CAT preparation tips by Ayush Agrawal, IIM L
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Ayush Agrawal is currently working in a a marketing-cum-strategy role with a reputed firm. Ayush cracked CAT 2010 with 99.98 percentile and scored a perfect 100 percentile in Quant section. Ayush did his PGDM from IIM Lucknow.
Here's what I did as part of my CAT preparation:
Step 1: Do an honest review of your own preparation levels. Download a few sample papers from the web, and solve them. Don't worry about timing, just do them honestly and sincerely. If you're around the 90%ile zone (generally arnd 40% marks) in each section, you may get by preparing on your own.
Step 2 Option A: In case you're already a whiz, and did great on the self assessment.
I suggest you buy the Tata McGraw Hill books by Arun Sharma, and finish them cover to cover. Try to fit in all 3 sections each week (preferably each section for 2 days a week). The idea is not just to finish each book, and solve each question. You should be able to understand how you solved each question, whether your method was the most efficient solution. The most important thing is that you should see improvement in yourself week on week.
Join a reputed test series (I vouch for TIME AIMCAT series, they have around 20,000 people giving each test, and that is a fair reflection of your actual preparation levels). Every now and then TIME guys also call you for a solving session for 3-4 mock CATs featuring their most reputed faculty. Make sure you attend these.
Step 2 Option B: In case you aren't a whiz, and the self assessment destroyed any semblance of self-confidence you possessed.
I suggest you join a reputed classroom program. Even if you are a working professional, I'm sure you'll find a program at a center which suits your timetable. These classes will help build concepts from the ground up, and are a great time saver too (What self study achieves in 4-5 hours is mostly covered in a 1 hour session). These classes are also a great way to get your doubts clarified (be they from your Mock CAT or from a book) from the faculty and your fellow students.
Step 3: Stick at it and be regular. It's easy to give up midway, or get complacent, or procrastinate and miss sessions (self or coaching). make sure you have certain short term goals in mind for every AIMCAT.
For e.g., I kept simple aims for myself. A sample:
No wrong attempt in Quant, no matter what: This meant that I was only attempting around 10-11 questions in the initial days and still getting 1-2 questions wrong (3 months before actual CAT!!). However, this simple aim meant that I was able to improve with every mock CAT I gave, and my best attempt was the actual CAT! (Attempted all 20 questions, 100 %ile in Quant).
Identify a strength: It was VA for me (Because I thought English was my strong suit). Once you have done that, don't be satisfied with anything but the best result from that section EVERY TIME. Be irritated if you don't score 99%ile+ in any mock CAT in that section. Go through the sample solutions in great detail to figure out where you made a mistake. Then make it a strength in the true sense. Make sure that you don't waste any time on that section. I used to be able to finish the VA section in 20 minutes, flat (RCs and all included). That meant that I had a lot more time for Quant and DI than anyone else :) .That can only come with practice. So make sure you practice your strong section.
Do not tolerate repeated mistakes. Make sure you learn from every mistake you make in every mock CAT, sample test, self administered test etc. A mistake once made should never be repeated.
On a lighter note: A strategy which worked for me (but I DO NOT recommend to anyone) was that I'd told all my friends I was attempting the CAT. Not clearing the exam after all those announcements would have been extremely embarrassing. The fear of that embarrassment actually made me work harder :P.
I scored a 99.98 percentile in CAT 2010, in my first attempt, and am currently studying at IIM Lucknow. My preparation methodology was simple: classes five days a week (mine was a 3 month course), a mock CAT on Saturday, and a solving session on Sunday. This ensured that I was preparing for a couple of hours every day for 3 months. The regularity and punctuality ensured that I improved with each mock CAT I took, and the actual CAT was my best attempt. Of course, our scenarios may be different. However, I think the basics of preparation can stay constant.