Friday, April 22, 2011

All I wanted to speak about CAT - Part 2 - The Journey

Note: This is a post meant from's famous "All I wanted to speak about CAT" thread. People preparing for CAT, and in need of motivation, inspiration etc can read through the entire thread. Brilliant stories. Captivating read. 

Part 1 of this post can be read here.
Part 3 of this post can be read here.

The journey
First year in college, passed away in a breeze. But as I read and got into engineering, I got the feeling that this wasn't really meant for me. Civil Engg, in particular, as I wasn't particularly strong health wise, after bouts of Measles, Chicken Pox and Typhoid. Nor was I strong in the subjects Civil Engineers ought to be strong in - Structures and Soil Mechanics. 

The second year of college, saw the birth of this new dream in me. CAT. It happened when the CAT results came out, and I saw the names of many seniors who had got calls from various IIMs. That was the spark that grew inside me - that if some people studying in the same college could do it, why not me. Added to the fact that studying in NIT Bhopal gave you more free time than you could ever handle. I thought that if I prepared properly, I definitely had a chance at cracking the test. 

But then, as usual, the Idle mind became the Devil's workshop and I killed time, like no one could. I hardly did anything worthwhile despite taking the old material of TIME from one of my seniors, and all that the material did was to rot in one corner of my room. I somehow got sense in the final moments of my 4th semester and enrolled at Career Launcher, Bhopal for the classroom course for CAT.

Rolling along
Classes started in about mid July, 2009 and I used to attend classes pretty sincerely. Contrary to my earlier love for maths, I found Number Systems; Permutation Combination a real pain. I used to really hate them. With this blog running and being a part of the Ed Board, my love for English grew and I found myself loving the English classes a lot and was very good at solving the class sheets. 

But in terms of preparation, I hardly did anything. After a point, in February/March, I gradually found myself not doing too well in any section; and started losing interest in even attending classes; despite which I forced myself to attend them. (Guess that was the best thing I did at that point of time). 
Time just kept flying past, with Editorial Board and a set of very good friends taking the rest of my time. It was May 2010 already and it was then that I realised I had really fallen behind the rest of the gang in terms of preparation. I hadn't quite done anything in the material that had been given. Nor had I even taken the pains to open the SIS of Career Launcher, and even go through the stuff that was there. 

The college curriculum meant I had to undergo Industrial Training for about 3 weeks, in my summer vacation. I tried getting training in a couple of places, nearly got it at L&T Mumbai, but decided against going there and finally did it at Chennai Port. It was then that realisation hit me hard. And by hard, I mean, very HARD. 

Training used to start at 7 in the morning and I had to leave my home at around 6 in the morning. Working conditions at the port were as bad as it could get. Nowhere close to the wonderfully clean and super modern ports that you see in movies. Standing in the sun, from the morning till 12-30 or 1, when we had our lunch break; that too in the peak summer Chennai sun, taught me a few lessons. I realised pretty much that I simply wasn't made for this kind of a job. My health took a hit. I decided that it was time I took up CAT more seriously and give it my best shot, even though it was pretty much late, by normal standards. I knew, deep down, that it was the only way that I'd be able to get a desk job. I finally got the sense to open my material and start working. 

By the time, I'd opened my books, two of Career Launcher's ProcMocks had already gone past. I am pretty much very good at making schedules for myself, right from my school days, and in the last few days of my vacation, I sat down and made myself a proper schedule and plan as to how to go about preparation for CAT. But then, the end of the vacation packing and other stuff got the better of me. Finally, I started my serious CAT Preparation on July 10th 2010.

I had already given the first two mocks a skip. Hence Proc Mock 3 was something I was very serious about. I knew that it'd be the one that'd make or break my CAT Preparation. I seriously made a schedule targeting it and kept my goals pretty realistic this time, rather than building castles in the air, like the previous times i had got off to false starts. Meticulously I sat down and solved all the numericals from the Hard Copy material and worked my ass off. 

