“Why do we fall, Sir? So that we can learn to pick ourselves up”.
Listening to this Batman Begins quote on the loop has always helped me get into the groove. However, I had never really fallen. Not until November 24, 2019. The D-Day for every CAT aspirant.
To give some background, I am a Chartered Accountant and I was in an amazing position at Grant Thornton. It was an amazing experience and a wonderful team. I had requested my bosses for some time off and a leaner workload in order to prepare for the exam. They graciously accepted my request, but I was also reminded about the fact that I was up for the “Manager” position and I would have to choose.
I decided to take my chances and appear for the CAT exam. With two months to the exam and almost-zero prep until then, the odds were stacked against me. The fact that I was giving up the coveted Manager position provided the required pressure.
On the run-up to CAT 2019, I had given 40+ mock exams with multiple institutes. Following was the trend -VARC 95+, LRDI 95+ and QA <85 percentile. There were mock exams when I had topped the VARC and LRDI section, but the horrendous QA score used to pull down the total score. I used to attribute this to my non-engineer background, but nothing has been further from the truth.
After weeks and months of prep, the D-day was here. The VARC section opened up and I quickly realized that the level of difficulty was much more than the previous few attempts. My speed dropped and presumably, my accuracy too dropped. There were speculations that IIM Kozhikode would set a difficult VARC paper, but I never really paid heed to these speculations. I barely scraped through the 1 hour and quickly computed a ballpark number of 95 percentile, which was way off the targeted 99 percentile in the paper.
This is when I fell. In my mind, VARC was supposed to be the necessary booster to compensate for the impending QA disaster. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. By this time, I went to the extent of thinking about my family, friends and colleagues who I will be disappointing. I had given up.
The presumed VARC failure had a serious impact on the LRDI paper. From being able to solve 5+ sets in mock exams, at the halfway mark I had just completed one set. The tricks that I had learned and the 500+ sets that I had solved somehow refused to come to my mind. I tried shrugging of all my negative thoughts and somehow managed to complete around 2.5 sets. Again, this was way off my target. Is that it? After months of hard work and all the sacrifices, is this all I get?
Then, I picked myself up. The 3rd hour begun and I did not even look at the paper. I took two minutes and just told myself two things. Firstly, I convinced myself that I have anyways flunked it and there is nothing more to lose. Secondly, the above-discussed quote came to my mind. I was Alfred and I was Batman. It was up to me to pick myself up or to stay down. I also convinced myself of my centum in the 12th CBSE exam and the fact that I am the son of a math’s teacher, there should be something hiding in my gene!
I had lost two valuable minutes talking to myself, but that did the trick. I started solving and miraculously I ended up solving almost every problem that I attempted. I finished the exam on a high, but I was still unsure about my chances. I immediately flew out to my brother’s wedding and decided to forget the happenings of the day.
After a not so long wait, the result day arrived. I heard my family shout “99” and that is all I needed to hear.
Subsequently, I received calls from various top B-schools and ended up converting IIM Lucknow, Kozhikode and many other IIMs. The interview experiences had a similar pattern to it, but that story is for another day!
P.S: I ended up scoring 99.43 percentile in VARC and 99.35 percentile in QA. During the exam, I completely forgot the fact that the CAT is a relative exam and individual performances are not the sole criterion.
P.P.S: I hope non-engineers take a cue from my experience that the background does not really matter when you are tackling QA. It is the mindset that really matters. We are not dealing with rocket science here. Similarly, I hope that engineers do not feel the same about VARC.
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