At 3:45pm on January 9, 2017, Ashank Dubey updated his Facebook status to share a piece of good news with his friends. He had cracked Common Admission Test (CAT), the national-level management entrance examination conducted by the IIMs. Having scored 98.6, 99.99 and 99.96 percentile across the three main sections—verbal ability & reading comprehension, data interpretation & logical reasoning, and quantitative ability—Ashank (28) was one of the 20 candidates across India with a 100-percentile overall score.
But unlike most other candidates, Ashank attempted the CAT not to land a seat at one of India’s prestigious management institutes, but to vanquish one of his personal demons- English. In early 2011, Ashank a young Mathematics graduate was struggling. He had been rejected by companies because of his poor English communication skills.
“I was rejected by 142 companies in less than a year. Yes, I kept a list of that.”
Now, in 2017, Ashank has moved on from searching for his dream job to helping thousand others get into their dream B-schools. Here is Ashank’s story of perseverance.
Mathematics over engineering
Seated in his cabin, just adjacent to his classroom where he had just concluded his Sunday afternoon class, Ashank recounted how he had reached his zenith. From a young age, he had a keen interest in maths and hence chose to graduate in Mathematics instead of going after the more mainstream goal of an engineering degree. But he was in for a rude shock after graduation. He recalls,
“I realised nobody valued a Mathematics graduate in India. I was offered jobs that had nothing to do with number crunching or analytical skills. I thought it was a sin to not be an engineer in this country.”
But despite repeated rejections, he decided to stand by his principles and not take up any job offers that didn’t let him leverage his analytical skills. This led to 142 rejections in less than a year and a period of financial trouble and psychological stress. To add to his trouble, Ashank realised that his poor English-speaking skill laid an additional barrier to finding a good job. So as a non-engineer who couldn’t speak English well, and armed with a skill set that wasn’t appreciated anymore, the future didn’t look very bright for Ashank.
The CAT dream
Ashank didn’t really want to do an MBA. But in 2009, he realised that his career and even survival could depend on his ability to crack CAT and similar MBA entrances. Confident of his number-crunching abilities, he wrote CAT 2009, after a month-long prep that focussed on improving his verbal abilities. He explains,
“Technically, I did not ‘write’ CAT; I clicked it (laughs). This was the year CAT went online. That I had got myself an email address in January 2009 should be enough to let you know about my digital capabilities.”
When the results came out, Ashank had a bittersweet moment. He had scored 99.65 in the quant section but had scored quite low in the verbal section, bringing down his overall score. He was distraught.
At this stage, a close friend convinced him that he could actually make a career out of his quantitative skills. He started working as a backend quant staff at a CAT coaching institute in Delhi. The pay was not much but he liked the work environment. He had access to a lot of quant questions and their solutions too. “I would also make it a point to solve the questions posed by students on different CAT/GMAT forums. Gradually, I started creating my own questions,” he recalls.
To enhance his odds of getting a better CAT score, Ashank’s original goal was to improve his English and communication skills. But another goal blossomed simultaneously for Ashank: he wanted to teach quant and also prove that he could succeed despite his then below-average English communication skills. He says,
“I was determined to prove it to them that the strongest teacher in the room is the one who can take any quant question and solve it using five different methods in five minutes. It shouldn’t matter if the language of instruction is English, Hindi, or sign language.”
As part of his annual ritual, Ashank was preparing for CAT 2016, when his team encouraged him to try and aim for an overall 100 percentile; not to get into the IIMs, but for the goal to serve itself as a personal catharsis of sorts. He followed the advice and a rigorous study plan and managed to achieve it. He quips,
“In CAT 2016, the worst part was that I could not get a hundred percentile in quant but the best part was that I had 98.6 percentile in verbal (VA&RC).”
Ashank believes that the key takeaway from his journey is that one should never underestimate the power of one’s personal strength. He feels that the more important thing is to set oneself in the right direction and then solve problems with perseverance. Looking back, he believes that he was at his best when he was facing the worst circumstances. He notes,
“I am more scared of the day I become complacent. So, I decided in 2010 to solve every quant problem ever asked in any exam that has a quant section. I keep an exact count of the number of quant problems I have solved, so far 13,060. I still solve hundreds of questions every week.”
Ashank is now the Educator for Quants with Eckovation and is reaching to thousands of students on a daily basis to help improve their scores in Quantitative Aptitude.
Join Eckovation’s Super 50 Course today to study from Ashank: Click Here