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CAT preparation - Frequently Asked Questions

On an average day, MBAtious receives around a dozen queries related to MBA admissions and test preparation. This would range from highly genuine queries to extremely complicated ones like what is my possibilities to land in IIM A If I have x% in Xth, y% in XIIth z% in graduation and assuming I can manage to attempt 70% of questions in CAT with 80% accuracy while opting the first slot. We usually direct the genuine ones to the capable hands and ignore the complicated ones. But the major portion of the spectrum belongs to genuine but confused aspirants who seems so lost in the whole circus happening around them. We thought it would be a good idea to pen down some of our very common response as an article so that it may help aspirants in their preparation and also help us as we don’t have to type the whole thing again and again!

We will start with a cliché and a disclaimer. Preparation strategies are highly subjective and all our opinions are subject to market risks.

Many of the aspirants start with the below question

How much should I score in CAT to ensure a seat in a premier Business school?

God knows! (If you are an atheist, Batman knows)

It is a wrong question to ask in some levels and is a genuine query in some other angle.

Wrong way: Don’t target any percentile in your preparation plan. Your target is always to score THE BEST possible score in your exam. Leave the percentile to the system and you focus in giving your best. Putting a score in mind will unnecessarily burden you and will also invite lot of speculative analysis, which is fun but also a major wastage of time. Yes, some coaching institutes do promote this kind of culture but only as a scare tactics. As a scared aspirant will spend money more easily. We are not saying that they are lying when they say you need 99.6 for an IIM A call, but who on earth can go to CAT with 99.6 as target and score 99.6. You do your best and just pray god (or batman) that your score is better than 99.6. Only thing you can do is to give your best in terms of preparation, score will follow.

Right way: It does help to have a generic idea about the selection criteria for various Business programs you are interested in and also their specialties. This would help in getting some overview on which colleges to target based on your constraints and interests. Like, if you have weak acads then FMS or C would be more welcoming than A or B and if you are into finance then C would look hotter than B and so on. Before you ask us these questions, shoot a Google query and you will get all the information you need. If you are planning to be the next Top Business school grad, we suggest you start acting like one. Own the responsibilities and do the needful. Don’t ask what you can Google!

How many hours should I prepare every day to score well in CAT?

Short answer is simple and useless. It depends (You will hear this a lot)

Coming to long answer, how many hours will it take to reach Mumbai? Or how much money would be needed to book a flight ticket to Delhi? Ok, you got the point. Answer to all the above questions is IT DEPENDS.

It is very (very very) important that the person who is trying to guide you clearly understands where you stand now, in terms of your preparation and readiness and how fast you can move forward. Without this, it is very much possible that some not-good-for-you ideas are pushed to your preparation plan, yielding no (or worse) results. For example, for someone who is well read, VARC won’t be a big concern and you may receive a guarantee that VARC can be managed in a month or two...  this is a recipe for danger if you don’t match his reading habit. What to do?

Do you remember Kung-Fu Panda? The story of how a big fat panda with no plan and skills became the supreme warrior of Kung Fu. All with pure passion and perseverance. This is the key to your success. Make CAT the most important thing in your life for next 6 months. If someone says noodles are important, say it is not, for next 6 months.

You should be asking “How much I can?” before “How much I should?” Take a closer look at your life. See how much time is spent on unnecessary/unimportant things. Gather all the time you can get from each day and once you have an idea about how much time is available for your preparation we will move to the next important question.

How should I spend my time to ensure a good score in CAT?

As of today, there are around 40 articles related to CAT preparation strategies, authored by CAT toppers, published in MBAtious alone. The essence of all these strategies can be put into just 5 points which you should do without fail.

1.  Build your basics – Make sure you understand the syllabus which you are meant to study and then religiously build your clarity in all the fundamental concepts of these topics. There is no way you can avoid this. Choose whichever preparation forums/mode you are comfortable with and learn the basics. Period.

