While you may find hundreds of articles on what you should do and how you should prepare for CAT and subsequent interviews, here's my take on somethings you should definitely NOT DO. I learned it the hard way but I hope my story paves a way to all those who wish to outgrow their struggles to get started on their CAT journey.
I'll take you through my journey of 3 CAT attempts and 3 fundamental changes they've brought in me which I believe helped me excel at CAT and the subsequent chaos.
25th Nov 2017 -
I was assigned an examination centre outstation to where I was persuing my undergrad studies. With an end semester examination scheduled on the day following CAT, I was stuck in the dilemma of whether to drop the idea of attempting CAT or travel, give CAT, come back and study for my semester exam. I chose the latter. Yes, you read it right. This was how casually I took my CAT. All my preparation was 5 hours of reading formulae during my travel (Mistake1) and the results were no surprise. I managed to get a decent grade in my ends semester but a mere 90 percentile in CAT. And with that sort of percentile, follows Self Doubt.
LEARNING 1 - You should never give any exam without preparation. There is nothing cool in bragging that I didn't prepare still got a 90%. There's a long way to go from 90 to 99.5+ DO NOT go unprepared for CAT.
5th November 2018 -
20 days to CAT 2018. I thought I'll prepare for 20 full days and ace the CAT. Along with my new job at Barclays, I started my preparation. Being an engineer, I was in a delusion that I will be able to manage Quants which was my strength without much preparation(Mistake2) and tried to focus on VARC and the results this year were directly proportional to my efforts. I scored 95 percentile but in stark contrast to my belief, quant wasn't so manageable after all.
LEARNING 2 - Identity your weakness ahead in time but DO NOT forget to materialize your strengths into a differentiator.
24th Nov 2019 -
This time, I had it all. I had prepared for 4 full months had prepared a leave schedule from office, time-framed my mocks, booked my weekends for studies. It was all perfect until 1 month into my preparation I was diagnosed with a severe migraine outburst. This required me to follow a strict sleeping schedule and proper rest to lower the banging headaches. With office deadlines and health requirements, I fought with time, took heavy doses of medication to even sit through the 3 hours of CAT, took a 5-minute nap in DILR and it was this time I scored 99.52 to rise above whatever life threw at me and turn it all on positive results.
I was Happy and Sad at the same time. Happy - because I had scored a decent percentile despite the circumstances I was in. Sad - because I was sure I won't get calls from the top 3 institutes. I started cribbing the whole system(Mistake3). As a result of this, for the first month after the results were out, I prepared for the interviews half-heartedly. But slowly as the interviews neared, I decided to give them all I had and then converted almost all of the calls I had and I'll be joining IIM Lucknow this year.
LEARNING 3 - The world is as uncertain as it can get. So just focus on what you can control. DO NOT worry about things out of your hands, which also applies to external factors that rule which IIM is going to give you an interview call or not. Strive to make the best out of what you've got.
I would end with a brief about how my journey has been after CAT happened. I am a General Engineering Candidate with decent academic scores and near 2 years of Work Experience as a Technical Analyst with Barclays. I had calls from IIM Lucknow, IIM Indore, SPJain, MDI G, FMS, IITB, NITIE, IIFT, and all other new IIMs. I attended all the interviews which were conducted (FMS being the nemesis) and converted almost all of them. My experience in all these interviews was almost the same with the interviews revolving around my under graduation specialization, my work experience at Barclays, and a few questions around General Knowledge.
To sum up, a few major learnings that I had from my interview experience - What interviewers are looking for in any candidate is Honesty. They're trying to look for a candidate who can give them honest answers and not a sugar-coated or coaching institute framed answer. Another quality they're probably looking for is the ability to put forward your thoughts clearly and in a precise manner. In my opinion, in every interview, there are a few questions that are difficult to answer but not succumbing to those questions and finding your way out is vital when it comes to making a mark in the minds of interviewers. In my case, I asked them for some time to think about it then came up with a strategic answer which was justifiable in case they come up with any follow-up questions.
I hope this article helps some of you and my story inspires you to keep moving ahead despite the adversities. All the best folks :)
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