Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Sucess Stories: 1 (Motivational and Real Stories of CAT Success)

Purnachandra Rao Duggirala, IIM Indore,
Batch of 2004-06
PaGaLGuY Username: Chandoo
CAT 2007 percentile: 99.56
Blog: http://chandoo.org/wp/
Calls: IIM Bangalore, IIM Kozhikode, IIM Indore, IIFT
Delhi, MDI Gurgaon
Final converts: IIFT Delhi, IIM Indore, MDI Gurgaon

At last, I have completed this marathon post. It is
divided into several sub-sections to facilitate easy
reading. Hope it helps all CAT aspirants out there.
CAT 2002 and the Aftermath
During my engineering second year, I decided to
take the CAT. Basically, I didn’t know why I wanted
to go that way. But some reasons I could think of

1. A very decent pay Rs 4-5 lakhs per annum
2. A comfortable life for me and my family
3. The challenge that the CAT poses
4. I was tired of my tryst with technical courses:
first a diploma and then engineering

So, I started looking for information on
management education in India. Soon, I figured out
that I needed to crack the CAT to have any chances
of entering a business school. After some more
investigation, I found that, lots of reading and good
math and calculation skills are necessary for
cracking the CAT. I decided to improve my verbal
ability, communication skills and business
knowledge to considerable levels before I started to
attend CAT coaching classes.
Subscribed to a BusinessWorld 3 year subscription
offer in late second year (of engineering). I also
started reading Reader's Digest, India Today and
other magazines. All the while I also tried to do
reasonably well in my academics.
Come December 2001 and I decided to join a CAT
coaching class. There was not much choice
available in Vizag at that time. So I joined T.I.M.E.
for CAT 2002 coaching. I used to attend those
classes daily from 6am to 8am in the morning and
used to feel proud about doing something extra. In
the first 4 months nothing improved. It was just
classes and some sectional tests. Never ever were
we tested with actual CAT papers. Then came the
summer vacation. I convinced my parents about
staying back in Vizag so that I could attend classes
as well as take some tests. But I had absolutely no
plan and no idea of the amount of work required
for cracking the CAT. Nor was I sure about what
colleges I wanted to apply and what it is that I was
looking for during the whole ordeal. The first two
months were a breeze… well, actually they were the
hottest two months of my life with the summer
peaking at temperatures of 45 degrees. At the end
of the second month, I took my first ever mock CAT
and believe me, it came as a shock. Whatever
practice I had done so far seemed to be useless.
The results also turned out to be bad. At once I
realized the importance of solving more mock tests
and practicing CAT-like questions.
Then the academic session started. Not that I
studied for exams, but we had to do two projects in
the final year, and the pressure was building up. I
have always liked to do my work for myself. So I
started taking my project seriously and by the time
it was September 2002, I had lost my momentum
in mock tests. My ranks in the AIMCATs (mock
CATs offered by T.I.M.E) plummeted below 300 and
settled there. But they never went beyond 500.
Somehow I had a strong feeling that I could crack
the actual CAT if I maintained my AIMCAT ranks
below 500. Apart from CAT, I was also considering
other options such as FMS, IIFT, XLRI, IRMA,
NITIE and JMET. I was desperate to pursue MBA
right after graduation.

Well, at last the D-day arrived and I was sitting in
the CAT 2002 examination hall. As usual, I started
of with the verbal ability section. But since the
verbal section was the weakest link of the chain for
me, I spent a considerable amount of time on that
section and did almost 40 questions. By the time I
was done with it, I was already 50 minutes into the
I quickly rushed to the quantitative ability section.
And if any one of you has seen the CAT 2002 quant
section, you know what I am talking about here.
That section was tough. But quant was always my
strength. So I put a full 40 minutes and attempted
some 27 questions there.
There were only 30 minutes left now and I
proceeded to the smaller DI sets. If you look at the
CAT 2002 DI paper, you would know that there
were 7-8 such sets with 3-5 questions each. Any
given day, one could attempt 30 plus questions
there and easily score above 25. But since I had
managed to mismanage my time, I could only solve
19 questions in 30 minutes. But, I didn’t think it
was that bad, because in the T.I.M.E. AIMCATs 19-
20 questions was always a very good attempt rate.
Little did I realize that T.I.M.E. AIMCATs were very
different from the original CAT.
After the exam I had a feeling that I could get at
least 2-3 IIM calls. All these were illusions and a
result of my poor understanding of the CAT and
lack of overall perspective. I had assumed that I
could get a score above 58, which according to
T.I.M.E. was the predicted cutoff. This was again
was due to my poor analysis of the AIMCATs. I had
not figured out my Accuracy and Strike rates yet.

