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CATapulting from Low Grades - My journey with a 5.4 CGPA - ft. Shivalli Arun

“A bad college grade won’t let you make it to a top Indian B - School”

Does this sound familiar? Does your profile affect your confidence even in CAT preparation?

Today, we bring to you the story of Shivalli Arun.

Shivalli graduated with a Honors degree in Statistics from one of India’s finest colleges, Lady Shri Ram. She was extremely active in extracurricular activities and never passed up an opportunity to take up multifarious things.

When Shivalli started to prepare for the CAT, she started very low on the confidence meter. Despite having an impressive CV in terms of her job profile, varied interests & diverse internship experiences, her 5.4 CGPA weighed heavy on her.

As she quit her job and began CAT prep, in the back of her mind her chances always seemed bleak to her. Read how she managed to convert her calls and gain her confidence back during the CAT process!

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10th – 90.0% , 12TH 97.5% (SCIENCE)

Statistics Honors - 5.4/10 CGPA

Lady Shri Ram College for Women, New Delhi

Work ex – 8 months at Posterity Consulting

The Beginning:

After I topped my school in the Science stream, choosing to graduate from Lady Shri Ram College was an obvious career decision. Further, I decided to enroll in the Statistics Hons course because a few of my seniors had taken that route, and they had excelled.

LSR was a completely different world for me, as is for most outstation students (I am a native of Lucknow). I was surrounded by so many talented and hardworking women, that I didn't have to look anywhere else for motivation.

The first year went well, studying just like I did in class 12th worked for me.

I had scored a 97.5% and made it to LSR. I was staying true to my tried & tested means.

By the end of second year, however, I found myself completely lost in the whole process.

I was participating in various extracurricular activities. Initially, I got selected as the treasurer of my department, headed the publicity team of the same and also organized the Annual Academic meet of our department-‘Moments’. I worked with BloodConnect, an NGO, as their core team member for two years and worked on a live project by Myntra as well on their customer service in my 1st year. I also actively participated in various clubs and societies in college like the Alumni Cell and SPIC MACAY. I would readily volunteer for almost every event that came up in college.

Amidst this, I lost focus academically. An air of diffidence surrounded me and my mindset changed. I felt like putting effort into studying anyway won’t bring me any marks, and hence I stopped studying and unsurprisingly, I graduated with a very low CGPA of 5.4.

The fall from grace from 97% to 5.4 CGPA was not easy.

In a quest to find myself, I took up various internships, and also to figure out where my interests and strengths lie. I interned with KPMG in the Marketing domain and with OYO in Business Development.

Later I took up a job in the Human Resources Consulting startup, where I started off as a trainee and eventually became an analyst. After sticking around for 8 months, I knew it was time to sit for the CAT.

The Break

CAT was a chance for me to turn things around, from my mundane routine and from a life of low

self-confidence. I wanted to prove my worth to myself, and hence I started studying as seriously as I could. There were always these thoughts of all my efforts going in vain since despite a great undergrad school, I was on the edge because of my graduation score.

I worked hard enough to secure a decent percentile that fetched me 2 calls - IRMA and IIM Jammu.

While I prepared for the interviews, I recall being told that I lacked credibility, or my graduation marks wouldn't secure me an admission anywhere. However, a peer group, and my father's pep talks about his journey as an IPS officer, kept me going.

The interviews were definitely difficult. At the IRMA one, I was asked about Probability Distributions, which I knew of but I was unable to give examples. There were also questions about my job profile and other calls. But the most dreaded one came, when they asked me about sliding from 97.5% to a 5.4 CGPA, a sort of thing they had never seen. However, I was more than prepared for this question.

I told them how much I wanted this question to be asked, to show them the reality of it. Being honest, I told them of the change of mindset that came about in my third year of college, which led me to completely ignore academics. I explained how I let anxiety get the better of me and how those decisions impacted almost everything that came later in my life.

I owed up to the fact of having scored low marks, told the realization that hit me, and how everyday I regretted this mistake, which is why I decided to break the chain and start over again.


I received my results for IRMA on the 21st of March 2020, and I was obviously really anxious. I was clueless about what to infer from my interview experience, so the moment I saw my results, I knew this was it. The universe was giving me a second chance! Finally I was getting onto a road where I could begin my new journey.

Throughout the last two years I witnessed my peers moving forward with their lives and achievements, and I felt that this time I had one for myself. My parents were beyond happy that I converted both the calls I received!

In my opinion, IRMA has a vision that separates it from other B-schools, and the course it offers provides hands-on learning, which I don’t think is accessible everywhere. I want to learn about business through this process, to understand how the FMCGs work deep down and also how the whole AMUL era started.

The complete CAT voyage helped me find the confidence I had lost. Having first-hand learnt the value of Acads, I promised myself to avoid the slippery slope called “Grades Don’t Matter”. And that is exactly what I would advise everyone who is reading this.

Lastly, I just want to thank my panelists from IRMA and IIM Jammu for having looked beyond my graduation marks and understanding that I was worth a shot! Now, I have this whole new life to prove that to myself too and well, this is just the beginning!


To stay in the loop for more experiences from amazing people like Shivalli, subscribe to us!

Interested in learning about how to approach the CAT? Check out our Strategise the CAT series here!

You can also check out some related posts such as:

Soaring from the Indian Air Force to IIM Indore - Flt Lt. Jitendra Singh Bhadoria’s incredible story

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Jun 06, 2021

amazingly expressed! that’s the beaut of a roller coaster journey. all the best

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