It is indeed true that one cannot be defeated unless he accepts his own defeat.
My profile :
I have a profile and background similar to most CAT aspirants.
- My grades in 10/12/grads è 93.43% (ICSE) / 87.86% (ISC) / 82.5% (DGPA = 9.00)
- I completed my B.Tech in Electronics & Communication Engineering (ECE) from Institute of Engineering & Management (IEM), Kolkata in 2016.
- Post my graduation, I worked as a Programmer Analyst in Cognizant for a Europe based insurance client for 25 months.
- I also have the experience of being a private tutor for science subjects for 5 years (2012-2017) which I believe helped me a lot in improving my communication and public speaking skills.
- I love to watch TV series and web series in my leisure time. I spend quite some time watching informative videos on YouTube to keep myself updated with the current affairs which I believed has helped me during my interviews.
When and how did the idea to have “The MBA Degree” hit me?
The idea to have “The MBA Degree” hit me initially during my engineering days. CAT 2016 should have been my first eligible attempt but I did not apply for CAT that year as I felt that I was not at all prepared for it. (I was doing my private tuitions and pursuing my graduation simultaneously at that time).
I did not apply for CAT 2017 also because I decided to take up my campus placement job offer at Cognizant. Reasons for my decision – the experience of my batchmates who gave CAT 2016 – they said it becomes really difficult for a general engineer male candidate without work experience (GEMs can relate better) and also having some relevant work experience and industry exposure helps in MBA. So, I decided to leave CAT 2017 in order to gain work experience first.
I received my joining in December 2017 and till CAT 2018 whatever work experience I had (in terms of number of months) was not of much significance. So, I did not apply for CAT 2018.
The pressure of office work and adjusting to the new environment were also reasons that I could not begin or continue my preparations. (Many people might be able to relate to it).
It was finally towards the end of July 2019, when the CAT 2019 notification was released that I decided, “It’s now or never”. I had the work experience which is considered optimal (25-36 months) and was never going to get it again. This was the time I decided that I need to bell the CAT for the sake of my career progression. (I did not try to switch jobs because I wanted to shift my expertise from the technical domain to the managerial domain as I had developed a keen interest in the managerial aspects of the business during my stay at Cognizant).
How did I start with the preparation and what approach did I prefer?
I knew my limitations from the beginning. Time was the crucial resource I was lacking. I had only the weekends for my preparation. So, I followed the preparation by practice approach.
I purchased the mock tests of two institutes online (Please buy at least 2 two standard mocks so that you can get the variety and can also compare the difficulty). The total expense for the two was around Rs 7000 (I got at low prices as I think it was already too late and most mocks were already expired by then).
I gave 1 full-length mock (100 questions) each on Saturdays and Sundays (from 9 am to 12 pm) and the rest of the day I would analyse the unattempted and the incorrect questions out of the 100 questions, trying to grasp the concepts or logic required to solve them correctly. gave them online on weekends from home (to save 2-3 hours of travel time which I could invest in studying some other topic).
Please note it also depends on your basics. I felt my basics were modest and I needed to brush up few quant topics. For VARC and LRDI, I felt there was nothing new to learn. The speed and accuracy could only be improved by practice and more practice.
Which section did I feel would need the most work?
For me, the section that I was worried about the most was LRDI. I felt I should have practiced more sets. I also believed that on the D-day no matter how great you are, this section can trick you and spoil everything. However, the remedy I found was to look for the relatively easier sets and ensure decent sectionals first. You need not solve all the sets. First, try to solve at least 3 sets correctly out of the 8 sets. That was my aim for LRDI.
How did I cope up with the tough times and hurdles?
Web series, TV series, music (I prefer Hindi and Bengali music).
Also, when a mock test used to go really bad (say on Saturday or Sunday), by the time of the next mock next week, the pressure of the office work was good enough to make me forget about the bad mock test
What was my “one getaway” to rejuvenate my energy?
I had no such particular “getaway”. I had a strategy or an alternate plan. If I used to get really bored and drained all my energy in practicing any section (say Reading Comprehension), then I would switch to solving some other sections’ relatively easier topics (like quants).
Which all Exams did I give?
Only CAT 2019.
Tips for the penultimate and D-Day?
On a penultimate day, keep your confidence high. I solved the previous 2 years’ actual CAT papers and scored in the 140s (I became bored and reluctantly solved the quants section slowly). This kept my morale high for the D-Day.
