CAT Fight – My experience of the MBA entrance exam!

Pre MBA preparation:-

Checklist:

  • 10th check
  • 12th check
  • Graduation work under progress
  • Post grad?

A mirror image of yourself? Well I’ve been there done that and it’s a tug-of-war in your mind with a lot of questions and self-doubts. Questions on selecting what to take up ahead as a Post Grad course and what’s a lucrative field as such. Self-doubts on whether it’s THE step ahead.

So vas an engineering student I was all keen on pursuing a Masters in the said domain, but as I started to weigh in the pros and cons I realised it’s just not feasible monetarily. With a live example of an MBA pursuant in my family, the most logical choice was to take a shot at all the ATs (CAT/MAT/GMAT et al) and zero in on the institute.

Hmm so GMAT seemed a piece of cake but required work experience, so it was struck out of my list. CAT obviously an entry to the most premier B-schools within the nation but the fee was too high to cater to (in my head: might as well go for an MS instead!!) So, I decided to write CAT as a practice test and focus all the other B-school entrance tests. Now the task was to look for a “coaching institute” for the same as my parents considered it mandatory to crack an exam, while I think otherwise. I gave in and just enrolled for one of those “premier coaching institutes” Interestingly, the entire hype over cracking an exam and joining a B-school seemed quite hilarious to me. Well, we’ve written JEE, AIEEE and the like-what’s in this (smirk) I was shown my place with the 1st mock, just about an average result. With a motivational and orientation lecture we were all excited to prepare for this examination called CAT! A class with a meagre strength of 18 students from varied backgrounds; lectures on weekends and worth mentioning-Sunday 7am lectures at Andheri (travelling from Bhayandar) made me experience a glimpse of what to expect within a B-school.

My preparation began primarily in June, wherein I began to improve on my vocabulary, tables, speed math and comprehension skills. Books on etymology like Word Power Made Easy made the leaning process more interesting. The fundamental chant of each professor was ‘READ’ and since that’s already a habit more than a hobby I reckon I didn’t have to bother about it as much. On the contrary I had to. The newspapers and the non-fictional books was what I was to read and gather insights from. To utilise my travel time to and fro from college and home I downloaded a couple of newspaper apps and an MBA preparatory tool which had previous year questions, on my mobile. So far so good, but what was the game changing or rather percentile-changing section – Quant and DI. An engineer-yes that’s me so I wasn’t too anxious about this section per se, but the usage of calculators throughout the years had led our calculative abilities to decline. I needed practice to solve sums and not just solve them, but solve them quickly. So a bit of vedic math and some brushing up of tables and squares, summation series, percentages etc. helped me to the tee. While all this was on I was also taking online tests chapterwise-this is very important and even f one thinks they aren’t ready for the test because of lack of preparation; yet take it-the earlier the better.

One of the professors’ very aptly put the exams as a reflection of management- time management skills and decision making ability. Wondering how? Well, here goes: the exam has a limited amount of time. Not all questions need to be answered as there are negative marks allotted. So what’s your strategy? No rocket science: Just pick and select those questions which you are certain of solving correctly(decision making), since time is a defining factor, time management skills come into play.

There’s no thumb rule to taking these tests and mock exams, once you’re comfortable with the time set and the questions, the selection/elimination plays a major role. However the strategy that most adopt is read all the questions-mark them or rather rate them according to the difficulty level and cross out those “difficult’ questions. This saves around 20mins towards the end that lets you tackle the moderately solvable sums and try a couple of moderate-difficult questions.

During the preparation phase I was lucky to be interacting with various alumni from different B-schools as they also happened to be teaching in the institute. While most of them had converted their dream “college” after a couple of attempts and work experience I think it wise to pursue it straight after graduation. The insights and their experiences coupled with the first-hand account on cracking and finally converting the calls just gave us the acceleration our preparation required. However, not every day was alike and then I had to deal with college exams and the fest. Taking up considerable amount of time and my inability to prepare, I began to have self-doubts: why should I do an MBA, my performance is shooting southwards. All India Mock Tests began at round about the same time, unfortunately since I had a 6-day college week I couldn’t attend the discussions on the solutions for the same. There were a number of workshops that comprised of higher level problems and went on for about 3-4 hours every Sunday. If all this wasn’t enough, placements on campus was another thing that I had to give time to. Somehow at the back of my mind I knew I did not want to work as yet and I was doubly sure I’d be studying ahead so I took the gamble to under-perform in the companies that I did not even want to consider as a back-up and played the wait and watch game. Companies came and went, some of us who had the same thoughts were waiting for the right company or better still a call and finally a convert; after all there seemed no rational logic to taking up a seat and then opting out of it at a later date. So my life at that point of time just revolved between lectures, project, preparation, placements and speculation.

