A Love Story In The Journey Of CAT – Against All Odds
“Every event has a purpose and every setback its lesson. I have realized that failure, whether of the personal, professional or even spiritual kind, is essential to personal expansion. It brings inner growth and a whole host of psychic rewards. Never regret your past. Rather, embrace it as the teacher that it is.” ― Robin S. Sharma
Today is 26th April 2016, it’s 4:30 PM and the result of IIM Kozhikode has just been declared. As my trembling hands open the IIM K website my mind drifts back to the moment where it all started, The day I solved my first quant question. I still remember the sheer rush of blood and exhilaration I experienced at the prospect of preparing for CAT. “So how is it all going to end?”, My mind asked. I put in my CAT registration no and the screen starts buffering, the wait of a few seconds seems like a lifetime…
Karan, are you sure you want to prepare for CAT? My father asked me, you performed terribly in IITJEE despite all the coaching, you even destroyed your 12th boards score in the process, think about it again? Clearly, my father doesn’t believe in me but my brother still does as he pays my fees for CAT coaching and enrolls me at TIME Delhi (Pitampura) batch 13A, and like this, I started preparing for CAT 2013 one and half year before in July 2012. The classes were supposed to start in July but I started my preparation in June itself, I took up my brother’s old time modules and started wreaking havoc on the Quant and DILR modules. Before the classes even started I was done with a lot of course material.
The wealthiest place on the planet is the graveyard. Because in the graveyard we will find inventions that we never ever were exposed to. Ideas and dreams that never became a reality. Hopes and aspirations that were never acted upon.
He meets her.
‘What is the language of an engineer sir?”, a cute looking girl asks our quant professor, I was standing just beside her. She had perfect black eyes, short structure, and an extremely beautiful face. My big eyes met hers and I answered her question- “I guess it should be Mathematics since it is used heavily in different domains.” The professor seems satisfied with my answer and nods. She also gave me a grin smile and both of us went our different ways, I didn’t realize it then but that girl was going to be instrumental in me realizing my CAT dream. I will call her Isha from now on (name changed).
Spoilers: This love story is not going to end well.
The First Mile
From June 2012 to January 2013, I prepared religiously for CAT. I became very strong in quant and DI, however, my English and LR section still needed a lot of improvement. I used to top in most of the tests that were conducted in our TIME classes. One day that I remember in particular was when we had our quant numbers class. The first question that the teacher asked was-
What is the last digit of 2^16 (answered in 6 seconds by me)
The highest power of 5 in 100! (answered in 4 seconds by me)
I used to solve questions at the drop of a hat in the classroom and it used to give me a great amount of confidence. Amidst all this supreme hitting by me, Isha who was sitting at the front seats looks back at me, my eyes again meet hers and she can clearly see the temperament in them and she looks impressed.
The Feel-Good Period
Isha and I were sitting together in the vocab class, “Vocab is so boring”, I tell her. “Well you need to clear it in order to score well in CAT so we will have to study it I guess”, she replies. Since meeting her, I had added her on Facebook where the two of us had started talking, numbers were exchanged and now we were good buddies. All of this continued till May 2013, we used to talk all day about our ambitions, why we wanted to clear CAT.A word of advice to the future aspirants, having a study buddy really helps. Preparing for CAT can be a lonely journey and if you have someone with whom you can talk to or share everything, it can be very helpful.
The Race Begins
I gave my first AIMCAT on 16th may 2013, AIMCAT 1320 it was then that I realized just how different it is to solve questions in a panic induced and a time-restricted environment. I scored 82%ile in it. Next came AIMCAT 1319 scored 89%ile OA, then AIMCAT 1318 92%ile, AIMCAT 1317 88%ile and then 1316 97%ile. My scores for the year 2013 used to hover around the 90-95 mark with sectionals going all over the place. CAT 2013 arrives. On 25th October 2013, I wrote CAT for the first time. I had decent sleep in the night. I woke up and talked to Isha, she wished me best of luck. By the time I was in the examination hall I was panicking, anxiety levels were at an all-time high for me.
The moment I sat on my seat, my mouse wasn’t working and when you are so tensed up things like this can really get to you. I called the invigilator and he got it to work. The exam started and I couldn’t solve anything for the first 10 minutes and by then I was really shitting myself. The 2013 CAT paper was one of the toughest ever and in the first 70 min, I could solve only 9/30 questions in the QA/DI section (back then CAT had only 2 sections) but later on, I calmed myself and ended up solving 25/30 questions in the LR/VA/RC section.
