From corporate to campus: CAT story of a working professional

By Nikhil Jain, IIM Trichy

We know that the journey from campus to corporate is never easy.

But what about the transition from corporate to campus. Is it easy? Or things go haywire in the process?

What motivates working professionals to run the CAT marathon despite their hectic schedules?

Okay, now let me take you through my journey to answer these questions.


10th: 9.0 | 12th: 88.6% | BE: 68.94%

Work ex: 24 months with Accenture

How did your journey start?

It started with self-actualization. The realization that I was doing something I was not passionate about and that I could do more than what I had been doing. The feeling that I was not in the right place and that the best was yet to come. With these thoughts doing rounds in my mind, I made up my mind to take CAT. It was January 2017 when the idea of taking CAT became dominant in my heart and mind, courtesy of my job that was sapping me mentally every single day. New day, a new struggle, led to a fierce resolve.

And then, I began to read more about the CAT exam, came across various beautiful answers on Quora regarding how to prepare for CAT, which coaching institutes to join, and how to manage time for preparation alongside CAT. I visited a few institutes in Gurgaon. However, their whopping fee and my previous ordeal with coaching institute convinced me to go ahead on my own. And from there, the battle on the field began.

What was your schedule during the CAT preparation?

In the outset, around mid-January, I started taking baby steps. My work hours were from 9 AM to 5:30 PM, so in those days, morning hours were not very productive from the preparation point of view, so I used to study after office for about 2 hours every day. I didn’t force myself to spend more time because I wanted to set the tone for preparation. I would pick a quant topic and cover it in a few days, and also a little LRDI. No specific preparation started for VARC then, because I didn’t feel the need to do so. So, the point is, I did what I wanted to do at my own pace. This made my preparation intriguing. I started liking CAT preparation.

Perhaps, God was also on my side. It was around mid-march when my office timing changed and my office time became from 1 PM to 10:30 PM. It was indeed a stroke of luck because this timing gave me ample time in the morning to study. My preparation went to a whole new level. My day started at 6 AM and before leaving for office at 12:45 PM, I made sure I studied for around 4–5 hours.

Not only at home, but I was also swamped in my preparation in the office as well, thinking about one question or the other, and reading news online. I remember I used to have one pen and paper in my pocket always in the office. Whenever I found no one around, I would go to the office library and solve a few questions from various social media platforms. In a nutshell, in weekdays, I used to study for around 6 hours every day. And this routine worked pretty well for me, for days and months.

I brushed up most of the concepts in six months. By the end of May, I was confident and fully braced to take the mocks.

But was I really ready?

“Life is very unpredictable. In no time, it can turn upside down.”

How did you fare in mock tests and what kept you going?

On weekends, I used to take a mock and analyze it. I took the first mock and scored barely 80 percentile. It was a jolt for me. Before I could get over it, I suffered another blow. In my second mock, I scored only 40 marks with an awful one mark in English and three marks in DILR. I felt completely devastated. I saw no ray of hope even after taking eight mocks. To be honest, I was losing confidence and getting restless. I did not know where I was going wrong. I felt like giving up.

But as soon as I thought about continuing my job, I gave up on the idea of giving up. My job was sapping me emotionally. My growth was stagnant, and my work was not giving me a strong feeling of satisfaction and fulfilment. Every single day at work was a struggle to cope with petty office politics and find something interesting and challenging. Probably this is what happens with most of the working professionals. We gain motivation through frustration. Our struggle at the workplace galvanizes us to work hard and get what we deserve. For most of us, CAT seems tough; but the job, tougher.

“When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”

My tenacity kept me going. I managed to study 5-6 hours a day besides spending nine hours in the office. On weekends, I used to take a mock and analyze it. Weekends were relatively less productive than weekdays because there was no fixed schedule. And I used to chill most of the time on weekends. So, roughly, this was my schedule throughout my CAT preparation.

The pain of grappling with CAT questions was not even a cent of the dissatisfaction I was facing in my professional life. Yes, amidst looming hopelessness all around, I did not let my inner hope douse. In the last two months, I did not care about marks and percentile. I did not care about what others would think of me. All I cared about and focused on was learning from my mistakes in the previous mocks. And when the D-day came, the fortune changed. I was calm and gave my best.

How was the overall experience?


That evening, when I looked back into my journey, I felt content. I lived up to the promises that I made to myself. I promised myself that I would embrace whatever comes my way and that I won’t give up midway. And to that day, I was successful. I saw a complete turnaround in me as a person. What this pursuit made of me was truly satisfying. I felt it was all so damn worth it.

6 AM to 11 PM! Work and study! For days and months!

I truly savoured that yearlong odyssey, a transformational journey of patience and persistence. Witnessed failure. Cried. Witnessed excellence. Smiled. Witnessed unwavering patience. Realized strength. The strength to endure. The strength to wait.

From there on, I walked with impunity because I had done all I could have done. No regrets.

I scored 97.85 (95.xx, 94.xx, 97.xx) percentile in CAT 2017.

Eventually, I converted IIM Trichy and then cherished every single moment of my life at IIM Trichy.

cat journey

What was the most challenging part of this journey?

The most challenging part was dealing with failure despite putting in my best effort. There were times when I was outrightly depressed with low mock scores. In this journey, there were a few days in between when I won’t study anything. There were days when fear about failure crept in. There were times when all I did was overthinking. This was challenging. Channelising this negative energy into positive was challenging. I had to motivate myself every now and then.

Fortunately, I could succeed in hanging in through the rough patches by various means like motivational videos, success stories, failure stories, taking pauses and going for the weekend trips.

What is your message to the CAT aspirants?

With CAT just a few months away, many of you would be struggling to score well in mocks despite giving your best. But trust me, it’s completely okay. Everyone goes through this phase. That’s the beauty of this exam. It gets you through the highs, the lows, and the blows. Eventually, it’s just a matter of hanging in there which most of us fail to do. So, don’t give up midway. Savour this journey, for this, is a transformational one.

May the Force Be With You.


About the author:

Nikhil has recently completed his MBA in Marketing and Operations from IIM Trichy. He will be soon joining ONGC. Currently, he is helping CAT aspirants with their Queries about CAT and MBA.

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