But CAT was no easy feat. I took two attempts at the CAT. The first attempt was during my final year of college in 2020. I enrolled in an online coaching class with IMS. Although I attended lectures and took a decent number of mocks, I did not dedicate enough time to analyse them. I scored 92 percentile that year and received offer letters from a few of the newer IIMs. However, I still had doubts about why I wanted to pursue an MBA. So, I decided to take a break, gain work experience, and give CAT another shot.
After graduating in 2021, I started working as a research analyst at ValueNotes, a market research firm in Pune. This opportunity exposed me to primary and secondary research, analysis, and report writing. I worked directly under the Head of Research on market entry, market sizing, and competitive analyses projects. It was a challenging yet enriching learning opportunity. It sparked my interest in marketing and consulting, providing me with a better understanding of why I wanted to pursue an MBA. Particularly, I was inclined towards IIMB, because of the importance given to work experience and its culture. With this newfound clarity, my goal became clear: crack CAT and secure admission to the coveted IIM Bangalore.
Knowing that IIM-B valued work experience, I had to strike a balance between work and CAT preparation. During my second attempt in 2022, I entirely relied on online resources for my preparation. In fact, the only expenses I incurred were for the mock test series from Career Launcher (which I highly recommend!) and a YouTube Premium subscription (another valuable resource for self-preparation).
My daily routine during weekdays involved studying for around 2 hours in the morning, followed by focusing on work. Whenever I had 15-20 minutes to spare during the day, I solved an RC or a DILR set. Working from home was a blessing as it saved me time and kept me relatively energetic. After work, I dedicated at least an hour to working out at the gym, which helped clear my mind. In the evening, I prepared for another 2 hours.
Saturdays were when I did most of the heavy lifting, where I focused on tackling difficult chapters. And Sundays meant mock tests. I started taking mock tests on May 5th and made sure not to miss a single one until the actual CAT exam. If I were to offer one piece of advice to CAT aspirants, it would be this: take mocks every weekend and analyze them within three days. If you're willing to go the extra mile like me, consider taking the mock tests during one of the three actual CAT slots at 8:30 AM, 12:30 PM, or 4:30 PM.
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As time went on, I noticed an improvement in my scores. They became more consistent, and I firmly believe that analyzing mock tests played a crucial role in my preparation. After six months of consistent effort, I finally achieved a 98.55 percentile.
For the VARC section, I put in significantly more effort compared to my previous attempt. My percentile in VARC improved from 78 to 99.71. I owe a debt of gratitude to Gejo Sir for his exceptional teaching methods. My strategy involved solving one reading comprehension and 2-3 verbal questions daily without fail. Additionally, I made it a habit to read one article each day from platforms like Aeon Essays, Jstor, The Guardian, or The New York Times as their content was relevant to VARC passages.
QA, on the other hand, was not my strongest suit, so I focused on mastering the basics of Arithmetic, Geometry, and Algebra. I primarily solved previous years' questions from 2IIM and referred to GP Sir's Jugaad solutions on Career Launcher. I achieved a 92.74 percentile in this section.
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DILR was one of my stronger sections, with a previous percentile of 97.9 in 2020. I made it a point to solve all the previous years' questions. However, on my second attempt, I ended up with an 86.81 percentile due to a slight misstep on the day of the CAT exam. But none of that mattered once I received interview shortlists from IIM Bangalore, IIM Lucknow, IIM Kozhikode, IIM Indore, and all the new IIMs.
Right from the start, I knew that CAT was just 50% of the journey, with the remaining weightage placed on the interview stage. Again, I relied on online resources for interview preparation. I realised that most people suggested similar strategies and I understood that tangible results only come with dedicated effort. So, I diligently prepared for my interviews.
Recognizing the significance of self-awareness, I made a conscious effort to introspect regularly, delving deep into understanding my strengths, weaknesses, and aspirations. Simultaneously, I stayed updated with the latest news and developments, ensuring I remained well-informed. I particularly followed Think School and Aevy TV, among others, on YouTube. I also brushed up on my academics, particularly focusing on Microeconomics. These two months truly proved to be a transformative experience, shaping me for the challenges and opportunities that lay ahead.
My interviews went fairly well, starting with the CAP interview conducted online. The rest were in person, and I particularly enjoyed my Lucknow interview as it had a conversational tone.
My last interview was the most nerve-wracking and the most crucial one - the IIM Bangalore interview. I tried to remain as calm as possible. The interview panel primarily focused on my work experience, which worked in my favour. However, there were a few tricky questions along the way, and they tested my knowledge of economics towards the end. I felt they intentionally tried stressing me out during the interview. But throughout the process, I maintained a smile and politely admitted when I didn't know something.
The days leading up to the result were incredibly stressful. I solaced myself by visiting my friends in Pune, which helped alleviate the pressure. During this period, I also got the opportunity to participate in Hindustan Unilever Limited Changemakers 2023 which receives 1000+ applications every year. They handpicked a wonderful cohort of 45 students and invited us to immerse ourselves in the business world and understand how brands grow and sustain over the long term. On the very first day of this event, IIM Bangalore released the results.
I received a notification saying, "IIMB results are out!" I immediately checked my email. To my disappointment, there was nothing. I then logged into the portal, and the second I read 'Congratulations,' I was taken over by a wave of emotions. Overwhelmed with joy, I immediately called my parents and friends to share that I had made it to IIM Bangalore!
I am super excited to embark on this new journey in my life. To all fellow CAT aspirants, if you have clarity about why you want to pursue an MBA, you will achieve all your goals. Remember that CAT is just one step in the journey. Focus on yourself, know who you are, and genuinely work hard. In the end, the challenging journey is more than worth it.
So, make the most of your time before CAT, and good luck on the journey to your dream business school!
My advice for CAT aspirants:
- Think about why you want to pursue an MBA.
- Take mock tests every weekend and analyse them. Consistency is key.
- Have a positive mindset as you will have to face a few tough days ahead.
- If something doesn’t work for you, be comfortable with change. Adapt and conquer.
- Don’t be in hermit mode just because you’re preparing for CAT. You can still enjoy life :)