• Simran Somani

My CAT encounters (There were 5) and how they led me to IIM-A!

Updated: May 26, 2020

How many times should you taste failure before you finally give up & call it quits?

Surely, there must be a number?

Maybe after your gap year does not work out?

Or after you come oh-so-close to living your dream just to have it snatched away?

Well, some people show us how the only limitations we have are the ones we place on ourselves.

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!

Today we have Kshitij Bhatt (IIM-Ahmedabad 2020-22), a B.Com grad from Ramjas College, Delhi University, here to share his journey.


Before we begin, please understand that the word ‘journey’ here is an understatement.

Kshitij’s experience is nothing short of an odyssey which left us speechless and stuck with us for days.


If the fear of failure has ever held you back, get ready to be inspired and to let go!



Kshitij’s Background


10th - 10 CGPA | 12th – 95.2% (Commerce)

B.Com (Hons.) – 78.2%

Ramjas College, Delhi University

Work ex – 27 months (as of Jan 2020), Investment Controller - Continental Tires

Hello people! Kshitij here.


Instead of relying on numbers and test scores, I thought I’d explain my background with a prologue of sorts.

Prologue


From an early age, I took sports seriously & played quite well. I started off with cricket and moved on to football, volleyball, badminton, athletics, handball, swimming and even softball. (I played video games too, just in case you were wondering).

If these weren’t enough, I added playing the guitar to my list of ‘skills’.


Meanwhile, I never compromised on my academics and somehow always managed to score well.


At this point, you’re probably asking yourself this question - Has this guy started to brag already?

No.


All I want to convey is that success (or what I thought of as success) seemed to come naturally to me in every field (I can hear myself scoffing at this in hindsight).


I was convinced that I was an all-rounder. And while it seems so clear in retrospect, that mind-set made me over confident, brash, and arrogant. But as you know, the only constant in this world is Change.


And oh how the mighty fell!


The dream


For me the idea of an MBA was not something I had picked up in college. It was a dream since class 8th.


In fact, I remember bragging to my peers about my fool-proof plans to study engineering (CS no less) from IIT-B and then go to IIM-A.


3 years down the line, I took commerce and CSE from IIT-B was replaced with Eco from SRCC.


IIM-A remained intact.


However, the results were just not there and I had to move on with B.Com from Ramjas.


ATTEMPT 1 (CAT 2015)


I joined coaching classes in my 2nd year at Ramjas to prepare for CAT’15. While I had been performing decently in mocks, D-day’s result was hopeless.

I scored 84 percentile (VARC-67, DILR-60, QA-96) and figured that coaching was a waste of time for me as I did not learn anything useful.


ATTEMPT 2 (CAT 2016)


I remember saying “Ye 25 hazaar ki naukri nahi karni mujhe” (I don’t want to do a 25,000 per month job) as I skipped placements and decided to take a drop year to prepare for CAT’16 along with NMAT, SNAP, IIFT and XAT.

I opted for 3 test series from CL, TIME and IMS and used the study material from my previous attempt.

My focus areas were naturally VARC and DILR.

I even started reading novels to help improve my reading comprehension. I tried my best to solve every single type of DILR question (there are never enough) from mocks, sectional tests, and study material.


That’s not all. I changed my number, lost contact with many of my friends, and studied hard for the next 9 months.


This hard work resulted in a percentile of 97 (VA-88, DILR-98, QA-96).

This time, I had decent calls – IIM Indore, Shillong, CAP, MDI, SP Jain, NMIMS, SIBM, and IMT-G.


Can you guess what calls I converted?


None! I was REJECTED from all of them except IIM Shillong. I was too upset and decided to skip that interview.


I asked myself many questions - Why was I rejected? What was I lacking? What had gone wrong?

Was it poor acads prep? No question on hobbies? Did they want work-ex? Was my GK too weak?


I asked each and every question but forgot to ask the most important one – Did I have the right attitude?


ATTEMPT 3 (CAT 2017)


As my dream seemed more and more distant and my life hopeless, I applied for a 6 month internship at Continental Tires in a remote location called Modipuram (It’s a small town 2-3 hours from Delhi).

I now spent my weekdays in Modipuram and my weekends in Delhi.

My confidence was shattered under the weight of my previous failures and I felt completely lost.


I was so close to quitting.

Funnily enough, frosty October brought a ray of positivity and I was given the opportunity to work as a full-time employee. With newfound hope, I started giving mocks and preparing seriously.


But CAT was just 2 months away.

While I continued reading novels and practicing DILR, I was overconfident and skipped quants entirely.

I gave this attempt with “nothing to lose” confidence, and managed to score 99.02 (VA-97.65, DILR-99.94, QA-89.87).

