All I Wanted to Speak About CAT.
This, in all certainty is my last post on PagalGuy. I will no longer be an active user as I used to be. I might be here on and off, but I would try my level best to reply messages and help people to the best of my availability.
Please note that I am not tagging anybody in the post. There are just thousands of people I am thankful to, ranging from folks on PG/FB to people who gave me lift while going to office when I could not afford a vehicle myself. The list is never ending and the story touches so many people that most of them are not even aware if I am ever gonna write/publish it.
The post is a story of 'ज़िद' (stubbornness), a CAT failure story, and not a CAT success story.
Bare Beginnings in Dehradun :
The journey started in October 2013. Mid semester exams of Sem-3 were over and me and Anshul were looking for coaching centers. Anshul wanted to prepare for GATE. I wanted to prepare for CAT. Why? Coz why not? My UG college had a decent MBA program and quite a few seniors were inspirational and helpful enough to share the nuances of preparation for CAT. I located the nearest TIME coaching near college (12 kms) and enrolled the same day. Anshul and I were good motivation for each other and often discussed strategies and prep tips.
The first mock started soon in Feb 2014. Got 87 marks overall with 50+ in QA. This was the realization that I have to work hard for 2 sections. I had 18 months left to take CAT and hence took plenty of mocks. In few mocks, I started touching the magical mark of 99%le and then 98+ was a usual phenomenon.
I was solving 30+ questions everyday on various CAT preparation groups on facebook and my friend list grew from a mere 634 in third semester to 3000+ by the end of final year. I was keen on working very hard for QA, not so much for DILR but really put a lot of efforts in VARC.
My first CAT attempt was scheduled in Nov 2015. I got a nice software job in September and my preparation stopped for 15 days. These days were spent in celebrations and thinking about life in Bangalore. And then reality hit me. Next mock-test was like a tight slap, I got 95%le. Way lower than what I would want 50 days before exam. I pulled my socks up and started preparing hard. By 26 Nov, I was consistently getting 98.5+ in mocks. And then the bomb blasted. I came out of center at 5:30 pm, cursing my luck. DILR was too difficult. QA was okay. VARC - you never know.
The next few days were spent in preparing for XAT and IIFT with no motivation level after the CAT-disaster.
And then results were out.
CAT 15 OA : 98.27
VARC : 85.83 (No idea what happened)
QA : 98.21 (Well Okay)
DILR : 98.80 (Wow)
I had made up my mind this moment that I am retaking the exam.
IIFT and XAT scores were not upto the mark. One section went bad in both exams. I realised I should have taken one more test series. I was, till now, TIME classroom student and used only AIMCATs.
I got calls only from IIM Shillong and CAP. Appeared and then cleared a few of them. I remember Shillong or Ranchi WL cleared while I was signing my employment form in office in July 2016, in Bangalore. I received the phone call, thanked them for their time, signed my employment form and submitted it.
This is when I came to know about www.pagalguy.com and created an account for myself. And this was the beginning.
Namma Bengaluru :
July 2016 brought a mixed set of emotions. Joined my job, made a lot of new friends, settled in a new city with language barriers on my own. But the entire setup was not exciting enough to stop me from preparing for exams again. I was active on pagalguy and solved lots of questions in QA. I was very regular with mock tests and discussions on pagalguy. 99+ in mocks was the norm and a rare 99.9 made me feel better during my lows.
During this time, I realised I am not made for a software job. The work was exciting and challenging, but not to my liking. Initially, I decided to give more efforts at work, but the motivation did not come naturally. The salary did not look impressive anymore.
Exam was scheduled in Dec 2016 and I took it this time with all my heart. I also took IIFT and XAT. This time, I was confident of improving in all sections in all exams for sure.
CAT16 OA : 99.47
VARC : 94.79
QA : 99.11
DILR : 99.44
IIFT16 : 99.58
I received calls from IITB, IIMK, MDI, FMS, IIM Shillong,SPJIMR (fin) and CAP.
