CAT Toppers Interview: How I topped CAT, and Why I Chose SPJIMR over IIMs

CAT Toppers & SPJIMR students
Wednesday, February 20 2019, 09:16 AM
Sharing with MBAUniverse.com their success mantra, CAT preparation strategy, and experiences at SPJIMR, Apoorv and Girish share the key reasons that drove them to prefer SPJIMR to any IIM or other top B-school. Apoorv Lall scored a percentile of 96.92 in CAT 2017 and 96.1155 in XAT 2018. Girish Shenoy, a qualified Chartered Accountant and CFA Level 3 Candidate, had scored 96.3 percentile in CAT.

You will perhaps expect a CAT Topper with 96+ percentile to join a top IIM, isn’t it? Breaking the myth, Apoorv Lall and Girish Shenoy are amongst CAT toppers who instead of joining an IIM have preferred to join SPJIMR Mumbai for Admissions 2018. After spending a year at SPJIMR they are not just happy with their choices, but also strongly recommend their B-school. MBAUniverse.com interviewed Apoorv and Girish to find out how they cracked CAT, and their SPJIMR journey so far.

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A mechanical engineer and working professional at Maruti Suzuki, before joining SPJIMR, Apoorv Lall scored a percentile of 96.92 in CAT 2017 and 96.1155 in XAT 2018. Apoorv did self-preparation and did not join any coaching. He was offered admission by all the new and baby IIMs, XLRI, MDI, IMT, IIT Bombay and IIT Delhi apart from SPJIMR Mumbai. However, he preferred SPJIMR to any other B-school as, in his view, the pedagogy and learning experience at SPJIMR is the best.

Girish Shenoy, a qualified Chartered Accountant and CFA Level 3 Candidate, had scored 96.3 percentile in CAT and was offered admission at IIM Kozhikode, IIM Indore and IIM Shillong apart from SPJIMR Mumbai. Girish chose SPJIMR over IIMs as SPJIMR focuses on holistic development of personality not just career progression.

Sharing with MBAUniverse.com their success mantra, CAT preparation strategy, and experiences at SPJIMR, Apoorv and Girish share the key reasons that drove them to prefer SPJIMR to any IIM or other top B-school. Edited excepts from the interviews follow.

Course Pedagogy, Pre-defined Specializations and Students Profiles - key reasons to prefer SPJIMR: Apoorv Lall, CAT 2017 96.92%

After completing his engineering degree as a Mechanical Engineer from Manipal Institute of Technology Apoorv Lall joined Maruti Suzuki and was working there for almost 3 years before joining SPJIMR. Apoorv belongs to Lucknow, where he did his schooling up to class 10. He completed Class 11 and 12 from Jamshedpur. His father is also a mechanical engineer and is an MBA graduate from XLRI, his sister is currently pursuing a PhD in mechanical engineering in the US and his Mother is social worker and has also completed her master’s in arts.

Apoorv scored 96.92 percentile in CAT 2017 with a sectional percentile of 87.99 in VARC; 97.83 in DILR and 95.74 in Quant section. He also took XAT in 2018 and scored 96.1155 percentile with a sectional percentile of 87.803 in Quant; 89.402 in Verbal & Logical Ability and 97.265 in Decision Making sections. Apoorv found self-preparation as the best CAT and XAT preparation strategy. He held several important positions at his engineering college handling various fest and clubs. He was also a high performer at Maruti Suzuki India Ltd and received an award. At SPJIMR too Apoorv is a part of several committees and clubs.

MBAUniverse.com asked Apoorva about details of his CAT preparation and SPJIMR experience.

Q: Let’s start with your CAT preparation. Tell us about your preparation strategy?
A: This was my second attempt at CAT. I did not join any coaching, however I continued to work on the online course material that was given. I started solving complete papers in the month of April itself and solved at least 2-3 papers in a month. Since my job was very hectic and involved a lot of travelling, online resource was a very big help.

