This is what SHRUTI PRABHU, a Second Year, PGPM student from IIM Bangalore with a CAT score of 97.20 percentile has to say when asked about her preparation strategy for CAT. Shruti shared her insights on how to choose a B School and shared her learning, so far. In conversation with Kalyani Majumdar
Was there a particular startegy that you followed for your CAT preparation?
I was working with L&T and my first priority was to finish my CA. From the beginning, I was very clear that if I were to pursue an MBA, it had to be from IIM A, B or C, else I would not pursue an MBA at all. That is why I needed a really good score. I planned my preparation few months in advance. I didn’t want to leave my job, so, I knew I had to study alongside working. I was only left with the weekends. I knew the number of hours I could put in was less as compared to others.
I wanted to sit for the test in November 2017 and that is when I enquired in IMS to know the earliest batch I could enrol in, so that I could start with my preparation immediately. The first three months invloved coaching, no mock tests. After that they began with the test series. So, right from June till November I gave all the tests.
How did the mock tests help you?
Test was a priority for me whether it was proctored or un-proctored. I focussed working on my weakness. Mock tests are a great way to know your strengths and weaknesses. Because even if you try to maximise the number of hours in your preparation it will never be enough even if you do it end to end. CAT evaluates your inherent intelligence and analytical skills so you cannot actually prepare 100 percent for it. That is what I feel. It is not like other examinations where you read all the chapters and get the answers from those chapters. That is why identifying strength and weakness is very important. I identified that my weakness was Quant so I focussed on it. Since I didn’t have enough time to prepare for all the subjects, I ensured that working on my weakness would improve and bring it up to the average so that all three subjects were at par. My test scores were initially lopsided. The feedback I received from the IMS faculty was that if I didn’t make the sectional cut off I won’t clear. This is an important learning that even if you are brilliant in one subject it won’t help unless you improve the remaining sections. The fortunate part was that in the end the final score was 95 percentile throughout in all the three sections during the mocks. So, I feel that my focus was in the right direction.
Do you have any specific suggestions for CAT preparation?
When I talk to MBA aspirants I realise how important it is for them to know the preparation strategy followed by other students. Firstly, you have to see how many months you have. I have seen many aspirants are working when they decide to sit for CAT, so in that case the time available in hand is limited. Thus you have to make the most of the time that you have. Plan it to a T. And then you have to decide if the preparation needs you to quit the job.
How did you prepare for PI?
After the results were out in January, my interviews were spread across February and March; I had almost one and half months to prepare for PI and WAT. The IMS residential workshop had a lot of coaching and many experts had come in. It was worth attending. There was a session held at Ruia College where mock PIs were held. I could not attend too many WAT sessions, but I ensured that I attended as many mock PIs as possible.
How did you decide which B-School to get into?
As I already mentioned I was only keen on doing an MBA if it was from IIM A, B or C. So, out of the three IIMs I converted B and I also converted K, L, I, so for me the decision was very clear that I have only one of the top 3. So, it was easy. However, I would like to suggest that you should ideally convert as many calls as you can, as you should have all the options with you before making that final choice. And, for those that are able to convert all A, B and C you can speak to your seniors from the particular B School and see which IIM suits you best as all these three IIMs has relatively similar placements.
About Student Loan
Did you opt for a student loan? Can you tell us a bit about the procedure?
You can apply for a student loan before your term starts or even after the beginning of the term. Before the admission, you simply take the letter to the State Bank of India and they have a special scheme for IIMs and IITs, wherein 100 percent of your education can be funded through student loan. They make the payment directly to the college authority. During every term you get an email from the college that these are the fees that you have to pay within the time frame. You send that email to the bank and they pay the same directly, so it is a hassle free process. Some students opt for funding once they realise their funds are getting exhausted, so they apply for loan in the middle of the college term. At the time of admission there are bank representatives present at the campus to educate the students regarding loans. You provide the documents and they process it immediately. The process is hassle free because it is direct payment. For instance at IIM B we have around Rs 22 lakhs of fees including hostel and education. So, the loan covers everything. We have a smart card and in every three months the term end fee money gets credited to the card and that is good enough to pay for the food, stay and the daily necessities.
Is it difficult to pay back this loan?
Though most of us get placements immediately but there is a one year grace period that we are given by the bank in case we are unable to get placed right after finishing MBA and unable to get the right job.
Any suggestions on how an aspirant can come to the decision that he/she would like to pursue an MBA?
In all PI interviews one thing they want to know is how strong is your purpose to do an MBA? In IIM B there is a formal procedure where you submit a statement of purpose, in all other colleges you don’t have to submit a note per se, but you still need to have a clear answer in your mind, as this question will present itself in your PI. For instance, I knew I would like to pursue a career in consultancy and once you are an MBA, it is a lot easier to get a job as an Investment Banker and not so much as just a CA. Once you familiarise yourself with few career options, your purpose to do an MBA becomes clearer. If you are targeting IIM then there is no need to worry about selecting your subjects right away. In non-IIMs based on your career goals you could choose a B School that is known for that specialisation, for instance XLRI for Human Resource and NITIE for Operations.
Is there anything in particular that you would like to tell the MBA aspirants?
You need to introspect a lot because sometimes people get into MBA just for the sake of it, because somebody else is doing it. But then they find out how difficult it is to go on with the course, especially if you are not really motivated. If you don’t know where you are going, then MBA is not perhaps the right path for you. If you know what you are good at, but you want to learn more then you should go for it. Not just because of the money or because of the peer pressure or if you feel there is nothing else to do. This approach should not be followed as then every stage will be a hurdle if the basic purpose and introspection is not there before pursuing an MBA. Clarity of mind and purpose is very important.