When I got out I was broken, I knew I had tanked badly. The next few minutes were really bad for me. I spoke to Isha on the phone and she consoled me. Then I came home and spoke to dad and told him it didn’t go well. He was clearly upset and disappointed with me. I also cried a little and spoke to my brother. He reminded me of the posts in All I wanted to speak about CAT in which people crack CAT in there 5th attempts and told me to soldier on and that really gave me a lot of strength and I decided then and there that one day I will have my vengeance.
A word of advice to the future aspirants- Keeping your calm on the D-day is the most important thing, I know it is easier said than done but think like this, there are millions of people in this country who don’t even know where their next meal is going to come from, there are real absolute tragedies in this world but not being able to clear CAT is certainly not one of them.
When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you, till it seems as though you could not hold on a minute longer, never give up then, for that is the place and time that the tide will turn.
Life Throws A Curveball.
After the CAT disaster, I sat for Infosys recruitment drive and completely destroyed its placement paper but when the results came in the night I was broken to see – Sorry, you are not selected. I, the guy, who was scoring 95+ in AIMCAT mocks couldn’t even clear the Infosys Aptitude – man that was a new low! Everyone in my family was shocked, my friends were shocked. Hell! What hurt even more, was that guys who were not even preparing for CAT ended up clearing it. 15 days later I went to an off-campus recruitment drive and a US based IT firm offering 5 LPA where over a 1000 students sat. I almost didn’t go there thinking that I possibly cannot clear it. But I went anyway. Then after the aptitude round, only 150 students remained and I was the only one from my college. Then GD and another aptitude round were conducted and only 30 students remained, I cleared that as well.
Then finally, 2 interview rounds were conducted after which only 2 students were selected out of 1000 student drive and I was one of them. So I had bagged the 5LPA job in Delhi-NCR. In 15 days life had shown me different colors.
Always seek out the seeds of triumph in every adversity. Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do, so throw off the bowlines, sail away from safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore, Dream, Discover. -Mark Twain
strong>The First Result
It was 14th January 2014, that the results of CAT were declared. I entered the credentials and was really scared out of my mind and then the screen read-
CAT 2013 Results Overall percentile: 95.32 | Quant/DI : 87.xx | VA/LR : 97.xx
I had mixed feelings about the result. After such a horrible paper, I wasn’t expecting 95 however my family was really disappointed that even after 1 and a half year of hard work I had again screwed up. Isha also screwed up and scored 96 percentile and after this, we started spending more time together. We used to go to movies together and since she was also placed now we were both really relaxed and that helped in steering things forward. By the end of June 2014, I had converted both IMI and IMT but I decided to leave these colleges and have another go at CAT.
“No one is going to hand me success. I must go out & get it myself. That’s why I’m here. To dominate. To conquer. Both the world and myself.” – Unknown
Part 2 (The One Where Bad Turns To Worse)
“If two points are destined to touch, the universe will always find a way to make the connection – even when all hope seems to be lost. Certain ties cannot be broken. They define who we are and who we become. Across space, across time, among paths we cannot predict- nature will always find a way.”
The Second Attempt
I started my job on 1st July 2014, from the onset, it was very tough because it was not your typical IT job. I was working in a US based startup with ample of challenges but with learning opportunities as well.
I didn’t join any test series this time (big mistake, Mr. Overconfident). I only used to give some free mocks here and there.
I gave CAT 2014 on 22nd November 2014 it was a 170 min affair with 2 sections and unlike last year, I got off to a flying start but after 120 min I paid the price for under practice. I hadn’t trained enough and didn’t have the stamina to last for a 3 hour test and ended up being completely blank for the last 30 min, I had never felt so helpless in my life. In spite of having solved 67/100, I was hopeful for a 98+ percentile.
The result of CAT 2014 came on 27th December 2014, I was in Goa enjoying with my family. I came to know about Isha’s result earlier she had scored 99+ and then I saw my result.
Overall percentile: 96.2
I was completely and utterly heartbroken.
The time from 27th December 2014 to 15th May 2015 was the toughest of my life, Isha converted IIM Lucknow while I could again convert only IMI, IMT-G.
Throughout this time, she was extremely supportive and before going she told me that we will always stay in touch but I felt as if I didn’t deserve her. I had initially planned about proposing her but after the CAT disaster, I just didn’t care about all that.
During that time, I completely lost my confidence and self-believe, seeing that Isha suggested that I take admission in IMI over which we had a huge fight.
