One of the more common questions I have gotten on the blog/my Linkedin has been
“I do not speak English fluently. Will that be a barrier to scoring in the CAT or performing well in the interviews?”
The advice offered in most cases by most people (including me) is the same.
Read more, watch English movies, follow an English newspaper and start writing more often.
If only it were so simple! It is perhaps too easy to underestimate the amount of effort required to become fluent in a new language.
More than any of this common advice, I believe that knowing someone who has struggled through the same issue and come out victorious is going to be more helpful and will provide the best motivation to overcome these obstacles!
Today, we are excited to have Anand Shah, a Chartered Accountant, and someone who can relate to this on a spiritual level because Anand studied at a Gujarati medium school till class XII.
Why is his story important? Because Anand overcame these barriers as he managed to secure a rank in CA and even a seat in the prestigious IIM-Ahmedabad Batch of 2020-22!
Important alert! - If you are a Chartered Accountant, Lawyer, Economics or Commerce graduate who wants to make it to the B-School of your dreams, don't forget to subscribe to The Unconventional MBA!
X: 93.67 % (Gujarati Medium)
XII: 90.67 % (Gujarati Medium)
BCom: 71% (HL College of Commerce, Gujarat University)
CA: 71% (AIR 12 in Final, AIR 16 in IPCC)
CA Articleship: PwC Ahmedabad, Statutory Audit (36 Months)
Post-qualification experience 1: Deloitte Bangalore, Forensic (4 months)
Post-qualification experience 2: EY Mumbai, Transaction Advisory (3 months)
Having been born in a religious Gujarati Baniya family at Ahmedabad, I was always surrounded by small to medium scale businessmen, all of whom had started from scratch, migrants from small surrounding villages.
This had always inspired me to aspire for something big.
As an inquisitive kid, I had an insatiable curiosity to learn new things at every stage. The same got me interested in mathematics when I was 14. I started solving Quant questions from CAT past papers during my 10th vacation.
As I studied in Gujarati medium till Standard XII, I always felt English as a bottleneck. IIM-A was not when I first started to feel the need for English. Being a Chartered Accountant, I had cleared a plethora of examinations before the CAT and even worked in PwC for 3 years as an article trainee.
However, in CA, technical and subject matter knowledge would always trump personality development and hence the lack of fluency in English never made me feel like I was at a disadvantage.
Come CAT and IIM-A to change all that.
My IIM-Ahmedabad admission journey
It was September 25, 2019, when I thought of attempting CAT 2019, while I had initially thought that I would start preparing seriously for CAT 2020. Luckily, that day was the last day to register for the exam and I filled up the form.
I neither took any sort of coaching for CAT nor did I prepare for Verbal and DILR sections.
I picked up the Arun Sharma Quant book a week before the exam to revise some of the maths concepts that I studied in my standard X.
And that was my entire CAT 2019 preparation. Like I said, it was not a serious attempt.
Result: 95.76 overall percentile (VA 79.93, DILR 99.67 and QA 90.02)
The sectional marks in VA and QA were not good but the overall score was sufficient for an IIM A call to someone with my profile.
How did I crack the CAT with no preparation?
If I had to, I would say that the reason behind me cracking CAT could have been my naturally developed aptitude over the years.
This could have been developed during my CA Final Self-Study preparation (I did not take any sort of coaching for my CA final also), wherein I was supposed to interpret and understand approximately 12,000 pages during a 6 month exam leave.
My reading speed, as well as analytical / interpretation skills were developed during that period.
This may explain the CAT performance and diversity and profile may explain my IIM-A call, but I still had to get through the interview.
On the day of the call, more than being overjoyed, I started self-evaluating my English speaking skills and how they were not at par with others.
This was the biggest reason for my self-doubt.
But I did not let it get the best of me. I perceived the call to be a golden opportunity and promised myself that I would leave no stone un-turned to convert it.
I promised to put in all the efforts that I could.
I started communicating in English on a daily basis with my colleagues, friends and clients; started reading English newspapers for the first time in my life, made a list of all possible questions that could come to me on the basis of my educational background, work-ex, hometown, family background, social and economic conditions in the country etc.
Anything I could think of. I wanted to be prepared.
During the actual interview on D-day, I was asked many things about my work experience during my stints at PwC and Deloitte. I could confidently answer all those questions. My new found confidence in the language was backed by clarity of thoughts on the subjects that I had.
You can read about my interview experience here.
The things, in my opinion, that made me worthy of sitting at an interview at IIM A, were
1) Risk-taking personality trait:
After clearing my CA, I moved to Bangalore, a completely non hindi speaking region, without having prior experience of being away from family and managing things on my own. This move exposed me to a team of many native English speakers.
I perceive this had a favourable impact because the environment at Ahmedabad never compelled me to speak English. (It can better be explained by how I speak Hindi like natives.
Just as English, I never studied Hindi more than a subject post Standard IX. Still I aced it because of my affection towards Bollywood.)
2) Using every opportunity:
I literally left no opportunity of having an English conversation with my CBSE friends, clients, colleagues and others regardless of fear of being judged. Few of the times, I had encountered some of them smirking at me obnoxiously. But this thing never stopped me, because I knew I was practicing and improving myself exponentially.
3) Right set of friends:
My co-interns were far more supporting of me than I could ever imagine. They always helped me in my efforts of language improvement even though I might have sounded ad nauseam.
4) Inquisitive attitude:
I made a promise to myself that I will always ask a question, if there is any, even if I am not able to frame the question at first. This helped me broaden my technical concepts at each stage. I also took interest in learning things which were totally irrelevant to the curriculum but could possibly help going forward.
I will be joining 2 years PGP in Management at IIM-Ahmedabad on July 31, 2020, a day after my 22nd birthday. Best birthday gift, ever.
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Interested in learning about how to approach the CAT? Check out our Strategise the CAT series here!