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Anshul Pratap Singh
“7:57 am woke up .... 8 am in class ... now I m learning MBA !!”
Presently studying in IIM-Bangalore, our esteemed alumnus Anshul Pratap has been known for fostering creative leaps with his out of the box ideas. A student of IT branch, batch of 2011, Anshul speaks on what coursed him towards achieving his dream, the strategies followed, and the skills required.
When did you realize that you wanted to go for an MBA?
Although I was always fascinated by white collar jobs and people in suits and all, I did not think of doing MBA when I joined NSIT. In fact, I came to know about CAT exam only in my second year at college when I was thinking of getting a J2SE certification. I later decided to drop that idea and thought of doing MBA instead, as I wanted to complete my higher studies.
In your opinion what are the skills that are essential in a CAT aspirant?
Apart from the basic analytical and verbal communication skills which people talk about, I think CAT tests your ability to absorb pressure at the big day, since as a manager you will be required to think under intense environment and take correct decisions. How good are you in recognizing your abilities, how much can you depend on them and how effectively can you translate that into your work when required, will set you apart from others.
According to you what is the ideal time to start preparing for MBA?
It is very subjective and depends on how effectively you can put in effort when required. People have cracked CAT with just 1 month of preparation also. I, for example, always like to start early, to do as much as possible and also to guard against any possible contingencies that might arise. I started my preparation 1.5 years before I was giving CAT exam. Not that the CAT syllabus is as vast as the IIT-JEE exam, but my logic was to get plenty of time up my sleeve to go in as much depth as possible with the syllabus. I obviously had to balance college studies and placement season which was about to commence, hence that option seemed relevant to me.
What are the various rounds of CAT selection procedure? Kindly brief us a little on each of them.
The first round basically consists of an online test (test duration varies a lot year after year) which has two parts. The first part of the test deals with judging quantitative ability: how analytical are you, how structured are you in problem solving etc. This part also tests you on your Data Interpretation skills – how effective can you read the data in tables, if you can interpret it correctly and mould it in a way which is asked in the question. The second part tests your verbal skills, how good are you in critical reasoning, your ability to gauge the meaning of unseen passages and relate your own logic with that of the author. It also tests your logical reasoning and how quickly can you think.
After you clear your first round, you get calls from the IIMs and other MBA colleges, who test you on inter-personal skills. They can have team based activities like Group Discussions, Case Solving etc, or they can ask you to write essays on the spot on any random topic, and then finally they have a round of personal interview. On an average an interview lasts for about 20 minutes.
For an undergrad doing B.Tech, what are the major areas, academically and non-academically where one must work upon to excel in CAT screening?
In a competitive scenario where managers work, you cannot just be a master of one trade only. What IIMs typically look for is a balanced personality. The ideal case scenario is to have a balanced resume with a spike in one section in which you typically are best at. Hence, my advice would be to take part in diverse activities during college and gather experiences which you can talk about during your personal interviews.
MBA has been always clichéd with experience requirement tag, you definitely beat that with your pioneering achievement, in your opinion, how much is the role of work experience in the selection process?
The amount of skill set a person with work experience brings to the table is completely different from what a fresher possesses; hence you cannot undermine the importance of work experienced people in a B-school. Having said that, different IIMs have different criteria, and hence different weights assigned to work experienced people (students are advised to go through the selection criteria of IIM’s to get a better understanding ). For example, IIM Bangalore is generally considered to give more emphasis to work experienced people than other IIMs. But then again, IIMs focus on maintaining a balanced environment of both work experienced people and freshers as they can leverage on each others’ skills to bring out the best in them.
What are the types of activities you indulged in during your time at NSIT that in your opinion charted you towards your goal?
From what I came to know during my interaction with college seniors and at my coaching center, it is very imperative to have a balanced resume. I was involved in a lot of extracurricular activities during my school days such as quizzes, dance and drama. I gave a lot of emphasis on my academics during the college days just to make sure that I am academically consistent also. However I used to take part in events at Innovison and Moksha also.
The popular perception in NSIT is that an external help/CAT coaching is mandatory. What are views on the same?
It’s not necessary that only by proper coaching you can crack CAT, in fact a few of my friends felt that the basic concepts used in most of the questions are those which we use in class 10th. So it’s not that without coaching you cannot do it, but I have always considered coaching as a value addition to our preparation. It provided me with a sense of structured approach to our preparation. During the coaching classes, they made us practice diverse questions, which would have been difficult for us if we had to prepare alone. Moreover, once I cleared CAT, they organized mock interviews and group discussions which I think were extremely beneficial.
How did you manage things in your final year, sitting for company interviews alongside your exhaustive CAT preparations?
During engineering, I started early with my CAT preparation so by the time the placement session had started I was almost done with the syllabus. It’s very important to have a clear idea in mind and I knew that after college I would be pursuing my MBA, so I was keen on devoting more time to CAT preparation. However I had kept my plan B ready, which was to get a good placement in case I did not get a favorable result in CAT. I had kept aside a month’s time for placement preparation. Luckily I got placed in the early phase of the placement session in Make My Trip.
Give us an insight into your life at IIM? How is it different from the time spent at NSIT?
There is an immense workload at IIM - obviously since I am pursuing a post-graduation degree - and the college prepares us to work in challenging scenarios. However, there is an equal balance of fun also. The kind of atmosphere in IIM B is amazing: you get to meet people of different backgrounds and some of the sharpest minds in the country. My peers and seniors are extremely helpful and we have both study ‘night- outs’ and parties every week
Which field are you associated with and what kind of projects do you get to work upon?
We are not associated with any department here in IIM B in the 1st year as the subjects are same for all. However in 2nd year, it is upto us to take electives of our choices. I got to do a number of diverse projects in my 1st term which ranged from making a small video on societal issues and churning out financial statements of companies, to understanding the organizational structures, all of which were very interesting.
Getting a call from the most prestigious MBA College in India, would you like to reminisce the incredible moment with us?
It was one of those life-changing days - I still remember that date. The whole day, I was out to a water and amusement park with my friends, and I didn’t have my mobile with me and so I had no idea what was happening outside. I returned back in the evening and I was so tired that I could barely stand, when I saw some 30-40 missed calls on my mobile. I could sense that the result had been announced, and so I went back home and checked my result. The feeling of making to an IIM gave me a huge boost of energy! It was a very emotional moment indeed. I would like to thank my parents, my grandparents for being there throughout and of course my NSIT friends who gave me a good bashing when I went to college after that.