2016, most aspirants are in a dilemma about what to focus on more –revising already grasped concepts or learning new ones, particularly those one may feel unsure about. For CAT 2015 topper, Sabyasachi Mishra, the last week before the exam was solely dedicated towards improving his speed and accuracy. “Two weeks before the exam, you should be honing your accuracy or trying to get better at something you’re already good at. If you have to learn something new, or address your weak subject areas, a week before the exam is not the right time to go about it. Instead, you should have started preparing 2-5 months before,” he said.
Mishra, an alumnus of IIT Kharagpur, scored a 100 percentile in CAT 2015, following which, he received admission calls from both IIM Ahmedabad (IIM-A) and IIM Lucknow and got waitlisted by IIM Kolkata. Having accepted the offer from IIM Ahmedabad, he decided to defer his admission to the course by two years in order to gain some relevant work experience. Currently working with EXL Analytics as a consultant, he plans on joining the 2018 batch of IIM-A. In his interview with PaGaLGuY, he recollects his experience while speaking about his last minute study and exam-taking approach.
Speaking about his preparation strategy, Mishra said, “Given that I was in my fourth year of Engineering, it was a little complicated. I had several things happening simultaneously – placements, final semester exams and entrance tests. I didn’t have exclusive time to study for CAT. However, I knew that well before time and so my strategy was to avoid waiting till the last minute to start.”
Mishra also strongly urged the students to avoid ‘guessing’ in the exam as that, according to him, increases the chances of getting the answer wrong. “One must have the approach that if Quant is his strong point, he should concentrate on improving his speed without compromising on his accuracy. Hence one must focus on taking as many mock tests as possible,” he said.
Mock Tests and Study Schedule
Although Mishra enrolled himself for a coaching class, he was able to attend it only for two months during summer vacation. He focused predominantly on solving mock tests throughout the exam preparation period, which was not more than nine months. “I solved numerous mock tests. I first concentrated on solving the questions I knew and then went onto solving those that I found relatively difficult. Those, I tried solving without seeing the answers as that would determine my ability to solve questions that were relatively complex. If I was still unable to get it right, mock test answers helped me understand the errors in my approach,” he said.
Initially Mishra studied for 16-20 hours in a week for CAT. He used to take two mock tests – one each on Saturdays and Sundays and another random sectional test or so in the night. “Upon taking these tests, I would go through them to see what I got wrong and why. I dedicated an hour each on weekdays for this and then 5-6 hours on the weekends. Towards the last week before f the exam, I dedicated not less than four hours each on the weekend,” he said, further adding that he made it a point to take breaks every day that helped him destress.
Exam solving approach on the D-Day
Given that the pattern of the paper was changed last year, students now have no choice but to attempt it in an order – Verbal, followed by Logical Reasoning and then Quantitative Aptitude, with an hour allotted for each. Within each section, Mishra first solved questions in the same way he solved his mock tests. “I solved whatever I was confident about first. In the Verbal section, I had 30-35 minutes, dedicated towards questions I had not solved in the first go. I think in the end, I left three or four questions. Like I said it’s better to leave the ones you’re not confident about,” he said. Then came Logical reasoning which, Mishra said, was quite tough last year. “We had eight passages. I spent almost five minutes just skimming through the first four lines of the passages to see if I should attempt it in the beginning. This way, I solved 4 passages leaving behind 20-25 minutes for the remaining ones, which I was not confident about. In the end, out of the 32 questions in LR, I solved 25 out of which I got 24 right,” he said. With Quantitative Aptitude being his strongest area, the 23-year-old attempted all the 34 questions correctly within 45 minutes.
The one thing that helped Mishra immensely on the exam day was a calm mind and positive attitude. “Just know that you’ll do well. Most people panic in the first 5-10 minutes of the exam and go blank. Those first few minutes are very important and play quite a decisive role. So believe in yourself and you’ll be able to do it. That sort of attitude is required,” he said.