A guide for CAT aspirants to make it big from Garv Jalandhara

Garv Jalandhara | IIM Kozhikode 2020-22 Batch
Garv Jalandhara | IIM Kozhikode 2020-22 Batch

About Garv Jalandhara:

Garv hails from the small town of Hansi in Haryana and has graduated from DTU as a Mechanical Engineer, along with having a work experience of 11 months as an analyst.

A brief conversation with Garv Jalandhara:

Well, being born and brought up in Hansi, a small town in the district Hisar of Haryana, I believe that I have been just another ordinary person (which is why I also believe that people will be able to relate to my story). Since my school days, I thrived to maintain a decent academic record and achieved a CGPA 10/10 in Class X Board Examination. And like every other kid back then, being overwhelmed by the response from family and friends, and given that I was a little fond of machines and technology as well, I opted for Science and started my journey towards Engineering. I appeared for JEE and got into Mechanical Engineering at Delhi Technological University (formerly Delhi College of Engineering). I’ll mention it beforehand that I owe it to my college for moulding me into the person that I am today, by providing me with a plethora of opportunities in varied domains, which gave me the exposure that honed my soft skills and added new dimensions to my personality.

Alright, coming back to the question, while I was still exploring, trying to find the answers to “What after College?”, it was probably during my second year of undergraduate that I heard about the ‘CAT Examination’ and ‘MBA’. And then for the sake of knowing about it in a better way, I did a deep dive into understanding the mechanics behind this CAT examination and the MBA Degree – through online platforms, seniors, and counsellors of coaching institutes.

When and How did the idea to have “The MBA Degree” hit you?

I was a very pro-active student in the senior years of my undergrad – volunteering for events, getting corporate sponsorships, contesting for elections etc. One major achievement for me during my college days was to be one of the founding brains behind Yuvaan, the now known Annual Literary Festival of DTU. My work was very well acknowledged and I got promoted to being the President for the second edition of this festival, which turned out to be a phenomenal success among the masses. This played a crucial role in my life decision, making me realise that I have always had a knack for managerial roles. I also realised that domain knowledge across all verticals is essential to climb up to the top of the hierarchy. This is when it hit me that an MBA Degree should definitely be the next step on my To-Do List if I am to make my career in the Corporate Sector.

I knew that a formal education in Business Management, which is a very well structured course in a very short span of time, would help me to gain industry knowledge across all domains, would act as Catalyst to reach the top of the managerial ladder at any organisation and maximise my contribution as an individual. It was this realisation that led me to the path of an MBA aspirant and dreaming about making it to one of the top B-Schools in India (BLACKI – as people refer to the top 6 IIMs)

How did you start with the preparation and what approach did you prefer?

I joined the TIME Institute to coach me for CAT2018 during the latter half of my third year. I was consistently attending all the classes, following all the advice laid down by the faculty, solving the study modules and attempting mock tests regularly. I believe everything was going right until the Placement Season hit campus. It’s a very tough spot for a final year student to be in, seeing your batchmates getting placed and yourself getting rejected. I put a pause on my CAT preparation and started focussing on placements. After 14 back to back last round rejections, enormous self-doubt and 2 long months, I finally bagged a job offer at Cognitio Analytics LLC. I was so happy and delighted to finally getting placed. But the happiness was short lived as my CAT2018 attempt went below par. I got a call for interview only from IIM Indore among the BLACKI, which I couldn’t convert. I made myself understand that I obviously didn’t give my 100% and that destiny has it planned for me at a later stage in life. So, I went on to join the offered job and decided to reappear for CAT2019 alongside. It was then that I really got serious towards my second attempt and motivated to succeed.

Due to time crunch in managing office work and preparation at the same time, I did not join any coaching institute for the 2019 attempt and relied entirely on self study and the correspondence that I already had from previous year. My approach was simple – to be consistent. I took out time everyday to solve study modules for a minimum of 2 hours, no matter what happens. I had to bail out on almost all of parties, outings and trips with friends, in order to be consistent with my daily set target. I also followed a ‘Low Attempt High Accuracy’ approach while giving mock tests over the weekend, which eventually worked out well for me – putting me in the top 3 percentile in each test. This approach worked wonders for me when I mixed it with setting my own benchmark on minimum number of attempts per section.

