Ankit Gupta, who scored 99.34 percentile in CAT 2009, is a graduate in computer science engineering from Government Engineering College, Ujjain. Gupta has four years of work experience as a software developer and designer in Impetus Technologies. He is a voracious reader and a blogger, which helped him ace the essay writing and GD rounds. He took admission in IIM Indore. Excerpts from an interview:
Which B-school tests did you take in 2009-10 and what were your percentiles/scores in each?
In the 2009-10 session, I took five MBA entrance tests. They are as follows: CAT 2009 - 99.34 percentile, XAT - 98.90 percentile, NMAT - 99 percentile, FMS - 98.63 percentile, JMET - AIR 495.
What are the main differences in the tests?
The differences can be categorised under various heads: level of difficulty and competition, pattern of exam and relative ranking of the institutes organising the exam.
Pattern of exam: CAT and NMAT were online while all others are pencil-paper based. CAT, XAT and NMAT had three sections each and JMET and FMS had four each.
Each of these tests had different marking schemes as well, for example, XAT had differential negative marking while for all others it was homogeneous (varies from one-fourth to one-third of the marks allotted to each question.)
Level of difficulty: XAT was the toughest of all the exams in this season especially the logical reasoning and decision making sections. It was followed by CAT, JMET, FMS and NMAT, in decreasing order of difficulty.
Level of competition: The level of competition is the highest in CAT followed by XAT, FMS, JMET and NMAT. This is because the total number of students appearing for the test as well as those appearing from elite (graduation level) institutes decreases in that order. This is my opinion.
Relative grading of institutes: Rankings of institutes vary a lot, depending on the sources. So, I do not trust rankings much; they can be used as an indicator. It requires a lot of research to understand the proper ranking based on various parameters.
In short, the exams are not very different. So, the preparation for CAT and XAT almost covers the ground for all these entrances.
What was your strategy for the written test as well as the group discussion GD), personal interview (PI) and essay writing preparation?
For the written exam, my strategy was to understand the basics and then gradually approach higher difficulty problems. Practice is the basic requirement for scoring well in quantitative ability. For verbal ability and reading comprehension, I put more emphasis on reading comprehension than verbal ability but one needs to prepare for both, one cannot choose one over the other. Data interpretation requires practice, logical reasoning is more related to IQ but it can still be managed. I gave the least time to data interpretation and logical reasoning but everybody has a different set of strengths and weakness so I would like to advise that you identify them and capitalise on your strengths and work on your weaknesses.
I tried different strategies for the written exam, but for me, the most successful was to start with data interpretation and logical reasoning, which was my strongest section and gain confidence and then I attempted quantitative ability and verbal ability and reading comprehension, respectively. But, this is a matter of personal preference.
For GD and PI, I regularly read the editorial and business pages of The Hindu and read magazines like Business India, Business Today etc. I also made it a regular habit to read novels which helped me a lot for opinion-building and improving my reading speed. It helped me in GD, essay writing and interviews.