CAT : Preparing for 99.9 percentile

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    Purav Parekh did his B. Tech from Nirma University. He cracked CAT 2008 with 99.89 percentile and pursued PGDM in General Management from MDI, Gurgaon. Purav worked in strategic marketing stints in corporate and start up environment and co-founded a technology startup, Genesis that deals with applications of Artificial Intelligence solutions customized for Indian markets. Purav also indulges in taking informative sessions for students in Ahmedabad.

    The question at hand is how to prepare so as to secure a 99.9%ile. Now 99.9 %ile means that out of roughly 2 lakh students, you need to be among the top 200. There is no way to assure that you shall not have more than 199 people score better than you (or if there is, mortals like us don't know). However you can ensure you leave no stone unturned in your preparation. So the foremost thing you need to understand is Compete with Yourself First!

    Now, you need to demarcate your preparation into 3 phases.

    Phase 1: Basic understanding of concepts

    The concepts that are tested in CAT are largely your quantitive abilities and logic. Be aware of two things.
    1) People of all disciplines attempt this exam so the quantitative questions involved would not consist of concepts beyond the curriculum of standard 10. However, your depth of understanding would be put to test.
    2) You need to be adept at English but they don't want you to be an author or a literary genius. They largely check your comprehension and logical ability.
    You may classify it into as many subgroups, largely it is just two things. Quantitative and Verbal abilities.
    Prepare all topics to the fullest. You should know how to solve any and every kind of problem posed at you. Sounds easy but requires lots and lots of hard work and utilization of the grey cells.

    Phase 2: Applying concepts

    Knowing a particular topic is fine. But you need to apply the concept as well. For example, you may know basic arithmetic. But if I give you a question like this
    Two cogged wheels of which one has 32 cogs and other 54 cogs, work into each other. If the latter turns 80 times in three quarters of a minute, how often does the other turn in 8 seconds?
    You should be able to determine that the particular question requires using ratio and proportion concepts and solve it. You shall come across many more complicated questions where you wont know what to apply. The more types you come across, the better. You shall learn by exposing yourself to maximum amount of such question types.

    Phase 3: Test Taking

    The final aspect of a test is to know how to take a test. Though in recent times, with the changed format of the paper, this aspect has a decreased importance, it is still something you should do. Give about 20 – 25 mock tests before giving the CAT. After every mock test, do this. Reflect on how the test went; what did you do right during the test  and at what can you improve in the next mock exam. Solve all questions you couldn’t attempt in the given time limit and check all answers yourself. For all the questions you answered incorrectly, see what went wrong and solve it again. For all questions you could not even figure out how to solve, take external help. Learn how to attempt such questions. Revisit the concept again. Solve a few more questions of that type.

    Blindly taking tests won’t help as well. Unless you don’t conduct a proper analysis of the test, you shall not take out value from the mock test. Keep an aim of progressing in probable percentile terms in each test. Probable Percentile is the percentile that you might have secured had that test been the real CAT paper. Absolute marks don’t matter. If you score the same amount of marks in a particular mock test that you have in a more tougher mock, then it isn’t progress because you ultimately would lose out to more candidates.
    So, if you achieve all the three aspects - Basics, Application & Test taking, you should reach a very high score (Plus you can also use the initials and call youself BATman :D)

    The differentiator though, is always going to be your attitude.

    Let me tell you something about my CAT journey here. I gave CAT first time in 2007. At that time, we have a paper based test and not a computer based. The number of questions were also not known. When we got the paper, we had 75 qs, 25 each in verbal, DI and quant. Each question was worth 4 marks. 1 mark was deducted for every incorrect anwer. Now, the verbal section was highly ambiguous. Even the coaching classes, we got to know later, had differing views on the right answer. So now, here we are, sitting with 25 questions, out of which I was only sure of attempting 5 answers correctly. Now what would one do with a paper that has negative marking? At first glance, one should decide against bluffing. Again, I knew, that at just 5 correct answers, getting calls from IIMs was going to be tough. But then, I remember my mentor, Hitesh Devalia (he is co-founder of Endeavor classes) once told me, attempts and accuracy, counter intuitively, have no correlation ( I still think there is a loose correlation, but that’s not relevant here).  Also, I was able to narrow down some 15 more questions to 2 options as the probable answer by eliminating the rest 3. So I attempted 22 out of 25 questions in that section!!

    Most of my colleagues, for fear of getting negative marks, did not even attempt. The result?

    Quantitative Ability: 94.35%ile
    Data Interpretation: 97.something %ile
    Verbal Ability: 95.34%ile (yayyyy!!)
    Overall: 99.47 %ile

    In the verbal section, I had attempted 22 questions. 12 were incorrect!! But, that didn’t matter because, had I just attempted the 5, I would have scored 20. Now, my score was 28. This last part was on account of some sound advice and my attitude towards the test. So, whenever you go to attempt CAT, just think of demolishing it. That is the attitude that shall sail you through.
    PS: I again gave the CAT next year and got 99.89 %ile.
    So trust me, what I wrote above is really what worked for me. I shall again quote my mentor as my last tip to crack CAT; and maybe life in general.

    you win, you lose; you play like a CHAMPION!

    Best of luck!

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