With the days remaining for the most competitive management entrance exam in the nation countable on fingertips, here’s a colloquy with the maestro who aced the dread last year with flying colors. Take a break from your rigorous preparations and go through the interview of Vaibhav Kumar Sir, Mechanical Engineering (2k15-2k19) whose fruits of labor were in the form of a whopping 98.19 percentile in CAT 2018.
Are coaching institutes a must for performing better?
It’s highly advisable that you join a coaching institute but it all depends on your preparation. I had joined IMS and its classes were held on Saturday and Sunday. But, I couldn’t attend them. So, it’s basically the test series and results in those test series that count.
How did you manage between preparations and totally distinct branch academics?
My priority was CAT and nothing came above that. I prepared for semester exams just like everyone else did, i.e., last night study and I had many helpful friends who aided me a lot.
We know that CAT holds some percentile weightage from the results of our academics also. So, how did you maintain that good CGPA with last night study?
I call a CGPA of 8 very good. I couldn’t get even that. In most of the colleges, 8+ CGPA is considered a good one and 7.5 to 8 an average one. I’m taking my example, my CGPA was less, but apart from CAT, I had to build my résumé. So, various internships and online course certifications helped to compensate for my low CGPA.
Can you quote some examples especially the ones pertaining to your college life that sided you in your managerial mission?
Self-management is something that comes from within. When you are in the final year with your B.Tech degree, there won’t be anyone to tell you what to do. It’s you who decides where you will be at the end of 4 years. So, the decision depends solely on you. And yes, there was pressure on me, since everyone around me was preparing for GATE and I had chosen a totally different field. So, from here, I learned self-management.
You stated that everyone around you was preparing for GATE, and you prepared for an entirely different field. So, how did you cope up with that feeling?
Actually, I had read stories about people who had gotten a good package, who were placed in good PSUs but in 2-3 years, they eventually turned to aim for CAT. They wanted to change their area of specialization. So, from here I decided that instead of gaining work experience from somewhere and then going for CAT, I would choose rather to prepare for this exam only. Work experience is definitely good but the best comes when you hit the bull’s eye as a fresher.
So many students prepare for competitive exams. How would a student assess his level of preparation?
That is where the best use of mobile phones comes into action. There are online test series conducted by many coaching institutes. Also, I attended the coaching with IIT (ISM) students. Firstly, I was scared of not performing good but later on, I gained confidence with my better performance.
Candidates with below 90 percentile scores in CAT are getting calls from IIM Ahemdabad due to their non-engineering background. Do you regret opting for B.Tech just because it puts you on a disadvantageous side?
There is no point in regretting now. Actually not only B.Tech. but many conditions play a major role in admission criteria. The high school examination marks, board examination percentage, work experience, and even your gender plays an equally important role along with a lot of other factors. So you have to forget what you did in the past. According to me a CAT score above 99.5 percentile puts you in the green zone. It may not land you in the top IIMs viz. A, B or C but surely in some other elite B-School.
According to you, what should be the optimum time to begin the preparation for CAT and other management entrance exams?
There is this common fear that by the end of the final year you will get demotivated and I have seen some of my friends who had started their preparations quite enthusiastically but their motivation faded away gradually. So I will say that by the end of the sophomore year, you should be clear and focused on your aim and plan to achieve that 99.5+percentile goal.
How did life at BIT impact you in your 4 years of engineering journey?
In the first two years I enjoyed a lot in this college. In due course of time, I started getting serious about my aim and future and hence isolated myself from any distractions.
So would you advise others to refrain from such activities?
(Laughs) No! That is not what I meant! If you are an MBA aspirant, engaging in co-curricular and other activities is also quite essential. But what matters is to balance both your academic and non-academic schedules.
Which institute are you hoping to get into?
If everything goes right, I’ll start getting calls from the colleges I’ve applied to. Also, I’ve applied to certain IITs that offer MBA courses. I’m also anticipating calls from IISc Bangalore and MBISP. IIM Indore was my dream but unfortunately, I couldn’t apply there.
What do you have to say about the new IIMs which offer a good placement and package scenario?
The best thing about an MBA degree from an IIM is the peer learning that you get, be it from an old IIM or a newly established one. You learn from the environment around you. So, from my perspective, the newer IIMs in no way fall short in keeping up the IIM brand name. Actually, there are 3 generations of IIMs and the new IIMs are the baby ones.
What are your secret mantras for achieving success for all the CAT aspirants in our institute?
Actually, the time has changed now. During my time, only a few students sincerely prepared for CAT. Today, I see many of my juniors working hard to crack the exam. I would emphasize that CAT is not about books and preparation. Syllabuswise, it is an easy exam but the real challenge is the number of candidates trying to grab a seat. So, for that, mock tests are there to show the preparation level. I advise everyone preparing for CAT to take up mock tests seriously. My mock test results and actual CAT results were almost similar. Also, students should complete the entire syllabus in one full go.
So, mock tests play a very important role?
Yes, mock test is the thing that matters a lot. And apart from that, having a target in mind is very important. All of us know that we get a lot of vacations in BIT. I would suggest that one should not waste a single moment of time. I’ve realized that working ahead of time pays off very well.
Institutes such as NITIE Mumbai provide management programs via GATE score. So, are you planning to appear for GATE too?
They offer admissions through CAT as well. I have applied through my CAT score.
What advice would you like to give to a CAT aspirant who is currently juggling between the preparation and his core studies as well as trying to build a strong resume?
You can’t neglect your core studies. Your core is going to be with you for 4 years and even after. Do your best in your class tests and mid sems. Building résumé is what you should start in the 2nd year.
What do you have to say about vocational training and internships after 2nd year or 3rd year?
You should take an internship for the sole purpose of learning and not just for the sake of getting a certificate. MHRD has many new initiatives like GIAN where you will get courses for various periods like 6 months or more. There are various institutes that provide the facility of work from home.
Do you think mobile phones are a huge distraction for students nowadays?
It depends on your priority. I have taken the most advantage of mobiles. I have
done 2-3 internships from my phone.
Has casual reading helped you in your course of achieving your aim?
Books and novels have helped me a lot. It improved my VARC section that everyone feared. I have read like 40+ books. It really helped me a lot.
We hope the aspirants got their set of #pro_tips from the words of the alumnus who is now pursuing a management course from the reputed Dept. of Management Studies (DMS), IIT Delhi. Stay tuned for similar anecdotes and mantras!