CAT 2018 Toppers: 5 Toppers on how they cracked CAT, scored 99%, got into IIMs, but chose SPJIMR Mumbai

Tuesday, October 29 2019
CAT Toppers & SPJIMR students
CAT 2019 exam is round the corner and the best CAT preparation tips can come from CAT toppers. MBAUniverse.com has recently interviewed five CAT 2018 toppers who scored 99 percentile and were offered admission by IIMs, IIFT, MDI, IITs but preferred to join SPJIMR Mumbai. The CAT toppers share their weaknesses and how they won them over and cracked CAT, prepared for GD/PI/WAT post CAT exam and why they preferred joining SPJIMR instead of IIMs

With CAT 2019 round the corner, there could not be a better source of CAT preparation guidance than the tips from CAT 2018 toppers who prepared smartly, got over their weaknesses, scored 99 percentile and were offered admission not only by IIMs but also other top MBA colleges. MBAUniverse.com interviewed five such CAT toppers who have shared their CAT preparation journey, their weaknesses and how they won them over and cracked CAT, prepared for GD/PI/WAT post CAT exam and why they preferred joining SPJIMR instead of IIMs. All the CAT toppers are not just happy with their choices, but also strongly recommend their B-school.

Out of the 5 CAT toppers namely Sakshat Goel, Sourabh Singhal, Tushar Goel, Sandeep Prabhu, Ram Kumar, 4 of them were working professionals and had very less time to prepare for CAT exam. All of them have emphasized the importance of taking mock tests, analysing them and consistently improving upon them. A combination of Self Study and guidance from Coaching experts can save your time and bring greater clarity, a peer group can accelerate the pace of CAT preparation, is the common view of all CAT toppers.  Regular reading of news-  paper and appearing in mock PI round  is must to face the GD/PI round as it will keep you updated with current trends.

Edited excerpts from the interviews follow:

Sakshat Goel: 99.21 Percentile in CAT 2018

A Telecommunication Engineer from PESIT Bangalore with work experience of 14 months as Market Analyst at Futures First, Sakshat Goel scored 99.21 percentile in CAT 2018. He was offered admission by IIM Shillong, New IIMs, MDI Gurgaon but he chose to join SPJIMR Mumbai. Lets find out more about Sakshat’s CAT preparation journey and life at SPJIMR.

MBAUniverse: Which year did you take CAT? What was your overall and sectional score?
Sakshat:
I appeared in CAT 2018. My overall score was 99.21 percentile and sectional percentile for VA was 95.15, for LR/DI was 99.66 and for QM it was 97.45

MBAUniverse: Tell us briefly about your preparation strategy that helped you crack CAT.
Sakshat:
My preparation strategy focussed on taking mock examinations on a regular basis to analyse the weak areas and improve accuracy.

MBAUniverse: Apart from SPJIMR, which were the B-schools you were shortlisted at?
Sakshat:
I was shortlisted for MDI Gurgaon, IIM Shillong, IIM Kozhikode and New IIMS.

MBAUniverse: How did you prepare for GD-PI round?
Sakshat:
I read newspaper on a regular basis, undertook mock GD and practice interview rounds.

MBAUniverse: Which B-schools did you convert for admissions?
Sakshat:
Apart from SPJIMR, I finally converted MDI Gurgaon, IIM Shillong and New IIMS.

MBAUniverse: Why did you choose SPJIMR over other top B-schools?
Sakshat:
I chose SPJIMR because it has a few unique strengths. SPJIMR has unique pedagogy with Non classroom learning programs like Abhyudaya and DOCC, Value Based Program. There is a strong location advantage – Mumbai being Financial Hub.

MBAUniverse: Tell us about your SPJIMR Experience.
Sakshat:
The journey in SPJIMR till date is the high point for me. The constant learning through interaction with diverse people is very enriching. Professors provides me an opportunity to develop holistically.

MBAUniverse: Your message to MBA Aspirants who are currently preparing for CAT/XAT?
Sakshat:
My message to MBA Aspirants will be to channelize all their energies towards CAT preparation. Work on time management skills and try giving as many mock exams as possible.

