"Most people tend to lose the fight in the very first stage, believing that CAT is beyond their reach.
"I strongly urge all my friends and future CAT aspirants not to make that mistake.
"Always remember - the one who wins is the one who thinks s/he can!"
Neha Manglik, the only female CAT topper this year tells us how she did it.
Every year lakhs of students appear for the Common Admission Test.
Just one per cent score 100 per cent.
A significant number of toppers are male and engineers.
This year, 16 students secured 100 percentile.
Neha Manglik, an engineering student from Delhi, is one of them.
She is the first woman student since 2009 to score 100 per cent. She is also the only female topper this year.
Neha Manglik was an achiever in school too, scoring 96 per cent in class 10 and 92 per cent in class 12.
She believes that the key to success lies in "working hard and improving continuously."
Manglik is currently in her final year at BITS Pilani, Rajasthan, studying chemical engineering. She plans to do an MBA at her dream institute, the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad.
Neha's father works in a private company and her mother teaches in a private school in Delhi.
Her younger brother Rahul is currently studying in class 11.
Here, the 21-year-old tells us how she topped one of the toughest management entrance examinations and shares her ambition for the future.
What was your reaction when you got the results?
The CAT result website was slow, so my entire family sat in one room on multiple laptops and mobile phones, trying to get the result.
When it finally came, we were on top of the world!
We checked again and again that the name was right. Then we huddled like a sports team and started jumping for joy!
It was an amazing moment.
Did you always want to do an MBA (Masters in Business Management)?
Unlike what most people think, an MBA is not always just in finance. They teach management principles which are useful to manage every situation, every group of people, and every part of your life.
I believe that this is the kind of knowledge everybody should have, to succeed in any sphere of life.
So, yes, an MBA has always been a dream.
In BITS, I took up electives like Principles of Management, Professional Ethics, Human Resource Development and Indian Wisdom for Modern Management.
I loved these subjects and realised I wanted to know more about them and similar topics. This was another reason to do an MBA.
Did you take coaching?
Yes, I joined the TIME Classroom Programme in Pilani. I studied from their modules, and solved All India Mock CATs (AIMCATs) and analysed them, which really helped me.
I also joined online shortcut workshops of CETking, a Maharashtra based institute.
Their approach to questions was quite similar to what comes to me intuitively, so I felt that the workshops really helped me.
Towards the end, I also gave Career Launcher online mocks, as their difficulty level is quite close to the real CAT and it prepared me for a surprisingly easy CAT paper.
How important is private coaching to crack the CAT?
It's not necessary to join a coaching institute.
If you want to prepare by yourself, you can take the support of any group of people, even friends or parents, who can give direction to your preparation and ensure that you don't lose your focus.
But you should definitely give as many mocks as possible and analyse them thoroughly to find your weak spots and work on them.
How did you prepare for the exam? Any study ‘secrets’?
I don't have any study secrets. I gave my best and worked hard at improving continuously, just like all serious CAT-takers.
What were your weakest areas? How did you tackle them?
I was comparatively weak in Data Interpretation, especially speed maths based questions. For that, I did Vedic Maths.
I searched for videos online and completely changed my way of calculation, including basic things like addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.
What mistakes did you make initially in the mocks and how did you correct them?
In my initial mocks, I realised that there wasn't enough time to finish my paper, which led to lower marks because I missed even those questions which I could have answered.
So I started being more conscious of the time I spent on each question and made sure I didn't waste too much time on just a few of them.
Where do candidates go wrong with CAT?
Sadly, people tend to lose the fight in the first stage itself -- believing.
They tend to think that CAT is beyond their reach. I strongly urge all my friends and future CAT aspirants not to make that mistake.
Remember that the one who wins is the one who thinks he/she can!
Do you think being an engineering student helped you perform better in the exam?
Being an engineering student didn't help me in CAT. But good mathematical and logical skills helped me to become an engineer and these same skills helped me in CAT too.
The skills required are similar, but it's not a cause-effect relationship.
Have you got any admission offers yet? What are you currently preparing for?
I’ve got offers from the IIFT and S P Jain Institute of Management and Research, Mumbai.
The CAT result has just come, so CAT-related offers may take a few more days.
I am currently preparing for the Interview and Group Discussion/Essay stage of selection.
Which business schools would you prefer to join?
My dream institute is IIM Ahmedabad. This is because I realised from my experience in BITS Pilani that we can learn a lot about practical skills for life while interacting with students and faculty of premier institutes.
In addition to classroom learning, I find these interactions with the cream of the country's youth intellectually stimulating.
Hence, I want to be part of an institute where I can find them in abundance and learn a lot from them.
Besides CAT, which other exams did you attempt? How difficult was it to prepare for multiple exams?
In addition to the CAT, I gave the CMAT, NMAT and IIFT. I'll also be giving the XAT.
The syllabus for all of these is quite similar, so it’s not that difficult to balance them.
What books, periodicals and websites would you recommend to MBA aspirants?
I suggest you read at least one general newspaper and one business newspaper on a daily basis.
Don't let others tell you which one to read, let your interest guide you.
Reading a newspaper should not feel like a punishment, but rather a reward or motivation to kick-start a productive day.
What advice would you give to candidates who aim to get 100 per cent in CAT?
My suggestion to all CAT aspirants would be: believe in yourself and focus completely on your preparation.
Don't let yourself get discouraged midway.
Know your strengths and weaknesses and work accordingly.
Besides academics, what are your interests?
My hobbies include writing poetry, watching anime (Japanese animated series), and doing arts and crafts.
I also like public speaking. In BITS Pilani, I headed the Poetry Club, a 30-member group of poetry enthusiasts from all over India.
My experiences with them shaped me and made me who I am.
What are your career plans for the future?
There are a lot of thoughts about this, of course, but nothing is fixed as of now.
I know two things for sure: First, I want a creative angle in whatever I choose to do.
Second, I want to balance my work life with family life. I will not compromise on family just to run after money or fame.
A good example of what I'd like to do in life is what I did in my internship at Phyzok Learning Solutions LLP.
Using my love for and experience in poetry, I scripted a rap battle between an electron and a proton to teach school students chemistry.
In this way, I want to blend my knowledge and my creative talent to produce something meaningful in my future job/career.
What have you learnt from your life and career so far?
Confidence and self-belief is the key to achieve anything in life.
I have learnt the importance of people in shaping my life -- my family, my friends, my teachers. They have always motivated me to pursue what I wanted.
Who inspires you and why?
My father has always inspired me with his confidence and belief in his abilities.
He is a workaholic and he loves his job and always gives it his best.
At the same time, I really idolise my mother for being able to balance her passion -- teaching -- with her family life.
She has always been there for me and my brother, and she has loved every moment of it.
She keeps us all close as a family and I would like to be able to become like her in the future.
Your advice to our readers?
My advice to all readers would be to realise your potential, believe in yourself, and then work continuously towards the goal you have set for yourself, whichever field it may be in.