From scoring the best marks in the JEE and eyeing the most sought-after engineering discipline in a prestigious IIT to being uncertain over two placement offers from big firms, life has come never short of options for these youngsters. On Wednesday yet again, as the top scorers of Common Admission Test 2011, they recalled the “obsession to outperform others,” that has driven them right from the beginning. None of the five students of IIT- Madras who secured top scores in CAT 2011 seem even a little surprised at their scores, but confusion over what to do next is clear on their faces.

A final year chemical engineering student, R. Prabhu Dhev, who scored 99.99 percentile, has two job offers, one from Deutsche Bank and the other from ITC, and now, most likely calls from all the IIMs. “Life has been always been on the extreme end of disasters or triumphs,” he says. Three years ago, when he did not make it to the admission list of IIT-Madras, a place he had frequented the most as a student of P.S.B.B. (K.K. Nagar) wanting to be this successful engineer some day, he decided to take up admission in BITS Pilani, only to slog for one more year to get admitted to IIT-M. “It is not just about setting targets and fulfilling them. It is also about making the most of the time while you are at it,” he says. Also the captain of IIT-M cricket team, he says, “I don't like forecasting my future. For now, it is either one of the top three IIMs.”

This was the first time that CAT aspirants had to take new pattern of the test with two sections and lesser questions. But for these first-time takers of CAT from IIT-Madras, “No strategy works. Your basics have to be strong and you have to enjoy problem, solving. As engineers, our maths is strong, for verbal ability we play word games and put in more efforts,” says Prabhu.

For Achyuth Sanjay from New Delhi with 99.97 and Sanjeev Rao from Hyderabad with 99.95 respectively, both final year students at the IIT-M, the test was important but not something that took their sleep away. With plush job offers from MNCs, both look forward to pursuing an MBA from a prestigious IIM, and the route from now is not tough too. “When you study in an IIT, you are exposed to all managerial tasks, numerous projects and interactions. Being a fresher might be a disadvantage getting into the IIM, but the group discussions, interviews and essay sessions are not that big a scare,” says Achyuth. “And I really think an MBA in operations will be a good choice. Talking to seniors should help,” he adds. According to CAT 2011 data, over 12,000 candidates took the test from Chennai alone last year.

CAT is not something you expect to crack after working ten hours a day, say these toppers. “It is important to know what to expect. So you have to solve some sample papers,” says S. Jaichander, also a mechanical engineering student at IIT-M. Unlike many others, Jaichander, with 99.31 percentile, seems the least concerned with the results. “I joined mechanical engineering because I love physics. There seems no reason why I should change my field now,” says the former student of Vidya Mandir, who plans to get admitted to either MIT University or Stanford to pursue a research in fluid mechanics. “The pattern of CAT was similar to GRE which I was very serious about. Just thought, will give it a shot too,” he says.

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Vasudha VenugopalJune 28, 2012