Despite my low score, I was able to get a decent regional college due to my decent JEE Mains score. However, that urge to do something big hadn't died inside me. It was still there, hidden somewhere. After my twelfth standard fiasco, I had decided to take charge. I started developing myself by taking part in every team that seemed interesting. I was a part of three committees in my first year itself and was working in them, along with paying proper attention to my academics when all my friends were chilling out. I was performing very well in both academics (CPI 8.52 after two years) and extracurriculars, where I had been a part of teams as a volunteer and had also held several positions of responsibility till then. This had made me inclined towards management as a career.
The year was 2016, it was a Monday morning in the 5th semester when a lecture had been cancelled and I was sitting with a friend of mine, Tanay, in the library when I came across this advertisement displaying the CAT toppers of that year. I researched and came to know that it had three sections: English, maths, and reasoning. Also, it was a gateway to an MBA degree at some of the most prestigious colleges in the country. I decided to give it a shot, started working for it religiously by solving every day.
Soon, I took the first mock CAT of my life. The score:
Verbal Ability: 24 marks, 63 Percentile
Logical Reasoning & Data Interpretation: 19 marks, 71 Percentile
Quantitative Ability: 44 marks, 84 Percentile
Overall: 87 marks, ~78 Percentile
Despite working hard for two months, I was nowhere close to what I wanted. I analysed the mock and understood my weak areas. 25 Mocks and several months later I appeared for CAT 2017. I vividly remember the day of CAT '17. I came out feeling happy about my paper, and I thought I had done well. I even demanded a gift from my parents in anticipation of a 99 percentile in CAT, how naive!
The bubble didn't take much time to burst. It was morning when I woke up, and a friend of mine called me telling me that the results are out. I sat down, fed my credentials, and immediately, tears started rolling down my eyes.
Overall 97.25 Percentile
VA: 94.80 Percentile
LRDI: 79.32 Percentile (Bye Bye New IIMs)
QA: 98.52 Percentile
NMAT: 223 Marks
SNAP: 95 Percentile
XAT: 94 Percentile
IIFT: 93 Percentile
It was over for me. I knew these scores wouldn't fetch me any college that I had dreamt of, more so because of my academics. The scores of other exams were also not good enough to be worthy of an interview call, let alone a seat. I had a few calls from tier 2 colleges, and I started preparing for them, hoping to join one of them. I thought maybe this is my destiny, and this is the limit. However, God had other plans.
NMIMS - Rejected
IMT Ghaziabad - Rejected
IMI Delhi - Rejected
KJ Somaiya - Rejected
MDI Gurgaon - Rejected
XLRI HR - Rejected
I didn't get calls from any of the prestigious IITs, IIMs, FMS, IIFT, etc.
That phase from January to March was horrible, to be honest. 5 AM walks and lying on the bed all day, became usual. I used to watch TV shows and do nothing all day. It was not because I failed to do well in these five exams - CAT, XAT, NMAT, SNAP, and IIFT; it was what this failure did to me, it deluded me into believing that I can do just this much, not more. It was the limit since I thought I had put in all I had into the prep.
CAT 2018 - It Begins Here!
It was May when I seriously started thinking of taking one more attempt. I realized that I did not objectively analyse my mocks and hence couldn't work on my weak spots as much as I should have. I just kept taking mock after mock without gaps to learn from every one of them. That's when my mentors, Vipul sir, and Tridal sir, motivated me and brought back the belief in myself. I started preparing again, focussing more on improving on the errors I had done the previous time.
I started reading articles from Aeon Essays and began solving RC99. I also incorporated reading in my routine through books. I read Sapiens, Shoe Dog, Animal Farm, Outliers, and whatever I could, all in different genres.
This helped me in not just solving RCs in under 40-45 minutes but also helped me in other sections as well. Initial mocks were a bit difficult to score well in VARC since there was a break after XAT '18, but once I began reading a lot throughout the day, RCs in mocks became very easy to solve.
This section was my Achilles heel. I was not bad at reasoning but somehow knew how to screw up this section. In my mocks and sectionals, I used to change strategies to see what works and what doesn't. I tried to do DI first, LR later. I tried the other way around. Sometimes I tried timing DI sets and LR sets separately to check my selection of sets. My habit of reading helped me in quickly gauging whether the set should be done early or later. By October, I was ready with a strategy that worked for me.
I considered myself decent in this section since the beginning. My scores in this section were stagnant for the initial mocks, but then your performance in this section only improves if you practice more and more. Test-taking strategies take a back seat here. I took around 10-12 sectional tests for Quant, and rest of the practice was all through the book Quantum CAT and previous year papers.
I had formed a routine that I followed before every mock:
1) I used to read something for 20-25 minutes to be able to concentrate
2) After reading, I solved a sectional or two sets of DILR, and it helped me in getting back to the solving phase
3) I answered 2-3 quizzes on Zetamac Arithmetic of 2 minutes each. If I scored above 60, I was set.
Adding to all this, I had made an excel sheet with all my mock scores, section-wise marks, accuracy in every section, number of attempts, etc. with graphs to see the fluctuations with a row dedicated to writing sarcastic comments on my own performance :P like "Kya bigada hai DILR, wah!", "Negative mein hi score kar deta iss mock mein? Why not?" and many more.
I took around 55 mocks of CAT alone, with nearly five each for every other exam. The results bore fruit to this hard work.
1) NMAT - 245 Marks
2) SNAP - 99.96 Percentile
3) IIFT - 98 Percentile
4) XAT - 99.32 Percentile
CAT 2018 - 99.73 Percentile
VA/DILR/QA - 99.40/95.5/99.73
All the enthusiasm throughout the Ups & Downs wouldn't have been there without having some of my best friends and co-aspirants around me like Yeshna, Rutvik, Ankur, Dheeraj, Meet, Mayank, Akshit, Aditi, Anasuya, Nidhi, and more. Thank you, guys.
What after this?
My mother's dream of seeing me in a newspaper finally came true :P
Also, I got into the Shailesh J. Mehta School of Management (SJMSOM), IIT Bombay.
Well, that's a story for another day.