7 Question Sunday: The MBA Issue

1. How do I prepare for DILR and VARC for CAT?

DILR is basically Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning.

CAT has generally 4 sets of DI and 4 sets of LR (may also be 5:3 ratio).

The basic strategy is to play on your strengths. Most people have an inclination to either DI or LR. Find what you are comfortable with and try to solve that first.

Another pitfall in DILR is the urge to solve all questions of the set you have invested time in.

You must learn to leave questions which waste your time.

You never know, the next set you left trying to solve a difficult question, may actually be easy and you will end up regretting.

Now, the strategy for VARC,

It is so important to read.

If you are an avid reader, it won't be too difficult for you to ace this section.

Read non-fictional content, topics like psychology, philosophy, art, etc.

This is one of the best things that can help you prepare.

2. How should I divide my time for CAT preparation on each section, on an everyday basis?

The question is basically asking for a time table something that would vary from person to person.

Assuming you will be starting from 1st June and the CAT will be in mid-November means you have 24 weeks till CAT.

Ideally, you should be done with your syllabus by 15th or 16th week. After that, mocks and analysis should be your only target.

The Strategy :

Step 1: Go through the previous year's CAT papers

Before you start your full preparation, you need to know what and how to prepare. Get a feel about the pattern and your strengths and weaknesses.

CATs are usually divided into 3 sections:

  1. Verbal Ability (34 questions)

  2. Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning (32 questions)

  3. Quantitative Ability (34 questions)

Duration : 3 hours ( 1 hour for each section ).

Please note that there will be some questions in each section that will be without options.

Step 2: Take a mock test to check your current level of preparedness.

This should help you identify your strengths and weaknesses.

This is very important as your initial strategy should be to focus on your weak areas.

Step 3: Enrol for a mock test series.

Since you are opting for self-study, enrolling for a mock test series is essential.

Mocks are very important for CAT preparation. Self-analysis on a regular basis will help you understand the effectiveness of your preparation.

Introspection will give you an opportunity to modify your strategy if required. Being flexible in your strategy is very important.

Step 4: Prepare a time table.

You should modify it according to your strengths and weaknesses.

You should ideally practice

  • Quant : 4 weekdays + 1 weekend day a week (2 + 8 hrs a day) - 16 hrs / week

  • Data Interpretation: twice a week (3 hrs a day) - 6 hrs/week

  • Logical Reasoning: twice a week (3 hrs a day) - 6 hrs/week

  • Verbal Ability: 4 days a week (2 hrs a day) - 8 hrs/week

  • Reading Comprehension: twice a week (2 hrs a day) - 4 hrs/week

  • Reading Ability: every day (1 hr a day) - 7 hrs/week

  • Mocks and its Analysis: once every two weeks (6 hrs a day) - 3 hrs/week

  • Total time: 50 hrs/week. (12 hrs on weekends and 5 hrs on weekdays)


There are approximately 20 topics in a Quant. To prepare a timetable accordingly.

Considering 5 days (4+1) a week for Quant.

  • Number System: 10 days (Weeks 1 and 2)

  • Averages: 2 days (Week 3)

  • Percentages: 2 days (Week 3)

  • Profit and Loss: 1 day (Week 3)

  • Simple and Compound Interest: 1 day (Week 4)

  • Ratio and Proportion: 2 days (Week 4)

  • Time and Work : 3 days ( Weeks 4 and 5)

  • Time, Speed and Distance: 4 days (Week 5)

  • Geometry: 10 days (Weeks 6 and 7)

  • Trigonometry and Mensuration: 5 days (Week 8)

  • Linear and Quadratic Equations, and Inequalities: 7 days (Weeks 9 and 10)

  • Logarithms : 3 days (Week 10)

  • Surds and Indices : 3 days (Week 11)

  • Progressions: 5 days (Weeks 11 and 12)

  • Functions : 2 days (Week 12)

  • Set Theory: 4 days (Week 13)

  • Permutations and Combinations: 6 days (Weeks 13 and 14)

  • Probability: 5 days (Week 15)

Don’t solve all questions on these topics. Just do enough to understand the concepts. Ensure that you don’t miss any sub-topic.

Data Interpretation:

There are approximately 6 topics on DI.

  • Tables: 4 days (Weeks 1 and 2)

  • Column and Bar Graphs: 4 days (Weeks 3 and 4)

  • Line charts: 4 days (Weeks 5 and 6)

  • Pie charts: 4 days (Weeks 7 and 8)

  • Combination graphs: 8 days (Weeks 9,10,11 and 12)

  • Data Sufficiency: 6 days (Weeks 13,14 and 15)

Try to mix things up in DI. Else it will get boring. Make sure that you time yourself while preparing for DI. It is essential.