Q: Which B-schools did you finally convert for final admissions?
A: I had Converted SPJIMR, All new and baby IIMs, XLRI, MDI and IMT. I had calls from IIT Bombay & Delhi as well which I did not attend as SPJIMR results were announced by then.

Q: Why did you choose SPJIMR over these other top B-schools?
A: The course pedagogy of SPJIMR has always been an attraction. The small batch size with pre-defined specialisations was a big plus. The people selected in the batch have very strong profiles and hence peer learning is very strong. Lower competition within the batch also means a much more inducing learning environment.

Q: So, what has been the high point at SPJIMR so far?
A: Probably the biggest high has been being part of a college fest again. I was a part of the organising team and went through all the ups and downs of the process. Seeing all the hard work just falling in place on the date of the event was very heartening.

There are smaller high points that occur regularly like doing well in some competition or on some quiz.

Q: How are your typical 24 hrs at SPJIMR!
A: Like most B Schools your day is going to be always busy. A typical day would include getting up at 8 for the 8:30 am class, where we could be learning anything from how to evaluate the value of a company to understanding what makes Zara tick to learning how one belt one road initiative is shaping the world. Throw in some quantitative techniques or a theatrics session on Liberal arts also in the mix to make things even more interesting.

In between these classes we are running around to find the faculty to schedule our CEO interactions or planning our presentations due in the next session or I could also be discussing the strategy to solve the case challenge given in some corporate competition with my team or just be sipping coffee.

With the classes breaking for lunch, you would just stroll to the mess with friends and enjoy the food. It is not uncommon to see people catching up on their pre-reads or studying for that extra one hour for a quiz during the lunch break.

But the day really start at around 4 to 5 PM when the classes get over. All it according to themselves, but I like to play a little Table Tennis for an hour or and follow it up with catching up with folks back at home. Then at around 7 or 8 pm is when we start working on our never-ending assignments and pre-reads for the next day. This will usually stretch till mid night which is when most committees would meet to plan out and work on the events that are always taking place in the college. It is not uncommon for these sessions to last till 3 AM. Of course, in the midst of all this you have to be alert to check if the placement committee has sent a mail for a mandatory session and leave everything else to please the recruiter.

The day would thus end, and you would set that 8 AM alarm again to get back to the rush of the next day.

Q: Your key achievements at SPJIMR?
A: Well there are those personal achievements of winning a case study competition and going to XLRI and representing SPJIMR but the biggest I guess would be to have been able to get Google on our campus for our management fest. I don’t have a certificate for it but that has been the most satisfying thing I have done.

I am also happy that I was able to start a blog called Mobiles and Things in the madness of the B School life.

Q: In your view, how is SPJIMR unique? What are its key strengths from a Student’s point of view?
A: Some of the things that distinguish us are the flagship traits like the Global Fast Track Program for 3 weeks in the US, the rural internship for 4 weeks, the Abhyudaya program where you mentor an underprivileged child and the autumns internship post the end of 3rd semester unlike all other B Schools.

But what I feel makes SPJIMR special is the openness in culture and the quality of students in the batch. The faculty here are very approachable and helpful. The atmosphere here amongst the students is not of cut throat competition but of mutual respect. The reason could be the small batch size that gives a sense of security or the element of values that the college considers during admissions, but students here are at most times happy and content.

Q: What are your career ambitions & how is SPJIMR helping you prepare for it?
A: I am pursuing marketing here at SPJIMR and would want to work with Google. I would love to see a day where I could be a product manager for the Pixel family of phones.

Google is a regular recruiter at our campus and SPJIMR has a strong alumni base at Google. Besides this, our learnings in class on marketing are very practical and the learning has been at an accelerated pace.

Q: Finally, what is your message to MBA Aspirants appearing for PI-WAT rounds? How should they select the right B-school?
A: I would like to congratulate all those who did well in CAT. If there is one advice that I could give to the aspirants it would be to have clarity of thought. The fees that these B Schools demand are huge, and the faculties really want to know if you are sure of your decision. Structure your thought well and try and give it a logical conclusion.

