Interview of Nitin Gupta, Founder of Alphanumeric

Nitin GuptaWhat are the attributes that a budding manager must have? Do you think a degree in management helps you acquire these skills?

A budding manager must have leadership qualities, which he may have exhibited in different situations in life, not just at work. He must be responsible, must think on his feet and he must be good at time management. A degree in Management gives you opportunities which you might not get otherwise; it gives you exposure and helps you build a strong network. A degree cannot teach you to be responsible.

How is the online version of CAT different from the Paper-Pencil version?

The online version is quite different from the paper pencil version. It was easier to solve DI sets on the space provided in the question paper, now, you have to copy the data from the screen onto the paper. It is cumbersome to draw a geometrical figure on the rough sheets and it is difficult to concentrate for long, while reading a passage, especially if the topic is not of your interest. These factors, combined with a lot of other factors such as the test taker not being able to see all the questions at a time, have made the online version trickier.

What is the right time to start preparing for CAT?

If you are not very sound with your basics, you can start preparing from the month of January. 10 months to a year of regular hard work is enough for anyone to crack the exam. You should aim to finish your basic preparations by August, and concentrate on mock tests for the next 2 months.

How important are the mock tests?

Mock tests give you an All-India ranking so you know where you stand among serious test takers.
To draw an analogy, mock tests are like net practice sessions. Just like any new shot that needs to be perfected, any flaw that needs to be ironed and any strategy that is to implemented in a match must first be tried out in the nets, similarly, mocks are like net practice sessions for CAT, you should experiment in you mocks, try new strategies (like 40 minutes for each section and trying to maximize your score in the last 15 minutes), identify your strengths and iron out your flaws.
You should analyze your mocks. If you spend 2.5 hours taking a mock, you should devote 4-5 hours analyzing it.

How should working people study for CAT?

Devoting 2 hours on a daily basis is enough. Working people should also aim to utilize their weekends. Another thing that a lot of working people do not utilize is the travel time. They can always listen to vocabulary podcasts, record your own voice and revise the formulae in Quant and read e-papers. They can even take 10 minute sectional tests during their lunch break.

How should one prepare for Quantitative Aptitude?

CAT is now a concept based test, and no more a speed building test. Last year’s exam had 20 questions in each section, compared to 25-30 or even 40 in the previous editions; the difficulty level was also considerably lower than that in the previous editions. Since the cut-offs for QA in a 40-questions-per-section paper were around 16-18, it meant you could leave a topic or 2 which you were not comfortable with, and still hope to clear the cut-off. Now, with 20 questions, leaving a probability question and answering it correctly could be the difference between a call from an IIM and no call. So, it is essential that you complete all the topics. Also, students should solve past CAT questions to know the level and concepts that are tested.

Does one need to be an expert at reading pie-charts and long tables, to excel in Data Interpretation (DI) and Logical Reasoning (LR)?

Definitely not. You just need to be good with you calculations. This section is more of calculations and less of analysis, now. You should also focus on Data Sufficiency questions, which might account for as high 40% of the entire section, in terms of marks; having said that, you should practice different type of sets and get comfortable with each type.

Is it necessary for a person to be a language expert to crack the English section?

No, in fact, anyone who is smart to identify his strengths can crack this section. English section can be broadly divided into Reading Comprehensions (RC), and Verbal Ability (VA).

RC: Most people find it difficult to answer questions based on RCs. This can be because of a number of factors. For example, many students tend to use their prior knowledge about a particular topic while answering questions at the end of a passage, which is not required; many students give-up on a passage without even going through the questions.

VA: VA includes Para Jumbles, Fact-Inference-Judgment type questions, Critical Reasoning, Sentence Correction and so on. To ace this part, you should revisit your high school grammar book, know the usage of words and read as much as you can, to know how sentences are framed in a paragraph. As an example, if a sentence is talking about the sleeping habits of people from a particular place, and it reads something like, 60 percent of the population sleeps early, you can hope for a mention of the other 40 percent next.

What things must a student keep in mind on the C-Day?

Treat the exam as a mock test. Do not worry too much. The process starts an hour and half in advance, so it is bound to make a student anxious, but keep your cool and think about the exam only when it starts. Do not go in with a pre-planned strategy. Do not get stuck on a particular question and make sure to read all the questions and identify the ones you can answer, before starting.

What if a person is not able to bell the CAT?

There are many good management colleges such as Indian Institute of Foreign Trade (IIFT); Faculty of Management Studies, Delhi; Symbiosis; Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies (NMIMS) and Xavier Labour Relations Institute (XLRI) to name a few. These institutes conduct their own entrance exams and are equally recognized in the industry, in case a student has a bad outing in CAT, he can always target these institutes

How can a student prepare for the Group Discussions and the Personal Interviews?

Start reading the newspapers from today. Do not delay it till November or December. You should know what is going on in the world of business, and all other events that are important. Start identifying your strengths and weaknesses. Be your own best friend, and know yourself as much as you can. Always remember that it is always better to say “I don’t know” than making up answers. 

(As told to NNE's Utsav Sharma)

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