A couple of days back, I got a call from a classmate from my undergrad college. He had an exciting news - he had a shortlist from IIM Calcutta! Having gone throughthe same process exactly a year ago, I was more than happy to help. Discussing my experience with him got me reminiscing. And then, thinking. Like most of my batchmates, I am an engineer. Unlike most of my batch-mates however, I am not from an IIT or an NIT, and so, I do not have seniors and peers who could help me when I was preparing. At IIM Calcutta, we live by the motto, “We Leave No One Behind”. I hope, this article helps everyone who decides to go down the CAT route.
I started preparing for CAT towards the end of my 6th Semester. The first thing that I did was to take a mock exam. This helped me to familiarize myself with what the exam is, and helped me determine what areas I needed to focus on. The next few months were spent in a mixture of CAT prep, mocks and my minor project at college. The most important thing about mocks is to review them, to see where you went wrong, and remember not to make the same mistake again. On the eve of the exam, I did what my father advises me to do before every important event - go to bed early so that I can have a fresh mind the next day. My exam went well and then, it was a waiting game.
When I logged in to check my result, I couldn’t believe my eyes - I had scored well above the dream of 99 percentile. When the shortlists were finally announced, I was pleased. I had a call from IIM Calcutta! Within hours, I received an email from the ER cell, congratulating me. I was soon assigned a mentor, a first-year student at IIM Calcutta. He helped me understand what the admission process would be and answered all my queries.
One of his suggestions to prepare for the Written Ability Test (WAT) was to make sure that I wrote an article at least every other day, on topics that varied from current affairs to abstract topics. This helped me have a better control over my writing style and pace, and boosted my confidence that I could write on any topic that was thrown at me.
For interview prep, my focus was on making sure that I was caught up with current affairs (my GK is horrid, I barely managed to clear the GK section in the IIFT entrance exam) so that I could have a view on what was going on in the world. Secondly, I revised the mathematics I had studied in class 12, as my mentor had told me that it is something I would definitely be asked during the interview. I was fairly confident with my grasp over the topics I had studied during my engineering, and so, I could focus on the most dreaded question of all time - “Tell Me Something About Yourself”, I put quite a bit of thought into it, and ultimately decided to go with an answer that answered the question exactly. Since most of my academic details would already be available to the interviewers, my aim was to put forward those points, which while not on my CV, define who I am. I had teachers and friends take mock interviews and worked on their feedback.
While IIM Calcutta does not have Group Discussions (GDs) as part of the admission process, I had calls from institutes that do, and I practised for them. Most coaching institutes can help with this. I took a number of mock GDs. My personal opinion on GDs is that however much prep you may do for them, the most important thing that is needed is to be polite, and to respect the other person’s views.
In all this, almost two months had passed, and it was the day of the interview. On March 2, 2017, I reported at the India Habitat Centre, where the Delhi interviews were being held. (Funny thing - I was more worried about missing a mid-term which was on the same day.) First, our documents were verified, and then it was time for the WAT. Given all my practice, I was fairly confident about that. Waiting outside the interview room, I met a doctor, and an Aerospace Engineer, and realized how amazing it would be to have them as my classmates. After what seemed like forever, I was called in.
I had three interviewers, and the first question I was asked was - you guessed it - “Tell Me Something About Yourself”. We discussed the Arab Spring, Time Travel, Artificial Intelligence, Anna Karenina and Alice In Wonderland among other things! I was asked to solve some integration related questions, some questions about me, and that was it. I remember walking out of the interview with a smile- I was content with how I had done and really happy that the professors I would hopefully have in a few months were so encouraging.
10th April was the day the results were announced. I remember running all around the house, yelling, “I’m going to IIM C,” much to my brother’s amusement. Soon, I got another mail from the ER Secretaries - this time, inviting me to the city meet. PGP2s were holding a casual meeting for everyone who had converted. They introduced us to what life at IIM C, or Joka, as they fondly called it, would be like, and offered some practical advice about the life we would have for the next two years. June saw me packing my bags, and moving from home, wondering if I would be able to fit in. And as I write this today, from my room facing one of the 7 beautiful lakes on campus, I can safely say, I may have left home to come here, but at Joka, I have found my second home.
- Malvika Prasad
PGP, Batch of 2019