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'When you reach the top, people will only see your success'

By Divya Nair
January 13, 2016 16:43 IST
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In his first attempt, Chirag Jha, a BTech student from the IIT-Bombay scored a perfect 100 in the CAT 2015 results declared this year.

He tells Divya Nair/ how he achieved the impossible.

Chirag Jha

When Mumbai born Chirag Jha topped the Common Admission Test with a perfect score of 100 percentile, he remembered the first time he had made his parents and family proud.

At that time, in 2012, he had cracked the IIT-joint entrance examination.

"Everyone in my family, including my father had been encouraged to appear for the IIT-Joint Entrance Examination. I was the first one in my family to crack it. They were very proud. Most of them, including my father, felt I was living their dream," says the 22-year-old who is currently pursuing his final year in chemical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay.

On January 8, when the results for the Common Admission Test were announced, Jha was not expecting a perfect score.

"I thought there was a mistake so I checked again. I thought the score was rounded off or something, so I checked my sectional scores. I had scored 99.98 in Verbal Ability, 99.84 in Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning and 99.97 in Quantitative Analysis," he recalls.

Five students, including Chirag, have topped this year's CAT with a perfect score.

Chirag is grateful to his family, particularly his father, for supporting his dreams and guiding him in the right direction.

Chirag's father Indrajit Jha is the co-founder of Prayati Shipping, a Mumbai-based ship management company. His mother, Arti, is the vice principal of Raigad Military School. His elder sister, Shefalika, is a manufacturing manager at Hindustan Unilver.

Chirag, who calls himself a 'football lover', tells Divya Nair/ how he prepared and pushed himself to crack the examination and shares his mantra for success.

What was your reaction when you got the results?

When I logged in to the website and entered my details, the score looked like 100. I could not believe what I saw.

My friends had been calling to check for my score. Since I wasn't sure, I took a screenshot and shared it with my friends. Soon, I was getting congratulatory messages from everywhere.

I got emotional when I called home. My parents finally told me that the score was real and I must relax and be happy.

Chirag is flanked by his parents while his sister congratulates him over Skype.

Chirag Jha is flanked by his parents Indrajit and Arti Jha while his sister Shefalika congratulates him over Skype.

How did you prepare for the exam? Could you share your 'study secrets'?

I started preparing for the exam only in August 2015. I joined TIME and IMS for the study material and the test series.

Since I had limited time to prepare, I had a disciplined approach towards my studies.

In a month and a half, I finished the booklets and took the first mock.

I gave it up midway and felt like a failure. I realised I wasn't prepared to take the test so I worked harder and kept pushing my limits.

Were you always academically bright?

I wasn't academically bright until Class 9. I love playing football instead.

When I reached Class 9, I suddenly started taking additional interest in academics and ended up topping the school in the Class 10 ICSE board examination.

I scored 96 per cent in class 10 and 86 percent in class 12.

In Class 11, I would study 11 hours a day for the IIT-joint entrance examination. I scored an All India Rank of 703 and that's how I got into IIT-Bombay.

Do you think being an IITian helped you in the CAT exam?

Mathematics has always been my strength. I do believe that being an IITian helped me in more ways. I strongly believe that my success was a combination of multiple events.

During the four years I spent here at IIT-Bombay, I participated in a lot of events.

I worked for Mood Indigo, the annual fest, for nine months. I was part of the dramatics club where I got to write the script for different plays.

My brief internship also contributed to building my skills.

All these experiences contributed to making me aim higher, do what seemed impossible and have a calm and step-by-step approach.

I started my preparation much later in comparison to my peers.

Every time my classmates declared they had scored 98 percentile in mocks and asked me for my score, I'd feel ashamed to tell them that I had scored 94 percentile.

In my first mock, I scored 94 percentile, next I scored 96 percentile and in my third mock, I had hit 98 percentile.

It is important to have smaller targets leading to bigger ones.

Did the new changes in the exam help you in any way?

I met a lot of students who were not quite happy with the paper.

Personally I feel the exam tests you not just for conceptual skills, but also application knowledge.

What were your weakest areas? How did you tackle them?

When I started, I could not get past the Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning section. I had to really struggle and fight to solve each problem.

I realised I didn't really comprehend the problem well.

Each time, I made a mistake it was because I had missed a certain piece of information that was vital to solving the problem.

Where do candidates go wrong with CAT?

A lot of candidates think CAT tests you for grammatical skills, which is not true.

In fact, most questions this year were based on reading comprehension. So if you really paid attention to reading and understanding, you could crack more questions.

Also, I think candidates, particularly at the IITs, have an emotional approach to competitive exams. This sometimes hinders the process of thinking and solving.

You have to detach yourself from the problem, forget who you are and then solve the problem. That makes a lot of difference I feel.

When taking the mock, it is important to be disciplined. I have seen people taking loo breaks between mocks.

In the actual exam, you cannot take a break. You have to prepare yourself for the actual exam.

How do you think an MBA can add value to your career?

Whenever I participated in or organised an event, I realised that I was good at leading and managing people and resources.

I want to pursue an MBA to develop my leadership skills and connect to people who can help me improve.

In the future, I see myself leading an organisation that makes a difference to society.

Have you got any admission offers yet?

Not yet. I have applied to the IIM-Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Kolkata, Indore and Lucknow.

How are you preparing for the GD/PI rounds?

I am following a very structured approach. The TIME institute offers weekly topics of discussion which I am preparing for.

I am also reading up newspapers, news sites and watching videos to understand what's happening in and around the country.

I am also asking myself why I need this MBA. The answer to the question will define my objectives better.

Besides academics, what are your interests?

I love playing football and writing plays.

I am passionate about taking new risks and challenging my limits.

For example, last year I read about the Insanity workout -- it is believed to be the toughest and most exhausting workout. I chose to take the challenge.

When you're doing this workout, in 15 minutes, your body will feel the pain. Imagine doing it for 40 minutes every single day.

I was impressed by the results -- I shed seven kilos in a month. So I told my friends about it. Some of them gave up midway because they found it too rigorous.

I still follow it religiously and I feel that it has also helped me crack the exam.

What have you learnt from your life and career so far?

I have had my share of failures and disappointments, but I have learned that one should not give up because of fear of failure.

Resilience, good communication skills and a strong resolution to achieve the impossible is very important for success.

Nothing is impossible. If you are willing to try and work hard, you can achieve anything.

Who inspires you and why?

I have always looked up to my father for inspiration. He is principled, composed and confident about everything he does.

I have seen him quit his job and sit at home for months but, during those times, I never saw him lose him composure.

Despite the setbacks, I have also seen him buying a Mercedes -- his dream car.

He's the one who pushes me to dream. He taught me why one should not put a lid on his/her dreams. I really admire him.

Your advice to our readers.

Discover what you truly want and stay true to yourself.

Work better towards your dream. Do not take failures to heart.

When you reach the top, people will only see your success. So work harder towards that success.

No matter what happens, it is important that you move ahead in life.


The 100 percentile girl!

Photographs: Kind courtesy Chirag Jha


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