As far as selecting a B School goes, don’t just base it on placements however don’t ignore it as well. Give some importance also to the kind of Job roles that come to the campus. Some schools get offers that are traditionally heavier on Consulting roles while others might be heavier on Marketing and sales roles. Try and understand this before joining a B School.

I would very strongly recommend SPJIMR. It has been a lovely 8 months here so far. Could not have asked for more.

Holistic Personality Development, Curriculum Design, Location are major reasons to join SPJIMR – Girish Shenoy, CAT 96.3 %, IIM Indore, IIM Kozikode admit

Girish Shenoy socred 96.3 percentile in CAT 2017 and preferred SPJIMR to any other IIM and top MBA colleges. His CAT exam sectional score was VARC 97.01; DILR 87.28 and QA 92.44 percentile. A chartered Accountant and CFA level 3 candidate Girish did his graduation in Commerce. He is a National medal winner in Athletics. Girish is born & brought up in Mumbai and his parents work with MTNL.

Girish shares his preparation strategy to crack CAT exam with tips to the CAT aspirants along with the key reasons that attracted him to choose SPJIMR over other IIMs and top B-schools:

Q: Tell us about your CAT preparation strategy…
A: In the initial days of my preparation, I focused on getting my basics perfect. To ensure that I practise enough, I strained on solving as many different DILR sets and QA Questions as possible keeping in mind the time taken by me to get the required solution. Giving mocks every week and analysing them thoroughly helped me understand my areas of improvement along with a clear picture of the topics I needed to focus on. As the days progressed, I practised 3 RCs, 4 DiLr sets and around 25 QA sums on a daily basis.

Q: Which B-schools did you finally convert for final admissions?
A: I converted SPJIMR, IIM Kozhikode, IIM Indore, and IIM Shillong.

Q: That’s an impressive list… why did you choose SPJIMR over others?
A: One of the main reasons for me to choose SPJIMR over other B-schools was the focus on holistic development of personality at SPJIMR and not just career progression. Moreover, the curriculum is designed in such a way that it inculcates the need to work in diverse teams within stringent deadlines. The locational advantage of the institute being situated in the financial capital of the nation is definitely helpful as it helps one remain connected to major industry stalwarts.

Q: Tell us about your SPJIMR Experience and high points so far…
A: At SPJIMR, I have been part of the Athletics and cricket team and have represented the institute at various competitions. I am a Co-founding member of the Finance Club which is a student initiative that focuses on expansion of financial knowledge to the entire batch.

Q: Please share your typical 24 hrs of life at SPJIMR.
A: There is nothing typical about a day at SPJIMR! There is no routine that you can or must follow. The entire day is packed with lectures, guest lectures, and extra study sessions and of course assignment submissions. However, if well managed, one will definitely get time to pursue their hobby or anything they are passionate about.

Q: What are your key achievements at SPJIMR?
A: I have represented SPJIMR at the National Level Business Valuation competition organized by IIM Bangalore. I was awarded the Man of the Tournament award at SPJIMR’s annual cricket series SPL.

Q: In your view, how is SPJIMR unique? What are its key strengths?
A: SPJIMR ensures that you succeed in life but in the most ethical way possible. It helps you develop a habit of the doing the right thing, the right way. Working in diverse teams helps one understand the roots of different people and also a strong sense of belonging emerges. At SPJIMR, industry or business is not the only focus but also about being part of and making your contribution to the society.

Q: So, what are your career ambitions & how is SPJIMR helping you prepare for it?
A: I want to make a career in the Investment Banking domain and SPJIMR ensures that it prepares you with the required technical knowledge, the happenings around the globe and also the ways to tackle stressful situations.

Q: Finally, what is your message to MBA Aspirants appearing for PI-WAT rounds? How should they select the right B-school?
A: It is very important for the students to be thorough with the current affairs. Also, a candidate must be confident and optimistic. It is necessary to be well equipped the subjects during your undergraduate courses as well as the work experience you have. Having an opinion is extremely essential and aspirants to should work on their articulation of thoughts. Every answer backed by a story or facts goes a long way in cracking the interview.

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