2.  Practice enough questions – Knowing the theory is one thing and comfortably applying it in questions needs thorough practice. Make sure you solve enough number of questions which will cover the possible flora and fauna of important question types which can appear in the exam.  Important point here is that, make sure you are not carried away in this exercise. Solve only questions which are relevant for CAT. Don’t waste your time in questions that are way out of CAT level. Sadly, most of the questions that are solved in various online forums will help only in scaring not in scoring!

3.  Take enough mocks – Knowing the theory, applying in questions and what next? Solving the questions under time pressure. Mocks are designed to give you a feel of CAT environment before the actual tussle. Most of your strategies and knowledge will become useless in CAT if they are not honed under the test environment. You won’t jump to a river after reading an article on how to swim, right? You will understand the theory, test it under controlled/simulated environment which won’t threaten your life and after reaching a certain confidence level, you will go for a swim. Same case here.
It is equally important to learn from mocks. Mocks is your freedom to make mistakes. You have paid them for a platform to identify your weak areas and correct them before actual CAT. We already have many articles on mock analysis. You can find them with a simple search in our site. We will share more on this aspect as we move closer to mock season.

4.  Read – Spend one hour per day to read diverse stuffs. Don’t ask any questions, just read. Pick up a novel, an editorial, a business report, a game analysis… anything. Pick on different topics/genre and READ.

5.  Improvise – this is the most important step. There is no single-size-fit-for-all solutions or magic potions to clear CAT. There are basic disciplines which we mentioned above as points 1 – 4 and then there is YOU. The most beautiful part of CAT preparation is that the highest weightage goes for YOU. How well YOU manage YOUR time, how well YOU find and correct YOUR mistakes, and on and on…

Each person is different and unique. Never try to completely adhere to someone else’s plan unless you find it working with your needs. If you are weak in quant, spend more time in quant. If you need more practice in VA, solve more questions in that. Do your homework, see the results and track the improvement and the pace in which it is improving. If you feel it is going slow, pump in more time and resource into your preparation plan. If you feel you need support, find a mentor. If the best mentor in town charges an affordable fee, pay it. If you find a book useful, buy it. Do whatever it takes to uplift you from the current level to the expected level of expertise within the given amount of time. Again, remember how our big fat panda climbed all the thousand steps and found his destiny. Keep up the spirit, when you feel low think why you started, think how far you reached. Take forward steps, big, small, or baby steps doesn’t matter until it’s going forward.

I am losing all my motivation and feeling lost. How can I keep myself in track?

Why aspirants lose their morale and confidence after a month or two into preparation. They found the syllabus too tough to understand? No! They expect lot of change way too soon. If you go for a trip, how would it be if you keep looking for your destination in every 15 minutes? It will spoil the fun, we will be worried and we will lose interest in following a plan which is actually working! To avoid these things, we track the milestones. Like milestone 1 – placeA @ timeA, milestone 2 – placeB @ TimeB … milestoneZ – PlaceZ @ TimeZ = Destination! So as we cover each milestone we affirm ourselves that we are going in the right direction, our speed is in check and that we will reach our goal within the time. CAT preparation is quite similar to this. Make sure you split your whole preparation into multiple phases like Number theory, Geometry, English Usage, Logical Reasoning etc. (still better if you can divide it into sub categories like Circles, binary logic, parallelism etc.) attach a date to each of the topic and follow the plan thoroughly. Ideally, last 2-3 months should be for mocks and analysis. So, plan accordingly.

From where I should prepare?

Gyan is precious. Pick it from where ever you find it. Don’t limit yourself to any book or mentor or forum. Be open and hunt for any useful gyan. Having said that, make sure you complete a comprehensive study material so that it is ensured no topic is left unattended. Preparation culture from FB groups and other forums are very adhoc in nature and will only supplement your main preparation source. And going for some shameless promotion, do check the gyan notes we have shared in MBAtious (Quant / Verbal / DILR ) and you would definitely find some gems authored by the experts in the field.

We wish you all the best, and happy learning. Stay MBAtious!