IIFT interview went like a breeze, I was sure of converting it. I was humiliated a lot in IIM K interview by the profs and wanted to leave the interview midway, but then the prof realised that the kid was tortured too much and then made me laugh with a couple of light hearted stupid questions. In between, he asked me will you come to IIMK if selected? I looked at my shoes and kept mum for 30 seconds. He repeated the question and then I smiled.
He told me that I'm not coming to IIMK for sure. If there is anything I wish to ask, I could. We discussed about dream college (IIMB) and what it takes to reach there. How it is different from IIMK and how should I use the next 1 year. SPJIMR interviewers were impressed with me but told me to choose specializations carefully next time in form. I got rejected from here too. In between all these interviews, I went home for Holi. I got in touch with an old classmate from my primary school and decided to catch up with her. I was waiting in a cafe in my hometown when she came in walking through that front door, and this is when I realized, she is the one.
I skipped IITB interview and decided to prepare hard for MDI. MDI also went like a breeze. Then came the biggest interview of the season : FMS.
I attended FMS with 0 hopes since 99.47 is not good a score for FMS. I got 5/5 marks in Extempore and 7/10 in interview (some minor hiccups in interview). The last convert had 99.48 and I had 99.47.
This was the time results started coming in. I was rejected by IIMK. I converted IIFT Delhi, got WLed at MDI (which converted later), IIM Shillong and other new IIMs were also happy with me. FMS was obviously a reject. But I was not happy with myself. I wanted to make big. This was the time I was suffering in my job and was deciding to leave it. I was recently assigned a new team, which was slightly better but it was under the same management/leadership.
With great advice from friends and family, I decided to take CAT once more. Anshul left me to live with another friend and I shifted to new a flat with another CAT aspirant Subhendu in May 2017.
My first encounter with fear, monotony and depression :
This is the time when I decided to give it all and started preparing very hard. Pagalguy was always open on my laptop 24*7 in office, at work, even in washroom on android app. I was furious after getting FMS and IIM K rejects. IIMB was the only target. Nothing else mattered.
The anger made me better with QA and DILR questions. I focussed hard on VARC too. During this time, I made plenty of friends on PG like Nikhil Kothari (went to IIMB), Debarnob Sarkar (went to IIMA) and Shubham Mandal (went to IIMC). At prep-peak in September, I was solving 95%+ questions posted on groups in pagalguy. I was neglecting work, getting negative feedback from office folks but IIMB was the only thing which mattered.
On my way to office, I used to counsel/mentor people from PG/FB and made plenty of friends. My phone was always busy on the commute talking to such fellow aspirants. Facebook inbox was answered during lunch breaks and there were so many tabs open on my laptop at all times.
And then came the results.
CAT 17 : OA : 99.75
VARC : 98.67
QA : 98.95
DILR : 99.36
IIFT17 : 99.84 (missed GK sectional cutoff)
XAT : screwed up some section. Did not get either of XLRI calls.
I got calls from IIMK, IIMC, FMS, MDI, IIMShillong, SPJIMR and CAP.
IIMK was the interview which I was sure of converting. SP again told me to choose specializations (I had again chosen fin, why? I am a jerk.) MDI was cool too. The big interview , IIMC, was on 12-Mar-2018. They literally grilled me a bit too much and I lost my calm. And then, I was sure of rejection.
Meanwhile my brother was in town for 4 days and I took him to Pondicherry. While he was sleeping, I stepped out of the hotel at 5 am in search of some nice tea. I decided to take my rented vehicle towards the beach and sat there alone for some time reminiscing what is missing in life. I was sitting alone and kept thinking what I have achieved in life. I could not think of any significant achievement. I came back to my room and slept a bit more.
Shortly after the IIMC interview, I was called to a bus stop in Bangalore and was told that she does not see me a future with me and I must move on in life. I was confident that she is making a right choice, even if it ends up breaking me from inside instead. I had no future. To hell, I had no present as well, Only past. NOTHING ELSE.
