If you have reached here and are reading this, there’s a high chance that you, like me, are putting in your time, resources and efforts to appear in arguably one of the best “aptitude” examinations in the country, if not the world. (Aptitude- “Natural ability to do something”). Unless you are one of those few gifted personalities, you and I both know there’s nothing natural about those Riddler-like (Batman’s nemesis) DILR sets and mind twisting RC passages that seem straight out of some scientist’s Dear Diary. But the aspirants who score those picturesque percentiles that feel like melting chocolate in the mouth, have the same amount of time and same resources as we do. What is it that we should be doing differently on this rewarding yet uphill journey?
Having cleared a few Government jobs examinations previously and having an idea of the “syllabus” of CAT examination, it sounded like a familiar premise and a doable endeavor. Now, after an eye opening and wonderful (not yet complete) journey so far, in the last three months, I realized, comparing both ‘competitive’ examinations with each other is like saying, because Mercedes and Maruti Alto are four wheelers and are made of more or less same materials, one who can build a Maruti can build a Mercedes and vice versa. That doesn’t sound right, does it? This is neither a guide about “Where to read” and “What to practice” of my preparation journey, nor is it a rant. These are some honest observations and sincere reflections about the CAT in the room (unnecessary pun).
Is CAT Invincible?
When I started, a common sentiment resonating wherever I looked for guidance was, “CAT exam is tough.” Instead of taking that sentence at its face value, I questioned, “Okay, but Why and What makes this examination tough?”. Many of you must have asked and answered this question in your own terms, here’s my answer. This examination has two parts: first and foremost, understanding and comprehending the problem in front of you. This is a common theme across all three sections. You have to understand the absolute meaning of the question before even thinking about approaching the answer. And that is what requires your utmost focus and precision. Second part is easy and mechanical. Once you’ve understood the question, you have to efficiently use your resources (time and energy) to arrive at the solution. (Easier said than done!)
I followed the guidelines put forth by a lot of people who have walked this path before me. Understanding the examination pattern: Done. Enrollment in a fine coaching institute: Done. Attempting a previous year mock to see where I stand: Done ( CAT 2017 slot 1). Dedicating a definite portion of the day to preparation: Done. I took care of all the external factors contributing to CAT preparation by the end of June 2022.
Fall in Love with CAT?! Hah!
While going through 2IIM’s YouTube content at the beginning of my CAT prep journey, one thing stuck with me. In one of the videos by Rajesh Sir, he made an emphasis on falling in love with the journey. At that moment, it did feel like some ‘making you feel good about the grinding this examination demands’. But at the time of writing this, standing at almost the halfway mark of my CAT journey, believe me, those lines do put things in perspective.
Everything said and done, it is not as simple and straightforward as the maestros say. As the antagonist says, in one of the superhero movies, ”If it were that easy, anyone would do it”. There have been days when I couldn’t find one minute to open the book no matter how much I wanted. When I wake up, the will just disappears like how the morning dew disappears, as soon as the sun shines.
How then, must one find the strength to show up just one more time, solve just one more question, read just one more essay?
I asked this question to one of my friends, who is also an aspirant of another big exam that starts with U and ends with C (Thou shall not be named). He asked me a counter question, “In medieval times, who do you think motivated the army in their battles?”. “A commander”, I said. “Who do you think motivated the commander?”, he asked further. “ The Emperor”, I said. You must have guessed his next question which he answered himself without waiting for any reply. He said, “You are the emperor in your own story, you do not need someone else to remind you why this is important for you everyday.” You have to believe in your efforts and monitor your progress, no matter how small it is. Sometimes even the King (you know the one I am talking about) has to believe in his process for 1089 days to get the desired results.
Consistency does not always look like following a routine everyday. Sometimes, consistency just means picking up your books after that one bad yesterday and not letting it spill on to today. My single most important takeaway so far has been – Discipline and Belief in your process will take you farther than your talent or genius ever will. As for those really demotivating sets of DILR and mind boggling RC passages that just suck the brain juices out of my tiny wee brain, I have an important learning that I would like to share with you:
“Problems can never be solved with the same mindset that created them. You have to rise above to the next level to solve them” (Albert Einstein)
When I read the above lines for the first time on a wallpaper in a smartphone, it sounded wise. During my CAT preparation journey, whenever a question has stumped me, I have repeated this line in my head and wondered whether that old man was onto something.
At the time of writing, my present progress bar looks like this: early eighties percentile in CAT 2017 slot 1 to respectable nineties in CAT 2021 slot 1. These are just practice numbers. D-day is still more than two months away, much has been done, much more is yet to be done. Keep your eyes on the prize, keep marching ahead and believe David Bowie when he said:
“I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring.”
Rahul is a G-E-M of a person striving to find a better signature than “Naam to suna hi hoga”. He is a 2IIM CAT-22 student getting ready to fight and win the big battle in November.