Hari Mohan | IIM A 2020-22 Batch

All about 99 percentiler’s CAT Journey | Hari Mohan

Hari Mohan | IIM A 2020-22 Batch

About Hari Mohan

Hari Mohan is an engineering graduate from the College of Engineering Trivandrum. He is a passionate dancer by heart and has always been fascinated by maths and puzzles. Being a work enthusiast, his career started as an UberEats delivery boy in the free time he had between his B.Tech final exams and the joining date of his campus placement.

Hari secured 99.64%ile (99.95%ile in Quant) & had calls from IIM A, C, L, K, I and S. He successfully converted IIM A, C and L (Waitlisted at K and I)

Hari’s journey towards IIM Ahmadabad

It was around February 2019, I was working as a VLSI engineer at Wipro when I decided to give CAT. One of the major motivations for the same was that I had visited IIM-K and IIM-B campuses for their inter-college fests during my college days. When the thoughts about career and future started to sink in, their infrastructures and lifestyles started to appear more fascinating. With my experiences in leading dance teams and coordinating events, I realised that I want to incorporate these qualities in the career that I wish to pursue. Connecting the dots, it started to read ‘MBA’.

The Preparation

I joined TIME Cochin for their CAT classes where the sections and marks required to succeed based on my profile were introduced to me. The classes and practice sessions further increased my excitement towards CAT. But I was always worried how this was going to be my first attempt at CAT and how there are so many people who have been preparing for years! Without much delay, the series of sectional tests, AIMCATs (mock CATs by TIME) and ‘damn, how could I make such a careless mistake?’s followed this. An indefinable curve represented my marks and those ups and downs pushed me to the ‘I will do better in the next one!’ mindset. 

Initially, I was weaker in VARC. But being a lazy chap, I decided to sharpen my DILR and Quant and pushed VARC preparations for later (Big mistake! I would definitely recommend reading up articles in the net, which could increase not only your VARC score but also your interest towards  economics and the career that you’d be pursuing once you strike gold). Slowly taking mocks became an addiction of mine. As the D-Day approached, weekdays were all about studying a quant topic after work and dreaming about acing the mock in the subsequent weekend. Weekends were about feeling depressed/happy about the immediate mock and eating a lot either way (I gained around 15kg from my first mock to CAT). The kind of motivation and consolation by a few of the TIME faculty was the one that drove me towards the end of the tunnel (Such motivation is a key ingredient to CAT preps, to believe in yourself and never give up). Towards the end, CAT was not about getting the interview calls but more about claiming your rank in terms of aptitude with the fellow aspirants. 99+%ile (160+/300) was indeed the target.

I registered for the SIMCAT by IMS as the mocks weren’t enough for me (n-th stage of addiction). But in my opinion, the final percentile will be proportional to the number of mocks that you take AND PROPERLY ANALYSE as part of your preparation! 35+ mocks should ideally get you a 99+%ile. This analysis includes not only the questions that you have got wrong/unattempted but also the questions you got right as there could be many approaches to a set of question and there could be a question where one approach fails but the other one works. You must build a strategy based on your speed and aptitude because you are the one who best knows your own strengths and weaknesses. Taking mocks help you build the perfect strategy. It could happen anytime during the process. I crafted my Quant strategy in the last month of prep, and my DILR strategy in the penultimate week!

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It is very important to understand that no matter how bad your profile is, a fantastic CAT score will get the admission offices to overlook your academic history. So profile-based worries can be done AFTER you give CAT your best shot!

D-Day 

If you’re a CAT aspirant I’m sure you will hear a lot of tips throughout the process. But I’d like to give a particular tip that I received from the video IIMK released on the penultimate day of CAT. It was to take CAT as 3 different papers. 

On the D-Day, as expected, VARC was very difficult so I just attempted the ones I was sure of (being someone who is weak in VARC) and went on to nail DILR and Quant. DILR seemed surprisingly difficult to me, and I underperformed so badly that I started to feel heartbroken towards the last 5 mins of the section after counting my number of attempts. As Quant started, I remembered the tip and attempted quant with a fresh mind. Quant was surprisingly easy as well. Although I came out of the exam hall a bit disappointed. I knew I’d get a decent overall but I was worried about the sectional cut-offs and also on the possibilities of having to repeat! 

