I am Chaithanya Kumar Donda, a dual degree graduate from IIT Madras. I have received an admit from ISB for PGP for the Class of 2021. I want to discuss how I prepared for GMAT and CAT simultaneously, and I hope to motivate at least one person with my story not to give up when things do not go your way.
Last January, I felt terrible looking at my CAT scorecard. Even though I knew I did not do well the moment I left exam hall, but it still hurt to look at it for real. CAT 2019 was technically my 3rd attempt overall and 1st attempt with complete preparation. I gave CAT in 2017 & 2018 without any preparation to stay in touch with the game. Having scored 98.95 and 95 percentiles respectively without any preparation, I aimed to score 99+ percentile in my CAT 2019. My biggest mistake was not to let go of a set in the DILR section. I spent 35 mins solving that one set and yet, was not able to solve it. I guess I took it too personally. After digesting the results, I've decided to give CAT 2020.
My family and well-wishers were not okay with my decision. They felt I should let it go and be happy with what I have. I did not want to have any regrets about this and chose to ignore all their concerns. Upon my close friend's suggestion, I decided to give GMAT and apply for ISB as a back-up. When I made this decision, I did not know anything about ISB. Since I was comfortable with CAT prep, I decided to start GMAT preparation around March and aim to give the exam in the first week of July. I spent the initial few days gathering all necessary material for the GMAT. I started by giving a diagnostic test. It gave me an excellent understanding in terms of where I should start my preparation. I did bad with SC's (Sentence Correction) in the Verbal section. Hence, I started learning grammar from scratch using Manhattan books. I spent nearly one and a half months learning everything present in that book, practising exercises given at the end of each chapter. Then as I slowly gained confidence, I leveraged OG's (Official Guide) online questions. I started practising easy-level SC questions only and then slowly paced them to medium and challenging questions. Since I was comfortable with Quant, I did not do any preparation for it. I read the editorials of newspapers every day to familiarize myself with RCs (Reading Comprehensions). I started taking official mocks in July, and my scores were consistently around 720. I booked my slot for Aug 17th.
Unfortunately, I lost my dad to COVID on Aug 16th. It took me nearly one and a half months to resume my preparation. It was already October, and hence I decided to give the GMAT after my CAT exam. As I continued my CAT preparation, I noticed the ease with which I could navigate through RCs. I took a topic-based approach, striking topic after topic as I finished preparing for it. The deja-vu of my performance in DILR followed in my preparation as well. Every time I was giving a mock and could not solve a set in 10 mins, my mind played tricks on me, so I gave plenty of mocks to provide myself with sufficient exam time to figure that out. Finally, I figured an approach that worked for me. As soon as I enter the section, I scanned all the sets and marked those sets, which I felt were easy and quick to solve. If I did not solve that set within 10 mins, I would go to the next set no matter what. It was initially difficult to do that, to let go of an incomplete set which you believed can be solved quickly. Giving plenty of mocks made it easy for me.
After giving my CAT exam in December, I initially planned to give myself the entire December to refresh my GMAT prep and give the exam towards the end of the month. But when I gave my official mock in the first week of December and scored 720, I knew that I was in the zone and should not waste any time. I immediately booked the slot and gave the exam. I found the GMAT exam atmosphere very stress-free. I scored 730 in my GMAT exam. I then peacefully started discovering more about ISB. The more I found out about ISB, the more I fell in love with it. I didn't realize when ISB turned from a "back-up option" to "the college I want to get into."
During this entire struggle, I faced lots of challenges. I lost my dad, and my plans were shattered. It was challenging to resume preparation after the loss. I had too many things on my plate - my exam preparation, the situation at home, my office work and other formalities to take care of. The pandemic lifestyle made it even more difficult to concentrate. I never for once felt like giving up because of what my dad told me. "If you are doing something, give your 100%. Leave no stone unturned, so that when you look back, you should not get a feeling, 'Maybe if I could have done this, I would have succeeded'". I scored 97.09 percentile in CAT this time, and I have no regrets. I did everything I can, and there isn't anything I could have done better to change the outcome. Remember to give your 100%.
Chaithanya Kumar Donda,
S/O Chandra Sekhar Donda
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