Sourabh Singhal: 98.92 Percentile in CAT 2018

Sourabh Singhal, pursuing PGDM 2019-21 at SPJIMR has done B.A. (Hons) Economics from Hansraj College of Delhi University. He is also a CFA- Level 2 candidate. He was part of various extra-curricular activities including President, Enactus; Project Director, Boond at Enactus Hansraj; Head of Corporate Relations cell. Sourabh scored 98.92 percentile in CAT 2018, was shortlisted and offered admissions not only by SPJIMR but also by IIM Indore, IIM Shillong, New IIMs who participated in Common Admission Process, NMIMS, MDI but he preferred to join SPJIMR, Mumbai. MBAUniverse.com spoke to Sourabh to understand his CAT preparation approach and his decision to chose SPJIMR over others.

MBAUniverse: Which year did you take CAT? What was your overall and sectional score?
Sourabh:
I took CAT in the year 2018. My overall percentile was 98.92 and sectional percentile for VARC was 91.58, for DILR was 98.76 and for QA it was 99.05

MBAUniverse:  Tell us about your preparation strategy that helped you crack CAT 2018?
Sourabh:
One needs to follow a proper schedule for concept learning, practice, mocks, analysis and leisure. A CAT aspirant should practice all the three sections simultaneously with equal importance to each. For VA, it is advisable to constantly read the newspaper preferable “The Hindu”. Also, while reading the newspaper, lay focus on the editorial section. This section comes with a lot of new words and opinions which prepares the aspirants for exams as well as the GD-PI process.

One can also read books written by foreign authors for better comprehension. For LR-DI, aspirants should practice maximum sets and solve puzzles like sudoku, brain teasers etc. This opens your mind and welcomes new strategies to solve problem sets. For QA, it is necessary to grasp the concepts clearly. More time should be given to learn the concepts. Mugging the formulas doesn’t work in all topics. The questions demand clarity of concepts. Further, practice is the key. Try as many mocks as you can and conduct a proper analysis of your mocks. It is better to have maximum mistakes before the D-day.

Finally, focus more on correct answers, rather than attempting more questions.

MBAUniverse: Apart from SPJIMR, which were the B-schools you were shortlisted at?
Sourabh:
I was shortlisted by IIM Lucknow, IIM Indore, IIM Kozhikode, IIM Shillong, XLRI-HRM, IIM-CAP (New IIMs conduct Common Admission Process for admission), MDI Gurugram, SIBM Pune, NMIMS Mumbai

MBAUniverse: How did you prepare for GD-PI round?
Sourabh:
GD-PI is highly diverse. One thing which is common across most PI processes is the academics. If you are a fresh graduate, one needs to be thorough with the subject and topics studied in the under-graduate college curriculum. If one has some work-experience, it usually becomes the centre of conversation. Also, it is fine to not know an answer during the interview. It is all about your confidence and saying- “Sir/Ma’am, I don’t know” is always a valid answer.

For GD, read the newspapers daily, follow the market and political trends, and most importantly try to have an opinion on the same. The GD topics are not necessarily related to current affairs, they can be abstract too. GD does not necessarily mean that one must speak the most or start/end. It is important for the candidate to provide the meaningful and strong insights even if they are less in number. Further, practice as many mock GDs as you can.

MBAUniverse: Which B-schools did you finally convert for final admissions?
Sourabh:
I converted SPJIMR, IIM Indore, IIM Shillong, All colleges for IIM CAP, MDI Gurugram, NMIMS Mumbai…

MBAUniverse: Why did you choose SPJIMR over other top B-schools?
Sourabh:
SPJIMR is not only about academics, instead it focuses on value-based learning and influencing practice approach to execute these learnings. SPJIMR has consistently retained its position in the top B-Schools of India and beyond. Besides, it has a small batch size, which ensures better learning experience and placements in the top companies. All these factors among others were the reasons to choose SPJIMR over other B-schools.

MBAUniverse: What are your key achievements so far?
Sourabh:
I was campus runners up in Aditya Birla Group Stratos, 2019; Campus Finalist at HUL FinAce, 2019 and Campus Finalist at RB Global Challenge, 2019.

