Practice is key to excel in CAT

CAT, one of the most challenging exams in the country, is scheduled to be held on November 24 this year. 

The question you might ask yourself is ‘Should I attempt it?’ The answer is ‘Of course yes!’

The successful candidates will end up learning the intricacies of running a business from some of the best institutes in the world. They will go on to rule the business world in the years to come.

Is it too difficult to attempt? 

Yes, it is difficult and challenging. But it is certainly not impossible.

Is it too late to prepare? Should you wait for the next year instead? 

No. There are still 10 weeks to the examination. That gives you over 70 days to prepare.

So here are a few tips to make your preparation most productive —

The most important thing you need to understand is that this exam is about ‘Aptitude’ for business. The key elements of managing a business are logical thinking, communication ability and numerical ability. All three are tested in this exam and all three are equally important (that breaks the myth of engineers having an edge over all others).

Look up the portions you need to cover for each section and plan your timetable. Keep a target date for each section that you need to complete. And work towards it. Chances are, you just need to keep a clear three hours every day for this.

Brush up on your fundamentals. Spend time on the basics. Don’t believe anyone who tells you about “typical questions from CAT”. The question setters of CAT are specialists on twisting questions to make them look complex. Unless your fundamentals are crystal clear, you will not be able to answer them.

Get your doubts cleared by reliable sources or teachers. Don’t believe anyone who tells you about “Sure shot tricks and shortcuts for solving the CAT paper”. Tricks and shortcuts can never replace fundamentals. They are meant to be used after getting the basics right. 

Reinforce and test your fundamentals with sectional tests. All leading coaching institutes will provide sectional tests which test your fundamentals. These tests help you understand the gaps that you may have.

Don’t keep reinforcing your strength areas and ignore the rest. Remember, Indian Institutes of Management are not looking for experts in a single area — they actively seek out all-rounders. For example, if you are strong in Quant and hate Verbal, consciously focus on Verbal. Connect with a trainer who is known for Verbal.

Remember, the best teachers are those who can expose you to the magic of the subject and make you fall in love with what you hate the most. 

Once your fundamentals are in place and you have addressed the gaps thrown up by the sectional tests, start looking for the mock tests that you want to attempt. Ensure the following key elements in your mocks -

a. It is conducted by an organisation known for producing great CAT results. They are likely to be the closest to the actual CAT.

b. The mock test has a large number of test takers (of at least 5000 to 10000) and you will receive meaningful percentile for your mock test. Because, remember, CAT scores are about percentiles and not about absolutes. And you need to compare yourself with a large number of other test takers to know where you stand.

Analyse your mock test performance. Most good mock tests will also enable an analysis of your performance.

The analysis will throw up a clear understanding of what were the right things you did in the exam and what were wrong. A good analysis will show you the following:

a. On which questions did you spend more time compared to the others?

b. Which were the “easy” questions that you did not recognise and attempt?

c. Which were the “tough” questions that you need not have attempted?

d. The number of wrong answers that brought your score down.

e. The difficulty level of the particular test.

f. A clear understanding of your strengths and weaknesses vis-a-vis your competitors.

g. Time spent on a question vs ideal time to spend. 

All this analysis will help in course correction. Not just that, it will also give you great pointers to better time management.

Practice, Practice, Practice ...... keep practicing. The more the better. Nothing can get you more ready. Remember, luck has no role to play in your performance — it is all about the hard and smart work you put in.

(The writer is centre director, TIME, Bengaluru)

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