“If all difficulties were known at the outset of a long journey, most of us would never start out at all.” – Dan Rather
It was 2017, and like all the CAT Aspirants, I had joined the rat race to ace the dream of studying at one of the top B Schools of India. The conventional approach of buying mock tests and traditional books for concepts was put to place with great enthusiasm. I had started my preparation for CAT alongside my CA Internship and final year of graduation. Making it to a B School required two important aspects – Technical (CAT Preparation) and Non-Technical (Temperament). I had devoted most of my time developing the technical part, and that made this journey a challenging one for me. It was never about how good were you; it was always about how better were you than others. I had to outnumber roughly two lakh candidates to make it to Holy Trinity. And belonging to a commerce background, the only way to beat my competitors was to develop a more balanced temperament and confidence than others. Sadly, it took me 4 years to correctly estimate and fill this gap.
2017: First Failure
DILR was my strong area. In fact, there were hardly any mock tests where I had failed to secure less than 99.5%ile in DILR. So, my overall percentile always got inflated with unbalanced sectional scores. And this kind of reliance on one of the most uncertain sections of CAT brought much deserved trouble to me. On the D-Day, I had managed to score a 98 in one of the toughest DILR papers (CAT’17 Slot 1) but ignoring the preparation of the other two sections got properly reflected on my overall score.
Result: 96.91%ile (85/98/96)
Calls: CAP, IIM Shillong
My parents and friends had seen me work hard throughout the year. They asked me to restart my preparation and grab a stellar score in 2018. It took me a few days to absorb the much-deserved shock, but I decided to work on my weak areas in 2018.
“Giving up is the only sure way to fail.” - Gena Showalter
2018-19: Series of failure, continues…
“Confidence is a very sensitive element. Both lack and excess of it kills!” While I worked on my VARC and QA sections this year, I made sure that DILR got completely ignored in the process. The mock tests were going excellent. Better and balanced scores kept my confidence high throughout the season. But then, there’s no shortcut to success. Ignoring DILR and being overconfident in the section throughout the year; I just paved my way for another downfall, and a much stronger one. Although a decent DILR Section appeared in CAT’18, wrong selection of the very first set made me fall for the
trap. That one set was enough to break my entire confidence. Another year of preparation went in vain.
Result: 98.2%ile (94/90/99)
Calls: IIM K, SPJIMR, MDI, CAP, Shillong
Unlike 2017, I had a decision to make in 2018. My friends and parents asked me to start preparing to convert my best calls. And they weren’t wrong. Initially, I had decided to alter my JOKA dream, and settle for my best call that year. But deep down, I asked myself if it was really worth it? Giving up on dreams was not what I was trained for. I decided not to join any B School that year. And I also decided to take a break from CAT, and tried to shift my focus to CA Exams. However, the feeling of not being able to do justice to CAT still haunted me. Since, I had cleared first two exams of CA in one shot, everybody was quite confident that I will clear both groups of final exams in first attempt as well. Nobody knew that I was still tangled with the fact that I couldn’t even secure a call from JOKA. I tried to forget you, but the harder I tried, the more I ended up thinking about you (for JOKA). I could clear one group of CA Finals in November’19, and just to check my level in CAT without preparation, I wrote CAT’19 which took place just 5 days after CA Finals.
Result: 98.08 (91/89/99.64)
2020-21: The Year!
A tag of failure had been imposed on me by then. People were making fun of my ways and methods. Few of them complained and tried to fill me with regrets for not having joined a B School after CAT’18 itself. But Mummy, Papa, Bhai, Sagar and Ayushi still believed in me. Maybe because they had seen my efforts, which is often ranked below results by most but them. In fact, Sagar used to quote Rocky regularly, “It’s not about how hard you can hit, but how much you can get hit and still keep moving forward.” Against everybody’s wishes and with the support of these five, I decided to appear for CAT again. Lowered work pressure because of lockdown allowed me to start my preparation from May itself. This time I ensured that my weak areas were transformed into strong, and already strong ones became stronger. Everything was going smooth as mock scores were improving and previous years’ preparation gaps were getting covered. It was mid-October; my parents and I got diagnosed with COVID-19. I had to hospitalise my father, and ensure that we all recovered smoothly. It was almost 3rd Week of November, when things felt normal. I knew that there has been damage to my preparation, but was very thankful to God for not letting the virus get better of any of us. With a week in hand for CAT, I just decided to focus on my preparation’s non-technical part this time. I didn’t give much time to studies one week before the exam and tried to remain calm and confident. In fact, I spent time with my friends, meditated, solved Sudoku puzzles and just revised few QA formulae. On the day of exam, I just told myself, “Trust your hard work and preparation!”
Result: 99.91%ile (98.93/98.89/99.88)
Calls: IIM Calcutta, Lucknow, Kozhikode, FMS
Converts: C, L, K
When the raw scores were declared one week after the exam, I had started my preparation for JOKA’s interview. To be honest, I had worked harder in these 4 months of interview prep than in those 4 years of CAT Prep; I had not come this far to taste failure! And the day I converted IIM Calcutta; my parents ensured that their mobile numbers remained busy for a span of 5 continuous hours. That glow on their smiling faces gave me a feeling which can never be framed in words.
And like it is said, “Destiny is not a matter of chance; it is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.” - William Jennings Bryan
Mayank Bhartia IIM Calcutta (2021-23), JOKA it is!
Maybe, I shouldn’t have taken this long to achieve this! Or maybe, JOKA was destined to become an emotion of my life!
PS: Pictures of gifts from Sagar (left) and Ayushi (right) below!