A Run Against Time To Live Your Dream - Shubham Ranka, IIM Calcutta

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    Shubham Ranka is an electrical engineer from IIT Gandhinagar and has worked as a technical developer. Shubham aced CAT with 99.65 percentile and would be joining IIM Calcutta, 2016 - 2018 batch. He considers himself as an extreme math-lover, something you would expect from an IITian but his craze for the subject is relatively higher. In his free time, he mentors students for competitive exams like IIT-JEE, CAT, SSC, Aptitude tests and he served as a TIME faculty for 1.5 years. He likes table tennis, carrom and is also an ardent Poker fan. With an innovative mind to learn and try something new, Shubham’s dream is to be an entrepreneur.

    Excuse me for a long post, but I assure you it is worth a read. After all, it's way shorter than a 3 year long journey to CAT. There is always this confusion and worry about how to manage CAT preparation along with your job. Quite justified, I was also worried in the beginning. The hectic work hours hardly left me with any time to prepare. But then do we have a choice?

    Quitting the job was never an option for me because studying for the whole day would instead reduce my productivity. I then realized , what I needed was a proper time table to be made and followed thoroughly. And trust me, no one else but only you can prepare it for yourself. Beacause it will be custom made for you based on your free hours and efficiency to study late night or early morning hours. For the working people, I know it's very difficult to manage CAT preparation along with your job timings, but you'll have to forget your personal life totally if you are really passionate about this. If your parents or boy/girl friend go mad at you, ask them to be considerate for the next 4-5 months and try cutting down your phone calls and sleep hours. Trust me; it is all worth the risk. :)

    I took my first CAT attempt when I was doing my final year at IIT Gandhinagar. I had little or no preparation (sadly, without even knowing the pattern for the exam) but wanted to appear the test because the whole world around me was preparing for it! And the lack of preparation was well displayed in the result. I Got 90.61 percentile. (QA: 99.73, VA: 54.23). Did not get any calls that time.

    The second attempt (Oct 2013) was when I was in Kolkata, working with Cognizant. I got 96.42 (QA: 99.32, VA: 90.42). Calls: I,K. Converts: None. Mode of Preparation: 5-6 Mocks

    Then, I started teaching at TIME as a quant faculty. And with a few mock preparation (~15), took my third attempt (Oct 2014). Scored: 98.36 (QADI: 99.43, VALR: 93.56) Calls: I,K. Converts: I. Totally shattered :( But, I did not want to settle for anything except IIM-A,B,C though the motivation level was at its minimum level.

    Then, I thought of taking TOEFL and applying for MS in Data Science (had already taken GRE during college days). Took TOEFL, wrote SOPs, managed LORs and was all set to apply for the universities. It was August 12, when a second thought of CAT came to my mind and somehow, I decided to let go my MS plan for this year, and give my best in the remaining 3 months for CAT. There was a change in pattern for that year, and we were supposed to have a separate section for VA (Gosh!! That was scary.). I knew, I will be able to score well in QA and DILR but I somehow needed to clear the sectionals of VA. With this mind-set, the idea was to take around 20 sectionals of VA and then almost 4-6 mocks per week because I was totally out of touch since the last 6-7 months. The daily routine was to get fresh after coming back from office at around 8-9PM and then sit for the scheduled mocks from 9-12.

    I was having a hard time then. Personal problems, new job, and new place made things difficult. But the thought of the final destination and the will to fight for it was strong enough to let go all these things. Literally, there was ONLY one thing in my mind - CAT. Finally, with the sheer dedication I managed to solve in 73 mocks in the last 3 months, stretching even upto 3 mocks per day sometimes. More than taking mocks, what matters is how well you analyse your performance as well as the mistakes. My strategy here was to maintain an excel sheet with a track of my sectional scores, percentiles, no. of attempts, overall percentiles, rank. A rough average figure of my performance is:

    Attempts: 30-34: QA (Accuracy: 90-100). Range: 70-89 :)

    25-32: DILR (Accuracy: 80-100). Range: 54-96 :)

    28+ : VA (Accuracy ~ 60%). Range: 18-56 :(

    OA: 140-224

    Mocks: IMS, Bullseye, TIME (7-8 mocks), PagalGuy.

    Apart from mocks, I was quite active on CAT preparation groups in facebook and pagalguy threads for Quant. There was a phase in my preparation when my scores resembled the economic condition of India ;) The score of my stronger section was increasing and the weaker was decreasing (Exactly how the rich keeps on getting richer and poor get poorer). But, there was no turning back, and with every mock I tried to learn something new and managed to keep a 40s in VA (I was quite happy with that :p ).

