Three sections, two hours, and some unimaginable pressure of great expectations. With the objective of getting admission into some of India’s top B-schools, each year around. 2 million people appear for the Common Admission Test (CAT). This is a diverse set – some appearing for the Test the first time while others attempting it for the fifth or tenth time considering there’s no upper limit on the number of attempts. While coaching institutes offer customized preparatory courses, success depends on the individual’s hard work and motivation in navigating the CAT exam. In this article, I am sharing what worked for me in achieving a score of 99.31 percentile in CAT 2021.
With my sights set on cracking CAT, I began preparations at the start of 2020 alongside pursuing BBA at Ahmedabad University. The pandemic and resulting national lockdown in March 2020 dampened my spirits as I was uncertain about the outcomes of online learning. I decided to pick things up once the pandemic relents. Over the next few months, as the entire world learned to live with this unprecedented virus, I resolved to resume my CAT prep with renewed enthusiasm. I told myself “it is my hard work and dedication and not the mode of learning that matters”. Since I was in the last semester of my graduation then, I started off my CAT prep with self-study relying heavily on online material to brush up on the basics. I then transitioned to a coaching institute in April 2021 whose track record and pedagogy were impressive. It is crucial to choose the right coaching institute as the support system there plays a significant role in achieving desired results.
After sitting through CAT twice, I can say that it is all about prioritization as each examinee is expected to put their best foot forward in choosing the right set of questions to attempt.
In the first two months of coaching, I used to attend the CAT classes in the morning followed by college lectures. As and when I used to get time, I would be either preparing for the evaluative components of college or practicing any of the three sections of CAT. It became a bit difficult in May with my last semester exams and capstone project running simultaneously. I prioritized my college studies at that point. As the month of June approached, I knew I had less than six months to be closer to my dream of getting into one of the top B-Schools. So, I started giving mock tests and completing the modules and other resources provided by the coaching institute. I learned that mocks were a great way to unlock one’s potential ahead of the exam bringing both weaknesses and strengths to the surface. I realized that while logical reasoning, data interpretation, and quantitative were my strengths, verbal ability and reading comprehension needed improvement. It was time to tweak my prep strategy.
I began studying for 8-10 hours, spending an equal amount of time on the three sections. I started giving two mocks a week and by September I raised the frequency to every alternate day. In my view, mock tests give students a clear improvement roadmap. I learned not to spend more than a minute on a question, improved my reading speed, decided what type of sets in data interpretation or logical reasoning I will put aside for the last and which topic in quantitative ability takes time, and so on.
The constant support from mentors throughout the CAT journey helped me stay motivated. Whenever I used to get low scores in mock tests, my mentors reiterated how all of this is part of the learning process. My family and friends were pillars of strength throughout. My parents and younger sister always showed confidence in my ability to get a high score. And my friends, some of who were in the same boat, were always there to provide guidance and motivation.
For any test as rigorous as the CAT, keeping one’s anxiety level in check can go a long way in improving performance. On the day of the exam, I was anxious initially. I soon understood that losing my cool at this moment would mean wasting my hard work of eight months. So I decided to relax and go with the flow. Once results were announced and I secured the 99.3 percentile, everyone around me was in celebratory mode. Could I have done better? Yes! But I knew I had given my best shot and the score did bring a smile to my face.