30th July 2020: A very important day in my life. Today finally, after so many challenges, I was welcomed (now formally) as a student at IIM Calcutta. As I looked at those "Three Magical Words"- 'WELCOME TO JOKA', a series of memories came up to my mind. It reminded me of that tough yet beautiful journey of CAT preparation. In this article, I will try to share my journey to IIM C with a focus on what strategies that I follow to reach up there. So, this article is to every non-engineer out there who has a dream to join a B-school.
A little bit about me, I am a final year student (yes, I am still in the final year, courtesy to COVID-19 :P) at Sri Guru Gobind Singh College of Commerce, Delhi University. I started my preparation in Jan 2019, and with nine months of rigorous preparation, I secured 98.88 percentile in my first and only attempt. I got calls and convert from all IIMs except A, B, and for K (I got a call but couldn't convert). THE PROBLEMS THAT I ENCOUNTERED:
CAT is not about how many questions you solve in a day or for how many hours you can study. It's more about 3Cs (as I fondly call them) - Concentration, Commitment, and Consistency. You need to stay focused enough to grasp even a small piece that you study, commit yourself entirely with a whole heart to this preparation and most importantly, don't skip days while preparing, maintain a flow while studying. Work smart enough to not have any regrets in the future. Now, as I have given a general idea of what CAT is all about, I will touch upon the problems that I faced and the solution that I found.
Problem 1: No peer group- It was indeed the most difficult challenge that I faced. Without a peer group, I was dependent on teachers for every small doubt, and it was difficult to approach them with every silly doubt that I had. As I was solving more, this problem was aggravating.
Solution: I somewhere found that various groups are formed on Facebook, PagalGuy and WhatsApp. So, I instantly joined those groups, and then I had an answer for every query by the end of the day. This helped me to solve my doubt as and when they arrive.
Problem 2: I know the answer but can't solve it during mocks (especially in Quant)- Another major area that haunted me for a long time. There were many questions which I have solved while practising, I know the method, but somehow, I cannot solve them during the exam. The problem that I finally identified was "TIME".
Solution: While practising, I focused more on understanding the question and finding the best possible method irrespective of time. Although this sounds like a good strategy, it's not, especially after July. TIME MANAGEMENT is one of the most important skills that I gradually developed by keeping time even while solving problems from books.
Problem 3: VARC- 'The Nightmare'- I have never into reading many novels, and after getting percentile in the 70s in this section, I naturally developed a nightmare for this section. Now, as per suggestions given by some experts, I read a few novels as well like Becoming; The Land of Seven Rivers; To Sir, With Love, etc. However, my score was not showing any significant growth.
Solution: After trying various possible solutions, I found out that CAT has been following a particular pattern of giving RCs and Jumble type questions. Hence, I decided to limit my focus on only these types of questions and started solving as many as I can, in addition to reading newspapers (very important) Moreover, instead of devoting extra time to VARC, I practised these as leisure while travelling mostly.
Problem 4: Repetition of mistakes- I found that there were a lot of questions that I repeatedly attempted wrong. Even after giving a lot of time to mock analyses and saving all the important questions in my laptop, I could not overcome this problem.
Solution: To solve this issue, I decided to put in extra effort and started maintaining a register, where I wrote all the questions that I did wrong and more importantly, what mistakes I did. This register was a must for me and turned out to be a game-changer as I started feeling more comfortable not only with my mistakes but also with my preparation in general. Before giving mock, every time I read that register, which not only helped me to grasp important questions quickly but even reminded me of my mistakes before I sat down to write another mock. In fact, this was the only register that I read on the day of my actual CAT exam.
Problem 5: Low score in mocks! – Here, many or rather most of you will relate to me. I started from around 80 percentile, and even in some of my last mocks, I had a percentile in the 80s. Though there were instances in between, where I was able to touch 90+percentile, most of that was because of either low participation or poor performance by others as my accuracy and number of attempts were almost constant.
Solution: Yes, like every candidate I got disheartened with every low score that I got. But I kept going and that's what is required. Ignore the score, analyze the concepts that you did wrong, and buck-up for the next mock.
Problem 6: Mental Pressure (especially in the last week before the exam)- Being a non-engineer, it was for the first time in my life that I was going to write such a prestigious exam. Mental stress was thus natural. I started having moments of self-doubts and literally cried that I am sure I can't get good marks in CAT even after so many efforts.
Solution: Your Family and friends play an important role here. Pour your heart out to them, and I can guarantee you that you will find your motivation again. I remember sharing my thoughts with my family," I think I will have to drop this year. Aur nhi hota mujhse. Merko nhi lagta mera kuch hoga". To this my sister stood up, took a paper, and wrote a note – "There is nothing in this world that Mansi can't do", and it gave me goosebumps, new energy, and motivation. I even remember talking with my friends over long phone calls, sharing my mind, and relieving myself of all the worries and tension that I had. Thus, remember you are not alone in this journey. Many people are living with the same anxiety and pressure. Get over your nightmares, jump into the process to learn, and sail out as a completely different person.
There was this one quote that motivated me a lot, "While you are wasting time, somewhere, someone else is getting smarter."
Keep Reading! All the Best.
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