Looking back, I now realize that she cared about me and knew that it was very much possible that I might not even get 96 next year and that would further screw up my life.
Musicians don’t retire; they stop when there’s no more music in them but I still had some music left in me (powerful hardcore rock music).
Deep down, I knew that I still had one more CAT attempt left in me so I started again and decided that this would be my final attempt.
“Good things come to those who believe, better things come to those who are patient and the best things come to those who don’t give up.”
One Last Ride.
I started studying for CAT 2015 by giving a couple of mocks, I gave the first 3 bullseye free mocks and ended up scoring 99,97,98 in them and upon analysis, I came to know that I was now very strong in LR/VA/RC but how you might ask? I had inculcated a habit of reading for at least 3-4 hours every day whether it be during office or during the commute and that skyrocketed my reading speed and after some practice and analysis, I started comprehending the English section very well. So that breaks the myth that the English section cannot be improved or that engineers can become good only in quant. After that, the bullseye mocks became extremely tough so I left them for TIME and IMS test series.
“It’s Not Whether You Get Knocked Down, It’s Whether You Get Up.”- Vince Lombardi
Life became extremely hectic, from Monday to Friday I used to work diligently in office as I was now selected for the best client in my company. I used to study for CAT after coming back from office for usually 1-2 hours and on Saturdays and Sundays I used to give mocks.
Some Gyaan Regarding Mocks
In my opinion, Time and IMS have the best Test series among the lot.
Pros: Highest no of test takers, God in quant/LR/DI, Amazing analysis of Mocks.
Cons: Average VA/RC.
Pros: God in VA/RC, decent no of test takers almost equal to that of TIME, Ample no of mocks not only for CAT but also for SNAP,NMAT,XAT.
According to me, 20-25 mocks with proper analysis are enough for scoring 99+ in CAT but more than just giving them you should focus on in-depth analysis.
From May 2016 – November 2016 all I did was eat, sleep and study. I didn’t open Facebook or went to parties or even socialized. I even turned down a proposal from a girl because all I cared about in my life now was to break CAT like it had broken me.
Advice to future aspirants:
“You’re never as good as everyone tells you when you win, and you’re never as bad as they say when you lose.” Hence never lose your confidence if you score 60-80 in a mock nor become overconfident when you score 99+, always analyze why you score 80 or 90 that is what will matter in the end.
2 weeks before CAT, I took a leave from office and gave around 8-9 mocks, during that time I synchronized my body to be on optimal performance from 3:30-6:30 PM the time during which I was supposed to have my CAT exam.
By the end of the Mock season, I had given around 40 Mocks. 25 of them being SIMCATs (I just love the VA/RC that they make).My mock scores used to hover around 96-99.90 which is decent for a 99+ percentile in CAT.
I would also like to mention www.cat100percentile.com as this site greatly helped me with the theory of quant.
“If You Are Working On Something That You Really Care About, You Don’t Have To Be Pushed. The Vision Pulls You.”- Steve Jobs
A couple of days before CAT, I spoke to Isha as it was her birthday, she wished me best but clearly we had grown apart, we talked for about an hour regarding everything from her life at L to the financial condition of the country but I realized then and there that her going to IIML and we growing apart was probably the best thing that ever happened to me.
It had bruised my ego and that made me prepare for CAT with even more tenacity and now I was riled mad wanting to prove myself. But on the relationship front I had lost her and I was probably okay with that because I felt as if her purpose in my life was complete. Also the night before CAT, I spoke to my mom and she told me a very simple yet powerful thing that “Dreams come true” and we are with you no matter what.
“What You Lack In Talent Can Be Made Up With Desire, Hustle And Giving 110% All The Time.”- Don Zimmer
Part 3 (The One With The Final Showdown)
29th November 2015 arrives…
Sure I am, that this day we are masters of our fate, that the task which has been set before us is not above our strength; that its pangs and toils are not beyond my endurance. As long as we have faith in our cause and an unconquerable will to win, victory will not be denied us.
I woke up at 10:30 that day having taken 8-9 hours of disturbed sleep and I was scared like hell but believe me guys it’s perfectly normal to feel this way. Even athletes like Roger Federer and Michael Jordan feel butterflies in their stomach before big matches but what makes them champions is the ability to handle this pressure.’
Next, I reached the center about 45 minutes early, spoke to my friends and my brother, I had come to know that this year, the exam was quite similar to the last one, tough DI/LR with easy QA/VA/RC. I was ready to meet CAT for the 3rd and last time.