MBAUniverse: How is SPJIMR unique?
Sourabh:
Key strengths of SPJIMR include

  1. Global Fast Track Program: A 21-day, visit in premium partnered institutions in USA, for enhanced learnings in specialisations.
  2. Abhyudaya Program: Fosters social responsibility amongst the students by mentoring the students from under-privileged backgrounds.
  3. Student Run Committees (ADMAP): Assessment and Development of Managerial and Administrative Potential creates a conviction amongst students to become better leaders, entrepreneurs and mangers.
  4. DOCC: Development of Corporate Citizenship, sensitizes the students to Indian society by providing an opportunity to work in a partner NPO/NGO.
  5. Autumn Placements: Students at SPJIMR are trained to learn fundamental concepts for first year, so that they can apply it in the internship next year

Tushar Goel- 98.89 Percentile in CAT 2018

Tushar Goel scored 98.89 percentile in CAT 2018. He was shortlisted and was offered admission by all the new IIMs, SJMSOM-IITB, MDI, NMIMS apart from SPJIMR Mumbai. However, he preferred to join SPJIMR instead of any IIM or other B-school. MBAUniverse.com spoke to Tushar to understand his CAT preparation strategy and if he is happy with his decision to join SPJIMR over IIMs.

MBAUniverse: What was your overall and sectional score in CAT 2018?
Tushar:
  I took CAT in the year 2018. My overall percentile was 98.89 and sectional percentile for VARC was 98.25%, for DILR it was 92.22%, and for QA it was 98.6%

MBAUniverse: Tell us briefly about your preparation strategy that helped you crack CAT
Tushar:
I joined T.I.M.E. classroom course since I lacked the motivation to prepare on my own. I used to go to classes and work on weekdays. I subscribed to IMS mock tests and I gave 1 AIMCAT and 1 SIMCAT on weekends. Analyzing the mocks mostly helped me in cracking CAT.

MBAUniverse: Apart from SPJIMR, which were the B-schools you were shortlisted at?
Tushar:
I was shortlisted for IIFT, SJMSOM-IITB, MDI, NITIE, SIBM-P, NMIMS, IIM-Shillong, all the new IIM’s under Common Admissions Process (CAP).

MBAUniverse: How did you prepare for GD-PI round?
Tushar:
I read the newspapers regularly so as to get acquainted with the recent happenings. Also, I gave mock GDs and PIs with T.I.M.E. and IMS.

MBAUniverse: Which B-schools did you finally convert for final admissions?
Tushar:
I converted SJMSOM-IITB, MDI, NMIMS, All the new IIMs under Common Admissions Process (CAP) with SPJIMR.

MBAUniverse: Why did you choose SPJIMR over other top B-schools?
Tushar:
Information management is a niche specialisation offered at SPJIMR which was relevant to my work experience. Besides, SPJIMR has a small batch size and Mumbai location advantage, has unique pedagogy. SPJIMR focuses on holistic development of students rather than focus on just academics.

MBAUniverse: Tell us about your SPJIMR Experience: What have been the high points?
Tushar:
I like how the subjects are taught. It is easy for everyone to understand the concepts. The batch bonding is amazing. I never had to eat alone in the mess. Everyone is very talented in one or the other field. There is a lot of peer learning.

MBAUniverse: What are your key achievements so far?
Tushar:
SPJIMR gave me the platform to give the first public speech of my life. I also sang a song on stage for the first time in my life. These are big achievements to me.

MBAUniverse: How is SPJIMR unique?
Tushar:
The admission process is very unique. SPJIMR takes people by looking at their overall profile and not just their CAT scores. They also look for individuals with strong value system. This is reflected in the overall batch camaraderie.

Initiatives like Abhyudaya (mentoring of under-privileged kids) and DoCC (Development of Corporate Citizenship, internship with an NGO) helps us become socially sensitive. SPJIMR focuses a lot on our mental health. Course like People & Performance, Journey to self-mastery, Yoga help in making a stress-free environment.

The whole batch travels to US under GFT program (Global Fast Track) for 3 weeks to study. There is a lot of focus on global relevance.

