I had initially started preparing for SSC CGL and took a rather unconventional pathway to land up in a B-School. Given the myriad of choices to chose amongst, I had always been confused about what to settle for and focus on. Every pathway seemed just as lucrative as the other. With SSC delaying the examination dates incessantly, I decided to give all the Indian management school entrance exams and the GRE-IELTS combo.
Having piled up the regular books for SSC preparation, I started learning quant shortcuts through YouTube videos targeting SSC aspirants. Post building a base for Quants and acquiring the momentum, I started my CAT journey. With 90 days left for the D-Day, I started specifically preparing for the CAT. First things first: Researched between all the available mock test providers and shortlisted TIME and IMS as the case usually is. I was wary of CAT and had no clue about the examination so I shied away from TIME's series because online reviews and peers suggested it being tougher and demotivating for first-timers. My first SimCAT was a disaster as I had no prior preparation specific to CAT and SSC was a different ballgame altogether. I analyzed the weak areas and found Quants and DILR to be the pain points.
GRE-IELTS Combo and CAT
GRE required no specialized preparation as the level of Quants for the GRE is covered pretty much when you are preparing for the CAT except for a few topics and question types. I bought a trial account for Magoosh and completed the 1200+ questions within a week which familiarized me with the GRE format and the question types that differed. A month later, I bought another trial account (Magoosh premium is pretty costly) and attempted the question set again. Spaced repetition is the mantra to success. It is not about mugging up the question types but revisiting the concepts and refreshing them.
The GRE verbal requires targeted practice although CAT preparation will certainly help as well. One needs to work on the repertoire of their vocabulary and I almost mugged up all the words offered within Magoosh's free mobile application which has somewhere around 1000 words. I also read the NYTimes and Guardian on and off for long term retention of vocabulary. When one reads the words being used within context, they are triggered again and tend to stay in the long-term memory. Moreover, reading international newspapers helped me for the GD-PI rounds and also increased my reading acumen helping me ace the CAT verbal session which has relatively easy RCs. A fortnight prior to the examination, I also attempted the two free mocks available from ETS when you register for the GRE.
I ended up scoring 162 in Verbal and 168 in Quants with a total of 330/340 in the GRE.
Free mock tests for IELTS were available on www.ieltsonlinetests.com and I attempted several of them a week prior to the actual exam. With some amount of writing practise beforehand and mock tests, I managed an 8.0/9.0 at the IELTS Academic.
Belling the CAT
Although I too had bought the regular reference books for the CAT, like every other aspirant, but never used them and they were a total waste of money. The only other investment which made the CAT dream possible was buying SimCATs at a discounted rate through an aspirant selling his account at PagalGuy. I got a sweet deal and saved more than 70% on the official price. I kept attempting the 3-hour mocks religiously and spent an equal amount of time, if not more, analyzing them diligently. I located the pain areas and refreshed the concepts through YouTube videos or random sites I found through Google.
I worked full-time back then and it required efficient time-management to cope up with all the preparation. I used to take between 1-2 mocks weekly, usually on weekends, and spent the remainder of the week on analyzing and strengthening weak areas. I used to read random material and news articles to brush up vocabulary and develop the reading stamina. I started off with content that interested me and then moved on to uninteresting topics because CAT could have an RC from an topic under the sun.
XAT: 98.334 | CAT: 97.85 | IIFT: 97.92 | GRE: 330/340 | IELTS: 8.0/9.0
I finally joined the PGDHRM programme at XLRI and it has been a rollercoaster ride ever since.