From CA to IIM Bangalore | Pankaj Sapela

Pankaj Sapela | IIM Bangalore 2020-22 Batch
Pankaj Sapela | IIM Bangalore 2020-22 Batch

About Pankaj Sapela:

Pankaj is a Chartered Accountant by profession. He hails from a very small village in Pali District of Rajasthan. He completed his elementary education from a local school and then moved to Jodhpur for secondary and senior secondary. He pursued a CA degree from Ahmedabad and finished his articleship from there. The idea of an MBA hit him when he was in IPCC for his Chartered Accountancy course and since then, it has never left the shadow of his mind. He is passionate about writing and if there is a word like Movie-holic, that would be its personification.

Pankaj’s journey to IIM Bangalore

Colleges applied for:

I applied for old IIMS, FMS and IIFT and was shortlisted by all of them except for IIM Ahmedabad.

I was offered admission from IIM B, C, L, K and FMS Delhi. I will be joining IIM Bangalore in August.


I always had it planned. Everyone has a point of awakening and for me it was when I was introduced to the profession of Investment Banking by a teacher. Later, I did my research and got introduced to this amazing world of management courses. I learned about colleges which I had only heard about. Since then, it has been a focused goal to first finish the CA degree and then pursue CAT. I have read all the interview experiences on tens of websites and they helped me in staying motivated.


I had joined an academy in Ahmedabad mainly for quality material and guidance. However, there was a large gap between joining the academy and actually preparing for the exam because of the nature of my job. My focused learning period was around 3 months towards the exam date. It is important to understand that one should never take his mind off the idea of exam completely. Connection to what you are pursuing and recognition of importance of the process are very vital to success.

As far as strategy is concerned, my background helped me in understanding that more is not always better. I am a keen follower of quality over quantity. Thus, instead of quickly learning 10 things a day, I focused on concretely learning five things. It helped in better data understanding and retrieval.

The first step and probably the most significant one is proper comprehension of the exam. Things like syllabus, marking schemes, types of questions, relative importance of topics and time management; all these factors contribute towards a better understanding of what the exam expects from you. 

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In the actual preparation, the first round of learning was about strengthening my basics for the subject and moulding my mindset towards the type and nature of the exam. Students from various streams find difficulty in different subjects. I was confident about VARC and DI LR. However, I was cautious that this confidence doesn’t sway me away from giving proper attention to difficult topics. QA was a different story altogether. I hadn’t been concerned with maths in past 6 years and thus, coping up was a bit difficult in the beginning. However, I followed the three-category sorting method to filter the content. I went alternate for VARC and DI LR with daily slogging for QA. As the time passed and with weekly revision of the topics, I was able to grasp the concepts better. I gave weekly mocks both from home and at regulated class environments. 

The second round of learning was about focusing on weak areas and increasing the speed. Once the basics were clear, I tried to solve exercises in time barred environment and gave online sectional and topic-based mocks on various websites to acquaint with various types of questions and difficulty scenarios. Finally, when exam was close, I focused on the topics that I had already prepared and revised those rather than worrying about my weaknesses.

Interview preparation:

I divided the interview preparations into two parts. The first part included areas such as personal details, academics and work experience. The most important aspect about personal questions was to stay honest during the interview and not lie about anything. The nature of my work experience also helped me. Academics on the other side needed proper revision and thus I referred to some of the topics related to Finance, Accountancy and Economics which I deemed important.

The second part was related to external news including current affairs and important events. Regular newspaper reading and staying updated through mobile applications are two useful tools in these preparations. I made a list of topics that I had to prepare and researched those topics on the internet. Some of the topics were difficult at first, so, I also took some help from YouTube videos. It is important to always prepare extensively on the news and events related to your academic and professional background. For example, I prepared many topics on economics and finance and was asked questions related to them in almost all the interviews.

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My suggestions:

  • Most of us are not able to realise strategic success because we mostly rely on strategies that we gather either from the internet or from a friend. Always come up with something of your own. Draft a strategy that feels personal to you and takes advantage of all your strengths while minimizing the impact of your weaknesses.
  • Interviews are not supposed to be life-taking grilling sessions. The interviewers are there to see if you can hold the conversation on your own. Always enter the room with a smile and be confident because nobody knows you better than yourself. You may not be able to answer some questions but that is alright. If they were looking for someone who knew everything, they would ask for google. And BE HONEST, ALWAYS!
  • Give mocks, lots and lots of mocks. Even if you score constantly low in the beginning, keep trying. The underrated feature of mocks is that they acquaint you with the exam environment and normalize the experience for you continuously. Once you feel comfortable in the exam hall, you are already in a better position.
  • Exams are not life changing events and neither are results. The only thing life changing is your morale and your dream. Always be mad enough to dream on something that is inherently impossible. Exams are just a part of the process; it is a step that you will take and it cannot stop you from doing what you want to do. Treat it like a normal procedure and ace it without creating chaos in your life.
  • Finally, when you feel that you have given all your efforts and are scared of failure, I want to say that it is okay to fail. It is okay to feel low and demotivated. But at the same time, when you try to do something for a second or third time, it shows that you have persistence, that you have strength and courage to overcome all the inconvenience and hardships. I mean that is what good managers do.
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