How Aditya Manolkar from Sangli Got Motivated & Overcame his Weakness to Crack CAT 2022 with 99.56%ile and Got into SPJIMR Mumbai

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Updated on August 20, 2023
Aditya Uday Manolkar from Turmeric City Sangli, cracked CAT 2022 with 99.56ile and is now a student of PGDM 2023-25 batch at SPJIMR Mumbai. Coming from a business family, Aditya got motivated to pursue MBA and overcame his weakness to crack CAT. Aditya is a B.Tech from COEP Pune and has work experience as Software Engineer with Societe Generale. This interview with Aditya will inspire you how to do smart preparation for CAT 2023
CAT topper Aditya Manolkar presents inspiring success stories of CAT toppers who triumphed in securing admissions to top institutions. Gain motivation from their well-planned preparation strategies, valuable insights on MBA entrance exam readiness, Personal Interviews, and MBA college selection.

Today, we present the motivational interview with Aditya Uday Manolkar from a business family of Sangli, the turmeric city of Maharashtra. Aditya cracked CAT 2022 with 99.56 percentile and is pursuing PGDM from SPJIMR Mumbai. Aditya is a B.Tech Gold Medalist from College of Engineering Pune (COEP) and has work experience as Software Engineer with Societe Generale.

Aditya’s CAT preparation journey has a lot of lessons. For instance how he got motivated to pursue MBA, how did he overcome his weakness in VARC section and how did he maximise on his strengths with a changed mindset. Aditya loves Kayaking water sport and likes drawing and painting.

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With this introduction, let us read Aditya’s responses to questions

Q: What motivated you to pursue MBA and Positive through your CAT Journey?
I was born & raised in Sangli, known as the Turmeric City of Maharashtra. Growing up in a family business environment, particularly my parents' pharmacy business, fuelled my interest in holistic business understanding which led me to pursue an MBA. I have an elder sister who is currently working as a Marketing Manager in Mumbai. My pet dog, whom I adore, has always been a source of positivity to me. 

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Q: What challenges you faced during your CAT preparation? How did you come out of them?
I think it is quite common to feel anxious when you prepare for the CAT. On days when I was unable to perform well in the mock exams, I did have self-doubt. My biggest sources of support throughout this time were my parents and my pet. I believe that treating each day of preparation whether good or bad as an opportunity to learn and grow benefited me.

Q: How did you perform in CAT exam 2022?
I scored 99.56 overall percentile in CAT 2022. As regards sectional scores, I scored 94.58%ile in VARC, 76.21%ile in DILR and 99.99%ile in Quants.

Q: Did you take any other exam apart from CAT? How did you perform in it?
A: Apart from CAT, I appeared in IIFT entrance exam and SNAP.  I scored 99.1%ile in IIFT and 99.73%ile in SNAP

Q: What was your overall preparation strategy for CAT?
I started CAT preparation with Elites Grid in 2021. Being a complete newbie in CAT, I blindly followed the suggestions of my mentors (Hunny Sir, Gaurav Sir, and Shahzar Sir) from Elites Grid, and I believe it helped me a lot. I scored around 98 percentile in CAT 2021 and around 99.7 percentile in QA. Along with CAT, I also appeared for IIFT (99.4 percentile) and SNAP (99.9 percentile) and finally secured an admission offer from IIFT Delhi. However, as suggested by my Elites Grid mentors, I decided to appear for CAT again, and this time I focused more on my weaknesses (the VARC section, of course!) and capitalised on my strengths. I joined the IMS, Career Launcher, and Elites Grid test series and analysed my performance in detail.

Q: How did you prepare for Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension (VARC) in CAT?
VARC has been and continues to be my pain point since the day I started preparing for CAT. I think it was because I am not an avid reader, so it took me a long time to read and decipher the text compared to people who have a habit of reading. Instead of choosing the correct answer, the best strategy in this section is to eliminate the options. Along with Shahzar Sir's guidance from Elites Grid, I also enrolled in Gejo Sir's VARC 1000 course from Career Launcher, and I believe it helped me tremendously. The course changed my attitude about how to actually attempt the VARC section. I focused on solving at least two RCs a day to improve my comprehension ability. Although I scored around the 95 percentile this year in VARC, it is a huge improvement from last year's 84 percentile. I believe that generally, it is very difficult to do exceedingly well in all three sections, and hence, it is important to play to your strengths and play it safe with your weaknesses.

Q: How did you prepare for Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning (DILR) in CAT?
I really enjoyed solving LRDI questions because I believe that solving DILR questions makes you think in creative and out-of-the box ways. I just followed what Gaurav sir from Elites Grid told us to do. Gaurav sir is one of those teachers who always has a unique method for every question, and I tried to learn this from him. Even though I didn't do well in the DILR section because of a technical problem during the exam, I made sure not to let that pressure affect my performance in the QA section (My strongest section!).

Q: How did you prepare for Quantitative Ability (QA) section in CAT?
QA was always my strong section, and getting a 99.99 percentile in CAT 2022 seems to confirm that. All credit goes to Hunny Sir from Elites Grid. I completely trusted his advice, kept track of my mistakes, and focused on studying the concepts thoroughly. I also worked through previous year's questions to understand what the exam really expects. In my opinion, CAT has a quantitative section and not a math section, and hence, the paper setters are aware that people from diverse backgrounds will be attempting the paper. Hence, with S.M.A.R.T work, anyone can be able to ace this section because this is only one of those sections where you can quickly see the results of your strategies.

