How to prepare for CAT exam?

There’s no fixed formula to ace CAT. However, a combination of strategy, planning and implementation should help you score well in this test.

Here are 10 tips for helping you harness your potential.

1. CAT is a pseudo standardized test This means that, even though you cannot predict the exact pattern of questions like you can with GRE, you can still predict the answer pattern — a net total of about 60 to 65 marks with an equitable distribution in all three sections of the paper will get you calls from most institutions.

2. Once you realize this, you will find your workload reduced by a huge amount. Your task, as emphasized by all CAT preparation centers, is to attempt the 60 to 70 easiest possible questions out of the 120 to 150 odd questions that are put to you. You must work to this pattern if you want to do well in CAT.

3. The identification of easy questions is a difficult task and comes only after practice. Depending on a person’s level of ease with the topics, the amount of preparation required may vary. However, you should try to leverage your strengths to the optimum. In the process, however, don’t forget clearing cut-offs is essential to getting calls; doing well in one section and not clearing the cut-off in another will not help.

4. CAT is not a test to prove your mettle in specific subjects; you need to prove your overall ability.

5. Most of you must have already started giving mock tests; this is the only way to figure out how you will fare at the national level. There is no need to panic if you are not able to match your expectations in the mock CAT tests; look at every test as a learning experience.

6. Do your best in all the tests. After returning home, analyse your performance. Adequate practice will give you the knowledge to make informed decisions — for example, you will realise attempting a reading comprehension question might not be a good idea if you only have a few minutes left before the test ends.

7. Answer questions depending on your level of confidence on the topics, rather than the feasibility of the answers.

8. For example, take a data interpretation question based on the average runs scored in a cricket series by major players. Sometimes, CAT aspirants try to save time by partially solving the problem and basing their answers on personal biases — like Tendulkar would have the highest score or Dravid might have the best average score or something to this effect.

9. The actual answer, based on the information given in the test, might be completely different. Maybe a bowler would have the highest score. Though this might be not practically feasible, the questions in the CAT paper need not have logical solutions as far as data interpretation is concerned.

10. Making a guess of this kind would not come under the purview of intelligent guessing. Intelligent guessing should be done in topics in which you have a sufficient level of expertise obtained as a result of extensive practice; it should not be done for questions where your answers need to be based on the information given in the question paper.

11. You should be careful not to repeat the mistakes made you made in either the mock CATs or while practicing at home. Make it a point to take a couple of tests every week from now on.

12. Set a goal while revising or studying the CAT preparation material.

13.  Here is an example. If you have planned to study for two hours, you should also know what you hope to achieve at the end of those two hours. This will help you focus your effort. By setting a goal, you will achieve much more in those two hours.

14. As mentioned earlier, CAT is all about strategy. There are many talented people who have given this exam but have not got admission into the IIMs. One of the major differences between these people and those who made it to the IIMs is that the latter had learnt to maximise their result in the two hours allotted to CAT.

15. They knew all sections were equally important and should, ideally, be given equal time unless you are exceptionally weak in a section.

16. Coming to the paper, you should look at accuracy as a priority. Adequate practice will help you increase your speed at a later stage of preparation, but absence of accuracy will lead to widely varying results and not help you get admission in the institution of your choice.

17. Try and understand why you want to do an MBA. Your reasons should be good enough to constantly motivate you during the preparation stage. You should also inculcate the habit of reading regularly.

18. Lastly, flexibility matters.

19. One can have a strategy is place, but it may not work for you during the actual exam. You should always have a fallback plan. One particular section in the paper might be particularly difficult or you may find two sections have been merged into one. Such possible combinations should be analysed; you should also have a strategy ready in case you are faced with such a scenario.

20. Before giving mock tests, ensure you have a good grasp on the various CAT sections. This will give you the confidence to sail through CAT!

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