On the D-Day, please reach at least 30 minutes before the stipulated deadline. It will help you ease your nerves and also prevent unwanted tensions.
Eat something light. Don’t eat heavy food and don’t go hungry. It is a long test and every second spent on any distraction may ultimately cost you. Remember to stay calm and remain cool,
After the first inning (of all the examination part) ended, how did I start with the second inning (GD-PI Part)?
The second part started after the CAT results were out in the first week of Jan 2020. I started applying to other B-schools (some application forms were really detailed and lengthy). I knew that the interviews were going to be more difficult for me than the CAT itself. I graduated nearly 3 years back and I needed a decent amount of time to brush up my grads subjects and I needed to put my best foot forward because “it’s now or never“. Keeping all these things in mind, I resigned from my job in December 2019 knowing that my last working day would fall in mid February (We had to serve 2 months of notice period).
To my surprise, my first major interview -the CAP WAT-PI was on 11th February (my last working day was on 13th February, 2020). I was not well prepared and I felt my interview went average to below average but my WAT performance was good.
After my last working day, I started my full fledged preparation for WAT GD PI. I started revising my acadmics and also kept updated myself regularly with the current affairs.
I did not join any coaching institute for WAT-GD-PI preparation.
Which all interviews did I give and my strategy to choose the final Institute from the converts I had?
The interviews that I gave were (chronologically) :
MDI Murshidabad, all The CAP IIMs, Great Lakes Institute of Management - Chennai and Gurgaon (1 year PGPM), IIT Kharagpur (MHRM), MDI Gurgaon, IIM Amritsar, NITIE Mumbai (PGDISEM), VGSoM IIT Kharagpur (excluding the ones that did not conduct interview rounds due to pandemic).
Converts (as of today) – MDI Gurgaon (PGPHRM), IIM Kashipur, IIM Visakhapatnam, IIM Amritsar (with scholarship), IIM Bodh Gaya, IIM Sirmaur, IIT Kharagpur (MHRM), IME - IIT Kanpur, DoMS IIT Roorkee, Great Lakes Institute of Management, Chennai and Gurgaon (with scholarship), MDI Murshidabad.
Waitlists – IIM Raipur, IIM udaipur, IIM Trichy, IIM Sambalpur, IIM Jammu, NITIE (PGDISEM)
Among the above converts and probable converts, I decided to choose MDI Gurgaon.
Reason being its brand name (in the league of top 10 B-schools of the country), industry recognition, very well established alumni base, distinguished faculty, complete B-school environment, advantageous location, one of the best and consistent track record of placements with some of the best profiles being offered.
Top 3 learnings I have for future MBA aspirants :
- Practise as much as you can, not just the comfortable topics but also the uncomfortable or difficult ones. Practice will improve your accuracy in VARC, your speed in LRDI and your familiarity in quants.
- Analyse your weaknesses and strengths. Work upon your weaknesses to improve them. Practising without analysing will not yield optimum results.
- You do not need to know or solve all the 100 questions. My target was to score at least 72 in VARC, 42 in LRDI and 54 in quants and a total of at least 155-160 marks (although I failed to do so ultimately☹). I ended up scoring 55 in VARC, 36 in LRDI, 39 in quants. My CAT percentile : 96.68. Sectional percentiles : VARC : 97.30, DILR : 91.48, QA : 93.91
Top 3 things that aspirants should avoid:
- Giving up in the middle- It is very common to feel discouraged and to give up your b-school journey in the middle. The fact that you may think that you have some other backup or alternative may also lead you to quit. Don’t quit.
- Avoid getting complacent and too comfortable. Always strive to improve more and more. Sky is the limit!
- Comparing your performance against others too much. Every person is different and has different starting points. A person may be one of the best performers in the mocks but may ultimately perform poorly on the D-Day. A person may perform poorly in mocks but can end up giving his/her best performance on the D-Day. Remember, its not the preparation but the implementation and execution that matters more.
Top 3 Suggestions for aspirants to answer the ultimate question “To reappear or not”?
- If you are a final year candidate with a job offer at hand, you can reappear if you are confident about scoring better next time. At least your work experience will definitely help you in gaining some points in the next year.
- If this is already your 3rd or higher eligible attempt and you already have work experience of over 3 years, I would suggest not to reappear.
- Exceptional cases can always be there. If you think you can definitely get your dream b-school next year, then I am no one to prevent you from reappearing. Go with your gut feeling.
All the best!
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