Three IIMs (Holy Trinity), two attempts, and one aspirant!

Abhijay Thacker
Graduation: BSc Economics, NMIMS
CAT percentile: 99.82
Converts: IIM A,B,C

CAT 2016
During my undergraduate days, I was enamoured by macroeconomic theory and how trade, public finance, and monetary systems are interlinked. I yearned to pair my bird’s eye view of the economy with an understanding of industry performance and company behaviour, and this motivated me to apply for top MBA programs. As a final year student however, juggling the CAT along with the CFA program and strenuous coursework was daunting: fervent lectures left time merely for a correspondence program. I would attempt nearly all the questions in mock tests, and was stymied by the low accuracy and lower scores reported test after test. Come December 2016, I scored ~97 percentile (DILR being the curve-ball compared to past trends) and didn’t get a single call from BLACKI, let alone converting. I did however convert my calls from MDI and IIFT. My friends were elated and insisted that having bagged such an achievement, I join a top 10 program that very year. I was joyous, but felt I could amass the willpower to take on the CAT one more time. Further, I believed I could derive greater learning from an MBA if I gained work experience beforehand, as it would elevate one’s understanding from a theoretical perspective to an application-oriented one, hence after graduating as silver medallist of the batch, I joined BOB Capital Markets as a Research Associate.

CAT 2017
This time I had to tackle the task at hand with a different approach, more of the same would not cut it. Yet again, I didn’t have the bandwidth to devote time to classroom sessions, I took up a test series program and had to improvise. My VA skills were top notch, but QA was relatively poor (as for most non-engineers!), hence I skipped the books and devoted time right off the bat to solving sectionals for DILR and QA. The single biggest change was attempting the paper dispassionately: to develop detachment from a question/dataset you’ve just spent 10 minutes working on and abandon it for the next question is easier said than done (sunk cost fallacy at play!). Enforcing this discipline while solving increased my effective strike rate and boosted my scores from ~130 marks last year to 170-180 marks. I believe the CAT is as much a test of one’s planning ability, presence of mind, and strategy, as it is of one’s verbal, logical, and quantitative ability: the hidden three sections, if you will. Read newspapers, practise problems, and learn formulae, but also chart your game plan for attempting clusters of questions rather than the whole paper, acclimatising yourself to focus for three hours with nary a glass of water, and maintaining your calm when one section sours without letting it ruffle your performance in subsequent ones (DILR veterans for the past two years would relate to this!)

Come January 2018, my strategy bore fruit when I scored 99.82 percentile and received calls from IIMs ABCLKI, and FMS. My strategy for interviews was similar: just be yourself! I had some of the most amazing experiences in those interview rooms, each was unique, tested me along different dimensions, and left me spellbound. The one common factor was that the interviewer is NOT out to scare you, or poke holes in your form, or expose a lack of depth in your knowledge: they genuinely want to understand who you are, why are you doing what you are currently doing, and what you want to do henceforth. Upon realising that, the facades of memorising answers and trying to steer questions towards glossy parts of one’s sphere of preparedness fade away, and you can talk in infinite depth about the topic you know the most about: your own life in the years leading up to you sitting in that chair.
Finally, in a precipitation of this cauldron of uncertainty in April 2018, I received admission offers from the three old IIMs: Ahmedabad, Bangalore, and Calcutta, closing this chapter that has spanned two long years! More than any preparation tip or formulae mnemonic, if there is one takeaway from this journey for you, my reader, it would be to believe in yourself: You are your biggest critic, your biggest fan and your biggest source of motivation, and once you’ve won that battle, no one can stop you.


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