Sometimes things come to you at moments, when you expect them the least.
I started preparing for CAT’19 in June 2018. I was a third-year computer science student at Delhi Technological University and was still a little torn between going for a job or MBA after college. I joined TIME classes at Jhandewala and my only commitment to CAT was ensuring that I attended each and every TIME class.
My attitude towards CAT and MBA changed when I faced multiple rejections in securing a summer internship at college. Interestingly, my mind figured that CAT was the easier path (This is so not true btw) and each time I returned home from a failed coding test, my resolve to crack CAT grew stronger. I started paying more attention to TIME modules.
I had always heard people say that CAT Quant is a child's play for engineers. My experience was on the contrary. I struggled with being able to solve Quant and DI-LR questions and found VA-RC to be easy. I decided to solve TIME Quant booklets back to back. In the midst of it, I realised it was taking too long, and I was going to run out of time. So, I did fifty questions of each chapter and then moved on to the next.
The major part of my preparation was mock tests. I gave 40+ mocks. Each mock was given as if it were the final exam and analysed as if the exact same questions will come in the final paper. This is where I learnt the most. If I was unable to solve questions belonging to a particular topic, I’d sit and solve another fifty questions from that topic. The aim was to improve in the next mock test.
However, the results did not grow linearly with the effort. For the first four-five months of giving regular mocks, my percentile more or less remained stagnant (in the 90 to 95 range). The real change came later on when I was able to score 97+ percentile consistently and finally 99+ percentile in the last three mocks I gave.
I was pretty confident on the day of the exam and went with a positive mind. But I was very disappointed with the results and had scored less than what I had anticipated. I had always wanted to get into some of the top B-schools and when CAT results were declared, I was sure I had lost my chance. I had scored 98.98&
However, interview calls from some of the good colleges gave me another opportunity. Owing to my decent academic background (95/95/89) and gender diversity, I received calls from IIM C, L, K, I and FMS. Interviews in itself were a very interesting experience. Preparing for them involved reading the newspaper for 2-3 hours each day, followed by revision of academic subjects and GK. I prepared for WAT from Drishti articles, they give an in-depth analysis of current events for UPSC aspirants.
I found interviews to be highly variable and unexpected. There were times when I had prepared very rigorously for academics, GK and current affairs but the interviews felt more like a fun conversation with family relatives. There were also times when I came out of the interview room crying (almost), but converted in the first list itself.
As I write this I realise that in retrospect things might look like a straight path, but they were anything but. There were many times I oscillated between coding and CAT. I interned with Expedia Group, Gurgaon in June-July’2019 and secured placement at SAP Labs in August. My elder sister got married exactly a week after CAT, and I had my college exams the day after CAT. My mom was battling cancer in 2018 and COVID-19 made interviews and admissions very unpredictable. But through it all, I had the support of my friends and my family. I had the constant guidance of my sister and brother in law who had cracked CAT a few years back.
The key takeaways from my CAT experience:
- Mocks are the key to cracking CAT: The more mocks you give and analyse, the more you’ll be able to understand the exam pattern and how to ace it.
- Completing the syllabus is a myth: There can be an infinite number of questions on each topic, and thinking that you should complete them before giving mocks is risky. Give mocks alongside your preparation and improve as you move along.
- Consistency is important.
- Don’t put your life on hold just to crack CAT: CAT is just one part of the admission process, the real deal breakers are Personal Interviews. Leaving your job/extracurriculars/college courses/daily activities and focusing solely on CAT could make it harder for you to sell yourself in the interview.
In the end, I learned that the most important thing is to believe in yourself and give your best. Sometimes we underestimate ourselves and run from the battlefield because of fear of failure. Give yourself the chance to succeed. Everybody goes through tough times and CAT is a journey that teaches you how to do it with a smile on your face.
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