CAT – Not a distant dream
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Venkat Raghulan is a 99.99 percentiler and an alumnus of IIM Kozhikode. He is the Founder Director of Focus Academy for Career Enhancement, India’s largest employability focused skill-development company. He has a phenomenal track record ( > 90% conversion rate) in mentoring CAT aspirants and helping them make their IIM dreams a reality. Venkat, along with a team of CAT experts and IIM grads, has also launched a comprehensive affordable online course to help students crack the CAT 2016 - IIM Fast Track: CAT Preparation
The CAT examination has always been perceived by many as an entrance exam which is quite insurmountable. It has been honored with a place in the grand list of top 5 toughest exams in the world. Even the numbers are in favor of the same perception with 200000 people vying for the limited number of seats on offer in the Indian Institutes of Management.
Naturally, the people who do make it through this dreaded exam become mini celebrities in their family and social circles. “They must be really smart” is a usual sentiment. But to be honest, the people who joined IIM (Indian Institute of Management) with me were not super geeks or Einsteins in their own right. No. They were just normal youngsters who put in the right effort at the right time.
Why the ‘IIMs’ have a certain charm definitely has a foundation given that many Indians have had transformational experiences and received a world of opportunities in those campuses. Nevertheless, the ‘CAT’ is not the monster most people think it to be. It is not a filter through which only the smartest get through. And knowing this while you prepare is important. You need to focus your energies in the right direction with the objective of cracking the CAT and not of becoming the King of aptitude or Verbal. In the end, it will come down to those 3 hours on D-Day and you need to be ready with your best shot.
Now that I have robbed ‘intelligence’ of its undue credit, there are few myths I would like to demolish:
1. 3 hours a day on Weekdays and 6 hours a day on Weekends is mandatory
I scored 99.99 percentile with 1 month of preparation. Many of my IIM buddies put in lesser hours than the rest of their peers who did not manage to crack the CAT. The bottom-line is: ‘it is not how many hours you put in. It is what you do in those hours’.
2. Even your pastime should be something to do with numbers or verbal. Ex: Read hundred books.
In my opinion, making sure you are in a healthy state of mind throughout your preparation trumps diluting everything else you do. One thing I noticed in my peers as well as the students I mentored is that Optimism and Positivity help immensely. The CAT is an exam of nerves after all.
3. Your mocks score reflect your actual CAT score
This is the biggest mistake people make. The Mocks are your playing ground to experiment, solve, analyze and improve skills. Aspirants get overjoyed with a 95+%ile in an AIMCAT and lose momentum over it. Till the next one comes as a shocker.
Or even worse, aspirants who get demoralized over bad scores in Mocks and give up.
The main objective you should try to achieve with mocks is learning from your mistakes and building strategies that are suited to your skillsets.
4. Verbal is something you cannot do much about in a few months
Again, this is something I strongly disagree with. I did my schooling in Tier 2 cities and my English was not top notch. The objective here is not to become a great Grammarian. It is just to comprehend the English language thereby making the questions more about logic than Verbal itself. Naturally, some effort would go into quickly pumping up your vocabulary, increasing your reading speed and becoming good at comprehension. It is challenging but 100% achievable.
5. Solve 500 problems per topic in Quants to gain proficiency
The strategy which worked for me and all my students is that we spent more of our time trying to question and understand how a concept came about and attempting to derive formulae ourselves. A deep understanding of a topic will stand you good stead and application of the concept in a problem becomes just a natural extension of the process.
While the whole world is going to give you a ton of advice on the good habits to develop, not everything is necessary and you should not go overboard. This article sums up pretty well the helpful habits you can develop - 5 Habits to crack CAT
The CAT is an exam which can be cracked. You need to be extremely smart about your approach to preparation and that is where you beat most of your competition. Doing the same things everyone does is not really going to get you the 99th percentile (quite simply because you are doing the same thing). Instead, be comfortable with your current abilities, be aggressive when it comes to setting and chasing targets and be mentally strong throughout the process. My students from small towns in Tamil Nadu were able to evolve from a 50%ile in mocks to a 99%ile in the main CAT. It is possible. Self Confidence is clichéd but not overrated.
With a little more than 4 months to go for CAT, the time is now. Start your steady progress towards cracking the CAT and IIM Ahmedabad might not be as far away as you think it is.