For those who have conquered the mind, it is their friend. For those who have failed to do so, the mind works as an enemy!

About the Author

Shubham Yadav (MBA(HRD) Department of Commerce, Delhi School of Economics, Delhi University)           


  बन्धुरात्मात्मनस्तस्य येनात्मैवात्मना जित: |
अनात्मनस्तु शत्रुत्वे वर्ते तात्मैव शत्रुवत् ||

Bhagavad Gita- Chapter 6, Verse 6

Citing this shloka from Bhagavad Gita, Shubham says," I want all the CAT aspirants to read it and remember it throughout your journey of this CAT prep and even when you become a big shot manager handling a lot of employees. In my opinion, the CAT exam is more about time management and stress management. The cut-throat competition and the dream of seeing yourself at an IIM sometimes become a lot to handle which may not be so good for an aspirant's mental health. So, I want every aspirant to try and conquer their mind before conquering this exam which I'm sure you will."

MA: What inspired you to prepare for CAT/MBA? Please give a small background of your education and career? 

I come from an engineering background. I completed B.Tech in Civil engineering from Amity University Noida in 2019. While doing my summer internship in the 3rd year I realized that standing at some construction site and just observing the structures wasn't really making me happy. I had just come back to India after studying a semester at Adelphi University, New York. 

There are a lot of things I can talk about that semester but the most important thing I observed there was that everyone I met in that college was really interested in the subjects they were studying. No one told me that they were visiting the college just for the sake of attendance and I was impressed by that, I wanted to do something which would be meaningful to me and I could see myself growing in that area. So, I fixed an appointment with a career counselor and had a couple of sessions with him. I did a lot of research as well and that's how I decided to go for CAT 19.

As to sharing my story here, I strongly believe that the best thing we as humans could do is to help each other and make each other grow and that's also a reason why I chose to pursue MBA in Human Resource Management. 

MA: How did you begin the preparation, did you have a strategy or plan for the upcoming months before the D-Day?

Shubham:  Now that I knew I had to prepare for CAT and it was already mid-May. I felt although I still had time to prepare for the exam it might not be enough as some students were preparing since January and I didn't have any idea about how to start the preparation and what all do I need to study for this exam. I knew I had to join some classes to prepare in a better and structured way and as I had no job in hand so I knew that I'll be having more than enough time for the classroom sessions. I did some research and planned to join TIME CP. 

To be very honest, I was quite relaxed for the first few weeks. I was taking the preparation for granted as I was overconfident for no reason. It took me a couple of mocks to realize where I actually stood in the race and the best part of studying in a batch is that you start working harder when you see your batchmates outperforming you. Luckily, I had chosen the right friends at the CAT prep classes. One of them was from NIT and the other one was from SRCC. They were both quite hardworking and bright. I saw them doing quite well in the mocks and knew that my score won't even get close to theirs if I didn't start putting extra efforts. It was on the 16th of July when I decided to go all out for this exam and saw some interviews on Youtube. Most of the people who aced in CAT '18 talked about how much hours were more than enough to prepare for CAT. 

The number was around 500-600 hours. It was up to us how we managed to put in those 600 hours. Then I made a proper strategy and would advise every aspirant to make a strategy or at least start noting all the activities you do during the day and how much time you invest in those activities in a small diary. Analyze how you could have saved those extra 20 minutes you spent on the phone or while watching TV. Do this before going to bed every night, it won't take more than 5 mins of your time, and trust me you'll be a pro at time management within a month.

MA: Which were your strongest and weakest areas? Did you focus on bettering your strong areas or worked to improve your weaker ones? 

Shubham: This is the question which many of the aspirants have been asking me on LinkedIn and Facebook as well. For me, VARC was my strongest area as I never really had to read the RCs just to grab those 4 correct answers from that passage. These passages are usually so interesting and offer you so much knowledge within those 6-7 paragraphs. I never knew that I would find Anatomy and History passages so interesting until I read them in one of the mocks. One should approach the passage as if they're here to learn from the passage and gather knowledge rather than just hunting the important lines and finding the perfect answer. 

I still remember some of the mock passages quite vividly just because of this approach. Trust me, If you give the passage a good read then you won't even have to go through it again when you read the questions. but, this goes for those 3 or 4  easy to medium difficulty level passages from the VARC section. I'm pretty sure you'll always find a passage that will consume a lot of time and you still won't be sure about the answers. So, my advice is you should learn the art of skipping passages as well. There's no secret code to learn this art. The more mocks and sectionals you give the more you'll get better at it. The same goes for Verbal Ability questions as well. You start understanding the art of solving them if you keep practicing. The chronology of the sentences in Para jumble is something you should try to observe. Para Jumble becomes a lot easier when you know how to use conjunctions.