MBAUniverse: What are your Career Ambitions & how is SPJIMR helping you prepare for it?
Tushar:
I would like to take up product management role with a leading company in E-commerce or IT segment. SPJIMR helps in teaching the relevant subjects. It helps in increasing my confidence by pushing me to explore more and more. They are very considerate in my mental well-being. The open door policy has helped me in reaching out to anyone or everyone whenever I am concerned about something.

MBAUniverse: Your message to MBA Aspirants who are currently preparing for CAT/XAT?
Tushar:
My message to aspirants is that you must understand what you want from the MBA program, then see what various B-schools have to offer to you. Then pick a B-school as per your career fulfilment. Batch strength and location really matter. Make your choice considering these factors. Lastly, listen to your heart. Most of the times it has the courage to take you to the right path.

Ram Kumar: 98.34 Percentile in CAT 2018

Ram Kumar is a B.E. in Electrical & Electronics from Birla Institute of Technology, Mesra and had earned a work experience of 22 months at TATA STEEL Jamshedpur before joining SPJIMR Mumbai. Ram Kumar was offered admission by IIFT, SJMSoM-IIT Bombay and many IIMs but he chose SPJIMR as it is a renowned brand and an aspirational college for him. Ram had no time to join any regular coaching as he was a working professional and preferred self-preparation.

Read on for Ram’s detailed Account

MBAUniverse: What was your overall and sectional score in CAT 2018?
Ram:
I took CAT in the year 2018. My overall percentile was 98.34 and sectional percentile for VA was 88.2, for DILR was 98.05 and for QA was 99.5%

MBAUniverse: Tell us briefly about your preparation strategy that helped you crack CAT
Ram:
Since I was a working professional with one of the leading manufacturing firms, I tried to devote 2-3 hours every day for my CAT preparation. To prepare for CAT I devoted the months of May and June for covering the basics of Quant from Arun Sharma, DILR and Verbal from TIME coaching material and read newspapers regularly.

From July onwards, I started giving sectional and topic tests during weekdays and took a full-length mock on a weekend. I tried to analyse every mock that I took. This helped me gauge my strength and weaknesses and devise a mock taking strategy

I focussed on accuracy in the verbal and DILR sections and tried to attempt all the easy questions. I maximised my attempts in Quants as I was good at it.

From August to October I attempted mocks twice a week on the weekends and analysed it on the weekdays.

During the final week before CAT I went through all the mocks where I scored low so as to not repeat the mistakes that I had been doing in those mocks.

MBAUniverse: Apart from SPJIMR, which were the B-schools you were shortlisted at?
Ram:
I was shortlisted for IIFT, IIM Shillong, SJMSOM-IITB, All the new IIMs under Common Admissions Process (CAP).

MBAUniverse: How did you prepare for GD-PI round?
Ram:
I read the newspapers regularly so as to get acquainted with the recent happenings. I tried to improve my understanding of an MBA programme by getting in touch with my colleagues studying in different MBA colleges. I had also enrolled in Career Launcher for GDPI preparation on weekends, the mock GD and interviews conducted at CL were helpful.

MBAUniverse: Which B-schools did you finally convert for final admissions?
Ram:
I converted IIFT Kolkata, IIM Shillong, SJMSOM, IIM Udaipur, IIM Kashipur, IIM Raipur.

MBAUniverse: Why did you choose SPJIMR over other top B-schools?
Ram:
There have been various reasons for choosing SPJIMR over other colleges. Some of them are - SPJIMR is a renowned brand in the industry as well as in the public space, it was an aspirational college for me since it always features in the top B school rankings. The locational advantage at SPJIMR gives it an edge over other B schools in terms of placements and industry exposure.

SPJIMR has a unique curriculum that focusses on providing value-based education and international exposure through programmes like DOCC and GFT

MBAUniverse: What have been the high points of your SPJIMR Experience?
Ram:
The classroom experience at SPJIMR has been quite enriching, I am an electrical engineer from BIT Mesra, so coming from an engineering background I feel there has been a lot of learning for me.

All the professors at SPJIMR are pioneers in their field and are quite approachable. There are many student committees working in different domains of the college functionality. This has given me a chance to improve my teambuilding skills and contribute in the domain of my interest

The campus is quite green and lively. It has a lake, a biodiversity park and is situated at the heart of Mumbai.