Q: Was there any particular section/area that you were weak at? How did you overcome this challenge?
VARC was an Achilles heel for me. I think what truly helped me in this section was the mindset change about how to actually attempt the paper. Last year, I focused on solving all questions in 3 out of 4 RCs and maximising my VA attempts. However, I used to pick up the wrong RCs and would heavily lose on accuracy. However, this year I made it a point to attempt all the RCs without necessarily attempting all four questions. With this strategy, I was at least able to solve the straightforward questions in a particular RC. Eventually, although my attempt rate remained mostly on the same lines, the questions I actually solved were pretty doable, and this boosted my VARC score.

Q: What role did Mocks play in your success? How many mocks did you attempt before the exam?
Mock exams are one of the most important tools for testing your knowledge. It actually tries to simulate the exam environment to some extent. Having said that, they are also not a true indicator of how you will actually do in the exam. I had enrolled for mock exams from Career Launcher, IMS, and Elites Grid Academy. The mocks are purposely designed with varying difficulty levels so that one is prepared for the worst-case scenario, and hence, I would suggest not to focus on the mock scores but instead focus more on what you actually learn from them. I gave around 40 mocks with detailed analysis this year.

Q: Did you self-prepare for CAT Exam or did you attend a Coaching Centre and why?
I needed a well-structured course so that I did not have to chart out my schedule, and that's exactly what Elites Grid did for me. They designed my schedule completely, including mocks, sectionals, revision sessions, regular class sessions, and break times as well. As Elites Grid has been a pioneer in the CAT coaching sector for many years now, I fully trusted them with their schedules, and that indeed helped me.

Q: Which books did you refer during your preparation and how effective were they?
I did not buy any CAT coaching books as such. I studied using the material provided by the Elites Grid mentors. If any additional material was required, the mentors made it available for us.

Q: Please share your strategy for the CAT Day. How did you plan your CAT test taking?
After putting in so much hard work, staying calm is of utmost importance on "The Day". A day before the exam, I revised all the quant formulas and took a long 8-hour sleep. Luckily, I had the first slot, and hence, there were no biases when I went to attempt the paper. Although I faced a tech glitch in my DILR section, my ability to stay calm helped me, and I was able to capitalise on my strength, which was the QA section.

Q: How did you prepare for GD/PI/WAT Rounds?
I prepared for the interviews with Btribe and did exactly what the Btribe mentors advised us to do. The process involved mocks interview, basic HR questions, questions related to prior education and work experience/internships, current affairs, and college specific questions. Before going to the interviews, I made sure to check up the college's website and the course structure so I would have some topics to discuss and ask relevant questions at the end of the interview. 

Q: Which all Top B-schools shortlisted you for personal interview round?
I was shortlisted for PI round by IIT Bombay - SJMSOM, IIT Delhi - DMS, XLRI, MDI Gurgaon, CAP IIMs, SIBM Pune, IIM Bangalore PGPBA.

Q: Which B-schools you finally converted?
I converted SPJIMR Mumbai, SJMSoM IIT Bombay, DMS IIT Delhi, XLRI Delhi, MDI Gurgaon, CAP IIMs and SIBM Pune

Q: What motivated you to Join SPJIMR? What were your top three criteria?
I had an interview opportunity at SPJIMR last year; however, I was unable to perform at my best due to contracting COVID-19. Nevertheless, the enriching interaction with SPJIMR's faculty motivated me to attempt the CAT exam again. I believe what makes SPJIMR different from the other institutes is its focus on not just academics but also the five non-classroom initiatives. These initiatives help in the holistic development of a student. Apart from this, location is also important. Being in Mumbai provides you an advantage in networking with business leaders because Mumbai is where most company offices are.

Q: Do you have work experience? Please share how the work experience can help in MBA?
I had a work experience of around 21 months on the CAT form and around 30 months overall. While I was preparing for CAT, it was often challenging to manage both a full-time job and the CAT. However, I believe that having work experience does help in the MBA. Whenever we have classroom discussions, my prior experience helps me bring in a different perspective. Moreover, preparing for the CAT alongside my full-time job helped me improve my time management and prioritisation skills, which are essential in an MBA.

Q: Whom you would like to give credit for your success? What role your family & friends played?
My family and my mentors deserve all the credit for what I have achieved. They all helped me along the way, through both the highs and the lows. I made some amazing friends while preparing for the CAT, and they've all received admission to some of the top institutions in the country. All of these were my main sources of motivation throughout the CAT journey.

Q: According to you, how can B-schools make their MBA admission process less cumbersome for MBA applicants. 
I believe that when you have numerous interviews scheduled on the same days, the process becomes very hectic. Travelling to various cities to attend various interviews can be difficult for persons who don't live in tier 1 cities. Therefore, in my view, improved cooperation between the institutes with the option to select the interview format would be beneficial.

Q: Finally, your message and tips for candidates preparing for CAT 2023
Because the CAT exam is so unpredictable, luck does matter on test day. This, however, does not minimise the effort and perseverance required for the exam.  One piece of suggestion is to concentrate on other tests as well, such as XAT, IIFT, and SNAP. Everyone has different strong and weak points, so it's more important to play to your strengths.

Team hopes that this interview was truly inspiring for you! Don't miss out on the opportunity to explore more motivational stories from students who have made their mark at IIMs, IIFT, MDI, SPJIMR, XLRI and beyond. Let their journeys ignite the fire within you…Success awaits you! 

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