Saturday, January 12, 2013

The First Battle: down but not defeated

My life has been an easy one. I never had to try hard to get anything. You can say that I have been cruising through these years. Most of this comfort is due to the fact that nobody expected much from me. I've been better than average all through my life, but never the best.

After some odd 20 years of same life, one is bound to get bored. I also fell prey to the same fate. A dormant trait, ambition, activated itself. Now I was wondering how to pull myself out of the stream, in which I had been flowing along for all these years, and which definitely was leading me to a life of mediocre. So I started planning, with my graduation underway, there were two options. A better job or a better education. From my profile I could only land myself a software job, which isn't very hard to get in the current IT boom. Everyone has one. So it was better education that I needed. This path forked out into technical or managerial education. Here it was an obvious choice, management education. High return on investment and a degree that makes you fit for working in almost every field.

So it began, the war for MBA.
I had my hopes high. Great expectations. I wanted to be one of the best. This was the first ever challenge that I took seriously (relatively).

First thing to do. Look for a coaching. I didn't have an idea, with the inflated claims that all of them make, so I consulted a couple of my seniors and went head on into what they suggested.

It was cool for the first three months, had nothing to do actually, you just had to go to the center solve some sheets and do everything that they told you not to. I never solved a question at home. Then came the end semester examinations, here I took an extended break of a month, and didn't go to the center as I was 'busy' with exams.

After exams, I would have carried on with my leisure routing had it not been to an All India Mock, conducted by another reputed coaching where I actually realized that I was on a course of failure. It was too late to mend my ways, it was already July-August, you don't start your preparations two months before the D-Day. So I decided instead of learning the concepts from now on, I'd rather take a couple of Mocks every week and analyze my weaknesses.

The strategy was kinda good, as I didn't have to go through the boring books and prep material, I loved the every new challenge of those 60 questions in two hours twenty minutes and would analyze my performance in every test. Maintained a spreadsheet to track my performance, which peaked in September, I was on fire, I couldn't get any Verbal Ability, Logical Reasoning question wrong, though Quants was a major concern as the performance here fluctuated like an AC Current. In DI the situation was graver, I couldn't attempt all of its questions in any mock.

Still my percentiles were getting rather good, while my raw score also started touching the 95-100 range. I gave CMAT to further analyze my preparation with respect to the competition across the country, and got AIR 660, which was quite encouraging. Now I had high hope for CAT, and I was quite confident that in next session I'll be in an IIM attending some boring Finance Lecture.

Last Month of the Preparation (30 Days to CAT). Here its kinda weird. I took a sabbatical from the entire MBA thing I don't know why, I went to the Cultural Fest of IIML, enjoyed there, then went ahead to a Kanpur trip for IIT's annual fest. My obligations for my dramatics club seemed bigger that anything else at that point, while everyone else was giving finishing touches to their preparation, I was doing plays and mimes.

15 Days Left. After returning from Kanpur, TCS notified that it will be recruiting from our college in the coming week. Of-course CAT was looming on the horizon but, job was the most important priority. So I didn't burden my brain with MBA and related headaches, and coolly went ahead with the placement.

5 Days to CAT. I realized that I had made a mistake all the way through, CAT should have been a priority, vision was clouded with afterthoughts about everything, I took a couple of mocks, and scored a very disappointing percentile. Appeared in NMAT and performed stupidly.

The D-Day arrives. The test went smoothly, I had not prepared for Geometry and Algebra, and left them on chance, if I got sitters there, I'd attempt them or leave. But during the exams, mere sight of a Geometry or Algebra made me skip the question, as the stakes were too high and my appetite for risk disappeared. The DI which was a bane of existence, didn't harass me though, and I did twenty question out of 30 in QA Section. VA & LR section was a sitter compared to the mocks, and I attempted all of the questions. The total of 50 questions that I attempted was the highest total that I had ever did, in all the mocks that I had taken. I didn't know whether my test went good or bad, but I was satisfied with myself in the end.

After CAT the feeling of satisfaction made sure that I went for the IIFT and XAT exam with absolutely no idea, even about the format of the test. (A grave mistake, and a stupidity of my part, both of them were quite easy as I could see.)

At the day of CAT result, I was confident that I'll get more that 95 percentile, even though this was my first attempt. (This knowledge owing to the large number of All India Mocks that I took.) But I wasn't so sure about scoring 98+% or 99+% which would get me to an IIM, the place that I coveted for the last 12 months.

The results were declared at last, after battling again with my fellow competitors for a couple of hours over the CAT server's scarce computing resources I finally saw my scorecard at 5 a.m. on 9th January. I scored Overall 96.28% with 91.00 in Quantitative Ability and 96.91 in Verbal Ability.

All my hopes for an MBA from IIM shattered this time around. I have learnt a lot of lessons from this test.

Before this test I believed there were only two type of people who succeed in this world. Best explained with analogy to Tolkien's Middle Earth:
  • The smart and intelligent Men who conquer the world with their sharp swords.
  • The hard working and diligent Dwarfs who achieve their goals with the sheer strength of their blunt axes.
But after CAT when I analyzed the performance of others, especially of people who outscored me, I realized that neither of the two actually achieve glory, for it has been reserved another race of people. The fair Elves, who possess both the intelligence of men, and the strength of dwarfs. They aim for their goals and forget about the world, and with a single arrow, hit the bulls eye, every-time. Out of the 10, 100 percentilers of CAT 2012, 8 were from the famed IIT's. They not only cracked the JEE but also skinned the CAT.

I have a new respect for hard work.

The point has been registered, one experience is enough for life. The last mile is always the most difficult.
Coming next cat I'll be back, with a wiser preparation, which would also have the hard work that a test like CAT demands and deserves. I'm down now, but not defeated.