Logical Reasoning:

There are approximately 7–8 topics on LR.

  • Arrangements (Linear, Circular and Matrix): 8 days (Weeks 1–4)

  • Venn Diagram: 4 days (Weeks 5 and 6)

  • Cubes: 4 days (Weeks 7 and 8)

  • Blood Relations : 3 days (Weeks 9 and 10)

  • Family Tree : 3 days (Weeks 10 and 11)

  • Puzzles: 6 days (Weeks 12-14)

Verbal Ability:

Verbal Ability is less about topics and more about reading.

The more you read, the more you are comfortable with Verbal.

Considering 4 days a week for Verbal.

  • Basic Grammar and Usage: 16 days (Weeks 1–4)

  • Sentence Correction: 16 days (Weeks 5–8) (Use Manhattan GMAT Sentence Correction)

  • Para Completion and Para Jumbles: 12 days (Weeks 9–11)

  • Critical Reasoning: 16 days (Weeks 12–15) (Use Manhattan GMAT Critical Reasoning)

Reading Comprehension:

Try to do 4–5 RC together, followed by analysis whenever you practice RCs. Also, time yourself when you do it.

This should be done at least twice a week and till November. There is only one mantra for success in RC: read and practice.


Make it a habit to read good novels. This is one of the safest ways to improve your verbal as well as building your personality for an interview or otherwise.

Week 16 onwards:

Revise your syllabus according to your strengths and weaknesses.

Practice previous years’ CAT papers.

Mocks will be extremely important at this stage. Try to make your strategy for the exam: How you will approach it, How you are going to work on your weaknesses, etc.

Step 5: Always stay motivated.

This is the most important step. Never lose hope in your battle. There will be ample opportunities to improve. It’s never over till it’s over. Always remember that.

3. Can working for an NGO during undergrad account for as a good extra curricular activity?

Yes, of course.

A few points here:

You must not merely associate yourself with the NGO, but do reportable and quantifiable work to put on your resume.

Try to find work that resonates with your goals stated in your essays.

Start small; you don't need to start off in other countries but can find volunteer work in your own location.

Also searching on volunteer websites (there are a lot: just Google) may help you if you are starting out, esp. online/remote opportunities.

If you have other work e.g. a fulltime role alongside this, please be transparent from the beginning to the organization as to how many hrs/week you can put in and stick to it.

This will help you in time management as well as help them set achievable expectations.

4. How should I justify not doing any extracurricular during my college days in an MBA interview?

If you have your academics in place, not doing any extra-curricular is not a big deal, at all.

Always remember that they are extracurriculars, and the primary reason for going to a UG is to study.

You should be safe if you have done well.

Great academics & zero extracurricular has a much greater chance than a great extracurricular zero academics

Not doing any extracurriculars isn't really an issue, and I really don't think it will come up.

5. When is an MBA valuable?

An MBAs are best done when you are shifting to Phase 2 of your career.

Phase 1 of your career is usually right after your undergraduate degree.

Phase 1 is usually when you are exposed to a professional work environment for the first time.

You start to learn the ropes as a developer, marketer, investment banking associate, accountant etc.

You work full-time and grasp the essential work skills. You will find the first 2-3 years the period of most growth - in earning and learning.

However, there hits a point for many when the growth starts slowing down. Either you are not given adequate management responsibilities or you don't have adequate skills for it. This happens due to 3 main reasons.

Undergrad degrees don't do a good job of teaching how to manage.

While a BS in Engineering hopefully has taught the person quantitative methods, these programs are very thin on the soft sciences.

Most people learn management skills from actually doing. However, reality often forces us to be more reactive without providing a lot of time to look at the big picture.

Some realize that their undergrad career path is no longer interesting and want to move out of development, advertising, accounting, etc.

This point usually comes in the mid to late 20s (when you are 4-5 years into the game). This is the ideal time to do an MBA.

An MBA lets you switch careers.

A developer could dabble with completely new career paths like Management Consulting or Investment Banking, or something closer like Product Management.

Instead of spending a lifetime hating what you do, you can experiment with multiple paths during the 2 years (1 year MBAs don't get this luxury).

Essentially it is a reset button where you become an intern once again.

An MBA lets you connect with others as well which can incredibly valuable

Good MBA programs are very diverse and can help you connect with a diverse group - from politicians to business people to advertisers and teachers.

MBA lets you communicate better.