IIM's Tanoy Dutta on Life Before and After CAT

Dushyant Vanaik updated on : 07 Dec 2016
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Tanoy shares his journey from being a Civil Engineer to becoming a management student at IIM Kashipur

IIM's Tanoy Dutta on Life Before and After CAT

Tanoy Dutta comes from the city of joy, Kolkata, and like most Bengalis, finds his love in books, poetry, theatre and acting. He is an avid debater and has won plenty of awards across the country in various debating tournaments. A Civil Engineer from MS Ramaiah Institute of Technology, Bangalore, Tanoy attempted CAT last year and scored 97.63 percentile.

Currently pursuing his management education at IIM Kashipur, Tanoy has an insatiable interest in Finance and wants to pursue a career in the banking sector.

A big Bollywood buff and a die-hard Shah Rukh Khan fan, he is a firm believer of one of SRK’s quotes, “Wake up, look in the mirror in the morning and tell yourself you are the best!”

HTCampus caught up with this young lad for his insights on CAT, life at IIM and management education in general. A few excerpts from the interview:

How do you think a management degree fits in your career plan?

In my personal opinion, a management degree is essential to be a complete professional. By this, I do not mean people with purely technical degrees are inadequately educated. A complete professional by my understanding entails someone who has knowledge of the domain but also can foster and/or adapt to different working environments fluidly. A management degree essentially trains you for that. Especially at an IIM, for freshers like me, it was such a culture shock as the focus here is on application rather than learning. You are put through a high amount of rigour with a plethora of assignments and case studies and ever diminishing deadlines. It trains you to be on your feet, at your creative best and strategize minutely. How it fits in my career plan? Firstly, I have an insatiable interest in Finance (which I plan to pursue) and it not only gives me the necessary know-how of the industry but builds me up in a manner that makes one indispensable to the corporate world out there.

You are a Civil Engineer. Do you think having an engineering background helped you during exam prep? Did it help you in subsequent rounds (GD/PI/WAT)?

It certainly did. I could be modest here and tell you that it doesn’t, but that is a myth. Being an engineer helps you with the prep not because the syllabus suits our style but rather because as common and laidback as the students are, Engineering as a degree is very intensive. An engineer gives about 8 end term examinations, 16 practical examinations and over 40 Viva Voce’s and appears for roughly 64 subject papers. That really trains you to be one of the two things – diligent (one who finishes work on time) or strategic (procrastinators). Both these qualities are essential for an examination like CAT where you need to know which questions to answer but most importantly what not to answer and how much time you should allot to each. As for the subsequent rounds, I owe it all to my Engineering degree. As I mentioned vivas, we have given so many in our lives that the PI round is just another viva for us.

What was your CAT preparation strategy?

I joined TIME coaching institute in Bangalore and ensured I didn’t miss classes. The core strategy, however, started in June 2015. I got down to finishing the syllabus. I set a deadline to finish the syllabus by end September (which I thankfully adhered to). From end September till 29th November 2015 (CAT Day) I gave AIMCATS (All India Mock CATS, a test series by TIME).

The CAT paper pattern in 2015 was different from that of 2014. Did you face any challenges during preparation? Please elaborate.

The only challenge was ‘Temptation.’ Of the many changes that had come in the paper was the provision of an on-screen calculator. I think that was a trap because one was always tempted to use it and hence waste a large amount of time (you could not type in the calculator, you could only use the mouse cursor). The number of questions also changed in each section, so there was a minor strategy change, instead of two sections you had to optimise in three sections now. But that depends from person to person. I just kept aims for each section and in total attempted about 70 questions.

What is the ideal time one should devote towards CAT preparation?

That depends on the kind of person one is. For me, I devoted 2-3 hours on weekdays and 4-5 hours on weekends from June- September 2015 with adequate breaks in between.

What were your strong and weak areas? How did you work on your weak areas while preparing for CAT?

My strongest area was Verbal and I attribute that to my family completely, who are bookworms themselves and ensured I became one too. So this was a section where I had to put in minimal effort. But yes, an occasional novel, research paper and a game of scrabble were a must on my to-do list to keep me abreast with the section. My weakest area was Algebra in Quantitative aptitude for which I devoted an extra number of hours. I stuck posts on my room walls to keep reminding myself of formulas and some tips and tricks for the section.

What was your overall test taking strategy?

Do not attempt even if there is a 0.01 percent doubt. Try and attempt at least 65 questions. Try not to get distracted by people who sit around you during the paper. The last one was a last minute strategy I had to (unwillingly) apply.

CAT is a smart exam. Can you list down five skills that are essential for individuals to crack CAT? Please justify each with its relevance.

  • Strategy - Know your strengths and your weaknesses. Attempt questions based on that.
  • Analytical – Learn to read patterns from previous papers and Mock CATs. It gives you an understanding as to what you can expect this year
  • Ability to unwind – Don’t carry your studies beyond your study time. Unwind quickly and get out of the mode. It will keep you relaxed and calm
  • Social – Helps you keep your equilibrium before CAT as well as being an important skill in B-School
  • Health conscious – Because it’s just one of those things your mother tells you all the time.

How has your learning been so far at IIM?

It is enlightening, to say the least. As I mentioned earlier, it’s a culture shock and it’s beautiful. You are suddenly thrust into an environment which relies on a combination of precision and persistence. You have case studies and assignments and presentations waiting for you at every nook and corner and you have to optimise your thought process in minimum possible time. It’s invigorating. We sleep hardly for 3-4 hours a day (on a good day), but most of us are charged through the day.

The professors are gems, the best names in the country and their approach to education is in itself nothing short of revolutionary. I feel an extreme amount of privilege to be taught by them. You have to be at IIM Kashipur (or any IIM for that matter) to know it. It’s quite unexplainable, but rest assured it’s everything it promises to be and in fact much more than you expect. It surprises you, breaks you and builds you into a far better version of yourself. IIMs make you realise that your boundaries are just self-inflicted and the curriculum pushes to break those limits.

What are your plans after IIM?

I envision myself to be working in the banking sector, but I think it’s too early to say anything. This place has opened up infinite possibilities and I am not planning on restraining myself.

What advice would you give to students appearing for CAT this year?

I don’t think I am in any position to disseminate advice. But I’ll take this opportunity to make myself feel a little important. All I’d say is follow the schedules that you have made for yourself and focus on getting a decent score in CAT. Don’t think about percentiles since there are a lot of factors that are not in your hand when it comes to that.  Don’t think about GD/PI rounds. Take one step at a time. Most importantly, remember this is actually the easy part. The toughest 20 months of your life lie on the other side of this tunnel.

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