Go on, bell the CAT!

Go on, bell the CAT!

CAT 2010

Go on, bell the CAT!

How many tests should I take in the last month?

Taking about 5 to 6 tests in the last 30 days is recommended. But more important than taking the test is its analysis. If you don’t learn from each test before proceeding to the next, there is no point in taking a large number of them. Try out various strategies for each test, such as dividing your time equally across each section or spending more time on the tougher sections by working quickly in the easier sections. It is also important to attempt a variety of tests because you may score well in a test that is more suited to your strengths, while the CAT may carry more questions of the kind you are uncomfortable with. Work on a range of problems as the rationale behind them will ensure that you are better prepared.

How much time should I spend on studying for the CAT every day?

Ideally, you shouldn’t spend more than four hours a day. The manner in which those four hours are utilised depends on your strengths and weaknesses. Some students may prefer to spend more time on Verbal while other on DI. Ultimately, you must ensure that your progress in each section is good. This holds greater relevance if you are aiming only for the IIMs because at these institutes, cut-offs do matter. Organise your day in such a way that the hours spent studying are those when your brain is most active.  Working professionals, for example, shouldn’t study at night after a hard day’s work. Preparing for this test is not like preparing for school tests and college examinations, where you need to spend long hours memorising text.

Can I leave out the topics that I find too tough?

Students usually find topics such as Modern Math tough, but you must remember that neither are Modern Math questions in the CAT always tough nor are Arithmetic questions always easy. Your aim is to maximise your score in all the sections of the test and you can do that by solving all the easy questions. The earlier tests had a greater number of questions, so you could probably afford to skip certain topics. But now, with 20 questions to a section and possibly a further division into 1- and 2-mark questions, you cannot afford to leave out questions. You cannot even assume that the one-mark questions will be easier than the two-mark ones. If you leave out Modern Math entirely, you would have limited your selection to the easy questions in Arithmetic and Algebra. How then do you maximise your score? Tough questions from any topic should be ignored in any case. But read the question carefully before deciding to skip it. For example, in one of the practice tests, a student skipped a question based on playing cards because he felt it involved permutation and combinations. When he looked at the problem later, it turned out to be a simple linear equations question.  So, read problems carefully before skipping them; they might be ‘sitters’.

What exactly do we do when we analyse a test?


* Check whether your mistakes were silly, careless or conceptual errors.
*  Check if there are better ways to solve the problems.
*  Did you comprehend the problem, irrespective of the level of difficulty?
*  If the concept is new, learn the concept and move on.
*  Even if your answer was correct, ask yourself: Was your solution the best possible approach to the problem? Should you really have attempted these questions when there were easier questions elsewhere in the section? Why were you attracted to a particular question?

* Solve each of them.
*  Identify the questions which were potential score increasers.  
*  Why did you skip them?
*  Did you even read these questions carefully?

Once you get a clear picture of where you went wrong, pick one area you need to work on and spend 2-3 days on solving every possible question of the kind from the material given to you (section tests/ comprehensive tests), from the previous years’ papers. Go back to your basic reference material. In the tests ahead, you’re assured of being able to solve any question relating to the topic you picked.

Could you suggest a test prep strategy for the final leg of preparation?

A suggested strategy is to take a test every four days. If you take a test on Day 1, get into the analysis mode on Days 2, 3 and 4. Make sure you work on your weaknesses during this period. Before beginning a test, ensure you have an overall target score as well as section target scores.

While taking the test, you could mentally slot the questions into those that you can:

*Understand and solve.
*  Can solve but will take time.
*  Can’t solve (whatever the reason may be).

By dividing the questions in this manner, you will be able to prioritise and plan your time. Developing this habit in practice tests will hone your ability to pick the ‘right’ kind of questions. One of the main reasons people don’t do well is that they get stuck with a particular question and refuse to move on.

If you begin solving a problem assuming that you can solve it, but find that your attempts aren’t leading you to the answer, let it go and move on to the next question. Thanks to your rigorous preparation, you already have an idea of what you can attempt, and there might be a more easier question elsewhere in the test.

Does analysing a test with a group of friends help?

Taking a mock test with a group of friends is immensely beneficial because people tend to complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses. For instance, with four friends, you will have four different approaches to solving a problem. When you analyse a test by yourself, you will probably come up with time-saving approaches for about 5-6 problems because one person can only come up with a limited number of perspectives. With a group however, you can be assured of multiple approaches to a sum. Some sums may not require you to use calculations; someone else might see that while it may not strike you.

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