My CAT And GMAT Journey

So here is how an average student, with a very ordinary profile and zero extracurriculars, secured admission in MBA. If this helps even a single aspirant then my purpose is fulfilled.

Background: 10-91.67%, 12-85.60%, Grad (E&E Engineer, Manipal University)-9.45/10(85.90%, Worked hard here, and was 2nd ranker of my batch).

Final outcome: Got 99.28 in CAT, 99.045 in XAT,99.92 in IIFT, 730 in GMAT, 460 in SSC. Secured admissions in IIM Kozhikode, IIM Shillong, IIFT Delhi, XLRI HR, MDI, new IIMs, ISB Hyderabad and also got 2 government jobs. Will be joining IIM Kozhikode.

Initial years: Like all other Indian students who were good in maths, I also prepared for JEE but couldn’t crack it. I secured admission in Manipal University. Somehow passed first semester with very average marks (due to those 2 horrible subjects, computer and graphics).

The Change: In the second semester my English teacher brought one of our seniors (he had already secured admission in ISB through their YLP route in 2011) in our class to give a lecture to students about MBA, colleges, admission process etc. That lecture arose my interest in macroeconomics, country’s economic policy, the social structure of our country, our politics. That lecture changed my goal in life. He introduced me to NSE certificates on financial markets and made me realize that to secure admission in a top MBA college, it’s necessary to have good academics.

Inside change: From that day I decided that I will work as hard as I could in the time till 5th semester to take my knowledge and GPA to such a level that even if I prepare for MBA exams in the last 2 semesters, my overall marks would remain unaffected. I studied day in and day out. I started following The Hindu, Economist and Economic Times religiously. Didn’t understand even a single word in those initial days in the business pages but that lecture of 4/3/2012 kept me going. Scored a GPA of 9.88 in the 2nd semester and topped my department. Came back home in May but due to certain personal problems couldn’t do anything in those 2 months. All that energy gained in that second semester was lost. Was back again to ground zero.

God helps: 3rd semester started in August 2012. Then something happened which gave me my energy back to do something in life. I had a crush on a girl and decided to do everything (be it topping my college or securing admission in a good MBA college) to get noticed in her eyes. Realized that since I was not interested in any extracurriculars, the only way out was studies and my knowledge. I worked day in and day out on studies, kept only 2 friends, was always present either in my hostel room or in the library reading Hindu, IE, ET, Economist or my course books. I finally secured a GPA of 9.92 in 3rd and 9.76 in 4th semester and topped my college in the 2nd year. Finally, she noticed me but I decided to keep going to be in her good books.

Came back after 4th semester, enrolled for NSE’s program, cleared 13 modules became a level 5 certified market professional but more important than these certificates was the realization of how important knowing Macroeconomics and other knowledge is for my admission in any top b-school, since I had zero extracurricular and MBA colleges; ISB is known to give a lot of weight age to these activities. It was during those 2 months that I started writing whatever viewpoints I had about any article I read anywhere. I used to first read an article, write any facts in that article and my beliefs about that issue in a copy, and believe me those 6 copies I formed since my 2nd year till the time of my final results were the sole reason for my selection in all the MBA colleges.

I kept on with my studies and writing articles during 5th and 6th semester. Didn’t talk much to that girl but kept working extremely hard to be in her good books. It was during 6th semester that videos and 1 essay had to be sent to ISB for 1st round. Managed to get through the first hurdle due to good academic record. After the 6th semester ended, I had to appear for GMAT and write 3 essays during those 2 months to be eligible for next round of ISB YLP. That is when reality struck me.

GMAT saga: Gave my first diagnostic test and scored a meagre 610/800. It made me realize I was zero in verbal (despite reading newspapers for a long time) and extremely slow in Quant. I had only one shot at GMAT and had the mammoth task of improving my score from 610. Again, with the face of that girl in mind (thinking I will have a good impression over her if I get into ISB), I started putting around 8-10 hours every day into GMAT preparation along with some non-fiction books to improve my verbal. Finished OG 14, OG 10, Quant review, Verbal Review, Manhattan set of 8 books, Kaplan GMAT 800, Powerscore CR bible and RC 99 by Aristotle along with few non-fiction books (The Goal, Breakout Nations, successful business essays by HBR). Gradually, my score improved from 610 to 640 to 650 to 670 to 690 to 700 to 720 and in the mock just before the day of the exam, I scored 740. I gave GMAT on 22/7/2014 and scored a respectable 730 (Q=50, V=39). In the AWA argument essay, my newspaper reading helped me. I read an article about Beijing Olympics nearly a year back and used it in my essay and scored 6/6 in AWA. Writing 3 essays also became easy with this mammoth verbal preparation and my knowledge gained from NSE certificates, The Hindu, Economist, and ET.