MBAUniverse: How is SPJIMR unique? What are its key strengths from a Student’s point of view?
Ram:
SPJIMR has a unique curriculum that focusses on providing value-based education and international exposure through programmes like DOCC and GFT

At SPJIMR the students go for Autumns Internships in their second year of the MBA programme. This helps students get a clear perspective about their area of specialisation and hence make a smarter choice on which firm to work with.

The locational advantage at SPJIMR in the business capital gives it an edge over other B schools in terms of placements and industry exposure.

MBAUniverse: What are your Career Ambitions & how is your B-school helping you prepare for it?
Ram:
In the long run, I aim to assume a leadership position at an FMCG, as I am interested in operations and supply chain. As an individual, I also want to contribute towards the society.

The faculty at SPJIMR is one of the best in the country and hence I am quite confident of developing a strong knowledge base in my domain.

There are various courses at SPJIMR specially designed to develop one as a leader. The learnings through these courses will be helpful for me in the long run. 

The initiatives like Abhyudaya wherein each student mentors an underprivileged child and programmes like DOCC will make me a socially sensitive individual

MBAUniverse: Your message to MBA Aspirants who are currently preparing for CAT/XAT?
Ram:
My few pointers for CAT/XAT aspirants are:

  • Regularity is of utmost importance when preparing for a competitive exam like CAT/XAT
  • Mock scores are just a measure of your performance during the 3hr mock and should be used effectively to analyse your strengths and weaknesses rather than drawing parallels to the actual CAT performance.
  • Try to devise a strategy according to your competencies.

MBAUniverse: How should the right B-school be selected, if there are good choices?
Ram:
To select a right B school, one should reach out to the existing students at those B schools to know about the campus culture, academic rigour, roles offered during placements etc. Besides, evaluate your interests and expectations from an MBA against what the B school has to offer to you.

Sandeep Prabhu: 99.1 percentile in XAT 2019

A working professional at a leading EPC firm, Sandeep Prabhu took not only CAT exam but also XAT which is considered a tough exam. Sandeep scored 99.1 percentile in XAT 2019 and was offered admissions by SPJIMR, IIFT, New IIMs, SIBM Pune and XLRI Jamshedpur. But he preferred to join SPJIMR to any IIM, XLRI, IIFT or other B-school. 

Let’s know more about Sandeep’s CAT preparation and his life at B-school.

MBAUniverse: What was your overall and sectional score in CAT 2018?
Sandeep:
 I took XAT in the year 2019. My overall percentile was 99.1 and sectional percentile for VA was 95.23, for DM it was 85.84, and for QA it was 99.23

MBAUniverse: How did you prepare for CAT?
Sandeep:
My preparation spanned across 5 months from July to November 2018 and was divided into two phases.

The first Phase lasted for about a month. In this phase, I just tried to cover all the concepts of quantitative methods and Verbal ability. I maintained a notebook to write all the concepts that I thought were important.

The next phase started in August and lasted till CAT. This phase was more about developing test taking strategy and building on weak concepts. It is important to maintain a notebook where you can write your mistakes and reflect upon them on a weekly basis. Since I was working with a leading EPC firm, I could only devote 3-4 hours a day. So, I used to work on my mistakes during weekdays and take 2 mock test every weekend.

It is very important to realize one’s strength and weakness very early on in CAT preparation. Like for example, moderate to difficult Para jumbles were my weakness, so I focussed more on reading comprehension and para summary type of questions. I had enrolled for test series at IMS & TIME. The proctored mock test immensely helped me to strategize and build on my test taking skills.

For phase 2, I used to take mocks analyse those mocks and then build on my weakness through sectional tests available on IMS & TIME portal. Eventually, after taking a number of tests, I realized that QM & LR were my strengths so I had to extract maximum out of it. I then tried to cover all the concepts in these areas to the depth.

It is important to know that scores across all sections should be balanced to clear sectional cut-off and overall score should be maximized through your areas of strength. Also, it is recommended to not refer multiple materials as it can immensely confuse a candidate.

