One fine day, you wake up and are told that anytime today, you will receive the results of your hard work over the last one year and your aspirations of the last five years. That day, you really are glad that there is enough work on your plate to keep you distracted from what could be a life-altering moment. And you are finally distracted enough to not have overthought about the implications of the results. Eight hours later, a good soul enters your notif bar, with the message “IIMA out”. You stop doing everything and your heart pounds as you enter your credentials. You read the word “Congratulations” and you know that whatever comes after that can wait until you calm down. There are not many things that will top this surreal experience for me. I take immense pride in being one of the many joining IIM Ahmedabad (2022-24) and I’m grateful to be given an opportunity to share my story.
I belong to a nuclear family originally from Chennai, and completed my schooling in Muscat, Oman. I did my UG (2016-20) from NIT Trichy in Mechanical Engineering, which was my dream stream back then. I did my summer internship with Lear Corporation in Supply Chain Management, which was then converted to a Pre-Placement Offer. The PPO was then revoked in April 2020, siting COVID-19, which is when I decided to broaden my scope into other management-oriented positions. Luckily, I was able to bag an opportunity from Byju’s in a Project Management/Internal Operations position soon after that. I did spend my entire 2 years at Byju’s working from home and subsequently ending my stint there to pursue my MBA.
//How and Why MBA
My motivation to do an MBA started when I explored myself in college by taking positions of responsibilities in various teams, which were both technical and non-technical, the most valuable of which was leading the Media Marketing of Festember, the cultural fest of NIT-Trichy. The satisfaction that I had got from ideating, executing and achieving commendable results in these PoRs was tremendous. I realized my passion for leadership, strategizing and communication along the way to fulfilling my duties in those PoRs. I was shy about deviating from my core stream, so I did a technical research internship at IIT Madras during my second year. Even during my third year internship in SCM, I was more inclined towards the managerial aspects of what was offered than the manufacturing/technical aspect. Those experiences gave me further clarity to decide that managerial positions are what I like and an MBA is what I should pursue. And obviously, my role at Byju’s exponentially re-enforced the pros for MBA.
CAT 2020 was my first attempt where I scored 99.64 percentile and still managed to not get admits from any of the top 10 B-Schools of the country. Yes, the competition is absolutely mind-boggling in India and my average academic performance during my UG coupled with zero work experience (back then) did not help it one bit. I would still consider my prep for this exam as a big positive take-away as I did not have to stretch a lot when I gave my final attempt at CAT in 2021, where I secured 99.89 percentile.
My strong suggestion is to get study partner(s), who is/are as determined as you, if not more, to ace CAT. If you are lucky, the people you choose will have complementing strengths which will help you address your weaknesses in a more practical manner. This also makes sure that you do not slack off at any point and the very thought of it would make your partner go raging on you. Finally, the feeling that someone else is going along the same topsy-turvy path as you will make you feel a lot more calm and comfortable. I was very lucky to get such a partner and I owe a big part of my results to them. Both of us enrolled into the Career Launcher Test Series, which was as comprehensive as we wanted it to be. We decided to spend roughly 100 days and 3 hours a day on the preparation and did not enroll for live classes as we were both working and did not feel the need for it. It is absolutely worthwhile joining live classes based on need.
My favorite subject since the day I remember is Mathematics. I loved numbers and doing all sorts of things with them. Hence, I was able to identify the Quantitative Abilities section in CAT as my strength. I went through all relevant portions and made sure that my fundamentals were intact. After that, it was a matter of regular practice where my primary focus was to increase the pace at which I went about solving problems.
As a person who lived in Muscat, English was my primary language due to the diverse linguistic backgrounds of my peers. I considered my fundamentals to be strong, but little did I know about what 4 years of staying in Trichy would do to it. I addressed the basics by going through videos about how to face reading comprehensions and Para-jumbles. I had to unlearn and learn a few things which did consume some time. My partner was especially strong in this section and they helped me tweak my approaches wherever needed. Intentionally, I solved VARC at a slow pace at first to make sure that I didn’t make any fundamental mistakes. My pace progressed along with my practice, but my primary focus was to make sure that my implementation of what I learnt was accurate.
I do love solving puzzles and what not, but DILR questions were no ordinary puzzles. It is one section that I loved doing when I reached the correct answer and absolutely loathed doing it when I could not get to the answer on time. My first suggestion here would be to prepare frameworks for the most popular type of questions. There are only so many types of DILR questions that could be thrown at you, and once you master most of them, your brain will be wired to take care of the other unknown types. My second suggestion here would be to start solving puzzles on apps and other mediums, to make it a part of your routine. This would help you face the questions in the right mindset.
I made sure that I slept well and had ample social time, which helped in keeping me focused during my preparation. Just before the exam, I re-enforced to myself that if I do panic, it only affects my chances negatively, and no matter whatever the outcome is, I’ll still be fine. In 2020, I knew that I did well in CAT and had received my expected percentile. My CAT 2021 preparation was very similar to that of 2020, and I got a percentile that was a bit more than what I had expected.
I subscribed to the PDP Personalized Program offered by Career Launcher in both years. I will elaborate on my latest attempt as I was able to clearly notice a few things that I did right. I started preparing immediately after the results were announced and spent around 2 hours a day apart from general browsing through news apps. I would suggest that you start preparing as soon as you are aware that you’re raw score has met your expectations, as it gives a significant advantage for early February interviews.
The initial phase of the program consisted of various psychometric tests and a detailed biography of oneself. Doing this faithfully solves around 30 percent of your preparation as you explore your strengths and weaknesses along with what’s important in the context of an interview. It is definitely worth the time it takes. The videos pertaining to current affairs in the PDP program were aptly detailed and covered all important topics which were subsequently asked by most panels in interviews. The notes that I prepared from these videos were very significant in my last-minute revisions.
I improved substantially through the different mock interviews over the course of 2 months. Right from when my PDP mentor Mr. Niraj Prasad enlightened me by saying, sometimes honest answers take you a lot farther than correct answers, to when Mr. Sujit Bhattacharya directed me to get more perspective on trivial questions while going easy on myself. I would say that the process has been a great learning curve.
My Ahmedabad interview happened in a center in Chennai through a conference call. My interview was relatively short compared to my peers assigned to the same panel, and it went on for 15 minutes. I was primarily asked about my work experience and was grilled in calculus due to my bronze medal in the International Mathematics Olympiad. I knew that I had done well in my interview and had my fingers crossed after that.
My take on interviews is that you need to engage the panelists in a conversation rather than it being a QnA session. It is obvious that your answers need to be correct, but it is also important that your presentation is interesting. It is also of great significance if you are able to slip in leads to the panelists in the areas you are more comfortable with during your conversation. And most important of all, your interviews have the potential to decide your candidature. Even if you feel that your profile is at the lower end of the bell curve, an excellent interview should propel you to a direct admit.
The journey was surely exhausting and challenging, but in the end, you grow as an individual and if everything goes well, you get into IIM A! One of the most important things one should take care is to make sure that you are in the right mindset throughout this entire journey. And for that, I have to primarily thank my Amma and Appa, who made sure to de-stress me when needed, and my friends, who were very motivating throughout the whole journey. As my dad (and I’m assuming most dads) says, this is just the beginning and I have a lot more to do in the next two years. I hope this piece of writing was of some use to the aspirants of upcoming CAT exams.
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