Q) Please Share Your Journey In Achieving The Mentioned Percentile.
The primary reason for taking up CAT in 2021 was that I wanted to provide the best financial security to my mother and sister. While I did bag a job with Deloitte as a technical consultant during college placements, I understood that it would never be enough to be able to provide my family with the best resources for excelling in their lives. Post the death of my father in 2016, when I just entered class 12, life had always been a rollercoaster for me. I slid down in mock rankings for JEE, decided to appear for it again, and performed even worse this time around.
CAT and subsequently IIM Calcutta have been my points of redemption and restoration to the level of academic excellence that my parents have always been proud of in me. Had I taken up the offer for a job from Deloitte, I would have had to sever my connection to a stable financial stream from our family and I could not possibly tell them after a couple of years to look after my family again while I tried to scale up my career using an MBA. Hence, this attempt made the most sense for me and my family because it would equip me to be able to directly take up the responsibility for my family.
I took guidance from a couple of seniors and my center director at TIME Sambalpur, Mr. Rohit Sharma. They have been incredibly patient with respect to hearing my issues and guiding me through them. I mostly prepared from the available TIME materials and video lectures. I took up mock exams from both TIME as well as IMS to gauge my performance. While TIME Sambalpur did have online classes during covid, I have always enjoyed the sheer independence of self-taught prep and stuck to the same methodology while preparing for CAT as well. I used to set targets for myself about completing the syllabus etc. by setting mock tests as milestones. I used to revise quite frequently by going through what the mock analysis suggested I take a look at. I used my notes for the same. I also kept a spreadsheet just like the one Aviral Bhatnagar suggested to keep track of my performance. Some of the biggest hurdles I faced while preparing were linked to the reopening of colleges.
When my college opened, I had no idea how to continue my preparation while being in a cluster of charged-up students. But thankfully, my friends turned out to be a lot more understanding than I thought and they helped me immensely. I also had to appear for my backlogs in the meantime and clear them out while trying to maintain a decent CGPA. My friends helped me get through all of this and then some more. They would go to great lengths to accommodate my issues and were extremely mature with respect to their dealings. I would say the most important aspect of preparation is to be able to listen to yourself and see what works for you. A lot of people suggested various courses to improve scores in VARC. But I listened to 2IIM's Rajesh Sir and stuck to just reading books. This is the single most important activity that helped me boost my VARC skills while also giving me a lot to talk about in my interviews. I read close to 40 books in the one year leading up to CAT. My personal struggles were mostly related to having spiraled down academically and socially post the death of my father back in 2016, a week after my birthday. It took a big toll on me emotionally and I was battling depression and anxiety for the next 2-2.5 years.
Nobody except my mother helped me during this phase and she became extremely strong-headed after losing her husband. She is my rock. I always look up to her about how she has managed to fight battles like these alone and been able to get her children on the right track as and when needed. I did not want pity and hence had not even informed my friends in college about having lost my father. If this article gets published, it will be a surprise for them to learn about it, apart from just a couple of closest ones. My friend Sandeep was the only one who knew about this and that happened when I was preparing for the GDPI sessions back in January. Incidentally, it was the 6th death anniversary of my father that day when it happened. While on a GDPI session we had arranged for ourselves, he acted as the panel member that day. He asked me why my academics were spiraling down and I tried to hide the aspects of my journey so far.
He understood something was amiss and called me later that night and asked me to weigh what was more important, my CAT prep and IIM C call or the pride to hide whatever was wrong in my life. I think that was an important wake-up call for me to be honest in my interviews. I understood that if Sandeep was able to figure out I was retaining information from him, the panel would easily be able to figure that out as well. The combined experience difference between my side of the panel and the other side could easily outweigh my skills to hide facts. This remains, to this day, the most important insight that I had during CAT prep, all thanks to Sandeep.