I was on a trip with Subhendu when IIMC results came in. I was surely rejected. I had converted IIMK, MDI and others. SP was reject yet again. I attended FMS half-heartedly and then got rejected again. I was not at my performance peak. I felt rejected. I wanted to cry. I wanted to die. Office was too hectic now and life was moving at a very slow pace. It was during this time, I made friends like summi_arora and a lot many others. In all mocks, I used to feel like I am the oldest one involved in all this drama. People as young as 20 were taking mock tests while I was 24, clueless in life.
I decided to prepare for job interviews and continue in tech with improved salary. Nikhil was kind enough to refer me to his organization but the interview did not go well. Sitting in the cafeteria, sipping cold coffee at 12:30 pm on 11-May-2018, Nikhil told me to either suck it up and join IIMK or continue preparation one more time.I thanked him for his time, came home and cried non-stop for many hours.
During this time, seniors from a lot of B-schools called me and told me to join IIMK. A senior from FMS (whom I love and respect too much) even compared so many scenarios to me, and IIMK really made sense. But then I told him, there is logic and then there is 'zid'. He said ATB and told me to think wisely and disconnected the phone call. Every wise soul in the world told me that I am not from IIT, my acads suck and CAT now a days is a shot in the dark. But, I guess, between love and common sense, it is love which often takes the from seat.
At some point of time, I had 50+ messages from seniors from different B-schools making me re-think about my decision to take the dreaded exam once more. My parents, by this time, used to tell me ‘Sun lo kabhi hamari’.
TIME Dehradun Director,my teacher from long back told me that I am in IIM C's hangover and I should move on: the earlier, the better.
On 28 April 2018, I was called in by management and was grilled a bit too much about my declining performance in the last 30 days. I came out disappointed and wanted to quit then and there. It is then I posted something really stupid wallpaper on pagalguy. It said, ‘If it’s still on your mind, it is worth the risk. Every day is a second chance.’ I captained the picture with ‘IIMB it should be. CAT18 it is.’
In May 2018, I went to meet the CTO of the start-up where I was an intern after 3rd year of engineering, in hope of getting some referrals for tech jobs and while discussing my future career trajectory, he told me that one of his board-members is an IITM-IIMB alumnus. He called the guy and booked me an appointment the next morning. I reached there at sharp 9, ended up talking to the IIMB alumnus (early 1990s batch) for 2 hours. In between he told me so many stories and how he thinks that if I could get 99+ twice, I could get it one more time. I remember asking him if he ever felt that IIMABC are any less than the ivy league? He told me that while he was working in a lot of startups in Silicon Valley and in Bangalore, he could see the brand was respected by all, he never ever felt that he could have done better and IIMB opened him more gates than he could even think or dream of. The chat was more about him reminiscing his days and less about motivation. I think he was humble enough to tell me the positives and negatives of IIM ABC and IIMB in particular.
On parting note, he told me that it is the peers and faculty members he misses the most, and not the courses per se. But that was his personal opinion as he was among the bottom 20% of the batch and was never interested in studies (as per him). I smiled and bid him goodbye, determined to reach there next time.
Meanwhile, Subhendu joined MDI-PGPM and decided to leave the city. I was on my own to find a new flat and live with new like-minded people. But this time, decided to stay with someone who does not share similar passion. I found Ronak and Avi in June 2018 and shifted to their house.
I started slogging more in office, worked super-hard to get a well-deserved promotion and kept solving 100s and 1000s of questions/doubts on FB and pagalguy. I was going to work at as early as 7 am, and coming back at 7 pm, rest for some time, take a mock test, analyse it and go to office the next day at 7 am again. I started disconnecting from phone calls/ FB/ pagalguy now. I stopped picking phone calls from anyone and talked just to my mom and office seniors. Mrinal (IIMK) suggested me to take a long break and go for some trek. I booked the tickets immediately and went to Valley of Flowers and Hemkund Sahib trek in July 2018. It was a very peaceful break for 10 days and I made plenty of friends during this time. The best part of the trek was ‘No Airtel network’ in the trekking zone’. I lived peacefully for some time, not worrying about CAT, office and family.
And then the promotion emails in office started pouring in. All my friends from college got it, I did not. I kept waiting and when it was too late, I decided to chuck it and shift 100% of the attention towards not only the exam, but for interview preparation. I resumed my normal office hours. I used to think what I'll write for my IIMB SOP. Daydreaming, right?