Quant was always my weakest area. I know this might be a shocker of some of you as I've already mentioned that I come from an Engineering background and engineerings are famous for nailing the quant section but I had some kind of math phobia. I tried to avoid it as much as possible because I had a feeling in my mind that I won't be ab le to solve these questions and If I couldn't solve them then I'll have those moments of self-doubt. I would start feeling low and leave everything and just lie on my bed. To be honest this didn't go quite well for me. I started getting decent marks in VARC and LRDI but couldn't even clear the cutoff in the Quant section.
I decided to focus on Quant and kept practicing all kinds of questions for Quant. I'd pick random questions from anywhere and try to solve it. I started devoting 50% of my time to Quants and the rest to VARC and LRDI. I worked hard on Quants and my score started increasing. But, I knew that VARC was the section that would help me in increasing my percentile by a big margin so I never stopped giving sectionals for VARC and LRDI. In the final days, I again moved my focus on VARC and LRDI because I knew that I was done with the syllabus and now I had to increase my score in the VARC section as much as possible and I would recommend this to all of the aspirants. You should focus on your stronger areas in the final 15-20 days as they'll help you in increasing your percentile on the D-Day.

MA: Can you share some of your interview experiences at B-Schools?

Shubham:  2020 is a very different year as we all know. Most of my interviews were scheduled to be held in mid-March or April but they got canceled because of the rising risk of spread of Covid-19 in India. I could attend just 2 interviews that were IIT Roorkee and CAP round for IIMs and in fact, the IIT one didn't count as well because it got canceled in other cities. 

So, taking about the IIT interview, the panel was quite friendly and a good listener. It consisted of a male and female panelist both in their 50s. The male panelist didn't ask much he was just observing my body language and the female panelist kept asking questions related to my hobbies and why MBA. It was overall a good interview. The CAP round interview didn't go according to my plans. 

The panel was quite rigid and they were not ready to take the chat in the direction I wanted it to go. We are always taught to drop some hints in the intro itself and make the panel curious about certain things which ultimately leads the conversation in a certain direction but here the panelists were more interested in questions related to my engineering subjects and static GK questions such as "Who was the first President of India?", "Name the 5 rivers of Punjab.", "Who were LAL, BAL, PAL?", "Who won
the noble prize for literature last year?", "Name all the Nobel Prize winners of India who were based in India itself", etc. They had a lot of GK questions planned for me. I could answer most of them but was still disappointed as all my mock interviews went quite good and I was expecting this interview to go perfect but sometimes you just need to make peace with the fact that things don't always go your way.

MA: Any tips for the CAT 2020 aspirants?  

Shubham:  There are a lot of tips as I've almost spent a year in the preparation of the exam and the GDPI round but I would try to keep it as crisp as possible-
  • TRY TO READ THE EDITORIAL SECTION OF THE NEWSPAPER EVERY SINGLE DAY.- Reading the editorial every day would really help you in increasing your reading speed. You can download some e-newspaper app on your mobile and read thew editorial while traveling to your classes or while on your way home. It'll also help you in learning some new words and also try to observe the way the articles are written. It'll help you a lot in the Written Ability Test.
  • DON'T FOLLOW EVERYONE- I know there are a lot of so-called GURUs on Youtube these days who keep posting videos about different strategies on the D-Day and how to plan your time table but trust me, I've tried to talk to all of them and in fact, I've even talked to some of them over the phone or WhatsApp and all I know is that they are just trying to sell you their courses. Only a few of them are genuinely out there to help. The rest of them are just trying to scare you that how hard CAT is and it's not possible for you to get through the exam without buying their courses or study material. Do some research and find someone you want to follow for the rest of the days left in the exam but just be smart when you do it.
  • TRY TO GIVE A GOOD NUMBER OF MOCKS- Most of the students from my batch were quite active in the first few mocks but the participation starts decreasing as the D-day comes closer. Many aspirants give up in July or August. This is the time when the actual filtration happens and around 70% are left. Trust me, It's not over until it is. A champion keeps fighting until the fight gets over, they don't stop if they miss a shot, they keep trying again and again until they succeed. Mocks often demotivate students and that's also a reason why students avoid it but trust me there's no hiding away from this. Fun fact: I couldn't even manage 50 percentile in my final 2 mocks but I just believed in myself and I was never ready to give up and now I'm studying at one of the most prestigious colleges of India and I just want to tell you all that if a laid-back student like me can do it then you can surely do it.
  • IT'S JUST AN EXAM WHICH HAPPENS EVERY YEAR- Now this line has various meanings and it depends on you how you interpret it. I say this because I've seen very bright and promising individuals giving up and thinking of them as losers just because they couldn't make it to their dream college this year or couldn't score 99 percentile. Trust me, NO EXAM IN THIS WORLD CAN MAKE YOU A WINNER OR A LOSER, read it again and again until you remember it for your whole life. Just believe in yourself and be proud of yourself that at least you took the first step to greatness. You displayed a lot of courage by just deciding to go for this exam. You spent your nights studying in a room when your friends were out partying and having fun.

One very important tip is to always try to surround yourself with positive people and the ones who believe in you. Your income is the average of the 5 people you decide to surround yourself with. I was lucky enough that I had such people in this Journey be it my parents, siblings, my best friends, or my teachers. Just stay positive and keep Hustling. ALL THE VERY BEST TO YOU!

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