    Finally, I managed to get a 99.65 (QA-99.6, DILR-99.94, VA-82.51. Attempts: QA/DI/LR = 30/27/30)in CAT-2016 (could not have a better moment than this).

    But as we say, life is like a sine wave, one moment you are happy and the other sad. A was the first one to release its calls. Despite a decent profile of 10th-84.2, 12th- 90.15, B.Tech from IIT-Gandhinagar, CGPA: 8.71 and a work ex of 2.5 years, I missed A's shortlist by 0.002 points. Nothing can be worse than that!! But, then I could just wait for other calls. Finally, had calls from C,K,S,I,FMS. Missed others due to a sectional percentile < 85 in VA.

    Then, interviews were the next thing to worry about. GDs, WAT, and current affairs had always been my weakest point. I regretted  not having a habit of reading newspaper. Joined Malay Roy's class in Delhi, and was active in other GD-PI-WAT preparations of facebook. Calcutta was my first interview on Feb 12, and I hardly had one month where I had to read about a dozens of stuffs. The class was really helpful. I took a week off from office and prepared for the interviews. I developed a strong grip on the fundamentals of economics, GDP, fiscal deficit, revenue deficit, the budget figures was at my finger tip. It was then, that I thought of going for a majors in Finance :D Getting along with a nice friend circle and preparing together in facebook groups further added to my preparation. I started getting in-depth knowledge on topics ranging from: China's economy bubble, Syria crisis, ISIS, Greece crisis, history of India, Mahabharata, civilization of India, Chanakya, etc. Along with the current affairs, I managed to brush up my concepts of Electrical engineering, ecommerce industry (my job profile), Maths (Taylor's expansion, and other important series), finance and commerce. My strategy was to make the interview go in the direction of Mathematics (Maths, being my favourite subject).

    And finally, CONVERTED IIM-C ! :)

    Apart from parents, and teachers, I'd like to name a few of my friends, who were always available to take my calls and explain me the 'fundas' of economics: Ashmait, Mayank, Pragyan, Shiv, Utkarsh (And yeah, each one of them is also going for an MBA this year :D )

    TIPS for the future aspirants:

    1. Do not waste your time in asking people about your time table, strategy, how many attempts, what to study. Believe me, no one can answer these questions better than you. If you are working, try to focus more on mocks in the last 3 months. A minimum of 2 mocks should be solved per week.

    My Time table for reference (with a working hours of 9-8 PM from Monday-Saturday):

    Mon, Wed, and Friday: 9 PM - 00:00 AM --- > Mock, 00:30-2:00 -- > Solve QA/VA questions on facebook groups

    Tuesday, Thursday: Sectional mock of VA + Analysing mocks.

    Sunday: Analysing Mocks + Taking mocks

    2. Get to know your strength, and try to maximize your score in that. And analyse the mocks very seriously. Make note of your relative performance, type of questions where you are consistently doing good/bad. Note down your areas of improvements and give your best to it.

    3. Try being regular with the newspaper. This will help you not only during your interviews but will also enhance your reading skills to deal with RCs.

    And finally, my 2 cents on 'I am weak in xyz section. How to prepare?':

    QA: Arun Sharma(LOD-1,2). Clear all the concepts. Do not waste your time wondering about short tricks and formulae for each and every question. I have hardly learnt any formulae during my last 3 years. Focus on CONCEPTS that is going to make a difference on your D-Day.

    For QA, a lot of questions can be solved using the reverse approach of going through options. Whenever I used to look at any question, the first thing to do for me was to compare the options, and then skim through the question. Questions of probability and number systems can be dealt within seconds using this way.

    DILR:  Try the previous year mocks, get into the habit of making tables and dealing with the DILR questions. Use Arun Sharma's book for practice. Bullseye and IMS have good questions for this section. Try analysing them.

    VA: Not much to say here, but get into the reading habit. VA is mostly about RCs, I think.

    Mocks: This is all what really matters the most. I would rate IMS > Bullseye > CL + PG mocks in last month

    Other online mode of preparaion: facebook groups, Totalgadha for QA concepts, PG Quant thread for practice.

    NOTE: Always remember that a final convert matters much more than your CAT percentile. And in my opinion, you'll have enough time to prepare for your interview after the CAT result. So, gear up guys and wish you all the best :)

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