How I beat my VA weakness and scored high in CAT verbal!!

Well, not all endings are as happy as you daydream about them. It happened with me as well. But none the less, it is a success story.

It started with the fifth semester of my engineering. Like most students, I joined coaching classes for preparation. Like most engineers, strong at quant. I was weak in verbal, perhaps from my schooldays. I had scored 67/100 and 69/100 in english in my tenth and twelfth; very average marks. Reading was highly recommended. Sermons for hours on the importance of reading were showered by my verbal professor. And I started reading. I had been reading Economic Times since my fourth semester. Then I added Project Syndicate, The Economist, and Stanford’s Philosophy Encyclopedia. A tip: Never read the economist from their site. Go to some torrent site and download it there. Also, I did ‘Word Power Made Easy’ by Norman Lewis. By and large, the fifth semester was quite cool. Also, I got introduced to pagalguy, but I wasn’t active at that time.

Exams ended and started preparation in the vacation in full swing. More reading, more solving. The sixth semester was also very hectic for me. E Week at E CELL and online publicity of my college cultural festival kept me tied up for the entire February. Yet, I managed to carry on my preparation. Then college continued as usual. But now I had to focus a lot on preparing for placements as well. An advice to all fresher MBA aspirants: First get placed. You never know what might turn out for you, so better reduce your risks. Semester six exams ended.

This vacation was full of studies. Being in electronics and telecommunication engineering, one doesn’t have job opportunities in this sector. Hence, I had to study computer science subjects as well. Along with that, mock tests started. And as a lot of people might have told you, concentrate a lot on mocks. More on this later. Then, I fell sick and was hospitalized for a week. Well, this resulted in a loss of a chance for a really good company (read pay package ). But I got placed later in a nice profile. Then I went at full swing on CAT prep.

Mocks became extremely important. TIME mock tests are really good. I became wiser with every passing mock. But I could never cross 95 %ile. I used to be disappointed every time when I either made a lot of errors or scored low. But, I kept learning from my mistakes. And irony happens as well. I used to get all parajumbles correct before studying them and many wrong after studying them. Strange, isn’t it? Practice, practice, and practice became mantra. Learning from more mistakes was more important.

Then came the D Day: 21 October, 2012. I was chilled, never panicked a lot. The test started. Quant section’s first question puzzled me. But I didn’t panic. Then was a DI set whose table I couldn’t decipher. “Never mind”, I said to myself. Then I kept solving continuously. Reached the last question and solved it as well. Saw the number of attempts, it was 24. I was a bit satisfied. Then, I came back to the first question, and it clicked me. It was a no brainer question, I did a facepalm then. However I couldn’t solve the DI set and other two questions. Total attempts: 25

Then came the verbal section. Selected an RC to start with and solved all questions. Then I kept on solving questions. I never studied phrasal verbs and hence I skipped 3 questions on them. I dared to attempt the only one grammar question I had in my paper. Had a different kind of logic question but I was prepared for it as I had followed PG well. More on this later. I read another RC, but I could attempt only one question as I wasn’t sure about the other two. Total Attempts: 24

Then came the result day. I slept after being awake till 4 AM. Woke up in the morning checked the result.

QA: 99.83%ile

VA: 91.82%ile

Total: 99.48%ile

Overjoyed! Made the cut in the first attempt.

Now, all I want to say about CAT:

1. Reading helps a lot. More than for aptitude tests, it helps for GDPI. During GDPI training, I had got this feedback during the initial sessions: you have content; you need to work on presentation. You don’t see your language improving overnight but you will feel the improvement later.

2. Mocks and analyzing them is extremely important. I never scored beyond 95%ile in my mocks but I scored a 99.48 in CAT. It is more important to make your own strategy and learn from your mistakes than scoring.

3. Follow PG once the window starts. Any anomaly in the question types can be detected by people’s discussions. Very few people reported reasoning based DI sets and sequence related logic questions. I got a sequence based logic set. So, follow PG well. And if CAT takers are asked parajumbles and paragraph completion on first day, then they cannot ask paragraph summary on the last day. Following PG helps you know the question types asked in CAT.

4. Well, this is not a well researched opinion, but I would like to say that high attempts and high accuracy are needed to score in CAT. I believe all my 25 correct attempts in quant only might have fetched me a 99.82%ile in it. Once a person told me that he concentrated a lot on accuracy in his first attempt, but it didn’t work out well for him. In this next attempt he concentrated a lot on attempts, and he scored a 98+. And somehow it is logical that normalization acts on your raw score which can be increased by more attempts. I need not say that they need to be accurate.

5. Number of attempts can be increased by practice and accuracy is a function of expertise you have developed. This expertise is not related to your practice. I was naturally good at quant; hence I didn’t need that much practice. Also, concentration while solving matters a lot.

6. You need to reach the height in your preparations after which all you need to do is concentrate while solving the test. I reached that peak few days before CAT. After that NMAT: 230 or 99.7%ile. IIFT: 57.67/100 (good score) XAT: 97.63%ile CMAT: 294/400. AIR 440 (96/100 in Quant, 85/100 in verbal, 76/100 in logic) I want to mention that I scored 98.23%ile in verbal in XAT. One of the most difficult verbal papers in the history of XAT. And if you remember my average marks in English in my boards, this was a huge improvement. Moral: nothing is impossible.

7. The most important thing: CAT SUCKS. It’s highly non transparent. You don’t know how they normalize. Then there are thousands of rumors on what matters in CAT. You need to be lucky as well as hardworking at the same time. I have seen quite a lot of good people not getting good percentiles in CAT. CONCENTRATE ON OTHER ENTRANCE EXAMS. DO NOT RELY ON CAT.

As usual, I expected some old IIM calls. But I had no calls from the top six IIMs. Some wanted 80% in graduation without normalizing when I had 78%. But by and large DIVERSITY CURSE had hit me. After all I am a male, fresher, and engineer. I was interested in these four calls: XLRI, FMS, IIFT, and MDI. I wanted XLRI very badly but it was a bad PI and hence a reject. FMS was also a reject, I converted IIFT, and MDI.

Well, life’s hard. You don’t always get what you daydream. With two calls from really big colleges and rejects from both, I felt shattered. We always forget that we hear only a lot of success stories, for example, this thread, but there are many other failures as well. Not everything is smooth, and not all success stories end at IIM ABC. But it all depends on you, what you make out of the opportunities that come your way. Determination, discipline, and the correct attitude matter the most.

Joining IIFT! ??? u000b

[Note: This is a post on the user’s CAT journey that has been captured in his own words. We have not edited it in any way when publishing it as an article. Cover image is from]