How they topped MAT and Maharashtra CET

25 Jan, 2008

With the Common Entrance Test (CET) to Maharashtra's b-schools around the corner, caught up with last year's CET Rank 1 Shreyas Shah between his busy class schedules at Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Management Studies (JBIMS), Mumbai and asked him how he cracked the exam all the way to the top. We were surprised to find a very outspoken guy who made complete sense!

Hi Shreyas, so how's life treating you at JBIMS?

The thing about JBIMS or b-schools attached to universities is that you have to do a lot on your own outside the institute curriculum based on how much value you want out of the MBA. You have to be constantly reading more books or taking part in business plan competitions. I believe in working hard and then partying harder and since the institute is close to Churchgate in Mumbai, there are many places we unwind at after college. My summer training is with the Sharaf Group in Dubai where I'll be given a business development role.

That's great! So tell us, how did you prepare for your management exams last year?

Management entrance exams today test the abilities of a student to be able to interpret and reason out the underlying principles rather than simply solve numerical and grammar based questions. So, my preparation for these exams was also in line with these traits of the exams. My focus was more towards thoroughly understanding the concepts that I was studying rather than plain procedure – based solving.

After having prepared for CAT, how much extra effort did you put for the CET?

The CET is a speed-based exam unlike the CAT which is an out-and-out reasoning based exam. So, once the CAT was over, the preparation for the CET was more towards solving questions that had little depth but a lot of variety. Practice tests are of a lot of importance as they would go a long way in helping one identify the strengths and weaknesses as well as work upon the very much sought – after SPEED. Also, visual reasoning questions which do not appear in the CAT were required to be worked upon and practiced.

How would you differentiate CET from CAT and other management exams?

The CET is an exam that is heavily biased towards speed whereas exams like the CAT, XAT, SNAP, etc. do focus on the Accuracy aspect. This also owes to the fact that there is no negative marking in the CET.

Was the difficulty level of CET different from that of CAT? How?

CET questions cannot be termed as difficult. Though there are a few trickster type questions to differentiate between an average and an intelligent student, the questions in the CET are more biased towards solving, which when done intelligently without relying on pure procedure yields a great amount of speed. CAT questions, on the other hand test a candidate's ability to apply the concepts learnt and reason out with them. The focus is not so much on speed as much as is on Application and Reasoning.

What would you say your biggest mistakes were, while preparing for the CET exam and during it?

My biggest mistake during my preparation could have been the fact that I may not have laid enough emphasis on the analysis of my scores after I attempted the practice tests. During the exam, I never really had the time to think about mistakes. I just kept on solving questions all the way from 1 to 200!

How was your experience in the CET Group Discussion and Personal Interview (GD-PI)? How different was it from other Group Discussions?

During the CET GD (which is compulsory for everyone who takes the test), the saddest part is that the people you are discussing with are not necessarily like-minded people. They are with you just because their roll numbers are close to yours. So, many a times, the discussion never proves to be productive. This is something that is very important in order to score well. Other GD-PIs actually ensure that the people who are called are more or less of the same intellectual and emotional intelligence level. So they are much better.

What do you think you did right, in order to clear the CET GD-PI?

I just stuck to the basics. Make sure that your point is put across. You may have to be aggressive but not at all impatient. Talk sense and involve everyone in the discussion. During the PI, I was only ensuring that whatever I put on the form was true and I knew completely about it. I spoke with full conviction and they liked it. The basics are important, which means that you should have some basic knowledge of what's happening with you and around you.

imageWhat mistakes did you see other people making in the GD-PI?

People pretend to be what they are not and that really shows. In the GDs specially, people make nonsense points just because they have to make a point. But really, if you don't know what you are saying, you should better keep your mouth shut.

Any, exam taking strategies you would like to advice to this year's aspirants?

Since the exam is speed based, the strategy you use while appearing must also be in line with the same. I used a simple strategy: don't waste a lot of time on any question. If you can't solve one, go to the next and save time. There is never a shortage of questions to solve. Another thing, it is very important to attempt all 200 questions if you have to score well. Generally what happens is that people find themselves with another 50 questions not even seen when there are only 5 minutes left. This should never happen. So, with the help of the practice – tests, it is imperative to work upon your speed!

Next Page: Interview with MAT topper Ankit Agrawal

Like many management hopefuls Ankit Agrawal, a BE from Gujarat University wanted to attend a top business school and started early with his preparations for getting into one. Ankit, who goes by the nickname 'the_CONSTANTINE ' on is now a first year MBA student at the reputed Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Management Studies (JBIMS). And he did it by topping the Management Aptitude Test (MAT), an alternate route to many state-level management institutes in the country. spoke to him and found out more about this journey to this top school.

Right after college, Ankit went to work with Nokia for almost two years as an engineer in their GSM technology division. His focus on a management degree was unwavering and he wrote exams like the CAT, CET, XAT and the MAT. Every year he converted admits to some of the better schools, but he was never satisfied. Ankit was clear in his resolve and wrote the exams every year to try to make it to the top schools. When asked about how he made it to JBIMS, Ankit mentions rather unassumingly that he was the number 1 ranked student in the MAT exam.

Explaining about the admissions process, Ankit mentions that JBIMS accepts most of the nationally ranked examination results including CAT, CET, MAT and JMET. People who do extremely well in these exams can also apply to JBIMS with those scores. However, JBIMS does require that you do take the CET exam as a matter of process and get a non-zero percentile. Ankit not only did well on the MAT exam, he also did extremely well in the CET exam. He is not from Maharashtra and therefore falls under the OMS (Outside Maharashtra) category, under which he ranked, 4th.

Not wanting to take any chances, Ankit knew he had the best chance of getting an admit at JBIMS using his MAT score. He applied with his MAT score and the rest as we say is history. He is now studying at JBIMS and is heading to Singapore for his summer job stint.

Speaking about his experience at JBIMS, Ankit gushes about the fact that all the activities at JBIMS are completely student run. From placements to class room scheduling to alumni events – everything is student run and this allows him and his peers to learn 'on the job'. However he does note that all this does come with a cost attached to it – the absolute lack of sleep. He muses that academics too suffer due to such a hectic and uncompromising schedule and wished that there was more time to devote to academic activities. Talking about his classmates, he notes that while there is some amount of diversity it is not as much as he would like it to it. He estimates that approximately 85 percent of the batch strength is engineers with a lot of work experience primarily in the IT/ITES space.

imageTalking about professors, Ankit mentions that the core of JBIMS is made up by the visiting faculties, most of which are JBIMS alumni themselves who work in senior positions in the industry. He quickly notes that all these faculties are extremely accessible and are very interested in working closely with students and are available on email and personal cellphones when they are not on campus.

As we wind down, we can't be not impressed with the focus and determination that Ankit has had in converting his dream of attending a top business school. Years of examinations, smart planning and yes some luck have all played a part in Ankit's success. Before departing, we asked him what he would have done had it not made it to a top school like JBIMS.

“I would have taken the GMAT and would have applied to a top global school”, retorts Ankit.

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