Tryst with CAT

My tryst with the CAT is quite different from that of others. It starts with my floundering academics in my Undergrads. 

I had waltzed through 10th with 88% in a relatively easy state board, taken up biology next (doctor dreams, you see) and after having a front-row show of bio, decided that medicine was never going to be my career. I bid biology goodbye with 73% in my 12th and got into Jain Engineering College, Bangalore. This was a deemed (rather doomed)  university. For now I was ignorant and blissful. Engineering ho!

Engineering began with full enthusiasm and I wrote the first semester exam- one backlog. Cleared it in the supplementary. Second semester came and I scraped through without no backlogs. And then began the fall from paradise. From third semester on wards, through the 8th semester, I ended up with at least one backlog from each.

I was always cautious to avoid angering any lecturer, but somehow they seemed to have developed a secret dislike of me. As of now I looked down upon the IITs and IIMs – I felt they were hyped, and I wanted to blaze a trail of my own. So I totally neglected my studies even though I had no goal to speak of. Ignorance makes us all fools.

Finally I pulled myself through 6th semester. It was about this time that I fell for a girl- and she reciprocated. For a year I was all gaga over her; her parents seemed to like me a lot, my parents weren’t too happy, but I was unconcerned. The romance took its toll – eighth semester saw me flunk two subjects. I was at the bottom of the class, probably the entire batch. I had scored about 6% lower than the second-worst performer. I was shocked, but decided to myself that I would clear everything this time. Remember, I had two backlogs from previous semesters too- four in all.

Psychotic girlfriend was begging me to do well, but also demanding more attention. My parents had reached the end of their tether. One week after the results were out, I was set to leave to Ahmedabad, to stay with my aunt and uncle. I was extremely reluctant to agree – I knew that the arrangement was going to be all work and no play. Eventually I went ahead, studied for my backlog subjects and came back armed and ready to finish engineering. Now, my aunt had dropped a few hints saying I should take up the CAT, and I realized she was right. the romance ended soon after I returned ( and I should say, thankfully); she had decided that she didn’t like me any more (apparently she didn’t approve of my atheism) and I had one less thing to worry about.

I breezed through the engineering exams and cleared everything with 56 percent  and 25 mark sheets for an 8-semester course, and meanwhile joined IMS for a crash course. I had no idea what I was doing. I learned a few shortcuts in quant, thought, “Hey, my verbal rocks!” and shrugged off verbal. I never knew what SimCATs were. Gave my first SimCAT one day and the reality was more painful than a slap on my face. 40 percentile. But my overconfidence refused to go away. I wrote another mock. Another slap. This way I wrote some 5 mocks, never breached 70 percentile.

I went to take the actual CAT, high on some medicine that was said to prevent sleepiness, came back home in a very complacent mood and decided to apply for XAT too (I wanted to get into XL). Applied, sent documents and started studying. XAT came around. The day before the exam I was questioning myself, wondering whether I should even attempt – I had no idea what I was doing, after all. I decided, I should just write it.

The center was a stone’s throw from a bar I used to frequent, so post-exam beer tempted me to write. Marked options in a bored, unhurried manner. DM, my strong area, felt as easy as drinking water. I came out thinking to myself that I would never clear this, and that CAT would see me through.

The results came out for the CAT in Jan 2014. Quant- 59.xx. Verbal- 77.xx. Overall- 71.xx. I was in depression that day.

My cousin had just scraped through GATE and got into IIT Madras, and here I was, struggling to get my life on track. Just as I was about to lose all hope, the light at the end of the tunnel appeared. A junior’s dad offered to get me a marketing job at I was all set, though I knew nothing about marketing. I walked into the interview with my knees trembling. The interview was just a casual chat where I was told to report within three days and that I would be paid 15000 per month. I accepted and danced on my way home. Things were improving.

XAT results came out. I was more shocked than anyone else looking at my marks. Quant 71.xx. Verbal 88.xx. DM 99.xx. Overall 96.56. And HRM, the one program I had applied to, was only a successful GD/PI away. I was elated.

GD/PI came. I had been an introvert all along so I never managed to speak in the GD but ended up exchanging sheepish awkward glances with the panelists sitting six feet away. PI went quite well. I was brutally honest in places, cheeky in others and embarrassed in yet others. They did mention that I never spoke in the GD, so I strongly feel I should have been a bit more aggressive there.

The interview concluded. I returned to my job. Results came out. Straight reject; I felt upset for that one day. Next day I was back at work. I gradually made a great name for myself at the job. Higher management was getting good signals about me. By April however, I knew I would have to write and clear the CAT (and/or XAT) this time for sure. My prep had gone to zero. In May, in a fit of desperation, I approached IMS again to commence classes. My quant faculty, who was the head at the Koramangala center, offered me a job instead- I was to teach verbal to GRE, Bank PO and CAT students. I was all set. I was eligible for Disabled (DA) category benefits due to my hearing issue. We had got the paperwork finished back in February and I had applied for CAT as a DA.

I began taking classes at IMS. I started off with Bank PO. It was a painful ordeal – I was very comfortable with the subject but my teaching ability was unrefined. I slowly learned, working my way up to GRE (this was how my vocabulary grew even more) and took the occasional CAT verbal class. By September I had become quite comfortable with taking classes for students at all levels of proficiency, be it CAT, GRE or Bank PO, one on one and group. Hell, I even gave out CAT ‘gyaan’ to some  on request. At the end of September my boss told me to take a sabbatical and prepare for my own exams. I agreed, he cancelled all my classes and I promptly whiled away two weeks. I had not bothered about preparation for 9 months now. My parents, panicked and stepped in again.

Ahmedabad calling.

This time I decided I would not fail. I took one SimCAT every day. Granted, take-home ones, but still. My first SimCAT after two days of real intense work threw back 90 percentile. I was elated. Riding this high, for almost a month, I worked like a dog. My percentile stayed in the 90s. And then the CAT people sent me the mail stating I would get a time extension of 1 hour. I decided not to factor it into my preparation. I even purchased Arun Sharma’s textbook and casually solved a handful of problems from it. My CAT was scheduled for November 16th, morning slot.

The exam went well, considering that I had actually prepared for just a month, except for one problem: I never got the time extension. I didn’t care since my attempts had been in the low 70s, and the exam had been a cakewalk anyway. My dad, who’d accompanied me to the center, wasn’t concerned either. My uncle, on the other hand, sternly ordered me to go back and ask for an official statement that I had missed the extension. That was when I learned what a colossal idiot I was, because DA candidates had been given a single room which I hadn’t gone to. The in-charge said he was helpless at that stage and couldn’t give us any such statement. I had written to IIM-I about this episode on Sunday. That week on Thursday, I got a response from them. They were permitting me to write the exam on the 22nd. I was elated again. I wrote the CAT once more and this time I made good use of that additional hour. I attempted ten questions more this time.

The result for CAT came out. 97 percentile. I wrote XAT with decent preparation but no enthusiasm. Result: XLRI reject. But I had calls from all IIMs except B and K, so I had that going for me. I attended the interviews.

On 16th April, I was tooling around on PG when some rumours began that Joka results would be out. Surprisingly enough, when I went to the Facebook forum, I saw a post that WIMWI had announced their results. Hands trembling, I opened up the site on my phone and checked.

I was through.

Despite what seemed to me like a mediocre interview, I was one step closer to my final goal of world- whoops. Forget you read that. I had been selected for the prestigious PGP of IIM Ahmedabad. Mandatory status updates on social networking sites followed and phone calls flowed in. 

Anyway; it has been a great journey, and it isn’t anywhere close to ending.