In July-August, Nikhil offered me a visit to IIMB campus and I declined his offer, told him that I'd only come when you'd (IIMB) send me a formal communication. He laughed but I know deep inside, he understood what I wanted. I remember avoiding Bannerghatta Road altogether for almost 2.5 years, I once ended up not joining my office folks at some resort, since the only road leading to resort would have made me see IIMB on the way. Crazy right? Not to someone in love.
Meanwhile, Avi became a partner in crime and started taking mock tests for CAT religiously. We used to take tests together at night and then eat maggi before sleeping at 3-4 am. It was during this time, I gained more than 10+ kgs and decided not to worry about it.
And then the exam season began. My CAT center was 53 kms away from my house. Sumair was helpful enough to take me to the center on scooty, and bring me back to my den, alive. I was confident this time to bell the CAT. On my way back, I decided to drop Sumair to his home first and we were sipping tea at a tapri near his home. He is someone who knows nothing about CAT but knows how passionate I was about some college on Bannerghatta Road. He looked into my eye and asked me if I am going to get in 'the' college? I nodded, ate something and left for my place. By the time I reached home, I had 40+ missed calls from friends (now seniors) asking me how are things now?
IIFT was taken in very light mood when I caught up with a few classmates from engineering at exam center. But, I decided to buck up for XL soon after I was done with IIFT. This time, CAT answer key was released and people were calculating their marks for CAT. I did not. Nor did my friends. Why should I? My logic was to check directly in the result PDF and not spoil my mood and weekdays. Avi and I continued preparing a lot from all Decision Making sources for XAT.
The last leg :
And then we heard the leak of CAT results on Jan 01, I decided to not check and wait for the formal declaration which soon came on 05 Jan 2019, 1 day before XAT.
CAT 18 : OA : 99.88
VARC : 97.75
QA : 99.83
DILR : 99.59
IIFT 18 : 99.934
XAT 19 : 99.08 but 22%le in GK (Got only BM call)
And then calls started pouring in. IIMC was first, IIMK, IIML, IIMA and IIML soon followed. But the only call I was interested in, was not yet out. I was coming out of my office on 09 Jan when outlook in phone made it vibrate. I decided to check it, saw the subject of the email and started running towards my home,got almost hit by 2 different cars to finally pen down the most dreaded SOP.
The SOP took over every other task I had in office and life. Getting references, asking parents to courier a signed anti-ragging document, this form demanded so many things. I submitted the form a day earlier and started preparing for interviews. IIFT was the first interview and it went awesome. Next was IIMB. This meant a lot. It was very early in the interview season, hence, I was not fully prepared. I remember my hands shaking on 12 Feb 2019 in IIMB campus while signing the attendance sheet for the interview. The interview was very challenging and the interviewers almost killed me with tough, open-ended questions, seeking my opinion on what is wrong with Indian software industry. But the day ended on a high note with a special tour of the campus by friends there. I came back and CAP,SP,IIMK interviews went well too. The next big thing was IIMA, and they had a very structured interview process covering acads/hobbies/work ex, like everything under the sun.I was very confident about this interview and moved onto IIM Shillong where they rubbed salt in my wounds by asking coding questions. XLRI-BM was an interview which grilled me too much, I was confident of a reject. MDI was again a bad experience after IIMS and XL since I did not know the meaning of WAT/GD topic but wrote/spoke anyways. Then MDI interviewers asked me if I had ABC calls? I said yes and was escorted to the door immediately. Midway, SPJIMR results were released and I had a small WL number. I thanked my stars that I would not have to pay 8 lakhs immediately as I had to run for loan in between the other interviews.
Next was IIMC. The interview which I had the most realistic chance. I aced the WAT and interview felt tailor-made for me, and gave very consolidated answers. I went home and poured myself a drink (Maza of course!!) and slept all afternoon since I thought Jokan interview went well after IIMS-XL-MDI disaster. Last interview of the season was IIML on 27 march, which went bizzare too as I had no idea about WAT topic. Interviewers focussed on my hair and tie-color and grilled me about hindi-literature. I gave up in between the interview and wanted to run and sleep. The season ended partially. FMS was left, but I did not book tickets.
