CAT is round the corner

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    Keerti Pendyal scored a 100%le score in CAT and did his PGDM from IIM A. He worked with top firms like Ernst & Young and was a consultant at ISB, Hyderabad. He is also engaging his talent as a Co-promoter at Talent Management Solutions and is currently pursuing his FPM from IIM C

    You will have to pull up your socks and work hard given that CAT is just 2 months away. First of all, if you have not already taken a diagnostic test, take one. This will help you analyse which sections you are strong in and where you need improvement. The preparation strategy will depend to a large extent on this. E.g. if you are strong in verbal and weak in quant, you will obviously spend more time studying quant. Not only this, you will also have to come up with short-cuts & tricks of your own and not depend only on the material provided in books or prep classes. After identifying your strong and weak areas, prepare a study plan and STICK TO IT. No matter what happens or what anyone says, stick to the study plan.

    Given that CAT is just 2 months away, you would need to work really really hard. Now what I say below are preparation tips for each of the three sections - QA, DI/LR and VA/RC. You will have to tweak these to fit your needs.

    Quantitative Aptitude:

    I have seen a lot of students approach this area with fear. Before starting prep, the first question they ask is "Which chapters can we leave?" NONE. Gone were the days where you could not prepare 3-4 chapters and still could have managed to get a call comfortably. A lot of us old timers think that the paper has become very easy nowadays and some profs at the IIMs think so too. So, do yourself a favour, cover all the areas that are there to be covered. Leave nothing out.

    Short-cuts are good. But at the same time be well versed with the basics. Although short-cuts save you a lot of time, they are generally applicable only to specific cases. A certain set of conditions have to come together for you to be able to use the short-cut. Otherwise you have to use the basics. So, along with the short-cuts be well versed with the basics. Revise the formulae for the short-cuts and basics on a regular basis (I would suggest at least once a week). You should be comfortable with the basics to such an extent that you are able to come up with tricks of your own (which will allow you to skip steps in calculation, etc.)

    Practice speed math daily. Even if it is for as little as 10 minutes. This will seem tedious and a waste of time, but there is no better investment than this. Will help you in preparation for the DI/LR section also.


    As I mentioned above, practice speed math daily.

    Practice as many sets as possible. There is no other way for you to master DI/LR than through practice. A given DI set (say a set which uses pie charts) has only a fixed number of questions (types) that can be asked. Now if you are well versed with all possible types of charts there are and all possible types of questions that can be asked with a given chart, as soon as you see the question you will be able to estimate the time needed to solve the set and also if you would be able to solve it. This helps you in deciding whether to attempt the set now, later or leave it altogether. The same logic applies for LR sets/questions. If you practice as many questions as possible for each type, then chances are very small that you will be faced with a bouncer in the examination hall.

    (There really is no other trick for DI/LR - students have been asking me for years for tricks to improve performance in this section and they always seem disappointed when I tell them, the trick to this section is sheer hard work. Wake up guys, there is no magic potion to make things easier).


    From  the day you start your preparation, devote some time to the VA/RC  section. This has to go on till the day you get admission into a school  of your choice (Not just till you give your exam, because nowadays you  have WAT instead of GDs in a lot of top B-schools and you need to be  very good at putting to paper all that you have learnt while studying  VA/RC).

    Study  your word lists religiously. Before you start your prep, fix the number  of words you are going to do in a day. STUDY AND COMPLETE THOSE WORDS  EVERYDAY. Never, ever ignore your word lists. Why is it so important  when you no longer have questions on synonyms/antonyms in top B-school  tests? Because the RCs might have words whose meaning completely escapes  you. And unless you have been a regular reader since you were a small  kid, trust me you wouldn't be able to understand a lot of these words  based on the context. And sometimes even if you are an avid reader,  there are chances you have misunderstood (A risk you do not want to take  at this stage).

    Read  the newspapers everyday. I would suggest "The Hindu" and "Economic  Times" but in case "The Hindu" is not available, you can go for  "Hindustan Times" or "Times of India" in that order. It would be even  better if you can add some magazines to this. Magazines like "Frontline"  or "Tehelka". When I say read the newspapers, I mean not just the  headlines. The entire news story as well. The most important part of the  newspapers are the editorials and the opinion columns. This will help  you understand how the words you learnt in the previous step can/should  be used and also help you built an instinct when it comes to sentence  correction questions.

    I  would also ask you to read books. If you have been an avid reader, I  dont need to ask you to do this. This is aimed more at students who  haven't read a lot before. If you are working, start with smaller books  (in terms of number of pages/word count) like 1984, Animal Farm, One  Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, etc. These books are small in terms of the  word count but they are very weighty books in terms of the ideas. If you  do not have time for books, read articles online and I do not mean  articles on ESPN Cricinfo or Yahoo News. Something on the likes of  Economist, Forbes, etc. which cover a wide variety of topics and help  you get out of your comfort zone.

    Practice  as much as possible. Do as many RCs, VA based questions as possible.  Sources include the test prep material you purchased, material from  friends, previous years CAT papers, previous years mock CAT papers, etc.

    And  finally REVISE. REVISE. REVISE. All of the above is of no good use  unless you revise regularly. I would suggest every weekend (saturday  since sundays go in analysis of the mock CAT you gave that  morning/week). Revise everything you studied that week. And at the end  of the month, revise everything you did that month. Repeat this process  till the day of your examination and ideally till the day of your  interview (actually it should go on even after you get into a B-school)

    Apart from preparing in the three areas above, you also need to hone your test-taking strategy. Unfortunately, there is no one strategy that fits all students or all types of tests (greater focus on QA rather than DI, tough paper, RC very confusing, etc.) You need to give as many mock CATs as possible. Since it is already September, I would suggest you enrol for mock CATs from more than one institute (preferably TIME and one another). This will ensure that you have given enough number of tests to be familiar with the software and also with the issues that might crop up in the actual examination (software bugs, power cuts, etc.) Apart from building familiarity with the test taking environment, mock CATs help you analyse your performance. After every mock CAT, you need to spend some time to analyse your performance in that test.

    You should be looking at the following:

    Have you missed any sitters because you did not go through the paper/section before starting the test? The obvious solution is to always spend 3-4 minutes going through the paper/section before starting the test. Will help you know where the sitters are and where the tough questions are which you need to avoid.

    Have you spent an unnecessary amount of time on any one question? Set time limits for each question and stick to them.

    Have you missed sitters because you mistook them for difficult questions?

    Have you attempted tough questions assuming them to be sitters and as a result lost a considerable amount of time? Try to identify pattern in such questions (both for points 3 and 4) which led you to make these mistakes.

    Have you made calculation mistakes or forgot formulae in any questions? Revise and Practice.

    As you can see, analysis of a mock CAT is as important as studying for the CAT itself.

    The actual examination is still more than 2 months away and I think that if you spend your time in a focussed manner, you should be able to get a good score.

    All the Best.

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