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When it comes to IIMs, IIM Calcutta is one of the most sought after B School in India. Nehal Jain from the batch of 2012 made it to this prestigious institute. Here in this interview with NSITonline she tells us about her CAT preparation days and how to beat the work/study pressure and bell the cat. So read on!
When did you realize that you wanted to go for an MBA? What was the thinking process behind it?
I think it is in due process of engineering that I realised that I wanted to go for non technical work rather than core technical work. Once I was clear about that, to gain knowledge of the field, MBA was a natural next step.
Why did you choose to go for IIM instead of some good B-School abroad?
My main objective was to gain quality knowledge of the field. IIMs met this criterion and hence were always an option. As for the good B-Schools abroad, they need two years of work experience, which I did not have at that time. Had I had two years of work experience, I would have definitely thought about them as well.
In your opinion what are the skills that are essential in a CAT aspirant?
The most important skill in a CAT aspirant is logical aptitude. Every other skill, speed and time management along with skill of selecting appropriate questions can be built upon further by practice.
According to you what is the ideal time to start preparing for MBA?
There is nothing called ideal time to start preparing for CAT. It all depends upon individual. I, myself, started from December with the coaching classes (if that is what you mean by starting preparation). With classes sooner than that, it might be a little difficult to maintain the enthusiasm.
What are the various rounds of CAT selection procedure? Kindly brief us a little on each of them.
First, there is a written exam-CAT. Pattern keeps changing every year. At my time there were two sections, each of 30 questions. Despite of the pattern changing so frequently, CAT tests you on your logical thinking, quantitative skills and Verbal ability.
After this, shortlists of institutes come out, based upon each Institute’s criteria of the year.
Each Institute has its own process after that. But majorly, it consists of written analysis, group discussion and then a personal interview. A topic is given, which can be anything under the sun, and you are asked to write your views about it. Then a discussion follows, which is on the same topic. After this, interviews are conducted by panels, which consist of faculty/ alumni/ both.
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?
I don’t believe there are any areas as such. CAT generally just checks for logical aptitude. To increase the chances of screening, one
can definitely practice so as to build up speed.
As for the interviews, I was asked questions from my subject matter; hence a basic knowledge of the course is must. We are expected to know at least the basics of the course we have undergone for 4 years. Apart from that, one can prepare two of their favourite subjects to be on the safer side. Also, some general knowledge questions can be asked to know the preparation level of the candidate.
But the most important thing they are looking for, in my opinion, in a candidate is confidence and willingness to learn. All the preparation can only add to this.
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?
Work experience definitely plays a big role. One can argue this case by the statistics of IIMs over the last few years. Each year the proportion of work ex people is increasing.
But in my opinion, it is because work experience generally gives people more clarity about the kind of work they are interested in and what is the work they are suited for. If as a fresher, you are clear and convinced of the work you would like to do and why, it should not make much difference.
What are the types of activities you indulged in during your time at NSIT that in your opinion charted you towards your goal?
As far as the activities are concerned, I believe they help the individual only to know more about him. As for the activities I was a part of, I was Vice president of Rotaract Club of NSIT Regency and interned with Indian Cancer Society. I also published a research paper regarding strategies of biopharma. Apart from that, I was actively involved in the fests during college. Some of these activities helped me understand my interests, while some were a result of me understanding my interests.
The popular perception in NSIT is that an external help/CAT coaching is mandatory. What are your views on the same?
At the end, main motive for classes, at least for me was practicing. So, if one is able to practice enough, it should not really matter whether one even joins an institute or not. Probably joining a test series is a good option if one is not joining regular classes. It helps in gauging the current level of preparation.
How did you manage things in your final year, sitting for company interviews alongside your exhaustive CAT preparations?
I was pretty sure that I wanted to have a career in non technical field. Once that was decided, things were not that difficult. Even job interviews ask for basic logical ability. I think it is important, not to be very anxious and to maintain your cool at that time. With that in the background, work becomes much simpler.
Give us an insight into your life at IIM. How is it different from the time spent at NSIT?
Life at IIM is different from NSIT in terms of the course that I am undergoing. The demands of the two colleges are pretty different, primarily because of the different objectives. Here, unlike engineering there are no correct answers. We are therefore encouraged to delve deeper into all the perspectives we can think of and appreciate points of view other than our own.
Which department are you associated with and what kind of projects do you get to work upon?
We don’t get associated with a particular department in first year. As for the projects, they are generally case studies or assignments based upon the subject domain. Also, we get chance to work upon live projects which gives us firsthand experience of industry.