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Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Experience of Cat Cracking

Name: Kalpana Bhat
My background: Associate, JP Morgan Chase & Co, San Francisco - 2000 to present
PGDM IIM Ahmedabad 2000
B.Com Ethiraj College Chennai 1998

My Testing Experience
I decided sometime during my 2nd year of college to give the CAT a shot. So, in May 1997, I borrowed the IMS material from a friend and started "preparing" for the tests. Like a good pupil, I started by following instructions and studying the material but I caught myself nodding off on more than one occasion. So, I decided to can it and dive right into the tests. That is when things got really interesting!! I took about 5 tests and never scored more than 70. That is enough to make you throw your hands up in despair and give up. But, I kept at it doggedly and trusted what people called the "learning curve". After about 10-12 tests, I could safely infer :
what I was good at and what I needed to work on
which questions to pursue and which ones to skip (for want of time)
that it was time to retrieve my 10th and 11th std Math text books, dust it and give it the once-over
that there is only one way to go and that's UP!!!!
To put all of the above in perspective - after the initial disappointment, I did not miraculously grow a brain!!! I just developed the ability to balance the little time I had and pick questions judiciously. It is crucial to know which questions to answer and which ones to re-visit IF you have time later!!! One is not fighting the familiar demons, like math or reading comprehension, but the break-neck speed at which the hands of time are flying! By Nov 1998, I had taken approx 40 tests. I also checked on the internet but unfortunately, there are very few resources offering CAT sample tests.Just keep practicing. Try doing at least one test a day leading up to the big day.

The year I tested (1997), the test was divided into 2 portions. QA and DA were part of the first half and RC and VA were part of the second. We were given one hour for each portion. After the first hour, we were made to hand in our QA-DA section and then we received the RC-VA section. I think QA-DA had 85-90 questions and RC-VA had 90-95 questions. For me, the DA and VA portions were reasonably challenging while the QA and RC sections were relatively easy. I focussed on attempting the maximum number of questions that I knew I had a shot at getting right. If a question was not of a familiar format or of a format that I knew would take time to solve, I kept it for later. This strategy works for me but it is important to determine what methods of filtering work for you. In Feb 1998, I found out I had calls from all but 1(Kozhikode) of the 6 IIMs.

My GD and Interview Experience
I had not registered with IMS. So, I did not really have a lot of structured GD or interview preparation. I just trusted my luck and common sense. I filled out the form which has the "Why do you want to do an MBA", "Describe one incident where you took on a leadership role" questions honestly. Just be prepared to defend every word you state in that piece of paper. The interviews just whizzed by and I won't dwell on them too much. Suffice to say that the IIM-A GD and interview went really well. Both in the GD and the interview, I took strong stands and stuck to them.

The GD was a case study involving an army driver who decides to break the rule of not using official vehicles for personal purposes. After dropping off his commanding officer very late one night, he is very tired and takes the vehicle home. On the way home, he hits a child and kills him/her. He is obviously guilty of involuntary manslaughter but is he guilty of violating the army code of conduct? Should he be discharged? The case study gave rise to some interesting debate. At the end, we were asked to give a brief written synopsis of the GD.

The interview was very interesting too. A number of questions directed at me were either from my courses (accounting, mostly) or regarding my ethical values. When is the LIFO method of inventory valuation used? What would I do if I saw a corrupt politician in action vis-a-vis a third person? What would I do if I saw the same corrupt politician harming my own family? And more questions in that vein .... What the interviewers are looking for, both in the GD and interview are basically, honesty, strength of conviction and of course, at least a few correct answers! Don't ham when you don't know an answer. Just say you don't know!!!

In April 1998, I found out I had gotten into IIM-A. My 2 years at IIM-A were a roller-coaster ride.. But, I will go into that some other time ...

Until then, good luck and Godspeed!!!


cooool said...

thaks!!for sharing u r experience!!

anbazhagan said...

thanks for sharing your experiances mam