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


    • What matters is IIMA and all top institutions have called her, and she emerged in flying colours and made it to IIMA. She has worked on her profile and life, such that even at her percentile, the institutions found her compelling !!


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