How to win at Russian Roulette

It’s that time of the year again.

Most of the MBA aspirants have probably given the CAT, and are now writing a plethora of other exams. It’s a bit like Russian roulette isn’t it? You’ve placed your bets on multiple numbers and the wheel that’s started spinning will come to a rest in a few months’ time, with you hoping that the payoff will be favourable.

I gave my CAT in October 2012, and it was my first attempt. I am neither the genius nor the workhorse types that crack CAT in their very first time, and my scorecard endeavoured to reflect this wholeheartedly. Shrugging my shoulders, I decided to give the (now defunct, thanks to a Supreme Court directive) CMAT exam in February 2013.

I won’t get into too many details, but suffice to say that things did not turn out so good.

Then something providential happened. Due to some glitch in the September 2012 version of CMAT, they were conducting a third round in May, for people that had attempted the exam only once out of September and February. I thought, ‘Hey! I get another chance, awesome. Okay now back to streaming House of Cards season 1.’

I had roughly a month to prepare, and I was determined to make it count. I promptly closed the door to my room, sat down, turned on my computer, and started playing Batman: Arkham City. Alright so I didn’t exactly hit the ground running for my preparation, but in my defence, have you guys played that game? Unshutdownable.

Eventually I did manage to buy a book that contained a few sample CMAT papers, and they also did not go too well. I never had to grapple too much with the GK section since I’m an avid quizzer, but I would always make silly errors in the other sections. I fought against this setback by playing more Arkham City. And this way I ploughed on until it was finally D-Day.

My exam centre was so far out of city limits, it was indecent. Having foolishly opted for the morning slot, I got up at an obscene hour and grumbled my way out the door. I got onto my bike, slipped my earphones on, and set off. The cool morning winds drove away my residual sleep, and I made it to the centre half an hour early. I arrived to see people trying to chew up Manorama yearbooks minutes before the exam. Ruefully shaking my head, I decided to use the time to introspect. The mistake I had made the last time around was that I hadn’t taken risks, hadn’t backed myself. This time I would.

All the tedious due processes completed, we were now sitting in front of our computers, waiting to start. Once we did, I started attempting questions as they came on my screen. If I could not envision a path through the problem in the first 30 seconds, I would leave it for later. Thus, with an hour remaining, I had finished my first round of answering, with the tricky questions remaining. This next hour would be the decider.

Upon closer examination, some of these questions made me slap my forehead when realization struck and some made me appreciate the craftiness of its framing. But it was the ones I wasn’t entirely sure of that posed a problem. I knew in my gut that they were right, but I didn’t have empirical proof. However keeping in line with the pact I had made to myself, I attempted them anyway. In the end, I attempted all but 5 of the questions. I got out, and made a beeline to meet my friends and unwind.

Two weeks later on June 1, the results were out, and I was in the midst of my final semester exams in college. In fact, my most difficult paper was on the very day. So as you might imagine, I wasn’t too keen on knowing that I’d messed up CMAT again, only to have that knowledge ruin my semester exam as well. I decided to check my results the next day. However my mother decided to play spanner in the works. In the vein of mothers the world over, she couldn’t wait to know my result, and threatened to check it herself if I didn’t. Caving in, I grudgingly logged onto the site.

At this juncture, let me confess that in the darkest recesses of my wishful mind, I had had this vision of me topping the exam. I had opened the score card, and raised my hands in jubilation while ululating triumphantly. I had even got up and struck a conveniently placed punching bag for effect.

With that in mind, by the time I opened the score card even I was holding my breath. While the matter of my topping the exam had coincided with my vision, my reaction was nowhere as inspirational. I sat in my chair laughing for a good five minutes, following which I went to the dining room for breakfast.

I'm sorry I couldn't find better proof. I seem to have deleted my score card. Lolz.

I’m sorry I couldn’t find better proof. I seem to have deleted my score card. Lolz.

What followed was a blur of admission procedures, what with the GD/PI process being cancelled for our batch, and before I knew it I was officially a student of JBIMS. If you’re wondering after having read the entire article, what the point of this self-absorbed rant was, it was this dear reader.

Competitive exams aren’t complex. The coaching classes make it seem like a gladiatorial battle because that’s their job. You wouldn’t go to them otherwise. You do not need to study 24/7 and you do not need to sacrifice the smaller pleasures of life. You only need to be thorough with your basic concepts, and have a good sense of time. But most importantly, you need self-belief. Trust your gut, and be reasonably adventurous in your attempts. To quote a cliché, better to have tried and failed, than not tried at all.

Also, Arkham Origins is out now. Anybody’s played it? How is it?



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