Starting your CAT preparation from April ? Here is a plan - Rajesh Balasubramanian

  • I have broken preparation into three main components

    1. Basics - Learn from scratch
    2. Practice - Do gazillion questions
    3. Mocks.

    The 4th uber-important component is to READ. I have not explicitly mentioned this because that is applicable throughout and is of utmost importance.

    1. Basics  - April to July

    A Building is only as strong as its foundation

    Start off your preparation now. I’ve heard that today is a good day to start. Make a conscious effort to learn theory from basic ideas. We have a tendency to 'jump' steps when we get familiar with a topic. Resist the temptation to use plug-and-play formulae and learn the theory with an open mind. Basics includes learning the theory presented, taking practice questions to solve and clearing any doubts on the theory.

    2. Practice – June to September

    Practice makes Perfect

    Practice and Basics overlap during May-June, and then practice should take precedence (by then you should have covered the basics well).

    Do lots of practice. Intuition is important, but the ability to power through lots of questions is extremely vital. Major portions of the processes should be on 'autopilot'. Fatigue is an important factor in CAT and it is nearly impossible to be switched on for 180 minutes continuously. When confronted with a tricky question, if you pick the right approach after may be 30 seconds of thinking, the remaining 100 seconds of actually solving the question should be done in mechanical fashion; in a manner that does not take much out of you. 

    More the processes on autopilot, the less tired you get, and therefore better the odds of 'cracking' the key idea behind the next question. 

    Solve as many questions as you can solve on any specific topic. The questions need not be at a freakishly brilliant level of difficulty. The idea behind solving thousands of questions is that, when you solve enough questions, you get to a point where you need to figure out the idea in the actual exam, but be able to go on auto-pilot mode in calculating/solving equations etc.

    Practice should technically go on till the exam, but should be a key focus area till August-September.

    3.MOCKS and GAP filling – Aug to November


    Identify gaps and Fill them

    Start taking mocks as early as April, all the more reason to start it early if you are a newbie in CAT preparation. Take one mock in April, May and June each. Do not fret about the percentiles. This exercise is done with the sole purpose of getting to know the exam. Start taking mocks seriously once you are in mid practice mode. An aspirant is expected to make a fine balance between the following three.

    1. Continue practicing all topics.

    2. Take a mock. 

    3. Find gaps in basics/practice from mocks and fill the gaps.

    This process will go on till CAT. However the Gap filling should become smaller and smaller after each mock.

    If there is one thing to learn from a mock, learn this: 3 Questions that I should have not attempted (however I did attempt), and 3 questions that I should have attempted (but I chose not to in the mock).

    4. Reading:

    There’s Fun in Reading

    Read at least for an hour every day. Start with The Hindu editorials and The Economist. Go on to expand your reading to Aldaily and The Atlantic. Read fiction, non-fiction as well. Enjoy the process of reading. There is no substitute to reading. One can nail the verbal section with sincere efforts put in Reading.

    Is the preparation strategy same for all aspirants?

    Students preparing for CAT come in many stripes, and the strategy will vary depending on which group you fall into. I have broken students along two axes -

    Experience with CAT - Whether this is your 1st attempt at CAT, 2nd one, or are you a veteran (with at least 2 previous attempts prior to this one). This metric is important because you have a clearer sense of what this exam is about if you have taken it before.

    The second axis has to do with where you currently stand  - Are you in the 98+ percentile range, in the 85-90 range or the sub -80 range. I know I have left some gaps here. That is deliberate. Pick an in-between strategy for those ranges.

    I have broken preparation into 4 main components – 1) Basics - Learn from scratch, 2) Practice - Do gazillion questions, 3) Gap-Filling - Find your weakness area and relentlessly work away on this, 4) Mocks.

    The following table gives an outline of what you need to prioritize.

    How do I know where I stand?

    Take a diagnostic mock. Keep your last CAT score as the benchmark or go with your gut-feel. Take a mock every now and then to know where you stand and change your strategy accordingly.

    I have not included “Reading” in this list. Anyone preparing for CAT should read for at least one hour per day till the day of CAT.

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