CAT 2021 Topper Soham Katkar from Mumbai – A Computer Engineer, Published Author, and Drama enthusiast secured 100 percentile in the CAT 2021 examinations. Read further to know how Soham coped with the pressures of the exam, his exam preparation strategies, and advice for future CAT aspirants.
Excerpts from the Interview!
Question 1: Congratulations on cracking CAT 2021! What are your overall and sectional scores in CAT 2021?
Ans: Thanks a lot. My scaled scores across the subjects are – VARC 47.73, DILR 53.06, Quants 58.35. Overall, 159.13. The percentiles are – VARC 99.33, DILR 100, Quants 99.99, Overall 100
Question 2: When did you start your CAT 2021 Preparation? What is the ideal time required to complete the CAT syllabus before the exam?
Ans: I had attempted the CAT exams in 2020 as well and prepared for 2-3 months for it. This time however for the CAT 2021 exams I started preparing just 2 weeks before the exam. According to me, 3-4 months time period should be more than enough to prepare for the CAT Examinations.
Question 3: What was your overall preparation strategy for CAT 2021?
Ans: My preparation was based on mock tests. Mock tests help me to understand the paper pattern as well as the content and the syllabus of the paper. My preparation included solving mock tests, and analyzing them in detail. This helped me find the pattern in my mistakes, and how I can improve on that part so as to not repeat them again.
Question 4: Was there any particular section/area that you were weak at? How did you overcome this challenge? What strategies did you adopt to master that section?
ans: I was weak in the VARC section. In fact, not managing to clear the VARC cut-off was the reason why I didn’t receive any calls last year. I didn’t do anything different with respect to preparation but kept solving which gradually helped me progress.
Question 5: Tell us something about yourself, your family, and your interests beyond academics?
Ans: I am a Computer Engineer from Mumbai. I like to play musical instruments, especially the flute. I like to watch cricket. I also write, and I have published my own book, titled ‘Ajinkya Bharat’ – an eBook on Kindle. I was in my college drama team as well, Rhapsody KJSCE.
My family has always supported me in my journey. My parents have always encouraged me to pursue my hobbies. My elder brother is an IIM-C graduate, so he was always there whenever I needed his help during the prep.
Question 6: Were you a part of any coaching institute? Do you think coaching is necessary to ace CAT?
Ans: I didn’t take any coaching, per se. But I did apply for a mock test series from TIME. I believe that the syllabus of CAT isn’t something out of scope or something we have never studied, as it tests out general aptitude and reasoning. It’s important to know the paper pattern though, to plan the strategies for attempting the paper. Having a good paper-solving strategy is important to maximize the score, and hence, it’s important to practice a decent amount of mocks.
Question 7: Any particular book or study material that helped you gain an edge over other candidates?
Ans: As I mentioned in my preparation strategy for CAT 2021, I depended more on the mock tests and did not refer to any books as such. I believe CAT exams are completely based on login and no concepts as such.
Question 8: How can an aspirant avoid negative marking?
It is important to focus on accuracy, in order to avoid negative marking. A candidate shouldn’t refrain from taking his own time before answering the question. It’s much better to get 2 right answers after spending 4-5 mins than rushing yourselves and getting 1 right and 2 wrong at the same time. Another way of countering negative marking is preserving some time for rechecking in the end. It is very tough to do this though, with the time limits.
Question 9: What role did Mock Tests play in your success? How many mocks did you attempt before the exam?
Ans: This year, I attempted 12 mocks in the last two weeks before the exam. As mentioned earlier, mocks are extremely crucial.
Question 10: Please share your exam-day strategy for CAT 2021. What was your last-minute preparation? How did you plan your CAT test-taking?
I did nothing on the exam day, preparation-wise. The test was early in the morning anyway, so I didn’t have any time to do anything. Even on the day before the exam, I solved just one mock test (CAT 2020 paper). About the exam-day strategy, everyone develops his own approach through the mock tests, so it varies from person to person.
Question 11: Do you think academic background plays an important role in CAT Prep and Why?
Ans: Maybe, yes. Having attempted JEE in the past, I never had to take a lot of effort for the mathematical part. In my school days, I used to give a lot of competitive exams, so that definitely helped me in terms of time management.
Question 12: Which institutes have you applied to admission and why did you opt for them particularly?
Ans: When you fill the CAT form, you apply for all the IIMs automatically. They’ll send the interview calls to the candidates who are eligible.
Question 13: How are you preparing for the GD-PI and WAT rounds of the selection process?
Ans: I haven’t started any preparation yet. I’ll take some time first, and start preparing soon.
Question 14: What is your message for CAT aspirants? One crucial piece of advice that you would like them to follow and wish you had known.
Ans: Believe in yourselves. Don’t be afraid of setbacks, they are natural. The more you stress yourselves, the worse your result will be. Be more excited about the things you are willing to learn in management, than stressing yourselves about the exam. Approach the exam positively. During the exam, don’t worry about the timer that’s running out. Take your time for every question, focus on accuracy, rather than forcing yourself to attempt the entire paper.
One crucial piece of advice would be – you needn’t follow everyone’s advice; listen to everyone and do whatever suits you.
Question 15: What is your dream career choice after completing your MBA?
Ans: I don’t have a specific dream career or something. I just wish to do something where I can utilize my skills the most.