My day used to start at 4-30 AM, when most of the hostel used to go to sleep. I gave in about 3 hours of preparation then and then went to college. Being in Civil Engg, which had by then become THE most sincere branch in college, attending every other class, I had to attend classes. Two hours of sleep in the afternoon followed by CAT class/further prep/break in the evening and then sleeping off by a maximum of 10 PM. I lost out on a lot of fun, in hostel life because of my schedule and on some of my friends too. But today, when I took back, I feel vindicated. 

I had also "fallen in love" with the Editorial Board and worked like mad over there to release a successful magazine. I felt that the other editors in the Ed Board who were preparing for CAT were more serious than I had ever been, and thought I could sort of give a lot more of my time for EB(Ed Board) than them. The feeling being that, even if CAT screwed up, a successful magazine would help pull my mood up, unlike the IIT experience where I nearly went into depression.ProcMock 3 thankfully went well, and I got a 98 odd percentile topping the Bhopal Centre. (??).

But preparation was not without hassles. There were hassles aplenty right from the start. I was 'scared' of DI, and never used to practice any online tests due to the fear of not doing well in them and losing my confidence. I was over confident about verbal, but that turned out to be THE biggest problem of all. I used to think verbal was my strongest section, but turned out that it wasn't. I hardly cleared any cut-offs in verbal and had a worse than pathetic accuracy rate of less than 50%. Quant had quite a few issues esp with Number theory and Permutation and combination. The former I was scared of, and the latter I was extremely weak in.  Verbal had yet another big problem with me having an aversion to RCs. I loved reading RCs on paper, but when it came to reading on screen, I used to prefer skipping them and moving to the next question. 
In my initial mocks, I never used to analyse what went right or what went wrong and which were my strengths and weaknesses. I just used to go and give the mocks and that was the end of it. The mocks I gave initially gave me the confidence that, "yes, if i prepare the same way, I can do well in CAT." But it also gave me the warning that all wasn't well definitely. 

I still remember my first mock analysis test with my sir @ Career Launcher when he went over my first few mocks and hit on my mistakes. He said two things and till today, I'm thankful to him for that:
# Stop doing "How many?" type questions (Permutation ones). You never get them right. 
# Stop doing sentence correction ones. You invariably look for mistakes that aren't there. Instead work on RCs. They'll give you more marks. 

It was then that I understood the meaning of analyzing a mock. I used to attempt a mock without any proper strategy - giving an hour for DI (which had by then become my strongest section); about 20 mins for Verbal and the rest for Quant. This lead to an imbalance in the time for each question and I ended up making mistakes which I shouldn't have been doing.

Forms had been out, and I filled up NMIMS; SP Jain; MDI; IIFT; FMS; XAT; CAT. I didn't feel like giving JMET or SNAP and made a mistake by not filling NITIE. My mocks were going fairly well, and I used to have cycles of ups. If a mock went well, invariably it would never be alone and it'd always be followed by atleast two more good mocks. And the same with bad ones. I hit a couple of highs with a 99.5 in one mock and a few lows too; with less than 50% accuracy in DI. Mock scores varied between 85 to 99 percentile through out the season. 

I also started working on my RCs; and post this, there was a dramatic rise in verbal scores and my accuracy levels too. I found my actual strengths and weaknesses; which were completely different from the ones that I had assumed to be my strengths  and weaknesses. Mentoring Sessions at Career Launcher, invariably saw a few more weak spots being addressed and scores moving up a little. As CAT came closer, I knew that I was more of a confidence player and needed a boost before the exam for it to go well.

My friends had told me that one particular mock in the Unproctored ones was very easy, and so I left it to be the last mock that I would take before the exam. I also scheduled my NMAT a month before CAT so that I could get a feel of how my efficiency dips in exam conditions. My preparation, remained steady and despite a few dips in confidence and preparation levels at times, I ensured that I was geared up to go. 

It was during this time that I discovered as a wonderful resource for CAT Aspirants and it gave me a fair idea of what to expect in NMAT and CAT beforehand.

Go to Part 3

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