ISB saga: Results came on 1 September and I was shortlisted for interview to be held on 17/9/2014. During those 16 days, I took leave from college and only revised those 3 fat notebooks (500 pages each) which I had prepared during the past 1 year. The interview went for about 25-30 minutes and I directed my interview towards macroeconomics and financial crash. When I came out of the room after 30 minutes, I knew I had nailed the interview. Results came on 31/10/2014 and I was selected for ISB YLP program. All this while my previous good GPA (of initial 3 years) helped me maintain good overall marks even though I had performed badly in 7th sem due to preparation for ISB interview.

CAT 2014- Didn’t write CAT as was happy with ISB that time and also got a job in an analytics firm. But slowly over a period of 3 months from November to January as I researched more and more about MBA and colleges, I came to understand the inherent weakness of a 1-year MBA and cons of ISB. That is when I decided to put my heart and soul in CAT 2015.

CAT 2015- I knew that this would be my first and final attempt at CAT, as I had to graduate as early as possible from a top 10 MBA college to have an early shot at a group A central government job (That’s my final aim). So, I started preparation in February. During this time, I was doing an internship and had a lot of free time so decided to utilize it to the fullest. Got time and BYJU’s material from a friend and finished all the basic material till May. During all this time, my GMAT verbal preparation helped a lot. Started mocks from June and scored well in mocks (attended close to 70 mocks).
These are my mock test scores:

AIMCAT 1624 93.48 NA 98.8 98.52 109
AIMCAT 1623 83.82 NA 99.88 98.7 92
AIMCAT 1622 97.98 NA 99.82 99.79 20
AIMCAT 1621 89.59 NA 99.79 99.33 68
AIMCAT 1620 99.86 NA 99.37 99.91 12
AIMCAT 1619 99.63 NA 96.71 99.67 39
AIMCAT 1618 99.01 NA 99.64 99.84 25
AIMCAT 1616 93.61 NA 96.11 97.42 398
AIMCAT 1615 96.6 NA 97.54 98.64 239
AIMCAT 1614 99.21 77.37 97.79 98.14 413
AIMCAT 1613 97.4 87.49 99.87 99.42 130
AIMCAT 1612 94.06 99.08 96.8 99.11 153
AIMCAT 1611 99.47 98.83 99.55 99.87 27
AIMCAT 1610 99.45 95.6 96.72 99.4 84
AIMCAT 1609 99.3 92.47 99.89 99.76 45
AIMCAT 1607 97.23 88.49 95.44 97.46 320
AIMCAT 1606 99.9 99.6 98.88 99.9(206) In top 50
AIMCAT 1604 95.82 91.49 99.53 99.05 125
AIMCAT 1603 99.36 96.82 97.28 99.56 45
AIMCAT 1602 96.2 96.31 98.28 99.08 62
AIMCAT 1601 95 95 97 99 75
SAMCAT 1602 89/150 NA 71/150 160/300 NA
SAMCAT 1603 63/90 NA 56/90 119/180 NA
IMS PM1 92.96 NA 99.69 99 153
IMS PM2 98.13 NA 99.8 99.86 20
IMS PM6 98.71 86.92 97.92 98.57 201
IMS PM7 96.04 98.29 NA NA NA
IMS PM8 99.23 82.77 92.84 97.77 326
IMS PM9 95.17 96.43 97.67 98.34 224
IMS PM10 90.98 98.8 90.11 97.47 245
IMS PM11 98.36 72.82 75.63 91.73 NA
IMS PM13 96.63 89.67 99.64 99.06 79
IMS PM14 97.61 86.86 95.84 97.29 240
IMS PM15 97.41 97.01 96.01 99 99
IMS 102 99.XX NA 80.XX 97.52 NA
IMS 103 99.XX NA 99.XX 99.77 NA
IMS 104 97.69 99.95 99.89 99.97 NA
IMS 105 98.66 96.07 99.73 99.92 NA
IMS 106 99.59 99.98 97.43 99.93 NA
CL PM1 88.67 NA 99.65 98.64 34
CL PM2 97.18 NA 93.52 98.01 46
CL PM3 90.26 NA 99.91 99.57 12
CL PM5 96.7 NA 84.4 95.1 200
CL PM10 87.54 95.57 99.5 98.56 92
CL PM12 94.27 86.51 99.54 98.31 92
CL PM14 94.54 89.59 87.77 94.5 300
CL PM16 98 98.6 97.6 99.65 20
CL PM18 90.7 94.7 97.7 98.07 96
CL PM20 87.4 89.7 99.2 97.26 115
CL PM22 NA NA 98.42 NA NA

As is evident, in my mock scores I could perform well in verbal in most of the mocks due to my GMAT verbal preparation.

