Naval Mittal, an Electronics and Communication Engineer from Punjab University, who is presently working in the Ministry of Finance has cracked CAT 2020 with 99.97 percentile. Read the full interview here on his preparation strategy and future plans.
Overall CAT 2020 percentile: 99.97 percentile
VARC: 97.92 percentile
DILR: 99.88 percentile
QA: 99.97 percentile
An Electronics and Communication Engineer from Punjab University, Chandigarh, Naval Mittal has a varied work experience in teaching MBA aspirants at a coaching institute followed by the Ministry of Finance. While this is not the first CAT attempt for Naval, he utilised the lockdown phase to work on his weaknesses and prepare in a strategic manner which led him to secure 99.97 percentile in CAT 2020. In this exclusive interview with Shiksha, Naval shares his section-wise preparation plan and exam-taking strategy, future plans and advice for future aspirants.
Q. Tell us something about yourself.
A: I am have done my Engineering from Punjab University, Chandigarh. Later on, I taught CAT aspirants for around three years. Currently, I am working for the Ministry of Finance, in the Customs & Central Excise Department. My father is a Pharmacist and my mother is a homemaker.
Q. When did you decide to take CAT and how did you start preparing?
A: I had appeared for CAT earlier also, but could not score high to clear the cutoff of IIMs. Since I was teaching CAT aspirants, I was in the preparation mode already. This year I followed a more systematic approach and improved my weak areas also.
Q. What was your weak area and what did you do to improve the same?
A: Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension (VARC) was my weak area. Earlier it was hampering my overall score even though I was scoring well in Quantitative Ability (QA) and Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning (DILR) sections.
To improve the VARC section, I read several articles and novels. My strategy was to pick up those topics which I am uncomfortable in. This gave me confidence and ensured that I get comfortable while attempting Reading Comprehension (RC) questions from passages of any topic. I also solved a lot of RCs.
Q. How did you prepare for your strong areas in CAT?
A: QA and DILR were my strength areas as I was teaching these sections. The key to success in these sections is accuracy. Being thorough with concepts and solving ample mock tests was my strategy to score well in these sections and retain them as my strengths. Moreover, if you attempt the right number of questions with high accuracy, then it gets even easier to maintain strong areas.
Q. Is it important to join a coaching institute for CAT preparation?
A: This depends on student to student. Coaching institutes help students in two ways. Firstly, they help them get conceptual clarity. Secondly, it maintains the flow by conducting regular mock tests and special sessions. This helps build momentum and does not let students lag behind or lose track in preparation.
Q: What was your exam day strategy?
A: The basic strategy was not to feel tense. During the exam, time management was key since the duration was reduced by an hour. I glanced through the entire question paper and shortlisted the questions I wanted to attempt based on my preparedness and comfort level.
For the VARC section, I chose the passages which I felt were easy to read and from familiar topics. This helps candidates understand the passages and comprehend well to answer the questions quickly and correctly.
In the DILR section, identifying the easier sets is key. In this section, there is a chance that seemingly easier sets turn out to be tough or have sitter questions. So the key was to start solving the questions and if it took more than five minutes, I marked it for review and moved forward.
For the QA section, I picked questions from my favourite topics. If it took more time than expected, I was moving forward and came back to those at the end depending on how much time was remaining.
Q. What is your take on the new CAT exam pattern as compared to the previous years?
A: In previous years, candidates had ample time to solve questions and revise. This year, time was a challenge as question selection and attempting them properly tend to take up maximum time. Unless there is effective time management, it is difficult to revise or make necessary corrections or changes in the last moment.
Q. Which B-schools are you aspiring for admission?
Q. What is your strategy for preparing WAT-PI rounds?
A: I am going through all the Current Affairs topics with a special focus on Global and Economic updates. I am also summarising and learning every detail of my work experience as the panellists tend to ask a lot of questions about candidates’ background and work experience.
Q. How did you deal with the stress of CAT preparation and exam?
A: This year in particular gave me ample time to focus on my weak areas as I was working from home. I could save a lot of time which was earlier spent on commuting or other outdoor activities. Irrespective of the stressful time, I decided to stay positive and focus on the brighter side.
Q. What are your hobbies? Did you follow these hobbies during the preparation phase as well?
A: My hobbies are playing table tennis and reading novels. Yes, I practised these hobbies even during preparation phase as everyone needs a break to refresh minds. But I made sure to play or read for a limited duration and did not let these hobbies come in my way of preparation.
Q. What is your plan after completing MBA?
A: I want to pursue a career in the Finance sector for the initial few years. After that, I would like to open my own institute where I can guide students on MBA entrance exam preparation.
Q. What are your suggestions for future CAT aspirants?
A: Solve as many types of questions you can from each section as it would give you the exposure to various question types that you can get in the actual exam. Secondly, focus on your accuracy.
Sreetama has over a decade of editorial experience in the higher education beat. A wanderlust by passion, she is also an avid reader and a music lover. Among friends, she is popular for her sense of humour.
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