The Common Admission Test (CAT) is a national-level management entrance exam for admission into IIMs and other top B-Schools. To help you prepare for the exam, DoJMA asked three of the CAT 2017 toppers from BITS Pilani Goa, viz., Rujuta Kelkar (99.92 %ile), Suneha Bagri (99.52 %ile) and Prathamesh Gabale (99.18 %ile), to give their views and opinions on the exam and to know about their success ‘mantra’.
Why and when did you decide to appear for CAT? When did you start preparing?
Rujuta: I always knew that I wanted to get into the Finance industry. In India, there aren’t many courses that give importance to Computational Finance. If you want to work in a front office, they usually hire only from top institutes, like IIM A, B and C. That’s why I decided to write CAT. The exam is in November, and I started preparing in August. You should take a mock test in February or March and depending on your percentile, you should start your preparations immediately or after a few months.
Suneha: The job opportunities for my branch were not that great and I wanted to switch to Finance. I wanted to do an MBA later, so I decided to write CAT. My actual preparations started in May, although I had joined CAT classes earlier.
Prathamesh: I took the decision to write CAT in 3-1. I was interested in Finance and was also doing a Minor in the same, which helped me realise that I was interested in that field.
Do you think that coaching institutes are necessary for doing well in CAT?
Rujuta: I think the only reason I joined TIME was because I got a scholarship. In my opinion, a candidate should enrol for at least two test series offered by different institutes in order to ace the exam, because the best way to practise for CAT is by taking mock exams.
Suneha: I think test series are most important. I prefer self-study and I think that this is a more helpful strategy for CAT; but for those who can’t study by themselves, coaching would be help to get them into the mode of solving problems of the calibre of CAT.
Prathamesh: Coaching gives a direction to work in. I absolutely recommend taking coaching in college for CAT. Since many people don’t attend classes in college, they might have a lot of time to attend these coaching classes.
Do you think the Finance Minor degree offered in BITS Pilani, or any course in particular, is helpful in preparing for CAT?
Rujuta: I don’t think any course helps much, as CAT tests Mathematics, English and Logical Reasoning. Probability and Statistics might help to an extent. You need to recognise patterns and analyse data quickly. Learning tables of squares and cubes by heart will help, as CAT requires you to be quick.
Suneha: Finance courses, Probability and Statistics and Optimization help while you’re doing an MBA, but they don’t help you while preparing for its entrance test.
Prathamesh: I don’t think that Finance Minor helps in preparing, but it might be helpful in getting an idea about MBA and Finance. Doing a Finance Minor might help in discovering your interest in that field.
Do you feel that being a part of any of the finance and business-related clubs on campus is beneficial for admissions at IIMs and other top universities?
Rujuta: It gives you talking points, since most people usually don’t have work experience. You can expect a lot of questions on your undergraduate major. Your extracurriculars are also going to set you apart. What you do in the club matters more than just being in the club.
Suneha: They’re not very helpful, but it gives you something to talk about during the interview. My discussion during the interview was about my internship. If you have been a coordinator of a club or department, you may talk about it during your interview because it is closest to your heart; but it’s not a negative point if you’re not a part of these clubs.
Prathamesh: It is not a must to be a part of the clubs on campus. In the interview, you must be able to defend your work in those clubs, as being a part of a club can be easily faked in the resume.
Do you think that work experience is essential before joining an IIM?
Rujuta: If you want to write CAT, I believe that you should give it a shot in your fourth year itself. If that does not work, you can try again, a year later. Doing well in CAT also depends on luck. Most people should be able to get in after one or two tries. I personally believe that if you have to wait for around 3 years and if money isn’t an issue, then you might as well do an MBA abroad.
Suneha: It is not necessary, but I would recommend it. It may not be necessary for dualites or for those who have done PS2 and internships. But if you’ve done a thesis alone (though you may be able to get through) it helps to show that you have some experience in the corporate world. Don’t stay back on campus just to prepare for CAT. If you want to pursue finance, take a good PS2 station and get a PPO, while preparing for CAT on the side.