Job and before CAT: My joining came in September and the workload increased. But since I had to only give mocks, it was not a problem for me. However, DI/LR was still a nightmare. Even in the months of October, I was not able to score well in DI even after continuous efforts. I decided to just clear the cutoff in DI and maximize score in other 2 sections. First came IIFT. It went well and even DI was good. Poor performance in Quant was compensated for by an excellent one in Verbal.

CAT, XAT and God helps again: CAT – First section was English and since I had performed well in most of the mocks, I was sure of doing well here. Did to the best of my capabilities. Then came DI. Was the toughest section of CAT. But since I was already very weak in DI, I just thought to clear the cutoff here and not get baffled by the difficulty of the paper. Quant was also normal. (Most important gyaan from this experience is that I was normal and not at all excited/nervous by the fact that its CAT. Just take it as another exam and you will nail it. I know people who scored well in mocks but failed in CAT due to this nervousness/excitement/pressure). XAT came and went, I didn’t practice even a single question for DM as some literature on AWA in GMAT deals with DM. Again GMAT prep helped. CAT score came. And I believe I was the 2nd person in the country to see the score through that source code method at 4 AM in morning. I had scored 93.xx in verbal (Gyaan- Never rely only on verbal. It can ditch you anytime. I scored well in mocks but was ditched by verbal in actual exam), 90.xx in di and 99.96 in quant. I was happy with lone IIMK call. And then my XAT results came. Here quant ditched me, but I scored well in verbal and DM here (Gyaan- All these exams are very unpredictable and take a drop from job or repetition of a year at your own risk. You might perform well in one section in 1 exam and flunk that same section in another exam).


Gave IIFTD, SP, IIMS, MDI, SSC, Bank PO, XL BM, XL HR, IITD, IIMK. Causes of selection/rejection (some gyaan again):

1)IIFTD-Directed the interview towards country’s and world economy and answered everything.

2)SPJAIN-There were 2 girls in gi2. The topic was related to feminism and they stole all the limelight. Gyaan-If there are too many girls in your panel and topic is related to women/feminism then God help you. There is no other way you can get selected in such an interview with such a topic. All 3 boys in our group got rejected due to this thing.

3)IIM S- Related to GK and nailed it due to newspaper reading of 3 years.

4)MDI- A very general interview.

5)SSC- Again was based on GK and Indian constitution.

6)Bank- GK

7)XLHR- Ethics.

8)IIT D- No idea why I was rejected here.

9)XLBM- Spoke very less in GD and questions on academics led to rejection.

10)IIMK- It was the best interview I had. It was based on Indian economy, world economy, Indian Politics, World politics, RBI, NSE modules, ethics, our banks and what not. Was 30 minute long. Selection in this interview was also a result of extensive newspaper reading of 3 years.

I still have crush on that girl, she even congratulated me on Facebook yesterday. But she still doesn’t know about my feelings for her although she was the sole reason for me reading The Hindu and starting MBA preparation.

Random gyaan:

1) If possible try to do official guide for GMAT.It will improve your verbal skills a lot.

2) Join atleast 2 test series-TIME and IMS are the best. No need for coaching.

3) Never ever get disheartened by low mock scores in middle phase. Rough patch hits everyone.

4) Analysis after every mock test is the most important key to success.

5) If you are a normal person like me (GEM, no old iit tag, no international/national competition winner, no extracurriculars) newspaper reading, nse certificates and reading magazines like economist and EPW will help you nail interviews. I know few people with awesome profiles who could not clear ISB interviews but normal person like me did due to awesome GK knowledge.

6) If you have ample time you can read novels to improve English. But if you are like me (I have read only 7 books in my lifetime), again GMAT books and The Hindu can help you a lot.

7) CAT and all other exams are very unpredictable. I know people who scored 99.8ish in one year and then repeat again for A,B,C but land in 98ish. So if you are above 99 percentile and have put your best efforts and had already landed in a top 10 college, it makes very less sense to repeat again. Note that u graduating from XL/L/K/FMS/SP at the age of 24 and being among top 50 students is much better than someone graduating from C at 28. U will have 5 extra years of post MBA workex than the person 2.

9) Most Important: Most important quality that is tested in any exam is how you will perform under pressure. So treat CAT as any other exam without pressure and you will come out with flying colours.

Disclaimer: All the above points are my personal opinions. They are not to hurt anyone’s beliefs.



Khushboo Bansal

Congrats !!! 🙂
I wanted to know about this NSE Program and the 13 modules that you have mentioned. I visited NSE site but could not understand . four programs are mentioned there:
NCFM offers a comprehensive range of modules covering many different areas in finance. NCFM currently tests expertise in the modules
NCFM ModulesNSE Certified Market Professional (NCMP)Proficiency CertificateNSE’s Capital Market Aptitude Test (NCMAT)
Please explain.

