To begin with, I have not been a reader for most of my life so far. I only started reading after I saw the results of my first attempt and seriously after the second. VA-RC section was like a nightmare for me. While attending the first few classes during the first attempt, I thought it was easy and I can do it. With this thought, I left studying for VA-RC altogether. When the results for CAT 2017 were out, I was not at all satisfied with my performance. It was disheartening. I decided to take CAT the following year and this time with more seriousness.
CAT 2018 - A Shot At Redemption
Beginning January, I started reading on a regular basis. Whenever I got time, while travelling to and from office or a break while working, I read articles, newspapers, novels. I tried to read anything and everything, I could get my hands on. I read more than 20 novels in 2018. However, the comprehension of the material I read was something I struggled with. I found myself lost in the middle of an article and had to either quit or keep reading for the sake of finishing it. In the mock series, I purchased, I hovered around 60-70 percentile in each mock. I believed that in actual CAT, my percentile would increase by 5-10 points at max, and I would end up getting around 75-80 percentile, which would still be a difficult spot since I'd not clear the cutoffs for most of the B-Schools.
Finally, I went in for CAT 2018. In each of the paragraphs, I somehow lost track of what the author was trying to say. I couldn't comprehend a single passage correctly and realized that it would be difficult to clear the cutoffs. In January, when the exam results were leaked before the expected day, I saw my result and ended up getting disappointed. Overall, I had performed well, but because of my VA-RC sections, I had zero calls. The world was falling apart for me because after a year full of reading, I ended up scoring even less than the previous year. I had nowhere to go, no one to speak to about how I felt. My friends and family were supportive and had a belief that I have the potential to do better. They tried best to keep me motivated. But I was not ready to accept that I can still do it. I thought of not taking CAT again, and pursue a different career. I was working then and had my job as a back-up. The following weeks of January went in contemplating and analyzing what went wrong and what were the corrective measures available.
After 2 full weeks of contemplation, I decided to take one more shot. In January itself, I enrolled in a weekend program of one of the premier coaching for CAT in India with a single aim of at least practicing VA-RC on a regular basis. I took subscription of 'The Indian Express' - one of the best newspapers in terms of unbiased news and vocabulary that is easy to understand and comprehend - and made it a point to read the full first and second page and the editorial section, along with a few articles that took my attention without any excuse. I kept reading novels from a variety of genres like fiction, mystery, mythology, etc. whenever I got time.
CAT 2019 - Learning From Mistakes
I started my coaching around the end of February. In the first few weeks of going to VA-RC classes, I felt no need to continue with it and was again starting to drop out of it. After missing on a few English sessions, I decided not to quit this time, and became regular again. By July, I had not taken a single sectional or topic test in VA-RC but I practised all the worksheets and participated in classroom discussions too. In August, I started to take full 3-hour mocks and again found myself hovering at a percentile of 60-65 in VA-RC section. I kept my calm and went on taking at least one mock every week. However, I failed to analyze the mock because of lack of motivation. In August, I decided to quit my job and prepare full time for 3 months and give my best in a do or die situation. I left my job in the first week of September and began taking one mock every 2 or 3 days.
After a week, I had a one to three discussions with one of the mentors of my coaching institute who is also one of the founders of that institute. He suggested using one of the analysis tools available on their platform to re-read all the passages again after completing a mock test, and trying to give answers without any time limit. I followed this technique and realized that by reading slowly without the time limit in mind, I was able to increase my comprehension. He also suggested attempting the parajumbles questions which I left earlier because of the uncertainty they have due to their TITA nature. My mentor asked me to keep 15-20 minutes at last for the verbal section and allocating 40-45 minutes for the Reading Comprehension section. Since RC had a huge chunk of 24 questions and carried a weight of 72 marks, that was a fair allocation. I used the same strategy in the mocks going forward.
During October and November, I took at least 3-4 mocks in a week and spent more than 4 hours to analyze them. To analyze the mocks, I went in reverse order, by staring with the QA section first, I saw all the correct and incorrect answers by doing a drill-down analysis to understand my strength areas. Similarly, for DI-LR, I saw the video attempts and focused more on the set selection technique. QA and DI-LR, being my strong areas, needed the least of my attention.
