My Experience with CAT
I was in the Himalayas, I didn’t open a book for 4 years. I decided to do my MBA. Planned to join some coaching institute. Called few friends to find out who’s living alone and has a spare room. Zeroed in on Sachin, he was living alone in a 2BHK in Kanpur. I shifted to his other room … joined Career Launcher … appeared for my first All India Mock CAT, and scored 97+ %ile. I was surprised, celebrated for the whole week and didn’t study. Next week it was around 99%ile … and the score was more or less consistent till actual CAT. I didn’t have to study anything and finally, I scored 99.3 %ile.
Fast forward 5 years.
I was running my startup where I was helping participants build thinking skills. I was hard-pressed for cash. Started teaching maths to CAT aspirants on the side. I realized there was a lot to study, there were hundreds of readymade methods to solve questions in very less time and I was not aware of them earlier.
How was I able to score, then? … I was now able to connect the dots.
When I was in school I was very much interested in Sciences, especially physics. I finished whole 2 years of the syllabus in class 11th and was learning university physics in class 12th … I was damn confident in Physics, I thought I knew and understood everything … but even then I could never score the highest marks in any of the school exams.
One day I wrote down all the questions from my old Physics papers which I couldn’t solve, and I found a pattern — All of these questions involved a special kind of Zebra. If you did not know that it had 100 white lines but only 98 black lines, you could not solve the question. I was missing this extra info.
I used to study the theory thoroughly, from multiple books and solve a few examples to understand the concepts better. Once I get confident, I used to move on. Each chapter was followed by hundreds of practice questions, and it was there where the information about this special Zebra was hidden.
Now it was a tradeoff.
Investing time in going through all these hundreds and thousands of practice questions in order to find this Zebra, didn’t appear very judicious to me. I was anyway scoring around 80%, few students were scoring around 90%. For me, the marginal utility of this extra 10% was not worth the effort. Finally, I scored 84% in PCM. It was UP Board, Rank 1 scored around 90% I guess.
In CAT, the syllabus was of a little over 8th standard and there were no Zebra Questions. I realized any average student can brush up the basics in 2 days and then solve the CAT paper using the First Principle Thinking in a few hours. It was only about the speed.
It so happened with me that, I had practiced various kinds of meditation techniques for thousands of hours, it somehow reduced the occurrence of compulsive thoughts in my mind.
We get around 60k compulsive thoughts in a day. Our mind is not capable of entertaining more than one thought at a time. When students solve questions in exams, after few seconds their mind wanders off and comes back in a few seconds. We do not register this loss of time. In my case, I was not losing this time … that way I was getting a little over half an hour more than other students to solve the same paper. And that’s why I could score.
I shared this hypothesis in an education conference. From next day I started getting numerous queries on how to meditate :) … I created a 5-page booklet having all the basics and asked my students to brush up in 2 days and come for a Mock test and try to solve the paper using only First Principle Thinking. There was no time limit for this Mock. Those who could not score, I told them it’s not their superpower — they should look for alternative career options. I gave 2 options to those who performed well — either go to the Himalayas and Meditate for 4 years :) OR pick up the books and master the hundreds of these ready-made methods in 3 months 😃
All of them chose books :)
But somehow none of my students made it to IIMs :(
And I stopped teaching.