Interview with IIM Ahmedabad student: Shweta Arora, CAT 2017-99.09 percentile

Interview with IIM Ahmedabad student: Shweta Arora, CAT 2017-99.09 percentile

About My Background

I’m a PGP (2018-2020 Batch) graduate of IIM Ahmedabad with a keen interest in marketing. At IIM Ahmedabad, I did my summer internship at Mondelez India as the Sales and Marketing Intern and received a Pre-Placement Offer (PPO) on the completion of my two-months stint in Mumbai. Before joining IIM-A, I was pursuing B Com (H) at Kirori Mal College, Delhi University, where I was the Placement Coordinator of my college. I decided to go for an MBA immediately after graduation because of my inclination towards business and the field of marketing.

CAT 2017 was my first attempt and I scored 99.09 percentile in the exam. I didn’t prepare for any other MBA entrance exam, so the calls I received included all the IIMs and FMS. I received all the admission offers post the interviews except from IIM Bangalore. I didn’t sit for the FMS interview.

Journey of MBA & CAT: How did it start?

Since an early age, I have a keen interest in business and entrepreneurship. My maternal uncle owned a general store and I used to help him with the business by ideating for his festive sales. From thereon, I’ve been involved in consumer behaviour, purchasing decisions and growing businesses. That prompted me to opt for B Com (H) and further go for an MBA.

It was in the first year of my graduation that I had made up my mind to appear for CAT’17. The choice between sitting for final placements and doing an MBA immediately after graduation was automatically made for me because of the dearth of marketing firms that hired from Delhi University. I was almost sure of my inclination towards marketing and hence, I decided to prepare religiously for CAT.

Coaching or Self-Prep?

In the first year itself, I decided to go through the syllabus of the CAT exam to gauge how comfortable I am with the three sections. In my opinion, it’s important to make this assessment early on in your journey because it gives you the leeway to cover up for that section by preparing in advance.

After carrying out this assessment, I found out that I’m slightly weaker in Quantitative Aptitude as compared to the other sections. So, I decided to self-prepare for the QA section for about 6 months. I solved the LOD 1 questions from Arun Sharma’s book during this time. In my second year, I enrolled myself with the TIME Institute’s coaching centre in North Campus, Delhi because I had heard great reviews about their coaching material and AIMCAT test series.

In hindsight, I believe that the extra 6 months of self-preparation really helped me cover up for the section I was weak in. I would definitely suggest the future aspirants to do this analysis for themselves and work on any section that they feel requires extra attention.

Getting into IIM-A harder for Non-engineers?

Honestly, if anything, it’s easier for the non-engineers to get into IIM-A due to the admission criteria which is in favour of increasing the academic diversity on campus. Based on this criteria, the non-engineers need relatively lesser marks in CAT to get into IIM-A as compared to the engineers because they are competing with their own Academic Category (AC) and not with the entire pool of candidates.

There is often an apprehension in the minds of the non-engineering aspirants that they’re weak in the QA section, which is why they fear that it is hard for them to make it to the IIMs. I was also in the same boat once. But, if you decide to work on your weaknesses, then the road to IIM-A is much smoother for you, as a non-engineer.

How did I prepare for CAT?

My coaching began around Jan’17, so initially, I relied on the coaching material and Arun Sharma’s self-preparation books to prepare for CAT. I was also appearing for mocks from the very beginning as per the AIMCAT’s schedule. But, around mid-April, I realized that I’m unable to attempt a lot of questions in the mocks because of which my mock scores are stagnant.

The coaching classes move at a certain pace, so I realized that if I want to score higher, I’ll have to finish off the basics on my own by July-end. I created a study plan for myself wherein I divided the CAT basics syllabus into monthly and weekly plans. Then, I started finishing the basics from the material I had. I used to attend the coaching classes only to strengthen the concepts I had studied on my own.

This helped me increase my mock scores. I took about 43 mocks in total through two test series: AIMCATs and CL’s test series. After August, my entire focus was on taking mocks and analysing them. I also made sure to revise the important concepts, formulas and tricks every weekend. I had created a formula book for the same purpose. If I ever felt that any of my concepts were not clear (after carrying out the mock analysis), I went back to the basics of the chapter and tried to solve more questions.

Message to CAT Aspirants

The first thing I want to say is that cracking the CAT exam is doable. A lot of people just give up too soon. What you need to remember is that this exam is not a race, it’s a marathon. A person who is consistent is more likely to win than a person who relies on temporary boosts of motivation.

Secondly, completing your basics as early as possible is the key to scoring well in mocks. If you keep your basics to the end, you’ll not have enough time to analyse the mocks, which is the most important part of cracking this exam.

Thirdly, don’t feel demotivated by your mock scores in the initial months. Remember that you are taking the mocks to improve your scores, if you already knew how to score well, why would you be taking the mocks? Always focus on learning more.

Fourthly, never compare your journey with those of others. You’ll find a lot of people in different forums and WhatsApp Preparation Groups who will make you feel like a beginner. Understand that every person has a different story, focus on yours.

Finally, your main objective should be on improving your mock scores. This is going to happen through analysing the mocks, not through only attempting them. So, if you leave the analysis in between, consider that mock attempt as a wasted effort.

That’s all I have to say to the CAT 2020 aspirants, wish you all the very best!

About the Author

Shweta started an endeavour to help the non-engineering students by sharing about her CAT preparation journey and life at IIM-A at She takes live questions on the portal & guides students from all academic backgrounds now.

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