“Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.” – Earl Nightingale. From a distant desire to pursue an MBA somewhere in the future, to make it to one of the top B-Schools in India, Anirban’s journey has been nothing short of unrelenting hard work, bits, and pieces of goof ups in between, being completely overwhelmed by the exam in the first attempt to calming down himself and acing CAT 2021 with a 99.83 percentile. But what has been the most remarkable feature was his unyielding belief in himself to do well, even when most of those around him had either lost faith in them or had become highly sceptical about his dream after his not-so-successful first two attempts. On top of that, Anirban has also secured a job in the Ministry of Home Affairs alongside his CAT preparation and a highly hectic IT Job. Anirban believes that good preparation can help you ace several exams and, in this write-up, he tells us about his journey.
Q) Please Share Your Score And Percentile With Our Readers.
118.41,99.83| VARC: 43.16, 98.57 | DILR: 29.45, 97.92 | QA: 45.80, 99.83
Take A Look At → Most Important QA Topics - Analyzing Past Years’ CAT Papers | Quantitative Aptitude
Q) Please Share Your Journey In Achieving 99.83%ile.
Well, to be very honest, the tryst with an MBA, knowingly or unknowingly, started with seeing the campuses of IIM Ahmedabad and Bangalore in the Bollywood movies and dreaming of standing there one day. Growing up, the desire to get into a top B-School has been spurred on by several factors, including being involved in management activities as a UG student, and understanding the importance of management and teamwork during my tenure at Tata Consultancy Services, and a distant dream of kick-starting my venture. Having a good prep group from college with a competitive mindset to outgrow and celebrate each other’s success has also spurred me on.
I have been attempting CAT since 2019, but it took me another two attempts to taste success in 2021. However, the best part was keeping my promise. In 2020, IIM Trichy had shortlisted me in their HRM program where we had to pay a waitlist fee, and my father thought of taking up the admission, and I had told him, “Eibar CAP calls nie eschi, next time baba jethader nie asbo” (This time I have brought the CAP calls, next time I’ll bring home the big guns).
Back in 2018, I enrolled in TIME’s weekend classroom program. I think that the course laid down a pretty solid foundation base that I could utilize for the next two attempts. For the 2020 attempt, I had only taken up the TIME test series, whereas, for 2021, I had also enrolled in CL along with TIME to reinforce my preparation.
Q) While preparing, what were some regular hurdles in the way and how did you overcome them?
I won’t term it a struggle, but a hectic IT job was something I had to take into account during my preparation. I remember expediting my work and logging out at 8.30 PM sharp every evening, taking half an hour break, and starting studying at 9 PM. On days when there would be more workload, I was so exhausted that sometimes felt like giving up. However, from past experiences, just for this once, I did not want to settle for anything less than what I had desired. From August to November, I did not miss a single day where I did not study after Office hours till late into the night.
Q) What is the most important aspect of preparing?
I would say properly knowing about the exam and estimating where you stand as correctly as possible is key to succeeding in CAT. You can and should not either overestimate or underestimate yourself. If you excel at Maths, be confident and back yourself. The same goes for the other two sections. With time and by attempting more mocks, you will learn flexibility. You may also experience, fluctuating mock scores. Don’t get overly happy or disappointed, trust both yourself and the process, and maintain your consistency.
Q) Talk about your personal struggles, if any.
On a personal level, since I had stayed detached from sincerely preparing for almost a year in between, I was still rusty while performing in mocks. I would toil hours to get a few concepts into my head but could not replicate them in the exam. I think my confidence took quite a few hits when all these happened. I would often second guess my sincerity and feel that I had robbed myself of the little intelligence I was born with. However, clearing the written rounds of the Government exam, reinvigorated my persistence.
Q) Tell us about your D-Day experience and how you felt about your months of preparation after the exam?
From 3 days before the final, I stopped taking as well as analyzing mocks. I would just go through my formulae handbooks and look at the rough work from my previous mocks. I would often write them down on a white piece of paper to see how fast I memorize them. And being an ardent fan of Taylor Swift, I remember myself listening to “Shake it off” and “Mean” to mitigate the anxiety and negativity around me on the night before CAT. My D-day experience was unique. I was assigned to the final slot, and my parents would be leaving for Lakshwadeep at night. So, the day was pretty hectic and a bit chaotic. I would often look at the watch and say – “Ok, the first slot has now ended, the second slot has started, etc”. I, however, felt a sense of calm that I haven’t quite experienced before. And I think this zone helped me correctly attempt the last 4 questions in QA in the last 5 minutes to boost up my percentile.
Q) Today when you look back at your journey, Is there anything you would do differently or advise the upcoming aspirants against it?Is there anything I would do differently?
Maybe yes, I will advise past me to seriously consider the second attempt and not miss out. But again, working in a corporate has helped me achieve a clearer vision of a WHY MBA? So, I will say try your best and do not skip any attempt if you want to pursue management. While getting there as a fresher provides you an opportunity to mold yourself into what you find interesting, for an individual with work ex it will catapult you higher into your preferred career stream. And yes, do not let go of your near and dear ones. You are allowed to relax in between to recharge yourself, but do not lose focus on your goal. Be the Arjuna, who told Dronacharya, that he could only see the “Bird’s EYE”.-What was your lowest point during the preparation journey?)STAGNANT MOCK SCORES. This definitely has to be the point. Well, I never managed to do three sections equally well in a mock test, and they balanced each other out, resulting in similar mock scores even if I was putting in the hard yards. So, convincing myself that I would see better scores one day was definitely quite challenging. But I am glad, that I could.
