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Gourav Bhattacharya, an undergraduate at IIT Bombay, was one of 2.3 lakh IIM aspirants who took the CAT 2007, this last November 18. He was one of the handful (across the country) to score in the near-impossible 100 percentile. In an email interview with rediff.com's Shifra Menezes, this future investment banker talks about his CAT strategy and career plans.
About your percentile, were you expecting to score as well as you did?
I was very happy that I did well. I did have a fair idea about my score, as I had compared my answers with the answer keys provided by various coaching institutes, but was a little tense about clearing the verbal cut-off as no institute has managed to get even 90 per cent of the verbal answers correct (as per the official IIM key) for two years running now.
I did eventually clear the cut-off and get all 6 group discussion and personal interview (GD/PI) calls, which was more important for me than the percentile. I had no idea what percentile I was going to get though.
My section-wise scoring was: 99.94 percentile in quantitative ability (QA) with 62 per cent; 99.99 percentile in data interpretation (DI) with 85.42 per cent and 98.93 percentile in verbal ability (VA) with 38 per cent. My aggregate was 61,81 per cent putting me in the 100 percentile.
Having received calls from all the IIMs, which are you hoping to get into?
All the IIMs are extremely good and have their individual strengths, and I would be very lucky to get a final admission call from even one of them considering the intense competition I will have to face at the GD/PI level. I hope to convert at least some of my calls into a final admit.
Speaking of the GD/PI rounds, how are you preparing?
I'd like to be able to practice as much as possible, brush up on my academics, and also do a little bit of reading and familiarisation with the news around the world. The most important factor for GD/PI is your confidence and belief in yourself, but it's important also to avoid being over-confident.
How did you tackle each of the sections: verbal, data interpretation, quantitaive reasoning?
Being a student of engineering I do have a fair degree of confidence in dealing with Math, and so I went first to the section on QA. However, the questions seemed a little complex, and so I skipped the section and went on to DI which was relatively simpler.
I did all of DI (except the question that had a mistake in it, which I read and skipped) and then took on VA. I ended with Math, which, because by then I had finished everything else, was a lot simpler than it initially seemed.
My advice to anyone would be to never waste time on any questions that seem complicated or incorrect, and to use time better by solving something else.
What was your strategy? Which did you find the most challenging?
Going by CAT 2006, I expected the QA and DI sections to be high scoring. However, I found the QA and VA sections to be pretty difficult, while even the DI section had a couple of tricky questions, so there really was no easy section.
I did not really have a specific strategy, and I don't think CAT is very kind on people with specific strategies. It's better to go with gut feeling and have the confidence to solve all kinds of questions.
Your educational background so far? Also, tell us a bit about your family.
I am currently a senior undergraduate in the Department of Metallurgical Engg. and Materials Science at IIT Bombay. I did my schooling at Maneckji Cooper School in Juhu, Mumbai.
My dad is a chemical engineer who now works as a freelance management consultant, and my mother is a housewife as she chose to be a hands-on mom despite holding two graduate degrees.
Why did you decide to do an MBA given your educational background? What value will an MBA degree hold for you?
I don't think it's not enough in today's competitive environment to hold a single engineering degree, no matter where you hold that degree from. Companies are looking for more in individuals whom they hire, and an MBA degree will be a valuable addition to my engineering degree.
An MBA holds tremendous value as it helps me learn about soft skills and people management, as well as management strategies, and acts a signal of intent to companies that tells them that I am serious about my career. It also helps me specialise in whatever career I eventually want to pursue.
What are your career goals/ambitions post MBA?
Post-MBA I want to get into investment banking, and perhaps a few years down the line start off as a first-generation entrepreneur.
There are a slew of coaching classes out there for CAT aspirants, did you sign up for any of them? If not, why?
I did sign up for TIME's classroom coaching, but was unable to attend due to time constraints. I did however take 10-12 of their AIMCATs, and found them to be very thoughtfully set.
The professionalism they displayed by giving the percentiles and AIRs of 25,000 students within three days of an AIMCAT on their website was impressive. They also provided a host of other data and analysis of a student's performance, as well as excellent reference material, and all of this was very helpful.
Any words of advice for other test takers?
I think the most important aspect to getting a good percentile is confidence. It is important to not fixate on the performance of other people, but to go ahead with your own plan and set yourself benchmarks regardless of what others are doing. You have to basically run your own race and back yourself to beat other people.
Finally, it's great if you do get IIM calls, but it is not the end of the world if you don't. Don't go crazy trying to analyse and over-analyse, and blame the selection procedure. Rather, look ahead and try your best in the future.
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