The Results

They came one after another. First IIM Bangalore,
then Calcutta. Then Ahmedabad, Indore,
Kozhikode and Lucknow, in that order. All of them
had the same message for me - 'Sorry... .'
I was devastated. I could not do anything for a
couple of days. The thought that I was a loser had
consumed me completely. In the mess, I even felt
like I was shameless to be eating food. It was my
first ever major failure in life. And with no job in
hand I was down in the dumps.
By the time it was the last week of April, I had only
one final admission- from the Institute of Rural
Management, Anand (IRMA). I was not sure about
joining it. I told my parents that I want to attempt
the CAT again in 2003 and for that I wanted to stay
back in Vizag. They expressed their difficulty in
supporting me after engineering and suggested that
I should join IRMA. I started applying to companies
frantically for a job. But few seemed to be
interested in hiring a fresher. I started considering
working as a faculty in an engineering college. All
this because, somewhere in my heart I knew that
IRMA was not the place from where I wanted to do
my MBA.
At last, in the first week of May 2003, I got a job
offer through campus placements at my
engineering college. There was decent pay and no
bond. I accepted it immediately and decided to
attempt CAT 2003.

What was wrong with my approach in cracking
CAT 2002?

1. I never worked on the study material given by
the coaching institute
2. My preparation for English was very
haphazard. All I did was read the newspapers,
write unknown words in a book and do some silly
grammar exercises. I never solved practice papers
and I never paid attention to Reading
Comprehension. I did not even know what my
reading speed was like.
3. I never analysed my AIMCAT papers. Whatever
little analysis I did was focused on the quant
section. I never knew what my strengths or
weaknesses were. I paid little attention to my
accuracy and strike rate. My single focus was to
attain a high rank in the AIMCAT.
4. I did not know the difference between a sitter
question and an ordinary question. My approach
had been – start from question 1 and solve till the
50th question.
5. My preparation was completely random. I never
had a proper timetable. Even if I had one, it was
cluttered with non-important non-urgent tasks. I
thought that reading books would help me in
cracking RC in CAT. But more than reading books,
I needed to work on my reading methods.
6. My time management was poor and emotional.
By emotional, I mean that if I felt that I was not
doing a section well, I used to spend some more
time on it to satisfy my ego. This lead to an erratic
and random score pattern. Nothing was consistent
in my mocks. Not just marks, but the number of
mistakes also varied.
7. Lack of overall perspective and competition.

CAT 2003

May - August, 2003

I took a one-week break to adjust myself to the new
workplace I had joined from the campus
placement. In Mid-May 2003, I took a Diagnostic
CAT test offered by one of the coaching institutes
and my scores were reasonable. But I knew that I
needed a systematic approach to crack the CAT.
So, I planned the next 3.5 months for each day.
My work schedule kept me out of home everyday
from 7 am to 7 pm. So, I had 3-4 hours in the night
to study and slog. I categorized the entire CAT
syllabus into four broad areas.

- Logical Reasoning (LR)
- Data Interpretation and Data Sufficiency (DI/DS)
- Quantitative Ability (QA)
- Verbal Ability (VA)

I had identified the important topics in these areas
and decided to give more preference to VA.
For each topic in first three areas I had allotted
one/two days and my aim was to complete that
topic from either the coaching institute study
material or class X textbooks.
During office hours I used to solve problems posted
on CAT 2003 YahooGroups and PaGaLGuY.com.
Mock CATs
The first one was in June end, the AIMCAT 401. At
that time my preparation was only half done and I
had so many topics to complete. But, the
experience from last year helped a lot. I managed to
secure an All India Rank of 60 in that test, even
though my net score was just above 30. But this
kind of thing happens with the first T.I.M.E. mock
CATs. After this mock, I made it a point to record
my mock performances in an Excel sheet. The
columns in each row of the sheet had…
Serial Number
Date and Mock No
Reading Comprehension
DI, DS and Logic

I recorded almost all mock test scores in this sheet.
I also used to write about unknown words,
shortcuts, question numbers, silly mistakes I made
and mistakes in my strategy in that sheet. Before
taking another mock, I used to first go through that
sheet. This helped me in consciously avoiding the
mistakes I had committed in earlier mocks and
fine-tuning my strategy.