I finally had a call from my dream college IIM-Ahmedabad along with Kozikode, Lucknow, Indore, Shillong and CAP. I was over the moon. I truly believed that things were finally looking up.


And I couldn’t have been more wrong.


I had been rejected again.

Rejected from Ahmedabad, Kozhikode, Lucknow and once again, rejected by Indore.

While I did convert CAP and Shillong, I chose not go.

Instead, I asked myself the same questions that had plagued me earlier- Why? Why the repeated rejection? Acads again? GK again? No questions on work ex again?

However, there was a huge difference this time. A game changer.


My manager, one of the nicest people I have ever met, was very supportive of my decisions and did what others had not - he made me question my attitude.


My rude replies, my over-confident body language, and my tendency to speak without thinking were ripping my dreams into shreds.


ATTEMPT 4 (CAT 2018)


When I told my manager that I wouldn’t be joining Shillong, he made me promise not to leave the company next year.


Was it a deal with the devil? Absolutely not.


While I stayed true to my promise, I decided to attempt CAT without selecting any college at the time of application itself. I went in without any preparation and scored 97.01 (VA-96.58, DILR-91.63, QA-94.89).


FINAL ATTEMPT - ATTEMPT 5 (CAT 2019)


This was it.

I had decided that this fifth attempt would be my last.

As you can imagine, there was pressure from everywhere. My parents wanted me to join literally ANY college that I would get.


My dad, my grandfather, my relatives, and even my friends’ parents (can you imagine?), kept reminding me of my mistake of not joining Shillong in 2018.

My workload had doubled too. I felt like everything and everyone in the universe had united against me.

I tried my best to stay away from negativity and tried to maintain a positive outlook.

I now had 2 years of work ex behind me. I was changed person. I could feel it within me.


I knew I’d have to sacrifice my weekends because studying after office wasn’t possible. Trust me I tried!

I purchased a test series and some study material from CL. I knew I had to focus on Quant preparation without sacrificing my reading habit. I wasn’t going to make the same mistake twice.


I had also realized over the years was that shortcuts/formulas are just an added bonus. If you know them - good for you. But if you don’t, it won’t be much of an issue. So, I did exactly that.

As CAT approached, I was consistently scoring 99+ percentile in my mocks. I even set a target score of 180 marks – VARC 80, DILR 60, QA 40.


Seems easy enough right? Forget a high score, I even had my sectional marks pre-decided!


Now the one rule of CAT is that you can never predict what happens on D-Day

(They should include this on the website!).

CAT raw score with percentile:

1. VA – 60, 98.6

2. DILR – 60, 99.50

3. QA – 69, 99.55

4. Overall – 189, 99.83


Although the overall score was pretty much in line with the target, there is a huge variance between QA and VA. That’s because VA was quite difficult compared to the past 4 years and quant was super easy, probably the easiest in same time frame.


So, never be rigid with the number of questions you attempt or the target score you have in mind.


After years of hard work, I finally had ALL the calls – The famous BLACKI, Shillong, CAP, FMS, MDI, and SP Jain.


I managed to convert my dream IIM-A along with B, L, K, S, and CAP.


Results are not yet out for FMS and MDI. I did not sit for the interviews at SP Jain and IIM Indore.


I will be joining IIM-A this August.


And that my friends, is life for you.

What went right this time?


Nothing much, but I was better prepared:


1. I brushed up on my acads - especially the financial theory related to my work ex.


2. I delved into Current affairs and read up on General Knowledge


3. I prepared well for questions on my hobbies and work-ex.


4. My body language had changed significantly and it had humbled me.


5. Most importantly, I was confident but not over-confident.


Leaving you with my final thoughts:

My life over the last 4 years has taught me lessons in the crudest way possible.


I felt the following were most important:


1. Know your inner self and live up to your potential.


2. Never give up! Hard work will definitely bring fruitful results, if not today then tomorrow.


3. Nobody’s perfect. Accept your faults & shortcomings and be willing to change.

Always strive for self-improvement.


4. Behavioral/implicit communication is more important than any technical knowledge.


5. Shun out the negativity from your life and always stay positive.


Wishing everyone the very best for CAT 2020!


Kshitij Bhatt

IIM-A (2020-2022)Finally.


To stay in the loop for more tips, tricks & experiences from amazing people like Kshitij, subscribe to this blog!


Other posts you may find interesting:


An economics freshers road to IIM-A


A Chartered Accountant's IIM-A Interview - With honest musings


Interested in learning about how to approach the CAT? Check out our Strategise the CAT series here! Books & Resources to use for the CAT (And how to source them)

Common queries around the CAT


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