I spent almost 2 hours after each mock to carefully analyze the VAR-C section. I re-read each and every passage, irrespective of the fact whether I correctly answered it or not. I looked up for the meaning of any and every word for which I did not know the exact meaning. For para-summary questions I took a break of 1-2 minutes after reading each paragraph to let the meaning sink in.
For out of context and para-jumbles, I used a technique which I refer to as a written down method. This technique involved make 4 blanks on the rough sheet. Then, I wrote all the connections between 2 or more sentences which seemed too obvious. Like if on the sentences contained "He/She" and there was a name of a person in another sentence. It obviously meant the sentence containing "He/She" followed the sentence with the name. After making such connections, I tried to minimize the possibility of answers. Since in a 4-sentence para-jumbles, there were 24 possibilities in all. However, if you can build one connection among the sentences or decide on the first or last sentence, you can reduce the possibilities to as few as 4 or 6 which are not at all difficult to write. Once I have written all the 4 possibilities, I tried rejecting any order which didn't sound correct. After practising this technique for three weeks, I was able to attempt at least 2 or maybe 3 para-jumble questions correctly, which simply meant an extra score of around 6 or 9 marks. And in CAT if you are scoring a 70 percentile, an increment of 9 marks meant your percentile would go up to 80, if not more.
In the last 2 weeks before CAT, my score was on a roller-coaster and I knew I was drained. My overall percentile went up to 97 percentile and came down to as low as 70 percentile, with VA-RC percentile experiencing a similar variation. My VA-RC percentile in the last few mocks ranged from 56 percentile to 92 percentile. I left taking mocks in the last one week before CAT. I went to different places to relieve stress. I took opportunities to grab a drink whenever it was possible and never missed a chance to eat outside. At the same time, I gave around an hour every day in the last week to keep the momentum going to CAT. During this hour, I revisited bookmarked questions and read articles in general to maintain my reading habit.
CAT 2019 - The D-Day
I had slot 2 for CAT 2019. I had a sound sleep the night before, which I have realized is very important for a competitive exam. I woke up around 11 in the morning to get ready and have a light breakfast. I drank a Red Bull, because it does give you wings. I left to go to my center and was among the early ones who had reached. I did all the exam day formalities in time and was pretty relaxed. For an exam like CAT, it is important to be level-headed and remain calm, especially on the day of exam. I hummed some of my favorite songs while sitting on my desk. Three to four people sitting around me started humming with me and the vibe around my desk had changed. It felt like another usual 3 hours to be spent to a computer.
When the exam began, the first passage that came for me was on British Colonialism, supposedly one of the difficult passages in CAT 2019. I tried to read it, and after reading a passage, I realized this was something to be left, at least for now. I jumped on to the second passage. From there, my journey till the end of RC went well, and I found most of the passages easy to comprehend and found answers to almost every question with ease. This gave me confidence to go to the VA section and I started off with para-summary questions followed by out of context questions. I left 2 questions from para-summary because I was not able to gather the meaning of the passage.
Coming to the para-jumble questions, I was able to solve all the questions correctly, with 90% confidence. My written down method had proven to be fruitful. With the confidence of doing wonderfully so far and around 10 minutes left, I went on the first passage which I had left in the beginning. This time around, I was able to comprehend most part of the passage correctly and answered most of questions from that passage. I attempted roughly around 25-26 questions and had a confidence of getting almost all of them correct.
Moving to the DI-LR section, it didn't go as I planned. I was a bit disappointed. The QA section was fairly easy and also being my strength areas, I performed very well. At the end of the exam, I knew CAT 2019 went well for me, and I'd score a 97 plus percentile, if not more.
After waiting for the final results for more than a month, I saw the most beautiful 2-digit number as part of my overall percentile. I then hovered my eyes to the VA-RC sectional percentile only to realize that it carried the same 2 digits. I had scored 99.10 percentile in VA-RC. The joy that came with that number is something I'll cherish for a lifetime. My decision to take a break to prepare for CAT has proven fruitful!
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