Some guidelines for taking mocks

- Stick to the time. If you are taking a two-hour
test, take it for two hours only. Be merciless,
especially if you are taking them in your home.
Don’t let anything disturb you in those two hours.
- Make it a habit of using a watch.
- Have a strategy in mind before you start the test.
Take 2-3 minutes to analyse the paper and say to
yourself something like, “VA is heavy – there are
four RCs, quant has some diagram-based sets of
questions, DI has lengthy sets and some DS
questions, and there is no LR. So let me start with
VA and then move to QA and then finish with DI.”
Once you know the order of sections, set time
limits to each section and stick to them. Never let
your ego surface in those two hours. This is what I
used to do – I used to give time limits of 35 minutes
for each section. And in the end I used to visit the
toughest or easiest section and make up for a good
overall score.
- Most importantly realise that you have to get
most out of the test. Don’t be egoistic and sit on a
problem beyond 2-3 mins. If you get it in 1 minute,
it’s ok. Beyond that, learn to leave problems. Try to
read as many questions as possible and decide
which ones you can solve quickly. This knack of
identifying the ‘sitter’ questions comes from taking
30-40 mocks in a span of three months.
- After the paper, don’t rush to the answer key.

Take a break, relax for sometime and then start
looking at the paper. Try to find out correct
answers without looking at the key. Analyze your
answers and see if there was any faster or better
method to solve the questions. Try to reason out,
why you did not attempt that RC or DI set and
cross check whether that was really as tough as
you thought. Try to estimate your score before
jumping to the answer key. This will help you in
learning about your accuracy. After the analysis is
over, verify your answers with answer key and if
needed, go through the detailed answers. My
mistakes used to mostly surface in the analysis
phase. Checking with the answer key was more
about validating my analysis.
- Always try to share your mock score and analysis
with others. This will give you a better overall
picture and good understanding of your relative
standing. Use PaGaLGuY.com or Yahoogroups for
this purpose. Many people use these groups for
only posting scores. They don’t realize that these
groups are not notice boards. What you should
instead do is to try and analyze the paper and post
that also. With that you are helping no one else but
- Always calculate accuracy and speed figures for
individual sections and the overall paper. And try
to maintain a stable figure of speed and accuracy.
If there is an abrupt change in those figures, try to
investigate why the change happened. Ideally, 60
pc speed (attempts) with 80 pc + accuracy will help
you in getting good scores. But speed sometimes
varies with easiness of the paper. Identifying the
trends of speed and accuracy in August or
September will help you to fine tune your strategy
before the D-day. I was a 75 percent speed and 70
percent accuracy person earlier. After some hard
work, I was able to cut down on my speed and
improve my accuracy.

Some guidelines for Individual Sections

Quantitative Ability
I cannot emphasize enough on the need for
identifying sitter questions in this section. Most of
the time, solving 15-20 questions in a 50-question
quant section will give you a percentile of 90 and
above (sometimes, even 99). For me, QA had always
been a strong point. So I used to solve more than
25 quant questions in most mock CATs and get
good percentiles too.
From what I have learned from my preparation…

