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He speaks fast, jumps between sentences and his English is interspersed with Hindi in a million different accents. But then with a confirmed ticket to an IIM, one could only expect exhilaration abound. In a conversation with PaGaLGuY.com, Abhishek speaks about his journey to IIM K and beyond. Congratulations! IIM Kozhikode is awesome. Which other B-school admits did you have this season and how many did you convert? I had calls from IIM Ahmedabad, Calcutta, Lucknow, Indore and Kozhikode and I managed to convert Kozhikode. I am on the waitlist for Indore but the campus at K is awesome! Besides I need to pay up for IIM K and it is not refundable. So IIM-K it is. My family is very happy. Of course I am nervous that I may not fit in but I have been to so many places, I know I will be okay. I just hope I get a good job after two years. When did you think about doing an MBA and why?
After making it to National Institute of Technology - Trichy, I realized that going to a stinky chemical plant everyday, with little pay, I wouldn’t be able to survive. I thought a lot about it. The only way out was an MBA! But yes, I really do want an MBA. My current skill set of being really good with people can be utilized only in this field. Of course the money is always an important factor! Besides an MBA will give me a chance to work in exotic locations. Was this your first attempt at CAT? How did you prepare for it?
This was my second attempt. During my previous attempt I was hardly on PaGaLGuY.com. It was quite bad then, I just had done last 10 years' papers and managed to score a 97.9 percentile but had no calls from the IIMs. I would love to say that I was disciplined in my studies but I am not going to preach what I don’t practice. I had enrolled with IMS last year. They have a very strong Verbal course with a refined store of questions. This year I took the TIME test series. I scored a 98.75 percentile in the first free AIMCAT and hence got 70 pc of the fees waived off. I would analyze the papers on my own and mostly on the AIMCAT threads on PG. The good thing about TIME is they keep reminding you that questions can have multiple interpretations and it is very important to learn how to go about finding them. They prepare you for every eventuality in the paper. Besides, 16 papers give you a lot of variety. You can experiment a lot and analyze your strengths and weaknesses! This year I really followed PaGaLGuY. I was working and had no time but PG came to my rescue. I used to regularly interact with Baby who really helped me in preparing for Quant. Then there was Arun Agarwal who was always there to support me and encouraged me a lot. How did you manage studying for CAT along with your job? What was your schedule like? Very easy, I didn’t work! Throughout my office hours, I used to be logged on to PG especially on the Quant Question a Day thread. This year I didn’t do much. Back in college, in the last three months, I had done all my basics. This year I just analyzed all my papers on the weekend. Between the period May 2005 to March 13, 2007, the time my Group Discussions ended, there has not been one week when I didn’t study. I was the head of the course committee of the college placement cell at NIT Trichy. I would set Quant papers and teach too. I was always in touch with Math. You know with English you always have a gut feeling. With jumbled paragraphs and sentence correction, I usually get the answer right on the first guess. If you are a fast reader with good thinking and enough logical reasoning you can strike a good balance. With Quant, to each his own. People use shortcuts to multiply and calculate but I stick to the very basics. I use my multiplication tables for calculating. Shortcuts don’t work for me. With Data Interpretation and Quant, one should just make sure the accuracy level of whatever you are attempting is good. Which were your strong sections and which were the challenging ones?
Call it cockiness, but really speaking, no challenging sections. I was overconfident about the CAT. The GD and PI process is a different story altogether, though. What was your strategy for CAT?
