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How I belled the CAT: An IIM-A grad reveals!

October 26, 2013 15:00 IST

How I belled the CAT: An IIM-A grad reveals!


Aniruddha Jaju

Aniruddha Jaju, a non-IITian who cracked the Common Admission Test in his second attempt in 2010 and made it to the prestigious Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad shares his experience with us. Jaju's success story clearly debunks the popular myth that only IITians make it to the top b-schools in India.

Male. Engineer. Non-IITian. General category. That's my profile. And I still ended up in an IIM.

For all the pessimists out there, it is possible! Read on..

The first time I ever thought about giving CAT was in the third year of engineering.

Before that, I was a regular student, enjoying student life, without a care in the world about my future.

I did decently well in academics (nothing to write home about) and participated in a few competitions here and there in college.

Just the usual profile. Till the third year of engineering, I was not sure if I wanted to do Masters (MSc) or MBA.

I even went to a career consultant to help make a choice.

But to make matters worse, as I read more on these two areas, I got even more confused.

Coming from a business family, I wanted to do business. Hence, I picked MBA over MSc, and joined a coaching institute on campus itself.

To be frank, I disliked going for coaching classes. Not because they were not good, but because I thought that other students were way better than me, and I often felt belittled in the classroom.

But it was the peer pressure, more than anything else, that made me go to the class on a regular basis.

Also the fact that I had paid thousands to join the class. Beyond that, I had no motivation.

I did not aim to get a 95+ percentile, nor did I know which college I wanted to join. At that time, I went to the coaching class just because everyone did.

So there I was -- in coaching, struggling to solve math and doing okay in English.

I bought a CAT guide to help me solve quant questions. But I still found maths difficult, whereas others in my class solved them quickly and accurately.

I was dreading my chance at CAT already. I registered for mock exams.

The first few exams were a disaster, and I scored in the mid 70s.

Due to these performances, I started losing interest in CAT, and the coaching classes quickly became a pass-time activity for me.

However, I continued making notes in class and kept collecting the additional sheets that I got from the coaching class.

Year 2009. One month away from CAT. I was concentrating on my engineering studies.

Placements were around the corner, and it took centre stage.

I somehow managed to get a good placement in college.

Anyway, I knew that CAT was a month away. But I had no confidence, no motivation to do well.

The CAT day came. There was news about some servers failing. I did not care.

I knew I was not a sincere CAT aspirant anyway.

What's the worse that could have happened?

So I gave CAT 2009.. and got a dismal 86 percentile!

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Image: For representational purposes only
Photographs: Illustration by Dominic Xavier/


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Being under-prepared, I had not applied for any other exam.

After the CAT results, I was dejected and decided to get back to engineering studies, something that I was confident about.

I was, however, pleasantly surprised when I got a call from IIM Shillong.

At 86 percentile? I was not sure how this happened. But I was happy.

This was my first IIM call. Not that I wanted to join IIM Shillong, just the fact that I had the call made me happy.

I wanted to give the IIMS call a go, just for the experience of an IIM GDPI.

It was January now and the GDPI was scheduled for May.

Having enough time on my hands, I forgot about the interview call for the time being and got back to concentrating on my last semester of engineering, wherein I had to avail compulsory four to six months internship.

Luckily, I got an internship offer from the same company that I had got placed in. So, I joined the company in Bangalore and shifted base.

Over the course of the next few months, my preparation for the interview went about slowly and I went into the GDPI under-prepared.

The GD went pretty smoothly. I spoke in bits and pieces, and felt happy.

Then came the interview. Without getting into the details, it suffices to say that it was a complete disaster.

They did not ask me anything that I had prepared for.

Instead, the questions were based completely from my engineering courses.

It had been six months since I had last touched my books on Electronics, and I floundered on every question that they asked.

I knew then and there that I would not convert the call.

I went home, shaken, low on confidence.

The fact that I zoned out completely in the interview was troubling me.

What if it happened again in future interviews?

My internship ended.

I got a two-month break before I had to join the company again, this time as a full-time employee.

I took the time off to relax and enjoy my time with friends.

Once I resumed office, I got almost no time to start preparing since I had to undergo rigorous three-month training.

I knew that I would not be able to prepare for CAT 2010, and hence took a break from the CAT, as I focused on my work and training.

Soon enough, I started enjoying work.

The pay was good, I started loving Bangalore as a city and I made a good friend circle in office.

Again, the thought of doing Masters came back to haunt me.

Was CAT not my cup of tea? I was not sure.

My lack of interest in CAT 2009 had inflicted me with self-doubt.

I often found work to be a good excuse to move away from this dilemma.

Image: For representational purposes only
Photographs: Illustration by Dominic Xavier/

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Making it to India's top business school

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Soon, it was time to start preparing for CAT 2011.

I was enjoying my work, and felt no pressure at office as I prepared at home.

This time I was serious. I had started preparing around May and joined a test series.

I also purchased some GMAT books to help me with the verbal section and bought a few practice books for Quant.

The CAT pattern changed that year. There were to be only two sections now, 70 minutes each.

I was very glad since I had often found it difficult to manage time effectively. Now, I did not have to bother about that.

To begin with, I did not do well in the test series.

Primarily due to bad performances in Quant.

I regularly averaged around 70-80 percentile in that section, and about 85-90 percentile in verbal.

But I made sure to go through the entire solution set thoroughly after every exam to see what I was doing wrong.

I also saw the solution to the questions that I had done right, just to find a shorter, quicker way of doing those questions. In the long run, this analysis helped me a lot.

I dedicated my entire evenings to preparing for CAT.

Work would drain me out during the day, but I would often stay awake till 2 am to finish studies.

I started scoring better in the mocks, and my confidence started growing.

D-day was arriving soon. I had booked my exam after Diwali.

Towards the end, I started getting good percentiles and peaked at the right time.

I went home for Diwali, quietly confident of doing well.

A week before the D-Day, I stopped studying.

On that day, I remember vividly going to the test centre with Sachin batting on 40* in a test match against West Indies.

He already had 99 centuries and I did not want to miss seeing his 100th one.

I knew that if he batted for two hours he would get there, and I would be writing the CAT at the time.

I was following the match on my mobile at the test centre.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, he got out on 40-something just as I was about to enter the test room.

I grinned and went in, fingers crossed.

I found the exam to be very easy.

I attempted a total of 56/60 questions, came out, went home and forgot all about CAT as I went back to work.

When the results came, I'd scored 99.82 percentile.

I was overjoyed.

Thanks to my good academic profile, I got calls from all the 13 IIMs.

I'd prepared like crazy for the Top 3 IIMs. I even took a 20-day off from work.

I joined coaching for mock GDPIs and read a lot of blogs, news reports and Wikipedia.

All the efforts paid off as I joined IIM-Ahmedabad two months later.

Image: The Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad
Photographs: Rediff Archives

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