I also worked on strategies to selecting the right set of questions that can be solved accurately in lesser time and to eliminating the time taking hard questions, because in the end, each question has equal weightage and only the final score matters, not the difficulty level of attempted questions. That’s how I went about it for the most part of my journey as I remember.

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Which section did you feel would need the most work?

It’s often said that the QA Section is the widest in terms of syllabus and needs the most work in CAT preparation for a student. But I would differ in that thought, as I consider myself to be decent in Mathematics, ever since my School days. So, I was able to manage the LRDI and QA Sections quite well with ease, irrespective of their lengthy syllabus. But, the VARC Section was always uncertain for me and thus it needed the most work from my end.

Shortlisting criteria of B-Schools have individual sectional cutoffs as well and some B-Schools (like FMS) give a higher weightage to VARC, which is why it was essential to be consistent in performance in that section. I used to solve a minimum of 2 RCs everyday without failure. I started reading blogs and news on laptop, in order to get used to reading from a desktop screen and inculcate a faster comprehension. My communication skills definitely got better in the job while dealing with colleagues in office and clients from the US, which indirectly improved my performance in the VARC section.

How did you cope up with the tough times and hurdles?

Well, there are a lot of problems that come your way when you want to take a leap that big. While I managed to cope with most of the pebbles in my path with some effort (like longer working hours in office some day would be dealt with no usage of phone to get back the lost time). But the biggest hurdle in my journey was the fear of failure – again. This fear used to gulp me in nightmares of checking my CAT19 result and finding an even lower percentile than the last time. Such a fear grips you into panic and you tend to lose confidence while not being able to perform at 100% potential. By god’s grace, I had a few “very supportive” people in my life, including my parents, who were there to motivate me in such times. It took time but they always filled me with so much confidence that I used to break my own shell and eventually come out with more zeal than before. I would suggest readers to cover themselves with such positive people around who can create a strong positive energy source.

What was your “one getaway” to rejuvenate your energy?

For me it was a solo drive with some good music. Usually, when I felt tired and wanting to rejuvenate, I sat behind the wheel, turned up some good music, and went on slow drive to a good place, preferably with farms in view at sunset or sunrise. That filled me back up with positive energy. Music has always been a crucial ingredient to recharging my energy level.

Which all Exams did you give?

I only gave the CAT Examination. My list of dream B-Schools always were the top 6 IIMs (BLACKI) or the FMS (for its ROI of course). It might seem shocking to readers but I didn’t appear for XAT, NMAT, SNAP, IIFT or any other exam. I always had an eye for my list of B-Schools only.

Tips for our readers for the penultimate and D-Day?

The most important tip is to stay calm and not panic on the D-Day. It’s just like any other exam, that you’ll surely crack if you have been consistent with your preparation. I personally stopped my preparations 2 days before the exam and stayed calm by streaming some movies and standup comedy shows. I would also suggest the future aspirants to reach the designated venue atleast an hour before the stipulated time. It’ll help you get used to the atmosphere around and stay relaxed. I did the same and got my registration and seat allotment done about 45 minutes prior to the start of exam. I got used to the room and kept myself motivated by constantly murmuring my strategy in head “I can do it. I have prepared well enough. All I need to do is select the right questions and go at it with 100% Accuracy. No need to panic if I can’t solve a question in 2 minutes. Leave it and go ahead”. It helped me to stay focussed in during the exam.

After the first inning (of all the examination part) ended, how did you started with the second inning (GD-PI Part)?

After CAT, I knew that the exam went well and I’ll definitely be getting atleast 50% of the calls from my list of 7 B-Schools. But I didn’t get to the GDPI Preparation right off. I relaxed for about a month – went on trips, had parties, attended weddings, watched movies and even slept throughout the day at times. After months of struggle, that break was essential. And then, just before the CAT results were about to be announced, I started my preparations. 

