The final year of college brings with it the stress of placements, bidding adieu to your beloved Alma matter and if you aspire to do an MBA, the headline event becomes CAT!
How do you juggle all of this with endless exams and the last shot at participating in that awesome college fest?!
Today we have Gauri Sharda, a final year B.Com student who shares her journey from the classrooms of Hansraj College to those of IIM-A!
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10th – 9.6 CGPA | 12th – 96.4% (Commerce)
B.Com (Hons.) – 83.6%
Hansraj College, Delhi University
I’m a final year student of B.Com (Honours) at Hansraj College, DU and I’m all set to graduate in 2020 and join IIM Ahmedabad in the fall!
I scored a 99.83 percentile in the CAT (2019) and will be joining IIM-A as a fresher.
The last three years have been a roller-coaster ride, in terms of deciding on a career path and actively making that dream a reality.
This is the story of my CA exams, CAT and IIM-A, littered with lessons I have picked up along the way!
To start off, it makes sense to mention that both my parents are Chartered Accountants. As you can probably imagine, while growing up, I envisioned the same career path as them and I’m pretty sure that’s what they expected of me as well.
However, by the end of class 12th, I had realised that I eventually wanted to do an MBA and did not want to wait 5-6 years to do it. So, I thought about both things at the same time. While I had already cleared the CA Foundation entrance right after my Class 12 Boards, I planned to appear for CA Intermediate mid-way into my second year (around November 2018). I would then embark wholeheartedly on the journey to crack the CAT.
Like clockwork, I joined IMS for CAT preparation (so that it starts on the side) early on. In my first year of college, I also joined three societies; the Editorial Board of Commerce Society (I’ll be signing off as the Editor-in-Chief of the same this year), Ostraca- the Creative Writing Society and Padhaku- the Education wing of NSS Hansraj.
These and the daily lectures took up most of my day and whatever little time I had left, I spent it on socialising and chilling with my friends.
But the CA Inter was coming up! So, at the end of the first year, I decided against doing an internship and spent the next two months in isolation, preparing for CA Inter.
Unfortunately, over the course of the next few months, I realised CA really wasn’t my cup of tea and I decided against appearing for both groups and appeared only for the IPCC Group 1 in the November 2018 exams. I did manage to just get by but it was on the dot, with just 50% marks.
I knew then that even the Group 2 would not be something I would appear for, let alone CA final.
Lesson - Don’t do anything if you’re going to do it half-heartedly. While the results may or may not come, it won’t bring you any happiness. Love what you do and put all your energy towards your goal. Always trying to evaluate multiple options, or remaining in confusion, would do you no good.
After a couple of months, the preparation for the real exam (the one that has now brought me to my dream institution) began.
Despite it being my first crack at CAT, I wasn’t exactly new to the syllabus to begin with. In fact, I was more than familiar with it because of the BBA and BMS entrance exams. I knew what it would demand from me and how I might need to prepare. Call me a nerd but I actually thoroughly enjoyed my CAT preparation process and the results clearly show!
But it wasn’t a smooth ride regardless, with the tumultuous journey of learning and then scoring in mocks, all while managing other commitments to college and friends.
Further, I had taken a risk and opted out of college placements.
I did not want to divert my time and effort from CAT prep. To this day, I do not know if it was a leap of faith or maybe just my adamant behaviour. I knew that if the exam went sideways, I would end up with a gap year, which is something nobody really wants.
But since I had taken that lesson of “chase what you want” to heart, I weighed my risks and went all in.
I started taking my mock tests in June 2019.
My Verbal Aptitude section was pretty consistent (barring a few highs and lows) throughout the mocks and I usually tried to attempt each mock with a new strategy until I found the one I was most comfortable with and which fetched me the most accurate attempts. On the D-Day, I achieved a scaled score of 68.52, a 99.39%ile.
On the other hand, my performance in the Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning section was pretty unstable (I’ve covered my journey and tips in another article available here). On the D-Day, I achieved a scaled score of 62.70, a 99.81%ile.
Lastly, my Quantitative Aptitude section was pretty much an upward-looking graph from 7 marks in the first mock, 29, 36, 40, 42 in consequent ones, and finally, a 57.65 scaled score (fetching 98.43 %ile), all thanks to the directions and techniques taught by my mentor and diligent practice.
Lesson- Don’t let a single mock score define your progress! Do not get disheartened by a bad score or too happy about a good one.
It is just one mock, an interim stop, not the final one. The key here is to always analyse what went well for you and what didn’t. You have to make your strengths stronger and eliminate your weaknesses.
The months leading up to CAT were definitely rigorous, having to manage college lectures, internal assessments, society commitments and the looming final exams which were to begin just a week after CAT, all at the same time. But it paid off! I was lucky enough to have a support system in my mentor (Abhijeet sir, my faculty at IMS), family, friends, batchmates, juniors and seniors who understood the demands of what needed to be done, guided me and helped me back on track when I slacked off.
Lesson- Never underestimate the importance of a conducive environment and a support system!
People around you that stand with you, appreciate you, believe in you and keep pushing you forward make it all worthwhile. They determine your emotional and mental health, which is just as necessary a prerequisite for your preparation.
The CAT results came out on 4th January 2020 - 99.83 percentile!
I received interview shortlists from IIM A, B, C, L, I, K, S, FMS and SP Jain, along with all other new IIMs that I had applied to.
My risk had paid off!
The next two months were spent preparing and appearing for these interviews.
The interview preparation seemed to be even more thorough and taxing compared to what was required for the CAT exam!
You have to thoroughly go over your hobbies, academic courses, general awareness and knowledge, personal history and information about the respective colleges.
At the end of the day, still be prepared to be left feeling like a buffoon in front of the interviewers, because they can literally ask you anything under the sun!
Some of my interviews were based completely on academics, while others were far removed. Some were full of only GK and random things, while others were more structured and comprised of literally everything an interview can.
Lesson- Interviews are one of the most ambiguous things there are and there is only so much preparation one can do.
Ultimately, you have to stop and some point and just be ready to wing it and take it as it comes. Even the interviewers do not expect you to know each and every answer but what they expect to see is how you tackle even those questions you know nothing about.
Have confidence that you have prepared your best and believe that things will go your way. After that, just leave it up to God (or whatever it is that you believe in :P).
All the very best to CAT 2020 takers!
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Interested in learning about how to approach the CAT? Check out our Strategise the CAT series here!