The day of CAT started off as it did with every other serious aspirant. I have slot three, while a couple of my friends had slot 1 and 2. I was in touch with them post their exams and they had not performed as well as we had hoped and that was a major factor for withering my confidence then. My mother went with me to the examination centre and waited for the entire time outside. When I started my exam, with VARC being the first section, I got a boost because it was my favourite section. I was most worried about DILR but after solving a couple of sets, that was also good. But then came quants and I knew I had underperformed in that section. I came with a hanging face and was really sad about my attempt had gone wasted. I was really sad to have broken my dreams and wasted the money of my mother that she could have used for something else. I felt like I disappointed her once again despite all my efforts this time around. I felt really sad about this.
My mother, however, was extremely confident about my results and said all will be good. How mothers do that I have no idea, but skip to the day CAT percentiles were announced, and it rang true. I was pretty confident about CAT in the months leading up to the exam. I was sure of a 99.5+ percentile owing to my performance in the mocks but was aiming for a 99.9x percentile that would aid me in getting a seat at IIM C. Well, the 99.9x did not happen, but IIM C did! One thing that I did initially and was rebuked about by a senior, Aaditya Mohapatra (IIM U), was thinking way too much about which college would take me and which would not depending on their selection criteria. While this is unavoidable during the initial few days, I would suggest the aspirants focus on the factor that is in their hands as opposed to worrying about other factors which cannot be changed.
The lowest point in my CAT preparation journey was when I performed abysmally in a mock by IMS, specifically the DILR section. But I got over that in a few days after seeing a live attempt of the same mock by Rajesh Sir from 2IIM. I saw that he scored a percentile lower than what I did and understood that your mock attempts do not provide the perfect tool for gauging your efforts and even the best have problems at times.
Q) Please Share Your Month-Wise Preparation Insights For Upcoming Aspirants.
I started preparing for CAT in the month of March 2021. In the initial few months, I focused on getting my basics right. But even with an unfinished syllabus, I appeared for mocks then as well. My first mock was from TIME and despite not having completed my initial basics, I scored my highest ever percentile in a mock, 99.94!
But that was more due to lesser participants rather than my performance. The scores did level up later to my preps after other people joined in. I think that I had enough time to prepare but that is very subjective. If you think you are not thorough enough with the basics, then you may take a couple of months extra just to make sure that your foundations are where you want them to be.
The most important month during CAT prep is November, the month of the exam. This is when you either lose your confidence or gain too much of it. So beware of both extremes and keep preparing with the right mental state.
Q) Please Share The Section-Wise Strategies Followed By You During Preparation.
VARC: This section was ruled solely by my reading fiction books. I followed Rajesh Sir's words and invested a lot of time in books. Initially, I struggled to get in touch with my inner bibliophile, but post a few weeks of adjusting, I started flying through books. This resulted in a dramatic increase in my mock percentiles. DILR: For DILR, would recommend the regular practice. 2 sets from DI and 2 sets from LR every day would work wonders.
Don't practice the previous year's CAT sets initially. Go for the ones you did not do in mocks or had a mistake in. Quants: For quants, I would say that you need to have strong basics in place. You have to be able to see the problem in your own way and this is the most important part of your quant prep. Being able to relate concepts is something that comes naturally to people who have a strong foundation in quants. So focus on your basics and revisit them regularly. I think taking sectionals was never really my cup of tea because I thought that CAT requires you to be able to perform in three sections consecutively without fatigue. Sectionals can sometimes give you the most ideal score which may not hold true when you are appearing for the entire mock on go.
But for revising topics of a particular section in say DILR or Quants, a sectional always helps. Just don't let it get to you. I read for close to an hour every day, maybe more if the story was interesting. This formed the base for my VARC prep. As for DILR, 2-2 sets from DI and LR each would take close to 40 minutes. I used to have a stopwatch app on my PC and would time my sets as I attempted them. For Quants, I used to revisit topics for about 30 minutes each day and then practice questions for another 30 minutes. This formed my regular prep day for CAT.
Q) If You Wish, You Can Talk About Any Section In Particular?
VARC is the section I would like to talk about. I believe you don't need a set of courses or practice sets for VARC. Just read. This may not seem like the best advice, but honestly, it is. VARC prep just requires you to have a strong reading habit and the scores would gradually start rising up.
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Q) Please Talk About The Role Of Mock Tests While Preparing.
