A Journey called CAT
Amit Agarwal, a student of IIM Calcutta scored a 99.99 percentile in CAT 2007 shares his experiences and tips with this year’s aspirants.
Let me go back to April 2000. I was preparing for my engineering and had already made my mind to make it to an IIM. The first two and a half years of engineering went fine but it’s generally in the third year when one starts thinking about what next.
I joined a leading coaching institute in Delhi in my fifth semester and little did I know that I was not the only one aspiring in my batch. I met several students from my college there. The classes started and very soon I realised my weakness was in the verbal area. My seniors advised to take CAT in the third year to get a feel of the exam. I liked the idea and finally took it. At that time, CAT had no rule, which barred people from taking the exam who are not in their final years.
It was a normal three-section paper in which I had no pressure to perform. The paper went fine and it was the first time wherein the percentiles were to be revealed. Moving to the results, QA was 99.5 % with an 86 odd in DI and some 65 in verbal. This clearly told me where I had to work on. Jan 2003 - Oct 2003: This was the time when all my friends, classmates and everyone and anyone was a CAT aspirant. It was good to be in excellent company and I think that competition forced me to prepare for the exam which eventually I think I did.
Was I nervous? I was. I realised that this was the day and the next two hours, which would decide my future I still remember how the exam went. The sound of opening the sheet, the answer sheet being filled, the sweat, the tension — everything is still fresh in my memory. But I was quite satisfied at the end of the paper. I was quite happy with my performance in DI and QA. Also, I knew that I had done well in Verbal because two RCs which I attempted in the exam were luckily from some of the test mock papers of the institutes.
But I was in for a rude shock. The moment I walked out, I was told that the paper was cancelled as it had leaked the previous day. I had to restart all my preparation for my semester exams. It was 2004 and I realised I had made the greatest mistake of my life by filling just three forms — CAT, XAT and MDI. The XAT exam was next and there was so much verbal focus, I knew it was difficult to clear it. But I wanted to give it my best shot, which I did and eventually failed also. But since CAT was still left, I thought to myself that I still have a chance to make it to my dream school.
After having experienced it earlier, I was not very nervous. The exam was a little on the tougher side but it went fine. In this age of the internet, the solutions were out by the evening but I had decided not to check till the next day. Next day, I started checking my paper. As always, I started with Quant. The performance was sufficient enough to clear the cut-off. I don’t know what prompted me to check verbal next. I did and was amazed to see my score and was already jumping in my room.
I checked DI then and my world came crashing down. I attempted 4 caselets and got 2 of them absolutely wrong. I scored a single digit in DI; it was something I was not prepared for.
The results came out as expected and I was prepared for it. Some of my close friends had all six calls or single calls or some calls at least. Most of them made it and then we parted on our different paths in life. I joined a leading IT firm in Delhi in July and planned to work for some time before appearing for my MBA entrances. I worked for one year there and then shifted base to Mumbai.
This is when I joined T.I.M.E.in 2007. I had joined the weekend batch as that was the manageable option when one is working. The best thing about the institute is the freedom to approach any faculty anytime. I believe that flexibility is one high-point of this institute.
On their advice, I started reading newspapers more carefully and closely. Also, the T.I.M.E. test series is undoubtedly the best in the country. The reason is two-fold — firstly, the quality of the papers being set and more importantly the number of test takers are the highest across the country, so one gets as near as possible to the competition. Another sane thing which I did was not to rely just on one exam. I filled lots of other forms to hedge my risks. And I firmly believe that it is the best thing to do.
The test series was an eye-opener in some sense and the analysis sessions we had were really good. It gave me a clear insight of my real strengths and weaknesses. Also, 20 tests gives one an ample opportunity to experiment with different strategies and that too with different patterns of the paper.
Well, the CAT day arrived. I thought I gave my hundred percent and the result showed it. I scored an overall 99.99%ile with a 99.98 in Quant, 99.97 in DI and 96.40 in verbal. I got calls from all the six IIM calls and from other institutes as well.
GD-PI Preparation: T.I.M.E. has a big role to play in improving my skills. The opportunity to attend as many practice sessions for GDs is phenomenal. I could walk in any centre to take a GD so that I can practice with diverse people. Also, the personal attention given for writing SOPs, essays, interview preparation, mock interviews, and feedback is important.
My score sheet
• IIM-A - Decent essay, excellent interview
• IIM-B - Average GD, interview went quite badly
• IIM-C - Both above average GD and Interview
• IIM-L - Excellent GD, interview was average
• IIM-I - Could not attend due to unavoidable circumstances
• IIM-K - Average GD and interview
• Final Results - Converted C, L, K. Currently, a PGDM student in IIM Calcutta, Class of 2010.
1. Practice, Practice and Practice
2. Fill most of the forms as it eases the tension of performing in one exam
3. Believe in yourself