Q) Please Share Your Month-Wise Preparation Insights For Upcoming Aspirants.
The first hurdle was definitely VARC. This section plagued me both in 2019 and 2020. And I knew, that I would require a decent (95-96 %le) even if not an outstanding score to stay in the game for a 99.5+ overall. So, at first, it is necessary to inculcate a habit of reading – and I mean reading for the sake of pleasure and not by turning your VARC mode on. That will give you two superpowers, endurance, and speed. To improve my RC score, I would either take a mini sectional, a sectional or solve random questions from random websites daily and continuously figure out where I went wrong, made a silly mistake, or missed out on an easy one. A consistent effort will help you understand the inference-based questions which will help you ace the exam. And be on the alert for factual questions, since they will also give you the same marks in about 10-15 seconds each. For VA, I started off with the summary questions. With a bit of practice, you will be able to get most of them correct. For para jumbles and odd ones out, the questions seemed tricky to me, so I attempted them towards the end. In the worst-case scenario, an AKKAD BAKKAD BAMBE BO would be my go-to for the odd ones out.
For DILR, while I heard “Solve 2.5-3 sets, you will get a 99+ in the section”, that was never my go-to strategy. I rather tried solving 12-13 questions out of the 24 across all the sets and not be fixated on anyone if I could only solve two or even one in that set. I believe that reading RCs helped me improve my speed which in turn helped me to go through the sets quickly without missing out on any important information.
For QA, I trusted my ability, to be an engineer. But somehow, it was the section I could never perform up to my expectations during the mocks. Forgetting formulae, and making silly mistakes in addition to not reading the entire question properly hampered my scores a lot. GP Sir’s quants solving videos were what showed me a new direction – I tried to emulate his style of solving the questions from the answers themselves and by correctly guessing while making reasonable assumptions. This style of practice helped me save at least 5 minutes in the main exam and also enabled me to correctly mark my last 4 questions to boost my percentile. I will advise the future aspirants to back themselves where they believe they can go the extra mile, but at the same time be wise enough to quit asap when your plan A does not go as well as you intend it to be and fall back on plan B. Remember, that CAT also tests you on your quick thinking and decision-making skills. So, have a general framework of what you would do but don’t make it a hard and fast rule. You will surely score well.
Q) Please Talk About The Role Of Mock Tests While Preparing.
I enrolled for CL in March 2021 and began attempting mocks from April onwards. But I started attempting them seriously in August. I also enrolled for TIME’s AIMCATS as well. So combined overall I probably had given 30+ mocks from August to November. My mock analysis started with solving the unattempted ones. It made me realize whether I had missed out on sitters while pondering too much over another question or made a good judgment by opting to not answer. For those that I was still not able to solve, I would note them down in my handbooks. Then I would move on to the attempted ones and analyze them.
For the correct ones, I would check whether I had a faster method of solving, whereas, for the incorrect ones, I would be searching for the root cause. Of course, there were also the sitters I had messed up and I would go on cursing myself. I took up sectionals in the topics I fared too badly before attempting the next mock. I attempted at least two mocks a week, in a space of 2-3 days. I would mostly attempt one on my Sunday, that too in varying time slots as per CAT shifts, and one on the weekdays before starting office. Work From Home definitely had given me the privilege to do so. In the final 10 days, I only solved the previous year's questions.
Not once in my 30+ mocks, did I achieve a 99+ percentile. I think my highest was at 98.96 and it varied from 58 to 98 on an average. Every post-analysis, I would look at the obvious ones I missed or messed up and tell myself – “Yaar, this would have given me a 99+”. But however, towards the fag end, I stopped taking note of my percentile and just analyzed where I went wrong. I just trusted myself to do well. And well, hopefully, I don’t know why but I did not miss or mess up a single sitter in the main exam. I think a few incidents played out to my instincts also. When IIM A announced that they would try to reduce the number of questions, my mind automatically told me to consider every mock as a 66-question mock.
I was so elated when in the morning analysis I found out that there were 66 questions. I recommend using the initial 7-8 mocks to try out different strategies, find one-two that suit you, and hone them as much as possible in the next 20 ODD mocks. Yes, there may be hits and misses but trust your strategy and try to re-work it as less as possible.
Q) Is There Anything Else That You'd Like To Add?
A man would do nothing if he waited until he could do it so well that no one could find fault. – J.H. NewmanThis was one of my motivating quotes during my prep journey. Don’t wait until your syllabus is finished to start giving the mocks. Start as early as possible, try to ace the areas that you have covered till then, and try to go the extra mile. Sync your routine to the CAT time slots and attempt accordingly. Stick to your habit of studying daily, even when you feel totally exhausted – it may not be productive, but it will definitely increase your resilience last but not the least, before going to sleep, do close your eyes and imagine yourself to be standing at the Gates of your dream B-school because we all know “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”
Join InsideIIM's Telegram Group, Discord Group and WhatsApp Group and stay updated with our content!
CAT Notification is released, Now is the time you take your preparation seriously and go the extra mile. To aid CAT aspirants, we have compiled a few sectional tests as a giveaway. Take them now and see how your accuracy turns out!