Mock tests are perhaps one of the most important parts of your CAT prep, right after getting your basics in place. Mock tests help you gauge your performance while appearing for the whole exam together as opposed to sectionals which provide you with the most ideal conditions. I started taking mocks regularly from the day I started preparing for CAT. My first mock percentile was 99.94 and it provided me with a major boost. It gave me a high that I went on chasing in the subsequent mocks as well. However, the first mock was not taken by a whole lot of people and the scores did level down in the subsequent mocks, but overall, good scores always motivate you.
I took mock tests of both IMS and TIME. I also tried CL for a brief while but the questions were too tough by CAT standards for the ones I appeared and left them after a couple of sessions. I would say that TIME provided a tougher set of mocks than IMS and the level was a tad bit higher than IMS, which is more or less at CAT level. But TIME mocks were more important for me as they prepared me for the worst. CAT has always been unpredictable, and I wanted to be prepared for an eventuality where CAT was tougher than general and TIME helped me with that. That said, the UI of TIME mock analysis was way worse than IMS. Try both to see what works for you. And take two mock series to have a mix of different flavors. I took close to 40 mocks in total and always made sure to take the mocks on the last day of the window. This was because the last day is just one day before the solutions drop and the questions and your approach towards them are still fresh in the mind.
I always used to practice both the sets I solved and did not solve during a mock. I made sure I got to know every single question of the mocks and was strong in the principles underlying them when I went for the next mock. Mocks also gave me an insight into what topics I should revisit and I planned my revisions accordingly. My mock scores sometimes did demotivate me. A particular example was the DILR section of a SIMCAT that broke me down. But then I saw the live attempt of Rajesh Sir (2IIM) and he scored worse than what I had scored then. This made me realize that even the best have bad days and mocks are not always a true indicator of your efforts. I never had a very drastic change in scores except in one or two instances in between. I consistently scored north of 98 percentile in my mocks and in case it did drop, I tried to make the best analysis out of it and tried to make my scores better in the next mock.
My scores were consistently lower initially in the DILR section. This is when I browsed through multiple strategies for attempting the section and eventually found one that I could work with. I started off by going through DILR sets one after the other but then found my own ground in selecting sets I liked and leaving the sets that took more than 5 minutes to make head or tail of. I did not give up because I knew that CAT was my chance at redemption and I would do anything to fight for it. This kept me going through the prep. Also, talking to friends after a bad mock and relaxing for a bit helps take the load off.
Towards the last leg of my prep, I used to revisit older mocks to find out sets I had trouble in (DILR). For quants, I used to revise topics I was strong in. The schedule was nothing different from what I already had, i.e. the schedule that IMS and TIME used for their mocks. However, I did attempt past papers of CAT in the last few weeks, typically every other day in the last week. As for the surprises that CAT could throw up, I calmed myself thinking that it would be the same for everyone who is appearing for the exam and not just me who will have to face the surprises. And since this is a game of percentile and not score, it would uniformly affect people across the board.
Recommended Reading For You: I Couldn’t Believe My Eyes When I Saw A 100%ile Against The VARC Section, Ft. Aditya Doiphode, CAT’21 VARC 100%iler
Q) Is There Anything Else That You'd Like To Add?
When you are down, think of what motivates you the most. For me, it was the ability to provide the best opportunities for my mother and sister. I also wanted to prove to myself that I am still worthy of being considered a bright student despite facing a lot of failures. And follow your own path. This is very important in your preps. Also, be absolutely honest about yourself in your interviews because while most people know that there is a gap of experience between you and the panelists, they don't fathom how wide and deep the gap in experience is. They will see through you. So, be honest.
CAT Notification is released, Now is the time you take your preparation seriously and go the extra mile. To aid CAT aspirants, we have compiled a few sectional tests as a giveaway. Take them now and see how your accuracy turns out!
|Verbal Ability And Reading Comprehension||Data Interpretation And Logical Reasoning||Quantitative Aptitude|
|VARC Sectional Test 1||DILR Sectional Test 1||QA Sectional Test 1|
|VARC Sectional Test 2||DILR Sectional Test 2||QA Sectional Test 2|
|VARC Sectional Test 3||DILR Sectional Test 3||QA Sectional Test 3|