Aanchal Chadha- Cracking the Holy Trinity
Aanchal Chadha, a third year student at CBS, owing to her unparalleled dedication and consistent efforts has managed to crack The Holy Trinity- IIM A, B and C. The CBS Post, in conversation with her, asked her about everything that went into achieving this milestone.
Q.1) When did you start your CAT preparation and what according to you is the ideal time required to complete the CAT syllabus before the exam?
I started taking coaching in January. So, my preparation time roughly entailed a period of 10 months. I would personally suggest everyone to complete the syllabus by September, so that you can devote the last two months on revision and mocks. However, it is completely fine if you are left with a few topics as you can simultaneously cover them up with your revision schedule.
Q.2) On an average, how many hours did you study every day?
Personally, I devoted around 5-6 hours towards my CAT preparation daily. However, the number of hours you spend each day is not what really matters. Nobody is rewarding or penalising you for the pace at which you learn. Just be aware of your strengths and weaknesses and you’ll know the amount of effort you need to put in. Furthermore, clarity of a concept matters a lot more than the number of questions you practice. So, count the number of new concepts and techniques that you learn and not the number of questions that you practice.
Q.3) The college is renowned for its stellar placements. How did you prioritize between placements and CAT exam prep?
It is crucial to have your priorities sorted from the very first day. Personally, I prioritised CAT over placements, and consequently devoted most of my time and effort towards CAT preparation. I targeted a few select companies which helped me in managing my time. To maintain that balance, I made my schedule flexible enough to accommodate for placement interview prep. In the end, I feel, it all comes down to how clear you are about your priorities and how well you can manage time.
Q.4) Which one would you suggest – Self-study or Coaching?
I took CAT coaching from T.I.M.E and it helped me in completing the syllabus in a well-structured manner. But you cannot ace the exam by just attending the classes. The hours of self- study that you put in addition to coaching is what helps you reach that extra mile. Practising from the study material beyond what is covered in classes helps reinforce the concepts in a better manner. So, a combination of self-study and coaching is, I feel, the way to go.
Q.5) Was there any section of the paper you were weak at? How did you overcome it?
For me, I think Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension (VARC) was the section I’ll say I was weak at. My VARC sectional scores in mock tests underwent the maximum fluctuations and were quite unstable, among all the three sections. In order to overcome this, I made sure to appear for sectional tests and topic tests, read newspaper articles regularly, in addition to the study material that I used. Reading newspapers will also help you at a later stage during your interview preparation as you’ll be up to date with the current affairs. You can also refer to websites like Aeon and Guardian for reading quality articles. I also used the official GMAT guide for additional practice on RCs.
Q.6) What preparation resources proved useful to you? Are there any particular books or online learning platforms that you recommend?
I clubbed the mock series of T.I.M.E with the test gym of Career Launcher and this combination worked well for me. I strongly recommend taking the test series of two different institutes as this provides you with a more holistic mix of questions and access to varying paper patterns, encompassing different levels of difficulty.
I also referred to websites like 2IIM for previous year papers and InsideIIM for interview preparation. Newspapers and articles were a great source of assistance for both the exam and the interview.
Q.7) Did you start your interview prep after the exam or did you work on both of them simultaneously? What, according to you, is the right time to start preparing for the interview?
Personally, I did not study anything specifically for the interview before the exam. I started preparing for the interview after I got my CAT results. One thing, however, that you should do along with the prep is reading newspapers as it helps you not only in your CAT prep but also in your interviews.
Do not neglect academics while preparing for CAT. This aspect is very important when it comes to interview preparation as you would be expected to be well versed with all the subjects you have studied so far in college. Furthermore, graduation GPA becomes an important selection criterion for B-Schools.
Q.8) Do you think extracurricular activities had any role in the interview phase?
Yes, extracurricular activities are very important. While a good CAT score and a consistent academic record helps you in getting a shortlist, what sets you apart from the competitive pool of candidates is what you do beyond your academic curriculum. You can expect questions and discussions around your hobbies and the activities you were a part of during your college life in your interviews.
Q.9) Considering the rigorous nature of the preparation, how did you keep yourself motivated throughout?
The entire CAT preparation process will have its own set of highs and lows. It’s okay to take a break whenever you feel low. It’s completely normal to feel frustrated after having a bad mock, but don’t forget to enjoy the ride and learn something new every day. Simply believe in yourself and your efforts, as each minute of effort will eventually pay off.
Q.10) What was the most important aspect of your preparation that you would suggest to the future aspirants?
Mock tests and in-depth analysis of each of those have undoubtedly aided my preparation. Mocks help you in identifying your strengths and weaknesses. Furthermore, you will have the opportunity to improve your time management skills.
Mocks being a simulation of the actual exam, help you in becoming accustomed to the exam pressure. Most importantly, if you spend two hours solving a mock, make sure you spend at least three to four hours analysing it. You can also keep track of your progress by using an excel spreadsheet; this will give you a better idea of how far you’ve progressed in each segment.
Q.11) Out of the 3 IIMs (The Holy Trinity), have you made a decision about which one you will be joining?
Yes, I will be joining IIM Ahmedabad.
The team’s conversation with Aanchal was an absolute pleasure. Her journey to the top B-school in India and everything it entailed has been nothing short of inspiring! We wish her the very best for all her future endeavours!