First and foremost, I remained updated with the Current Affairs via the InShorts App. I did introspect myself and honestly prepared for the common HR questions like Introduce Yourself, Why MBA, Strengths/Weaknesses etc. I revised some basic engineering questions from my stream (Mechanical). Other than that, I had a special strategy in mind for the PI process. I analysed that over 80% of the students at any B-School are Engineers. That meant that even among the call getters, engineers would be roughly about 80% or maybe even more. And to stand out among that group of engineers, I needed something to put a unique image of mine in the eyes of the interviewer. So, I started studying about some basic concepts of Economics and Accountancy. I read about Inflation, NPV, Market Capitalisation, Indian Budget, Balance Sheets, and much more. And I did use this knowledge to lay an impact on the interview panel, which I believe worked well in my favour. After all, how many engineers would know about these concepts before their MBA? Quite a few, Right! That was my perception that worked for me and I believe is a great tip to the future aspirants as well.

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Which all interviews did you gave and your strategy to choose the final Institute from the converts you had?

From among the institutes that I applied for, I recieved calls for interview from IIM Lucknow, IIM Kozhikode, IIM Indore and FMS for their flagship PGP Programme. I also received a call from IIM Bangalore for their PGP(BA) Programme. While FMS didn’t conduct its Interviews due to the current pandemic situation, I did appear for the Interview Process of IIM Kozhikode in offline mode, before the lockdown began, and of the remaining 3 in online mode.

As of 1st June 2020, I have successful converts from IIM Indore as well as IIM Kozhikode, while being waitlisted at IIM Lucknow and awaiting results for the PGP(BA) programme of IIM Bangalore. My strategy of selection in the current situation is biased towards learning opportunities, institute ranking, placement stats and COVID situation in the vicinity. So, based on my criteria of selection and from the current converts that I have, I would be joining IIM Kozhikode PGP Batch of 2020-22.

Top 3 learnings you have for our readers.

  • Be Consistent: Don’t miss the targets set, be it for one’s CAT preparation or anything else. A steady and consistent exercise will definitely bear a bigger fruit. If you’re consistent on your part, you’ll surely see success at every point of life.
  • Perseverance and Diligence: No matter how many times you fall down, get ready to stand back up and go back at your goals. It might not always be your day to succeed, but someday, it’ll be, and till that day, keep learning and keep trying.
  • The actual worth of education: It’s not just any degree. An MBA for 2 years will dictate the next 20 years of one’s life. Do realise that it’s the education that shapes an individual and only a chosen few are privileged to attend a top B-School

Top 3 things that aspirants should avoid

  • Avoid Backlogs: Don’t ever create backlogs. A backlog just keeps on developing over another backlog, there’s no end to it. If you have something set for today, just do it today anyhow, never ever postpone it to tomorrow, not even a part of it.
  • Avoid panic attacks: Learn to stay calm and focussed. Everyone has their own way of dealing with their anxiety and fears. Don’t let the name ‘CAT’ or ‘MBA’ grapple you into any sort of panic.
  • Avoid following strategies of other people: Every person is unique in their own way. There might be a strategy that might work in favour of one person while it may even go against some another person. Explore and discover your own strengths and prepare a strategy that works for you separately.

Top 3 Suggestions for aspirants to answer the ultimate question “To reappear or not”

  • How does doing an MBA now, as a Fresher or a person with ‘X’ Work Experience, impact you against doing an MBA as a person with ‘X+1’ years of Work Experience? Impacts might include financial health, age, society, opportunities, promotions, etc.
  • Will you be able to study with the same or more energy for another year and be able to perform better than your last attempt? If yes, what additional benefit will it bring? If no, then why do you wish to reappear?
  • Are you satisfied with the course or the institute that you have got an admit into? Would you ever regret if you do it now vs Will you be at a better place if you reappear?
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