Before the exam began, I sat idle before the computer screen for around 15-20 minutes, my eyes kept looking at CAT 2015 written on the screen and I remembered my last 2 attempts and how much I had grown and changed since the time I started all this, in fact, I had been doing this for so long I could hardly believe that this was finally ending today. The last 4 years sort of flashed before my eyes in a split second.
The exam started and I went on offense, solved all 34 questions in the VA/RC section in just 55 min and stayed pretty much idle for the next 5mins.
Then came the storm of DI/LR and man that was tough but thanks to some luck and good question selection I solved 24 questions in that.
After that, I slowed down a bit and could solve only 28/34 in quant but overall with an attempt of 86/100 I was confident about my chances.
The Final Result…..(The Fairy Tale Comes True)
The result of CAT 2015 came on 8th January and it looked something like this for me.
Overall percentile: 99.50
VA/RC: 99.01 DI/LR: 99.22 QA: 97.00
I had never felt so happy in my life. All the pain, all the suffering, the anxiety, fear was worth it. It was and will always be the best moment of my life.
I updated my Whatsapp status and during the night Isha called me to congratulate me and she sounded extremely happy. We talked for about 2 hours on the phone and I promised her a grand party whenever she was back in Delhi.
I did pretty well in other entrance exams as well.
XAT: 99.01 SNAP: 99.43 IIFT: 96.xx NMAT: 98.xx
Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.
The Final Frontier (Interviews)
This is where I capitalized on all my experience of having already given 6-7 b-school interviews but because I am a GEM (General Engineer Male) with average acads, I received interview call only from FMS,IIM L,K new IIMs, MDI, NITIE, and others.
Clearing the interview stage is all about knowing yourself inside out; you should know your strengths and weaknesses and be aware of the happenings in the world. But basically, you should know your X-factor, what separates you from the herd.
“My brother has his sword, King Robert has his Warhammer and I have my mind…and a mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone if it is to keep its edge. That’s why I read so much Jon Snow.” ― Tyrion Lannister, Game of Thrones
The Interview Of My Life
I had my IIMK interview on 23rd Feb 2016 and to be honest, I felt very lucky to have been given an opportunity to realize my dream. People die everyday, moppin’ floors, washin’ dishes and you know what their last thought is? I never got my shot, but now after nearly 4 years I was going to get my first IIM interview.
I had an early morning slot and because of all the tension, I couldn’t eat anything. After I arrived at the interview venue I realized that I hadn’t brought all my payslip. Almost had a heart attack in that moment but I convinced the panel that I will show it to them later on.
I guess this is what differentiates me from what I was a few years ago, now I never lose my calm and confidence and the slight hiccup actually sort of unwinded me.
I started the GD and spoke the most in it and was the first one to be called for the interview.
There I told them about my 2 failed CAT attempts and used that in inferring that I am someone who never quits and if given the chance at IIM Kozhikode I will make the most of it. It was a 30 min interview and I had absolutely nailed it.
Coming Back To The Present.
You are what your deep, driving desire is. As your desire is, so is your will. As your will is, so is your deed. As your deed is, so is your destiny.
The moment I heard on Pagalguy that the result of IIM Kozhikode has been declared my heart went haywire. After 4 years how was it all going to end? And then I saw it.
Congratulations KARAN KAKKAR, you have been selected for the post graduate program in management at IIM Kozhikode…
Saw it again a couple of times to make sure that it was right and then felt such a wave of emotions. I almost had tears of happiness in my eyes but composed myself as I was in the office.
Since then life has been great and about the lady, well, we met after my selection and had an IIM L meets IIM K party where I finally told her how I feel and how much she means to me after which she got really emotional but couldn’t decide on an answer to give me (I told her to take her time) and since then we were talking on a daily basis. In fact, things changed a lot since I started writing this and I might just get the girl as well. For now, I am leaving this love story open-ended (there you have it, winning a girl’s heart is tougher than clearing CAT) and if something does happens I will update this post.
The Happy Ending…
If my story can motivate someone then this post would have found its purpose, when I was younger I was motivated by so many stories on this holy thread.
Sometimes right before you quit… Just hold on for a little longer because… Champions don’t always win…but they never quit to losses… success is not about winning all your battles but it’s about how long you can stay with your losses and let them turn you into a champion. One day your time will come, my friend.
Thanks to the entire pagalguy community for their constant mentorship and motivation, it wouldn’t have been possible without you guys.
Also, thanks to everyone for reading this.
About the Author:
IIM Kozhikode PGP 2016-2018
‘What we do in life echoes in eternity’