My sequence of attempting CAT sections is English, then Quant and finally DI. I work with a time economy of 4040-30 minutes for each of these sections and keep a buffer time of 30 minutes. At the actual CAT exam, in the first 40 minutes I attempted 18 out of the 25 Verbal questions. I finished most of the Quant questions within 35 minutes. The DI this time was easier than Verbal but not as easy as Quant. I took around 40 minutes for DI and finished the remaining Verbal questions after that. There were 15 minutes more to go so I was haphazardly switching between sections. I ended up attempting 256 marks and scored only 138 but that is not the point. Bad accuracy but it worked! I scored 99.37 percentile overall, with a 98.98 percentile in Verbal, 96.48 percentile in DI and 97.29 percentile in
Quant. Was there any really disappointing incident in the whole process? Was there anything that pulled you down? During my first attempt at CAT, I had really put in a lot of effort. I had done well in all my mock CATs but at the actual CAT I faltered. I cried for a whole week. It was very depressing. I know it is not a very grown-up thing to do but it really broke me down. CAT 2005 was a major disappointment. But I had other responsibilities and couldn’t sit back. I was the head of the committee placement and had to train my juniors. My department would have not been represented in the college yearbook had I not started with the editing and graphics work. It really helped me in getting out of the regret mode. How did you prepare for the GD/PI process this year?
The underdog team on the PG forum is awesome and very inspiring! Coming from an engineering background, I had very little knowledge about the economy and other things but it really helped me prepare. Mufasa and I had made a group for our GD preparations and I was moderating it. The junta on the thread is awesome and to moderate them you have to be better. So I’d be continuously updating myself with the current happenings. Any particular humorous or ironical incident during the GDs or interviews?
I had gone for my IIM-Ahmedabad interview. As soon as I entered the interviewer said, ‘Abhishek is a very famous name’ and I replied saying it was a very common one. So he said something to the effect of ‘Common names become famous and famous names become common. Don’t you think?’ I got so taken aback I didn’t know what to say. He repeated again and I just smiled and nodded. Right in the end when I was leaving he said the same thing again and I still didn’t reply. Thrice they asked me the same thing and I could not give them a decent answer. I feel like a fool thinking about it now because I could have explained it all with examples and law of probability but I completely messed it up. I had an awesome GD at IIM-A but I guess I messed up my interview. What is the one thing you did this year that helped you crack CAT unlike last year?
I can be patronizing and talk about PG but the thing that really made a difference is that I was very confident this time. Also, I experimented a lot of strategies in the AIMCATs. They were 16 different experiments. Last year I was trying to maximize my scores in the mocks. But I realized that if you do very well in your mocks but don’t perform when needed it doesn’t make sense. You ought to take all mocks as experiments and see what works best for you. I my opinion that’s a masterstroke. On Saturdays, I would analyze my previous papers and formulate a strategy for the next morning and would implement and analyze why it works and why it doesn’t. Had you not made it this year, what was your backup plan?
This was my second attempt at CAT and besides the IIMs I hadn’t applied any where else. Not even for the PGDCM course. Maybe I was foolish. Had I not made it this year, I would have allowed CAT one more go and applied for NMIMS, SP Jain and the likes and taken up any college I managed. What next? Are you bound by a bond agreement at work that you might find tough to break in order to quit work? IBM is quite cool that way. When you join in, they pay you Rs 25,000 as relocation allowance. If you quit before the bond period, you just have to pay that amount back, that too if your manager decides that you must. There are no other strings attached. When I told my boss about my resignation, he congratulated me and said they would never find a replacement for me and I was thinking, ‘Hmm.. If he knew what I was doing all along on PG, he’d know how hard I had worked. I have over 1,600 posts on PG since August 2006.’ What is your advice to the next batch of CAT aspirants on PG for their preparations? How do you suggest they as a community make the most of each other’s potential? There are some awesome people on PG. I would say, go meet up with them and form study groups. Unfortunately, I met people from PG in November after the preparation for CAT was over. After every mock, people post their scores and the discussions for further queries happen on Private Messages. I would suggest they discuss on the forums. Also, they should make the most of the Preparatory Resources section on PG. That section has great study material but most people miss it. Are you worried about ragging at B-school?
Haha! No, I have work experience, so how will they rag me? Besides with a chatterbox like me, they don’t want that kind of a problem.
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