Saibal Maskara

Hi Aditya,
Congrats for your achievement. I visited the link provided by you but could not get how to start and register for course certification. It will be really helpful if put some light on it.
Thanks in advance..

Aditya Sharma

U remember me.We met at IITD’s inteview.I was sitting to ur right while waiting and we were together in GD also..

Shashi Kant

bro…10th 84% 12th 68% BE 74% GEM almost 2 ye wek exp in TCS. How to tackle low academic background problem as for almost all the old IIM wil not give me a call irrespective of CAT %ile. I have to do mba from a good college. Pls give ur suggestion.

Aditya Sharma

With that score IIM A,B,K,I are out.With a percentile more than 99.8 you can secure call and convert C and L.A percentile between 99.5 to 99.8 might give u call from L,C but chances of conversion will be bleak.So better try for FMS,XLRI,JBIMS.These are also top 10 colleges which give less or no weight age to acads..

Gabbar Singh

K gives weightage to acads only during shortlisting and that too 7.5% and no weightage to acads in final selection. So K is definitely on the cards. But B,I and S are definitely out of the equation. You can get A if you are in top 50 of your grad discipline in CAT , but that requires herculine efforts. All the best.

Aditya Sharma

Would have left isb for any of old 6 iim,fms or xl.Luckily converted one. Reseached a bit and found the inherent disadvantages of 1 year mba.Placements in 1 year mba start 3 month after college and I am still not sure which field to pursue.Will have 1 year time and 1 internship in hand in a 2 year mba to decide on specialization.Secondly ISB is famous for consulting and big consulting companies have 2 requirements for shortlisting.Either u need to be from one of the old iits or prior experience in consulting or a topper of ur mba college.Even I would have studied hard isb term results would not have visible to recruiters within months.In iim K during placements recruiters would have my 1st year results with them.So if i would do well in K might end up in a good company.Also in india iim r valued more than isb.My final aim is to go for a government job in sebi or big financial institutions of the country.Since isb is not recognized by mhrd i would not be called a mba graduate if i apply for these jobs.If u look at 140 students who were admitted in ylp around 70 would leave isb for top 5 iims/xl/fms.Also the batch size of ISB is 810 which means a lot of competition at the time of placements.Plus isb is not very known for finance placements.If u r inclined to finance then isb is not the right place unless u clear cfa(which becomes extremely difficult along with 1 year course.U can do it before the course although)These are the cons of isb for a person with a average profile like me.But if ur profile is awesome studded with lots of extracurriculars,or have an old iit/nit tag which can help u to get shortlisted for consulting companies,do not wish to go for finance placements,can fight out with 810 batch size for placements and have no problem with it not being recognized by mhrd and also no problem with its 1 year course fees then go for it.People can have different views about it but this is what I could find after some research and talking to people.It is advisable that u also talk to few experienced people before taking final decision.

Anvi Gupta

Actually I’m in my second year, pursuing from SRCC. I’ve cleared the first round for ISB and need to submit the GMAT score by Aug 31 but i haven’t started studying for the same. Also i wish to write cat 16. So how do u think i should prioritise my time. Is it advisable to secure a seat in ylp and then try for cat in the 2 year time before joining ISB? Is there any fine for accepting the offer but not joining after 2 years?

Aditya Sharma

Ya at our time there was non refundable fees of 56k.Give gmat and apply for ylp,this way most of ur verbal will be finished.From september to november u can focus on quant.But again it depends how well ur profile is suited for isb.But I would suggest what my senior suggested me once,secure a seat in ylp and then try for cat as u will have 3 shots at cat before joining isb.Keep isb as backup..

Isco James

Can you tell me something more about Government jobs post-MBA. What opportunities are there in such cases and what are the eligibility requirements? and also how do you plan to approach your MBA program keeping Government jobs in your mind?

Aditya Sharma

The government jobs which I am talking about are those which will require you to have more than 2 years of post mba workex.Go through employment news and you will find many jobs at higher positions in reputed organizations like MHA,SEBI etc. for positions like finance /marketing officers and they explicitly mention in their ads that mbas must be from reputed colleges like IIMs,xlri etc. with 4-5 years post mba workex.Go through the website of these organizations and you will regularly find few posts coming every few months.Hope this helps..

Khushboo Bansal

Thanks for replying to my previous question.
I am a Chartered Accountant with work exp. of almost 1.5 years. I am planning to give CAT 16. Please advice how should I prepare all the three sections . I am a working girl so how should zi manage my time for preparing well for each section.