Carpe diem, CAT aspirants

The CAT dates announcement hoopla currently underway sets up the next 3-4 months of preparation. Crank up the intensity and throw everything into the preparation routine over the next few weeks. 

During your preparation, look to avoid these three pitfalls

1. Citing pressure from work (or in rare cases, college): The demands on your time from people who pay you a salary is to be expected. This is why what you get paid is called “compensation”. This “work pressure” in the last 3 months is more often a suitable excuse than anything else. You are shooting for this MBA thing because you are ambitious. Now is the time to man up and go all out. The time to wake up at 5 am and get 2 hours in, time to skip the sit-com marathon, the Salman-Khan movie, those long phone calls, those Facebook updates, and the gazillion other things that distract you. Practically everyone can find an additional 20 hours per week over a 4-month period. 

2. Not going all out because of the “fear”: The fear that if you throw everything into this and come up short, there is nothing you can tell yourself. For some reason holding on to the delusion of “unrecognized potential” seems bigger than going all out with CAT preparation. Like the father of the 9-year old who needs to tell himself “My son would have got 100 if not for those silly mistakes and distractions”, many students pull back in the last lap so that they can tell themselves later that they did not really go for this. A great many silently suffer from this fear without even realizing it. Having been that person on a few occasions, I can confidently tell you that the thrill of “unrecognized potential” rapidly vanishes and you are left with this feeling of having blown an opportunity. 

3. Lose momentum because of an unrealistic plan: If you plan to somehow extract 50 hours every week over a 20-week duration, it has unrealistic written all over it. Even though there are only 3-4 months left for the exam, you cannot suddenly become superman. Do not set targets for hitting 98th percentile by week 10, 99th percentile by week 15 and then climb up to 99.7 percentile by D-day. This percentile thing is a mugs game. There will be spells where your percentile stagnates or even goes back. You should have the confidence to not get bogged down by this and try to find some other lever to crank up. If you have started with an unrealistic plan, you are likely to slip into mistake 2 before you even realize it. 

Only certainties in life are death and taxes

There are no guarantees in this exam. It is intensely competitive, and there is an element of randomness/luck in there as well. It is difficult to prepare with intensity when the outcome does not appear to be completely in your hands. But preparing with full gusto is still better than the alternative. Like the famous scene from Rangeela, be the guy who says “To kya hua, daring to kiya”. Have a credible plan B, but do not sit on the fence. Give this thing a full-blooded go.

Best wishes for CAT. Bear one thing in mind , you can be the person who went all out, or the person who found a “compelling” reason to not do this. Be the first person.