I referred to the following material:

  1. For VARC –Past year CAT questions, IMS/ TIME sectionals, editorials of all leading newspaper, articles on AEON/ project syndicate, Aldaily, The Economist.
  2. For DILR – Past year test series questions of leading coaching institutes. (Atleast 5 papers from each institute)
  3. For QM – Time sectional test, CATholics blog, QM by Nishit Sinha
  4. For overall strategy- CATcracker blog

MBAUniverse: Apart from SPJIMR, which were the B-schools you were shortlisted at?
Sandeep:
I was shortlisted for IIM-Lucknow, XLRI BM-HRM, IIFT, SJMSOM-IITB, All the new IIM’s under Common Admissions Process (CAP), SIBM (Pune)

MBAUniverse: How did you prepare for GD-PI round?
Sandeep:
Daily reading of editorials and leading magazines such as The Economist not only helped to keep abreast of current affairs but also helped to develop opinions on critical socio-political issues. Getting in touch with friends who were pursuing MBA at premier B-schools, helped to improve my understanding of MBA program. I had also enrolled at IMS GD-PI workshop which worked on my GD-PI skills. The key takeaway is to have a structured approach towards any question/problem. Being concise and clear certainly helps.

MBAUniverse: Which B-schools did you finally convert for final admissions?
Sandeep:
I converted IIFT Delhi-Kolkata, All New IIMs, XLRI HRM, SIBM (Pune).

MBAUniverse: Why did you choose SPJIMR over other top B-schools?
Sandeep:
There have been various reasons for choosing SPJIMR over other colleges. SPJIMR gives a choice to select specialization even before joining. This I feel, helps to develop clarity early on. SPJIMR is a renowned brand in the industry as well as in the public space, it was an aspirational college for me since it always features in the top B school rankings. SPJIMR has the concept of Autumn placement wherein you take internship after specialization semester and taking specialized courses through GFT. SPJIMR has a unique pedagogy that focusses on providing value-based education and international exposure through programmes like DOCC and GFT

MBAUniverse: Tell us about your SPJIMR Experience: What have been the high points?
Sandeep:
SPJIMR follows learning through case-study, which I feel is quite enriching. The professors here have been stalwarts in their respective fields and experience is invaluable. I have learnt a lot here. The batch is diverse and there are students who have achieved great endeavours in life. So, the peer to peer learning is amazing. The entire college is student driven so you get to work in various committees. It essentially teaches you to practise management without authority. SPJIMR is a green campus with a divine lake in the heart of Mumbai. So, it always feels very refreshing.

MBAUniverse: How is SPJIMR unique?
Sandeep:
SPJIMR has a unique curriculum that focusses on providing value-based education and international exposure through programmes like DOCC and GFT. At SPJIMR the students go for Autumns Internships in their second year of the MBA programme. This helps students get a clear perspective about their area of specialisation and hence make a smarter choice on which firm to work with. The locational advantage at SPJIMR in the business capital gives it an edge over other B schools in terms of placements and industry exposure.

MBAUniverse: What are your Career Ambitions & how is your B-school helping you prepare for it?
Sandeep:
Initially I want to work in a general management role for any top conglomerate. Then I would I want to become a specialist in a particular domain. Unique case-study based pedagogy, Classroom discussions, Top faculty who have been masters in their respective fields will help me develop a strong knowledge base.

Non classroom initiatives such as Abhyudaya and DoCC will help me understand the Indian ethos better and make me a socially sensitive individual through value-based leadership. ADMAP will help me practice management without authority.

MBAUniverse: Your message to MBA Aspirants who are currently preparing for CAT/XAT?
Sandeep:
My suggestions for CAT aspirants are:

  • Don’t get bogged down by low mock scores. Use them just as tool to improve your skills.
  • Also, skills don’t build on overnight so stay regular in your preparation.
  • Be true to yourself.
  • And lastly, stay motivated! Take CAT/XAT without any mental stress.

MBAUniverse: How should the right B-school be selected, if there are good choices?
Sandeep:
Shortlist 10 colleges (Be realistic) that you feel are suitable for you and prepare accordingly. It is very important to have milestones set early on. Self-Research is the only way you can do this so take your time and shortlist your colleges.

Stay tuned to MBAUniverse.com for more articles on MBA Exam Preparation & MBA Admissions.