How to survive the CAT

This is a story from seven years ago… when CAT was still a pen and paper exam… and when the number of CAT aspirants was growing (and not degrowing) at a double digit rate. This is the story of CAT 2008… more specifically my CAT 2008.
I’ll try to make this as interesting as humanly possible. (Of course I am part Martian, so this might be more interesting than humanly possible.)
My battered Nokia woke me up with a cheap rendition of some Mozart symphony. Had milk. Did the morning business (you know- brush teeth, shave, bathe and that thing people do on a commode.) Packed / double checked the bag.
One of the parents asked me how I felt. I answered “OK” (my favorite monosyllable). In truth I felt like a crash test dummy.
And then began the hour and half long journey to damn Mayur Vihar phase 3. It looked so much like Bawana (where my college at the time – DCE – was) that I almost kissed the ground and dramatically yelled “I’m home!” There were cows and the resultant cow dung everywhere. It was amazing how cow dung had been internalized as an important element of architecture in this hellhole. It was everywhere. On walls; on the roads, on the pavements, on cows and even on some people.
And then there were the people. Damn everybody was giving the exam by the looks of it. There were people with beards and without; with kids and without; with hair and without. Masses of humanity were churned up by cars, autos, buses, all wearing some sort of bag and some sort of troubled expression. I had Avtar Singh for company which helped ‘coz the iPod wasn’t really cooling my nerves.
The amazing thing about my body is that if I get too tense, I have to pee. So I did- thrice (before CAT even started). The invigilator had just distributed the double sealed booklets before I had to go again. The invigilator just gave me a look she probably reserves for convicted/ suspected perverts and asked me to stay calm and take my seat. I couldn’t leave the hall now until the exam ended. Damn my bladder!
And thus the only thought in my head as I perused through the paper for the first ten minutes was “I gotta pee”. Of course this sensation was only made worse by the questions.
If you have seen any criminal investigation shows on the telly (only the good ones), you’ll probably know how human memory gets distorted by trauma. And ergo, I have no recollection whatsoever of what ensued in those 2.5 hours. Just vague scenes, options, questions is all I recollect.
And as the bell rang, the joy that the damn exam was over didn’t hit me. My only joy was that I was free to pee!
I ultimately mustered a 98.6 percentile with a disastrous score in DI resulting in zero IIM calls. Life didn’t end though because I got through FMS with a 99.97 and ended up spending two glorious years there.
What I learnt from my own experience of entrance exams was that whenever I entered exam halls with the feeling that I was taking on the world (as I did in CAT 2008) – that I was up against lakhs of other candidates, most of them brighter than me, – I did poorly. It was when I thought of the battle as simply me versus a set of questions on a piece of paper, it helped tremendously and the exam became an exercise in having fun. That is how I ended up clearing all my non CAT exams/ hurdles.

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