Understand the CAT, before you bell it

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Understand the CAT, before you bell it

The Common Aptitude Test, or CAT as it is popularly known, is conducted jointly by the Indian Institutes of Management (IIM’s) every year for admissions to their management courses.

This year a total of 13 IIM’s will use the CAT score for admissions. One of the most prestigious postgraduate entrance exams in the country, it is also accepted by a large number of other top B-Schools for admission to their postgraduate programmes in management.

Two years after CAT went online, the IIM’s have announced a change in the exam pattern yet again. CAT 2011 will now have only two sections:

*Quantitative Ability & Data Interpretation
*Verbal Ability & Logical Reasoning

A candidate has to attempt these separately timed sections of 70 minutes and 30 questions each (over two minutes per question). This announcement at a time when there is less than two months left for the exam has lead to panic among the student community. Many are still wondering whether this calls for rejoicing or if it is a cause for concern. Students invest months, and even years, to prepare for the CAT.

Therefore, it is important to fully understand the impact of these changes on their preparation before they are ready for the big day. Remember, that with only 60 questions the pressure on time is greatly reduced. Now, the paper will not require the test-taker to juggle effective time-management skills with understanding and answering the questions. CAT 2011 will be far more structured, making it easier than its predecessors.

This is the 6th time that CAT has seen a change in its pattern over the last two decades, so there is no cause for worry. This does not call for a major change in your preparation strategy.

A little tweak and readjustment to the new pattern is all that is required. Naturally, the best way to prepare at this point of time would be to take a number of online mock tests to familiarise yourself with the pattern. An analysis of the two sections will give you a very good idea of the importance of the different topics.

*Section 1: Quant & Data Interpretation

A lot of quant questions come from algebra, the number systems, and arithmetic, and these are very scoring. So, one must ensure preparedness in these three areas. Data Interpretation questions deal with a lot of numerical data which can be quite tasking.

Get yourself comfortable with such data (Here’s a tip: make it a point to read the business and finance sections of newspapers and analysing them). These questions require skills in mental mathematics and quick calculations for which you will have to train yourself to process numbers at a good speed, and employ simple but reliable tricks to arrive at solutions faster. Do not get bogged down by the data, instead focus on reading the questions carefully.

* 2: Verbal Ability & Logical Reasoning
Mere reading is not enough — one must read the right books, newspapers, magazines and journals to prepare for the questions on Verbal Ability. Understanding the English language and its nuances can only be inculcated with regular reading. Read on a variety of subjects and get comfortable with them; national and international dailies, the edit page and finance pages, famous speeches, English literature, all should be given some amount of time.

Practice questions on reading comprehension, common confusables, para jumbles, para completables, word usage and critical reasoning. Once a student is conversant with all these types, he/she should feel confident of cracking the verbal ability part of the section.

Questions on Logical Reasoning require a lot of practice in solving puzzles, logical questions in quant like P&C, set theory, etc. These questions involve mathematical puzzles followed by questions based on them. Adopt a step-by-step approach — writing down all the given information first will help you identify clues and will also clear away a lot of confusion.

A few essentials to keep in mind while preparing for CAT 2011:
*Cover all topics and prepare across the length and breadth of the subjects. With just 60 questions you will not have much to choose from.
nPractice solving previous years’ papers, especially of the early 1990’s, as the questions you will face are likely to be similar.

*The only way to master the new CAT ’11 format is to take plenty of mock CATs. Getting comfortable with the new pattern will ensure that you are not thrown off-guard on the actual day of the exam.

On the day you bell the CAT:
*Accuracy is of paramount importance in the new format, so avoid making random guesses. If you think a question is too difficult, leave it and move to the next question. Remember with just 60 questions incorrect answers are criminal.

*The time limit of 70 minutes will ensure that you don’t spend all your time on only one section and miss out on the sectional cut-offs. So focus on the questions and not on time management.

*Read the options carefully and narrow down to the probable ones. Often, options can be eliminated just by reading the question.

*Scan the questions and identify and attempt the easy questions first as you’re sure to earn marks. Questions that are very difficult can safely be eliminated.

You must keep in mind that even with the revised format, CAT 2011 offers a level playing field. Though the rules to the game has changed, nobody has any unfair advantage. At the end of the day, all that will matter is how much you’ve practised and how many mock tests you’ve taken to familiarise yourself with the new pattern. Good luck!

(The writer works with CL Educate Ltd)

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