When the key was out, I scored a 44 in my VARC, which was good enough for me, a 43 in my DILR, accuracy supported my lower number of attempts, and a whopping 86 in my Quant which pushed my overall to 173 (99.3+ for sure)! This was till date, the happiest day throughout the process, as I knew the finish line was pretty close now. This is why I’d like to emphasise on how you shouldn’t feel down if you messed up a section because one great section can help you clear your CAT. The cooler you can stay, the better you can perform! 

So get hold of a faculty who can motivate you throughout the process, stay dedicated and consistent throughout the process and believe in yourself – the CAT shall be belled.

Now that the first innings was done, the second innings began with a tighter competition and a more stringent process!

GDPI

After I got to know about my raw score, I called the coaching institutes around me begging them to start the GDPI program as I was sure of getting a few calls. They asked me to wait as they can’t start the coaching until the formal interview calls from any of the B-schools are out which would happen around 1.5 months after the key was released. So I decided to resort to one of the GDPI courses available online and this is when I got to know about an online GDPI institute, Prepzone from PagalGuy where they were willing to offer a basic GDPI program at a very low rate. I thought I might as well give it a try, which was probably the best decision I had made in the recent past. After adding me to whatsapp and facebook groups with fellow aspirants waiting for their calls, Prepzone started off with activities and assignments to improve our WAT skills and General Knowledge. I realised that I could be the worst in the 99th percentile once the activities started reminding me that I have a lot to go.

Constant discussions in the whatsapp groups helped us stay updated on the important events that happened in the year and constant attention from the mentors helped us stay focussed on the most important interviews of our lives till date. Interview experiences and Economics news started to fill all the screens around me. The discussions at prepzone forced us to say opinions gave a wide range of opinions opening our mind to different angles and perspectives, something that the interviewers look for in a candidate. With online PIs from prepzone and personal PIs from TIME, I was ready to approach my first interview which was IIM Lucknow towards the mid of February.

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The IIM-A and IIM-C interviews followed and I could come out of them with a weird confidence. The mock interviews boosted my confidence in the real interviews, infact I got equally confident in saying either how I know or don’t know the answer to their questions!  Luckily my best interview was the IIM Ahmedabad one (detailed PI link below). Towards March end, the nationwide lockdown set the admission process into chaos and all of us were worried about our interviews. Online interviews were the logical solution. Though delayed by a bit, I gave my IIM-K, IIM-I and IIM-S interviews online and most of the B-schools completed their interview process towards April end and the result dates were declared. 

Though tension started to grow towards the result day (IIMA), I started to believe on how nothing went wrong in my interview, and how I gave the best I could, and how I would accept the result whatever it was. The delay brought me to a state where I had completely given up on myself and accepted that I am not worth it. On the 8th of May, I dropped my phone on the ground and laid back on my chair when the results were finally announced. IIM-A, it was! Answering to calls, texts and statuses ate up the next few hours. My friends were more excited than I was, the feeling took a long time to sink in! I couldn’t express how grateful I was to the faculty of TIME for my CAT percentile and the Prepzone mentors to whom I dedicate all my converts to! Now I’m just waiting for the joining date and hoping the COVID situation won’t stall it further.

TIPS

The whole process has definitely been a roller coaster ride where the ride track defined my graphs of emotions, mock marks and even the interview vibes! But I believe that this whole process gives the perfect pre-requisite to the MBA program that is going to follow, where again the key is to stay cool! I would advise the aspirants to not get intimidated by the marks/percentile of others in the mocks as there are many who have been preparing for years, and in that sea you are already where you are! Everyone has their own strategies and plans that worked out which need not work out for you (not even mine!) Analyse yourself and find what’s best for you and what you should target. 

Choosing the B-school after converting requires a lot of thinking that has to be done in your own shoes. But in my opinion, if you have converted one among the top 20 B-schools in the country, you could proudly say that you have cracked the process and feel great about it!

So, that is all I want to say about CAT. Thank you for spending your time reading through the article and I hope that it helps you in some level. Summarising the article, the most important tip that I would like to share with the aspirants is to STAY CALM throughout the process as what these B-schools really want to know is how cool you can stay in the stressful environments they test you in, i.e CAT/GWPI. All the best to you, may all of you bell the CAT and I hope to see some of you in IIM-Ahmedabad soon!

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