I am a 26-year-old mechanical engineer from IIT Guwahati. After graduation, I worked at Hindustan Aeronautics Limited for three years. I had 99.99 percentile in the Common Admission Test and joined IIM Calcutta (2014 batch).
Mocks and coaching
To gear up for CAT, I took mock tests; I didn’t go for regular classes. I started taking it around July and continued till a week before the exam. Are coaching classes indispensable? Definitely not! It’s totally up to you. There are so many people who crack the test without attending any coaching class.
In the week before the CAT, I revised the concepts which I thought were important. I skimmed through various types of questions I had encountered before, to refresh my memory. A day before my test, the most important thing which I did was probably watching a movie.
For the quantitative section, the most important thing is to revise all the concepts you have learned. The same goes for data interpretation (DI) — just try to go through the standard problems, at least one of each type. For the verbal part, I kept reading a very philosophical, uninteresting book, in the week before D-Day. Not being a very keen reader, it really helped me develop stamina for reading something I didn't want to, and still focus on its content.
The most important thing in preparing for CAT is regularity. Once you start your preparation, you should clearly plan out the way forward and stick to it. CAT is a simple test in terms of the level of questions, but a tough competition in terms of the number of people actually going to succeed. So, it's important to have a thorough preparation and maintain your cool in the last moments.
What worked for me in CAT preparation may not for others and vice versa, so you should identify your strengths and weaknesses and work accordingly. I have seen so many serious candidates, with a very sound preparation, faltering in the final exam. So, prepare yourself mentally, and treat it like any other day.
What was D-Day like?
It’s like any other day, any other centre for any exam. The biggest things which matter in CAT are your temperament and how you feel that day. Take it like any other day, go to the centre and you’ll be fine.
I think the fact that the difference between people who get selected and those who don’t, is so narrow, the normalisation is probably not the best way to judge. In the paper-pencil test, too, the difference was very small, but then you still scored less in the same paper, however thin the margin was. The methodology needs to evolve, especially because it’s not like a GMAT score, which is one of the many factors for your selection. Here a difference of 0.01 percentile can result in reversal of your fortunes.
As told to Rahat Bano