My CAT failure story had a happy ending – admits from 3 GMAT MBA programs abroad

CAT failure story

The CAT exam doesn’t have the concept of pass and fail. Instead, it’s all about percentiles. A high CAT score will get you calls from your dream MBA colleges. A low score wont – and that’s what many consider as a failed CAT story.

So what do you do if you fail to crack the CAT? The simple response is to retake it, after identifying your weak areas and working on them. Mahima did just that, and unfortunately ended up with the same result.

That’s when she started thinking about the entire process in a completely different manner. Her new strategy resulted in multiple admits from the top business schools in USA and Canada (Read IIM vs Foreign MBA).

My CAT failure story had a successful ending

I got into Ross, Rotman and Emory

by Mahima

I have had a peripatetic childhood owing to my father’s career in the defense. As a child, I loved the fact that I got to live in a new place every two years.

While it was difficult to constantly adapt to a new place, it also nudged me to become a more confident and extroverted person.

To date, talking to different people and learning about their experiences is something that gives me a lot of energy.

My dogs were my constant in every station we went to. I had 2 dogs as a kid and got 2 now as well, as they passed away. I have learned the basics of dog training and spend time actively researching how to best take care of dogs.

I was the fastest 100m and 200m female sprinter in my school for 4 years; there was also always a focus I had. I would practice for the races with my dog and also represented my school at the district level.

I enjoy playing badminton and have played for all tournaments in school and at work.

Lastly, I also enjoy rapping, which is something I am not proficient in but love to explore.

Post my Bachelor of Commerce (BCom) degree, I was inclined toward the consulting industry due to the diversity of business problems consultants get to tackle. While that has been an attraction for me, it was also been a challenge in itself.

Given the ever-changing nature of projects, it really pushes one beyond their comfort zone.

In my 4+ years at McKinsey as an Analyst, I got to work on several transformational projects, in industries ranging from waste management and manufacturing to financial institutions and FinTechs.

Moreover, in this journey I got to interact with the smartest of people. As I grew in the firm, I realised the value add an MBA would add as continue in the industries.

Having interacted with MBAs from some of the top institutions, I realized the value add it had in terms of their problem-solving skills, project management, and more importantly their communication and presentation skills. This is when I decided to pursue an MBA.

The journey to an MBA had its own hurdles. After a few failed attempts at CAT, I took up GMAT. I started with a score of 640 and then went to a 710 eventually.

My timelines of GMAT were far from ideal, which led to me apply to B Schools in R2 rather than R1.

My recommendation to everyone would be to get done with GMAT as soon as possible. Preferably, much before you start your application process.

While I was still not satisfied with my GMAT score, I went ahead and applied to a few of my dream colleges.

My top concerns while applying were my GMAT score, non-pedigree undergrad (while from DU, I wasn’t from the top 5 colleges), 3 year bachelors degree (15 years of education), and limited extracurriculars.

As I spoke to the top MBA application consultants, they echoed my concern about the GMAT score.

When I spoke to Manish, he also pushed me to improve my GMAT score but also provided me candid advice on what was strong in my profile versus what was not. There was a sense of clarity that I got as I spoke to Manish.

At MBA Crystal Ball (MCB), Abhinav Chandra helped me with my applications. I took the package for 3 B Schools, and applied to a couple more on my own.

Out of my dream B-schools (which I selected based on their average GMAT, profile, and their focus on impact consulting), I converted Michigan Ross, which wouldn’t have been possible without Abhinav’s guidance.

As I started working with him, he pushed me to get into the depths and the “whys” of the instances I had quoted.

Moreover, he was extremely candid about the quality of an instance I quoted and pushed me to think through my experiences in life (here, if you are into journaling, your journey would be much easier).

I remember sitting for hours at night just rewinding my life to find just the right instance for each essay.

Post that, as I saw how Abhinav edited the essays, I also realised that the way if communicating the same message in the most concise form is a skill that I didn’t have.

For me, this push to introspect, linking instances to the whys and my core values was the biggest value add.

As you research schools, my recommendation would be to speak to current students, alums in your dream companies.

While there is a lot of information online, personal instances of what they love about a B School.

For example, an alum told me about how one of his classmates who was also interviewing for the same company at Michigan Ross called and reminded him on the interview day because he saw he was missing in the room.

Turns out the other guy had completely mixed up the dates and was relaxing in his room!

Hence, after doing preliminary research of the school, on their courses, clubs, placement stats etc, it always helps to go a level deeper to understand more about HOW life is at the B School.

After the taxing B School application process which took a couple of months, the interview process was fairly straightforward.

The application process gives you clarity on the “why” for MBA and the particular B-school, hence honing that and working on your interviewing skills (verbal communication, storytelling, etc) is the main thing.

My interview was a pleasant experience and a fairly interactive one. The focus is on your experiences in people management, challenging situations at work, and vision after an MBA.

While I did not get admits from a couple of B-schools, I still remember the day I got a call from Michigan Ross.

It was 2:30 pm and I was in the middle of a client call (with multiple GMAT Club tabs open because of the anxiety and anticipation of the call).

As I saw a +1 number blinking on my screen, I could not believe my eyes.

Unfortunately, I could not pick it up as I was presenting to my client but the first thing I did after my client meeting was call back that number and hear the news.

After 3 years of effort of getting into an MBA (the first two focusing on CAT), I knew the trials were finally over.

Failing to crack the CAT was a blessing in disguise!

While I had other admits from Rotman and Emory, I know Ross is my dream school and would be the best for me to pursue my dream of Impact Consulting.

For any Indian student (and especially girls) thinking of applying to a business school outside India, my recommendation would be to:

  • Get your GMAT sorted ASAP.
  • Start introspecting and perhaps journaling your life instances and the reasons behind those.
  • Find a school that truly speaks to you rather than a school which everyone wants to go to.

In all this, don’t forget to live a little through whatever activities you enjoy. In the end, those keep you energetic and going (AND also benefit your candidature, if that helps!).

The lesson in there is clear – when desi doors close, try knocking on pardesi doors. That can open up opportunities and possibilities on a global stage.

If you’ve given up on CAT and moved on to GMAT MBA programs, drop us an email for professional help: info [at] mbacrystalball [dot] com

Also read:
GMAT bschools shower scholarships after 4 failed CAT exam attempts
GMAT vs CAT Differences
These international business schools accept CAT scores
GMAT 790 scorer relied on self-study using only the Official Guide and CAT material

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Manish Gupta
About Manish Gupta
Chief Consulting Officer at MBA Crystal Ball, ex-McKinsey, IIT & ISB topper. MG can help you get into the top B-schools. Read more about this top MBA admissions consultant. Connect with MG on Linkedin, Facebook or Email: mcb [at] mbacrystalball [dot] com

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