Disciplined, steadfast, quality work trumps! Manollasa, IIMA Class of 2023

I am unsure how my story will help others. I have seen the community that seriously prepares for CAT in my interactions with the shortlisted candidates. I do not want to undermine their effort in any way, but I owe it to myself to be entirely honest. I hardly had the time/opportunity to prepare in that way.

So here goes my story….

A little background of myself. I am from Hyderabad. I have scored 95+ in 10th and 12th. I did Industrial and production engineering from NIT Jalandhar from 2014-2018. I got placed in Ashok Leyland and have been working there ever since. I scored 98.52 in CAT 2020 which is my first attempt ever. I have converted IIM A, B, C, L, K, I, S, all CAP institutes, and FMS Delhi.

The story of an unexpected turn of events————————–

As of May 30, 2020, I have never even considered giving CAT. I did not know the exam pattern either. I did consider it in a way that I decided not to take it. I was working as a full and overtime executive in the pandemic. So did all the employees at my organization – Ashok Leyland. I did not have the time or mental capacity to prepare for multiple entrance examinations. I was already preparing for GMAT and with the pandemic, my international aspirations took a blow. I still prepared for the GMAT ignoring the world scenario. By June end, however, I knew that I needed to move ahead in my career and that is when I considered giving CAT.

On the stairway to a glorious future !

My brother and I are habituated to talking excessively. Strategizing is a better word. We collectively strategize our career, personal growth, financial plans extensively. It took him 3 hour-long conversations to convince me to take CAT. That is when I first visited the Career launcher website at the start of July and gave the 3-hour free CAT mock. I scored 149 out of 300. I was stumped. Never have I ever performed so badly in any exam. However, my brother enlightened me by saying that, “If you score 50% of the marks, you are bound to be in the top 1 Percentile.” This seemed ridiculous to me but since I did not know a lot or have the time to research for myself, I took his words seriously. Subsequent mocks made me more confident, and I enrolled for CAT examination 2020. The pattern was changed, and I took a mock test series from Career launcher. I was sure of sticking to only one type of test series.

My preparation has been all about perfecting my strategy. I simply did not have the time to enroll in courses or focus on basics. I stuck to my baseline. And did all that I could do to improve upon that but not learn something entirely new. Although I was consistent with my preparation. I gave no excuses to myself. No reason whatsoever could have made me skip the mock test I took on every Saturday starting from August. I was performing exceptionally well in VARC but practicing regularly is how one ensures that one is consistently good. QA was my weak area because I was out of practice, but I could solve all easy ones. I practiced QA more frequently, almost daily. I took 15min subject tests whenever I could. I remember days where I either worked or studied. Work was hectic on a few days, in the last and first weeks of the month. Even on those days, I’d push myself to study a little more. I call myself a quality person owing to the role I had in my organization. Quality matters to me and reflects in every action of mine. My study pattern is proof that Quality trumps Quantity. I did not put in the hours but whatever I did manage, I ensured I was taking in as much as I could. 100% concentration almost. Also, I was always in the right frame of mind. My marks varied in all the mocks. I would only tell myself that “I’ll do better the next time” instead of “This is not happening.”

On the D-Day, I was calm. It does matter what you do in those 2 hours of the exam. VARC was comfortable, and I attempted around 21 questions. DILR was tough. I knew I need to make the right choice. I chose one with 6 questions. I cracked it and solved those 6 questions in a go but only 13 minutes remained. I spent 2 more min to check which one of the other sets is doable. I found one more to my speed and solved 3 more questions. In the one min break from DILR to QA, I braced myself and relaxed. I turned my focus to easy questions and kept track of time as well. I managed to answer 11 or 12 questions. After the test, I felt like I could not judge if it went well or not. I forgot about the CAT for a month after that, until the result.

I was in the hospital and at one of my lowest points in life. I did not smile for days and then on the eve of January 2nd, I realized the result had been declared. I checked as mechanically as one could. My eyes widened and I was wondering if I was reading it right. 98.52 was staring right back at me. I smiled brighter than I ever did in my entire life. It was a test of potential and I proved to myself that I had it in me. Even in my wildest dreams, I did not hope for anything near that. I thought I would get 94 or 95 and maybe I will make it into NITIE. Until I got the call from A, I could not even believe that my score is good enough. Soon I got calls from all IIMs, and I applied for FMS too. I was very overwhelmed and highly anxious too. If I were underprepared for CAT, I would have no clue about B-School interviews. My mother researched the best way to prepare for the same and arrived at CL’s Personalized PDP training after reading Quora’s answers.

The nature beckons !

My work life was hectic already, and I was clueless. In such a scenario, CL’s PDP was a boon. I watched all of their GK sessions and read up all the material available. Mr. Gautam Puri was assigned to me as my mentor. I was required to write a 2500-word essay before I could meet him. Despite all my skills in VARC, I could not write so much. Amidst the application deadlines, I still spent an entire weekend writing the essay and met him. GP sir is very amiable. The kind to put you at ease at once. As he conducted a mock interview for 10min, I panicked at first but slowly I grew firmer in my answers. He gave his analysis, and I realized that I had forgotten so many parts of my life, so many events that set me apart. I was so involved in my work life that it was all I could think about. In subsequent interactions, he had a little less to correct each time and he seemed confident that I’d get through.

I had another mock with Shivku sir. He questioned me on my subject knowledge and advised me to be more specific in my answers. That is how I read the AGM report of my company which helped me in all interviews, mainly A and C, except for B.

Luckily all my interviews were equally spaced across March. B’s interview will remain with me for a long time. They spoke with me for close to 40 minutes. One of the professors made it a point to negate everything I said. I wanted to yell at some point, but one cannot do that, so I remained composed and let my words answer him. I was parched by the time he finished. Yet I did not demand or take the break they offered. The professor was scary, but I made sure that I did not let my disappointment take charge in the other answers. The other two were at least a little more lenient and did not challenge my thoughts but asked a lot about my SOP and my role in AL.

When the results came in, I converted everything. Every interview of mine is a success and that fills me with the kind of confidence that only success can bring. IIM A is my mom’s dream and today I have fulfilled it and made her proud. The smile on her face is worth all of it and I would do it all again, any day, for her.


Thank you for this opportunity to express my story.


Manollasa Nambaru

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