We were told that the entire process of preparation would change us as a person, well I don’t know how much of it is true but yes definitely the knowledge acquisition and the quick-dealing with numbers and reading skills had definitely improved manifold. It was then time for the form filling and registration of various exams, CAT being the first of them and that was when everyone finally pulled up their socks. In college, people hardly paid attention to the lecture: a book in the desk and groups of students were frantically solving sums in one corner, another set of students were busy reading to improve their vocab at the last minute and some had even begun working on the previous years’ papers. From CAT to XAT to SNAP and like the forms kept pouring in (online+offline). My aim was definitely to bell XAT and SNAP, CAT well a by-product.

However this wasn’t the end, I had a number of issues with my registration number of Cat then with umpteen amounts of follow-ups I finally got it sorted. This then led me to revert to all those colleges I had applied to and inform them about the change in the number (yes, quite an arduous task uggh!) Finally it was D-day and the first exam I had to take was CAT-a cakewalk was what I made of it. Slow and steady and all the exams began to unfold. From IIFT to XAT, SNAP to CMAT the list was endless. Individual colleges too had their separate exams and forms to fill in. Parallely we had sessions on how to select the colleges post the exams, a few exam specific tips and the like. I remember that post the IIFT exam I went to Wankhede stadium to witness the test match between India and England and that was a complete refresher! My mother somehow found it out of the usual trend of examinees to “waste” time when there were many more exams still round the corner. I mention this primarily to draw your attention to unwind and relax, it’s important to de-clutter yourself and enjoy the process-after all you’ve decided to do it so might as well do it with some joy and personal satisfaction rather than with a grim face. Each exam has a difference of a week or more depending on the online dates you’ve opted for.  So, unwinding for a night isn’t a bad idea at all. In addition its important that you know the different patterns of each exam and work towards the specifics for instance MICAT ha an essay writing section so does XAT, GK has come in within IIFT, SNAP and XAT. Thus reading and awareness is a must in these cases.

16 December was the date of SNAP-I don’t clearly remember my centre: reaching on time all by myself was only 1part of the hurdle, it so happened that there were 2 sets of buildings for the examination. To add to it there were 2 sets of roll numbers for each building. For instance if someone’s roll number was 2351 then there would be another with the same but at the Primary/Secondary school building respectively! I need not mention what ensued thereafter-utter chaos within the school compound of IES. The compound could hardly cater to such a mass population and we were asked to wait for the bell to enter the classroom. Finally we queued up (gender specific!) and then we entered the building. My centre being on the 3rd floor I had a good deal to ascend and soak in the surroundings before I could settle down. There were students currying around to find their seats thanks to the double roll number confusion. The bell rang and it was time to take the exam-Math related a piece of cake, DI also solvable: so far so good. The Verbal ability inclusive of RCs and grammar were doable too, next came GK and coincidently or by virtue of perpetuity there was a question on asking what date does Vijay Diwas (or Victory Day) fall on- easy for me because the option had 16 December (the test date itself) and gauging my defence memory as I hail from it, putting 2 and 2 together I conveniently marked it. What were the most annoying factors during the exam? Well one of he fans of the classroom wasn’t working and there was a blaringly loud crow happily perched upon the window adjacent to my seat-cawing away to glory. I could sense that the girl seated in front of me was fighting the Sun’s full blast and the crow’s caw; so much that she arose mid-way to shut the window! Bell again and we were to submit the OMR sheets. Happy with my performance I set out to embark on the long journey back home. Getting a little chatty with the girl who was sitting in front of me, I learnt that she too was from the Defence background and like me from the Navy. The two of us walked out of the centre in the hope to catch a rick for the closest railway station-to no luck. Seeking information from other test-takers we got to know that there was a bus that could take us to our interim destination. A police station within the vicinity and I stopped to ask for directions (but as it was deemed to be!) the cops there were recently posted there and had no clue about this wonderful bus stop/number. Clueless we walked on and then saw a bus drive past by us. We ran like there was no tomorrow, but alas! We missed it. Archana, the girl with me got hungry and went to grab a bite at a local store. I was on the phone and waiting at the stop, narrating my experience of the exam to mother when zoom came another bus. Shouting out for Archana and running again we made it this time around. Archana barely there with the change in one hand and a vada pav in another scampered into the bus.  Tickets taken and seated once more. We got all chatty and within minutes were at the station. Bid farewell and caught our respective trains. I sat (yes, a Virar train was empty for a change) and happily googled for the exam analysis only to find out that a majority found it a piece of cake. Relatively that may not be a good thing but one never knows what’s in store ahead.

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