I took CAT in 2010, 2011, 2012 & 2015.
My first shot was a full-fledged, one year of classroom training, final-year-student-has-lots-of-time-to-prepare attempt. I scored 88th percentile. Second attempt was when I had entered corporate life. I was in a tough job that drained me completely. Went into the exam with one evening of revisiting formulae, with no conscious reading prior to that. Scored 66th percentile.
The third attempt was my best shot at cat. Prepared with help of another CAT coaching center. Was still in the same Job and had enormous pressure to perform. This was my ticket to glory, way out of the job etc. Got a middling 85th percentile .
I got calls from 6 new IIMs, NITIE, IIM Indore, CAT 2012. Converted all six new IIMs and NITIE. Didn’t attempt Indore interview because of some personal reason.
Fast forward to Feb 2015, got an opportunity to work with 2IIM Chennai. I had wanted to be in the educational space for a long time. Once the opportunity came, I couldn’t have refused it even if I wanted to.
Started marketing online product and managed classroom and online businesses. We all (who work at 2IIM) take CAT for the joy of it (FYI: Rajesh happens to have nailed CAT multiple times). I also started taking classes for CAT and XAT. I teach basic math classes. I did not prepare for CAT Quant.
I read vigorously during the last three months prior to CAT. On any given day, I spent considerable time on three different books. Reading schedule comprised one Fiction, one spiritual/non fiction, and old editions of economist. Learnt DI from online.2iim.com. LR was my favourite part in CAT. Did not prepare at all. Took one mock the Monday before CAT.
Fortunately (or unfortunately as others might call it), got CAT allotted in Pondicherry (I am from Chennai. Pondicherry is about 170 kms from Chennai). Everyone else I knew had their exam centre in Chennai. Went on a biking trip on Nov 29th. It was two days before the infamous Chennai floods. Had a raincoat, waterproof bag and a Royal Enfield! Reached Pondicherry, happily riding through rain. My CAT was in the afternoon slot. I had a pleasant time talking to parents who were waiting for their kids attempting their CAT. We spoke on B schools, CAT training, and several other related topics.
I went in completely relaxed and happy. Slept inside the exam hall between 1.15 and 1.50 pm. Exam began at 2.00 pm.
Verbal section was okay-ish. I always used to have doubts between last 2 options. This time, surprisingly, very few questions ended in a coin toss (4 to be precise). Had ten minutes to spare at the end of the session. Thoroughly checked through all questions and unmarked 4 doubtful questions.
Then came the nightmarish DI LR. Spent 5 minutes going through all questions. Couldn’t decide if any question was doable. Time pressure started. So had to start somewhere. Fifteen minutes (overall 20 minutes) into Data interpretation questions, I had completed only one set. Next ten minutes went nowhere. It was already 30 minutes, and I had to start Logical reasoning. Took two puzzles, solved them completely in 22 minutes. Had 8 minutes remaining. Wanted to try my luck at a Non mcq based DI puzzle. Did all 4 in that set. In total 16 questions. What started as a nightmare had actually ended pretty well.
I had close to zero preparation for Quants so attempted only 13 questions (all from the topics I was used to teaching). Any questions that I noticed on Number theory, Geometry or Permutation Probability was ruthlessly ignored.
In total I attempted 57 questions (28+16+13). My guess from normalised scores is that 22 questions right (with 18 in RC), All 16 right in DI LR, and 10 correct answers in Quants.
Overall scaled score is 144.55 and percentile is 95.1.
VA-RC – 95.26, DI-LR – 97.66, QA – 79.21.
The takeaway from this experience is that, removing pressure off the thoughts play an enormous role in scoring well. I had exposure to how CAT looked and felt from my prior attempts, however the most serious attempts had that element of pressure built in to the system. There were times when I went into exam hall after eating Munch/Perk, expecting them to kick in after sometime so that I would get sugar rush. But without all that elaborate planning and expectations, the exam felt more enjoyable. I believe even Rajesh would reiterate the same. The sense of Joy, lets you enjoy the exam better than taking it under pressure.
I know it is incredibly tough to remove all pressure when you are taking a competitive exam. But it is vital to de-emphasize the pressure aspects as much as possible and to enjoy both the preparation and the exam-taking part as much as possible.
All the best for CAT 2016.
The author Bharathwaj works with 2IIM, building the business & teaching. Excellent counselor, bonds with students like no one else, passionate about what he does & Travels a lot. blogs @ bharathwajuday.blogspot.in