- Everyone has weak areas in quant. For me they
were probability, permutations and combinations
and I used to leave all questions from those topics.
- Most of the times, solving questions sequentially
from 1-50 will not work.
- It is always better to give a shot to sets of
questions. Something like 'A and B started from P
and Q with 20 and 30 kmph speeds at 10 pm on a
day...' followed by 5 questions. If you know the
concept well, you can crack all the questions in
that set.
- You must know three of the following topics to
have an easy sail through the quant section –
Algebra, Number Theory Mensuration or Geometry.
See the last 3 years’ CAT papers and you will know
what I am talking about.
- Before starting the first mock, try to learn as
many fundamental concepts as possible on QA
topics. Use notes to jot down the unknown
formulas and shortcuts.
- While analyzing the QA Section, try to find out the
sitter (easy) questions that you missed during the
mock. And try to reason out why.
- have some thumb rules based on your strategy. I
- read and try to attempt 1-2 liner questions under
any circumstances
- read and try to attempt questions on mensuration
and geometry (you can recognise them easily
because they have accompanying figures)
- read and try to attempt questions on logarithms
and algebra
- start from somewhere in the middle of the section.
Never work sequentially from 1 to 50.
- read and try to attempt sets of questions
- Most importantly, don’t over-compare yourself
with others. If QA is not your strength, don’t even
bother about how much the toppers are scoring in
that section. Just try to clear the cutoffs and leave
it at that. Don’t crib about people attempting 35
questions. Instead, try to beat them using your
strong points.

Data Interpretation
I have only one thing to say about DI – PRACTICE!

Verbal Ability
Well, I have talked about my poor English skills
before. So, I am not the best guy to be commenting
this. I never have been a topper in this area. But
reading a lot surely does help.

The last mile to CAT 2003

August - November, 2003
During this period, I took at least 50 mock tests.
My opinion on different mock tests…
- T.I.M.E. AIMCATs - definitely the best as far as
QA, DI, DS and LR are concerned. This year the VA
and RC questions have been better. But they are
nowhere near what the CAT VA and RC are like.
- IMS SimCATs, ACT, MCTs and FCTs - very good
VA and RC papers. DI and QA are calculation
heavy and sometimes kilometers away from what
the actual CAT tests. But overall, decent papers.
- Career Launcher MockCATs and FLTs - decent
English, QA and DI. Sometimes, brilliant DI. And
no doubt one of the cheapest packages available in
the market. I got some 30 tests for Rs 2,000.
Apart from the above three mock CATs, I
subscribed for Ascent mock CATs,10 papers for
about Rs 900.
I made it a point that I took as many mocks as
possible between August and November. In the
beginning I used to take two mocks a week. In early
September I increased it to three mocks a week and
stuck to it till the end. Now, you might experience
'burnout' at times and if you feel that, you are
probably going too fast and reach your peak
performance before the actual CAT day and that is
not a desirable thing, because you should be
peaking on the CAT day. So if you feel a burnout,
take a full one-week break from mock CATs and
start again. Moreover, don’t take too many mock
tests in a week. At the most 4 mocks a week should
suffice. But again, this is a personal choice and you
should decide based on your performance.
During the final 30 days to CAT, I analysed my old
mock tests once again. During this period I made
optimum use of the Excel sheet that I had
compiled. I also realized that my accuracy was
beginning to going down. So I tried to record all my
errors in a notebook. And this helped me a lot in
cutting down on my mistakes.

[Editor’s note – We should point out that in 2003, the
IIMs found that the CAT 2003 paper held on
November 22 had been leaked and decided to cancel
the paper and hold a retest in February 2004. The
author of this article has decided to skip his
experience with the canceled test and has instead
written only about the retest that happened on
February 15, 2004]

December, 2003 - February, 2004
Throughout December and the first few weeks of
January, I spent time on other exams and on work.
I tried to do some RC preparation and was
successful in improving a bit. After the FMS exam,
I tried to focus on CAT. I did nothing fancy in this
period. It was all the same – mock tests and

The D-Day

At last February 15 came, the day of the CAT
retest. I was excited about my results in other
exams (IIFT, JMET and FMS). As usual I started
the paper with the verbal section and solved 36
questions in 35 minutes.
I then moved to QA and tried to maximise my gains
there. It took 40 minutes and in that time I had
read most of the questions and attempted 32.
I then started with the DI section. Contrary to what
people think about CAT 2003, I thought this
section was tough. I could do only 25 questions in
this section.
I did overall 93 attempts in CAT 2003. There were
butterflies in the stomach, but my result turned
out to be better.
And the rest, as they say, was history.
Wish you all the very best in your efforts.


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