A Journey Of Solitude And Introspection – My CAT 2018 Prep

Now that CAT 2018 is over, with QA section leaving many people shell-shocked, MBA aspirants would be looking to focus on upcoming entrance exams and/or preparing for interviews and calls. This article is nothing about preparing for what is to come, but more about learning from what you went through during your preparation phase.

The several AIMCATs, SimCATs, CL-CATs, BullCATs and other fancy mock given over the last 10 months would mean nothing if you merely learnt about your test-taking strategy from them. In my opinion, those 3-hour sprints gave me life lessons I can not forget. The hours spent working for self-improvement while balancing work and personal commitments, added more depth to my life as an MBA aspirant.

When I decided to appear for CAT 2018, it was going to be my second attempt (CAT 2016 was not a great experience ). I did not tell anyone, beyond my 3 family members, about my plans of appearing for MBA entrances this year. The simple reason being, I wanted to spare myself of the melodrama and useless career-related conversations with self-proclaimed experts. This meant that my preparation journey was going to be slightly lonesome, as I did not share my aspirations, my trials and tribulations during the preparation, with anyone, not even my family. I had decided that I wanted to come out stronger and more self-reliant as a person when I prepare for CAT; I wanted to learn more than just the nuances of taking one of the toughest exams of the country.

The self-imposed isolation served a dual purpose – it taught me about self-reliance and working hard in silence. In today’s world, people ensure that everyone else around them knows what is going on in their lives, through social media; I am not on any social media platform barring Whatsapp (Not allowed to leave it because I am a part of a family group which sends Good Morning messages every morning). I decided to work silently, something which adheres to Chanakya’s ethics- not revealing your plans until you see them to completion. So, as it was assumed that a working individual is free on the weekends, I was tempted to meet friends or “party” with them. But, my priorities and my ultimate aim, shoved some logic into me and I had to give lame excuses for backing out from such time-taking activities for more than 10 months.

Now, one would think that will lead to loneliness and boredom and an eventual burn-out. But, trust me when I say this, there is nothing more beautiful and fulfilling than working on something you deeply desire and working alone. You will feel stronger day by day, you will realise the futility of relations which held you back or added invisible performance pressure upon you.

The kind of thoughts which might come into your mind- I wish there was someone I could talk to about my screwed-up mock, I wish there was someone I could spend time with after toiling hard with the CAT prep material, I wish there was a way I could relieve myself of the “pressure” of performing well during the D-day; all these thoughts, if given too much attention for too long, will derail you.

The simple and sure-shot method of tackling with such draining thoughts is documentation of the logical solutions to these “problems”.

1. “I wish there was someone I could talk to about my screwed-up mock” 

You have yourself. And that is all you would need during CAT prep. No mentors, no teachers, can help you achieve what you believe in, unless you have your own support. Discuss with yourself why your mock went back, introspect into your state and strategy during the exam. Only you can understand yourself fully.

2. “I wish there was someone I could spend time with after toiling hard with the CAT prep material” 

There are so many activities which one can take up after a hard day’s work – reading books, listening to music, watching sitcoms, eating tasty food, exercising a bit. Anything to take off the edge. And there is always something. Stop relying on people to be there for you when you need company. Be your own best company. That is what solitude is all about.

3. I wish there was a way I could relieve myself of the “pressure” of performing well during the D-day

As many writers on this platform have emphasized many times upon the futility of giving these exams too much importance, I would repeat what they all say. Your life is not defined merely by your percentiles in the mocks and even during the D-day. Do not let those numbers become your identity and the only measurement of your intelligence. The acceptance of this simple fact itself will unburden you and you will start enjoying your preparation days.

Be your own man/woman. Do not depend on CAT prep groups and social media forum like Pagalguy, where you would not actually find any tips related to CAT prep, but just high scores by aspirants seeking validation all the time. I have seen questions like “How do I improve my score in Verbal/DI/QA” being dodged easily while praises like “Bhai kya hi perform kiya hai tune” being heaped upon a good performer. Well, we are not to judge what someone else wants in life and what someone does, but scrolling down and looking at other people’s performances are not going to get you anywhere. And no, you do not get any long-lasting motivation from those high scores either.

All you have to do this to focus on your own preparation, be your own competition and rest will fall into place. Try knowing yourself better as a person, how you would react in adverse situations and trying times like poor mocks and how you would remain grounded and not become complacent during good times like awesome percentiles. And the perfect balance comes if you remain stoic during both the situations. When you are at peace with yourself and with the amount of control you can exercise upon the situation at hand.

Prepare for the exams like a one-man army. Become one with yourself and explore different aspects of your own personality; CAT prep teaches you how to do all of that.

Now I am at a stage where even if I get a screwed-up percentile, I would have no regrets and all and would look back at my preparation stage, without any regrets and with pride, as I have come out to be a better organized, more disciplined and a more self-reliant person. At the same time, if I get a call-worthy percentile, I would do what is needed to be done. I will do the right thing. As all should.


*Editor’s Note – Share your CAT 2018 journey. What were your learnings? How did it change you? Publish YOUR tryst with CAT’18 here.

Raahul Saxena

I am an analytics consultant by profession. The bug of marketing bit me when I was a rain-maker for my college festivals and the challenges in consulting captured my imagination at work. For leisure, I read books and listen to music, be it grunge, rock, metal, progressive rock or blues. Currently waiting to start my term at IIM Calcutta and for the new album release by Tool after 13 long years.