How I increased my CAT 2019 score from 77.17 to 98.09 percentile? ft. Nikhil Jain

Updated: Jun 29

Today we have a special guest post by Nikhil Jain, a CAT 2019 taker who managed to increase his score from 77.17 percentile to 98.09 percentile. A very determined & helping individual, Nikhil reached out to me because he felt that his story could inspire many CAT aspirants, especially the ones with a gap year. In this post, he talks about how one can cover up for his/her gap year while studying for CAT side by-side.

Nikhil Jain


In my final year of Graduation, I intended to take the CAT exam. I was never that great in my undergraduate studies and had to focus a lot on them. In my first CAT attempt, I didn't prepare for the exam, I just went to write it, just to try out my luck that day. The lack of preparation showed me that I had no idea how to approach the exam.

In the VARC section, I panicked & attempted the questions without reading the passage. In the DILR section, I didn't solve the sets on paper. Only the QA section gave some solace to my score which was 77.17 Percentile. I wrote IIFT as well, got a call at the border line but didn't convert. I didn't sit for placements because the placements of my college weren't great and there was a rule that you cannot refuse to join if you get the offer.

So, I had no other option but to take a gap and the thought of having a gap scared me. I decided to write the MA Economics entrance exams. But, I didn't get a good college. So, I decided to write CAT once again for which I started my preparation around July end.

CAT Preparation

Initially, I started off with a lot of enthusiasm. I really enjoyed writing mocks and solving lots of questions. However, reality hit me when I realized that if I fail to clear CAT this year, I will not have a back up option. I also wondered if the interviewers would mock me due to the Gap Year.

Suggested Reading | What do IIM Interviewers Expect from the Candidates?

In my last attempt, I had gotten 44.71 percentile in the VARC section. So, I didn't know how I was going to get 80+ percentile in VARC this time. I was ready to give up 10,000 times in my journey & honestly, I just kept finding escape routes to not write CAT. However, I knew there was one last spark of courage left in me to succeed. With the guidance and support of my parents, I started working hard & that hard work was more than any I had ever put in my life.

It has been a really tough journey and I remember 100+ score in mocks being a distant dream. However, when I started treating each & every mock as if it was the actual exam, I started scoring 100+ comfortably. I also started practicing all the questions I got wrong during the mocks and it really helped me in my preparation. I pushed myself like anything with the belief that I'll succeed. I started treating the mocks & the preparation like a video game, my only objective was to solve every question I could lay my hands on.

CAT 2019: D-Day

On the day of my CAT exam, I just relaxed. But, at the same time I knew that I have no other option but to crack this exam. I was extremely tensed about the VARC section and I wondered if I will be able to comprehend anything that I read on the screen. However, I tried to forget about everything and treated the final exam like any other mock.

In my opinion, this strategy really helped me relax. When the exam started, I just focused on picking the right RCs which I found to be the easiest. The DILR & QA sections were my favourite and I really feel that they can be very scoring sections if you focus on what the set/question is asking. In the end, they really come down to the basics. Doing a lot of practice for these two sections is essential and it's not that hard because it's just the mathematics you must have studied till class 10th.

My final score i.e. 98.09 Percentile comprised of these sectional scores - 81.21/99.45/98.3. Eventually, I got over my fear of getting 80+ in VARC & I succeeded in pushing my score through the other two sections. I still remember January 4th 2020, when the result got announced. I was in Delhi and I shrieked as if I had just been dragged out of an awful situation of life. So, that's how everything went for me during my CAT journey.

Handling the Gap Year

With respect to the gap year for all future aspirants, I just want to say that the Interview Panelists really don't care if the gap is just of one year. It can easily be explained if the interviewers bring that topic up during the interview. Just focus on your preparation for the exam and get a high percentile, which can definitely be achieved if one has the right approach towards preparation. 

Suggested Reading | What is the impact of gap years in IIM selection?

Moreover, many aspirants, like me take the exam without preparation in the first attempt. So, you can show an increase in your percentile in the next attempt and justify your gap. If you feel scared because of the gap year, then you can use it as a motivation to score well.

Suggested Reading | What to do during the gap years to boost your CV?

Sectional Strategies

When it comes to the VARC section, one should develop the habit of reading. As far as the Jumbled Sentences & Odd One Outs are concerned, one should understand the context of the sentences asked and attempt accordingly.

Suggested Reading | VARC Tips

For the DILR section, one should practice multiple sets with pen and paper before attempting the questions. Please don't do guess work for this section.

Suggested Reading | DILR Tips

In the QA section, one should read the core concepts and attempt questions based on them. It is a very scoring section and there is no reason why a non-engineer cannot score more in this section.

Suggested Reading | QA Tips

Also, these mocks should be taken every weekend till September (with increased frequency after that) followed by the due analysis.

Reading Material

A book that I would like to recommend to be used along with your coaching material is Arun Sharma 's “How to Prepare for Quantitative Aptitude for the CAT”. It provides a lot of content and gives innumerable practice questions. Its author has scored a 100 percentile 18 times. I would also suggest you to solve the previous years' papers to practice as much as possible.

All these tips once implemented can really help you do well in the CAT Examination.

These were a couple of tips by Nikhil, to whom I'm really grateful for presenting his case and sharing his experience. The members of this blog, especially the ones with a gap year will find many insights to be of use in their preparation.

In case you missed on the last post, you must give it a read: IIM Results 2020: these 6 IIM Converts have a message for the CAT 2020 aspirants.

©2020 by