Fast forward to 5th Apr 2019, IIMA decided to reject me on a tense friday evening. I was disheartened. IIMA interview was awesome. I started seeing myself working for a software company for the next 20 years. I was now impatient but then IIMB sent me an admit on 08 April. This was the part of life when you say, 'I am out'. I was not elated. I was not happy. I was done. I was relieved. I called my mom, explained her the IIMB admit and she said, 'chalo shehar nahi badalna padega'. I was amused by her response, called my brother and he demanded an iphone ofcourse!! (Nope, He is not getting it.), called dad, and he was happy too. I posted the good news on FB, had 2 pegs of Maza with flatmates, called lots of close friends and shared with them the news and slept early. That's what I did. I remember sharing the news with the bus-stop girl and she ended up shouting and jumping profusely in her office during her internship on a late Monday night. This is when I realised friends are for life, moments - not so much. I ended up sharing the good news in office next day, filed in my resignation and sat on the chair, sipping coffee for the first time in office, relaxed, not looking at the computer screens anymore!! Days are now spent in helping and motivating people and giving them bizzare and unique examples which I witnessed during this journey and hoping a few, atleast a few, to come out from small towns, achieve their wildest dreams and then disappear in thin air, just like MS Dhoni says he'd do post retirement.
Avi too converted IIMB. The flatmate saga should continue in the campus as well.
Calls for the season 2019 : IIFTD, IIMB, CAP, SPJIMR, IIMK, IIMA, IIMA-PGP-ABM, IIMShillong, XLRI-BM, MDI, IIMC, IIML, FMS. (in order of interview dates)
Converts for the season 2019 : IIFTD, IIMB, IIMK, IIMShillong, XLRI-BM, MDI, IIMC, IIML (in order of interview dates)
Rejects for the season 2019 : IIMA
WLs which should convert : SPJIMR
Results not yet declared : CAP
Interviews Skipped : FMS New-Delhi, IIMA-PGP-ABM
The season ended on a high note. I ended up getting what I waited for, for so long. Life goes on and so does the infinite expectations from it. I was in IIMB campus for city meet on 5 May 2019 and was munching on snacks there sitting on a bench all by myself. The entire journey flashed over my mind and I felt, in that moment, that some things are really worth it. What seemed like an endless struggle has finally paved way for something so beautiful. In Steve Jobs words, ‘the focus of my entire adult life bore the desired fruit. What next?’ I got up from the bench, fed some snacks to the birds nearby and left the campus thinking about life in general, and making a list of Maza stalls near campus.
Random Gyan :
1. Don’t take unnecessary tension for exam/interviews. Things are pretty random and people have no control over these. Good preparation helps to a certain extent, though.
2. If I knew I would take this exam 4 times, would I still take it? Depends. I would have tried for a great job and might have stuck to it. Few people from my batch from engineering are earning so much more than average salary at top 3 IIMs. All of them have a very healthy work-life balance. Few I know are going to get into mid level product/management positions too. So yes, I would have given a careful thought to it. But I have learnt so much (about people and life in general) that I think it was a personal choice and I won’t hesitate making the same choices again.
3. Is it about the money or the satisfaction and joy? Neither. The friends I made in this journey are going to stay for long. Hence, I cherished this journey.
4. Should people aspire for CAT given that it is a very random exam and past sins (read acads) screw your chances at good colleges? Depends. I would suggest keeping a plum job as a backup. Please don’t let this hit your pre MBA job/job-expectations.
A lot of people I know, who are doing meaningful jobs end up not taking IIML,XLRI-BM. One friend who works in a major e-comm company decided to not join IIML because he was very happy with his job. So think about it very carefully.
Signing Off :
Address : Bannerghatta Road, Bangalore, KA 560076
Maza : It is a bitter drink, popularly taken with carbonated soft drinks. It goes well with peanuts, popcorns and a variety of other salty snacks.
Blog Link : http://mayur1937.blogspot.com/