CAT Prep: On the Fear of Failure & Quitting Your Job for Prep

(Photo: Skylar Murphy)

The sheer number of aspirants who appear for the Common Admission Test (CAT) pushes up the competition up. This combined with the societal stigma attached with failure, the hype around an MBA degree and the misinformation attached to the need for doing an MBA means that ‘fear of failure’ drives every CAT taker’s life significantly. Here is why this fear can lead to a candidate’s downfall.

The first effect of this fear is an earlier-than-required start to CAT preparation. ‘The earlier you start, the better’ is a myth that has been propelled by the commercialisation of CAT preparation. Candidates believe that an early start gives them an edge in their CAT prep, while a late start puts them on the back-foot compared to their peers. But nothing can be farther from the truth. CAT tests high school-level concepts – something that should not take a lot of time to master in the first place. Beyond a point, boredom, mental fatigue and demotivation are bound to set in. Additionally, there is a limit to the time you can stay in the ‘pressure cooker’ mode during your preparation, after which fatigue would set in. This would prevent you from peaking at the right time – something that is essential for success in CAT.

The other misconceived notion is related to practice. Joining multiple mock test series will not give you additional practice. Any mock test series will only give you an indication of your relative performance. A difference of a few hundred test takers will not make one test series drastically better than the other. Mindless practice like this only leads to exhaustion and unnecessary stress.

How you manage your time is again something you need to decide at the outset. Whether you leave your job for your prep is entirely a personal decision. I feel it shows that you cannot handle your professional responsibilities along with what is essentially a revision of high school concepts. Quitting your job also robs you of valuable work experience, something that would have been handy at the time of admission as well as for the placements at the end of your MBA.

Start at the opportune time so that you get optimum time for preparation. It will also ensure that you peak at the right time, significantly improving your chances of success. Join any one test series, and stick to it. Focus on practice and performing well and do not succumb to peer pressure and join multiple test series – CAT is not about mind-numbing practice. Also quitting your job is a crucial, life changing professional decision – take this decision for yourself knowing well the consequences and do not ask peers to take this decision for you. But remember, that leaving your job for CAT preparation doesn’t guarantee that you will be able to clear the cut-offs. It would only make getting another job difficult in the event that you are unable to get through a b-school.

Deepak Nanwani is the co-founder of, an online adaptive solution for GMAT, MBA and UG exams. An alumnus of IIT Guwahati and IIM Bangalore, he is a master strategist for all competitive exams. The views expressed here are his own.