Stages of CAT Preparation
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This article is to enumerate the different stages of preparation for the CAT exam. It is important that a person who prepares for CAT follows the stages at the right time so that his performance peaks at the time of the exam. But understand that each individual is different and should determine his optimum way of preparation based on his abilities.
Stage 1: This stage basically includes being comfortable with the topics that are present in CAT. Usually when a student starts preparing he goes through each chapter and solves each and every chapter that is present in the book. Later he realises that he has spent too much time on too few a topics and doesn’t have sufficient time to prepare for the entire syllabus. If you are short of time, then it makes sense to only do a few sums from the topics you are comfortable with and go in depth with topics you are weak at. It is important to make a proper written timetable for this stage. This ensures that a person is regular and doesn’t overshoot the time allocated for a topic.
Remember that while you are completing stage 1, it is important to look out for methods to solve the problems faster. Shortcuts cannot be just developed one month before the exam as it requires a change in the thinking pattern which takes time. Ensure that you focus on your weak areas. So if Verbal is your weak area then spend more time on reading. If Math is your weak area then focus on solving math sums. If DI is a weak area then focus on improving your calculations. If Logic is your weak area then focus on solving puzzles. Therefore in my Free Cat prep with Patrick WhatsApp group I include all the above aspect so that a person can build a proper foundation for belling the CAT.
Stage 2: Once the basics are over, you can start with the mocks. The frequency of mocks in this stage could be once a week. Here more time should be spent on analysis of mocks. Understand your weakness and try to improve on the same. Apart from this go back to the books and do a revision of the topics. In this stage you can solve less number of sums per topic, but the focus should be to get a better method to solve the sums. Don’t focus on speed but on getting the methods right. It is ok if you take a lot of time on each sum. You should try and get more than one method to solve different sums. This will help you to build flexibility when you get unknown sums in the exam.
Stage 3: Once your revision of topics is complete in stage 2, increase the frequency of writing the mocks. A word of caution here that don’t end up solving too many mocks. Some of the students end up solving 1 mock a day which I feel is of no use as it does not give you enough time to improve on your mistakes. Solving 2 to 3 mocks a week at this stage should be sufficient. Each mock should be analysed thoroughly before you go to the next mock. You may take some additional mocks but without time limits. In these additional mocks again focus on getting your methods right (shortcuts) instead of speed. Another exercise to be taken at this time is to solve test on subjects (Quant, DI, Logic Verbal) to get enough practice on your weak areas.
Stage 3 also involves experimenting with different strategies of how to solve the overall paper as well as individual questions (eg. Reading the questions before reading the passage or vice versa). These experimentation will help you to understand based on your strength what is a good way to solve the paper / questions.
Stage 4: In this stage a person should focus on trying to finalise his strategy for the exam. Try to figure out how to pick up the easy questions and leave out the tough ones. Look at which area you should solve first and which later. In this stage you can solve 3 to 4 mocks a week, but avoid going to the next mock unless you have completely analysed your previous mock. You should also spend time in going through the previous mocks that you have solved. Here again you can solve some subject wise test to help you in the areas you feel you require additional practice. It is not advisable to go back to the books unless you feel you need to clear some concepts which you are stuck with. Keep trying to get better methods, but avoid trying to learn new topic unless it is important.
Stage 5: This is very close to the exam. Here you should taper your preparation and solving 2 mocks a week should suffice. Focus more on going through your previous mocks and understanding where you commit mistakes. Last one or two days before the exam you can avoid solving mock and focus more on planning your strategy for the other exams just to divert yourself from the pressures of CAT.
Now the duration of these 5 stages vary from person to person and some of them may just skip a particular stage. Eg. For a person who has written CAT in the previous year may skip Stage 1. Understand that each individual is different and so he should plan his preparation based on his strengths and weakness.There are also cases for those in Final year of graduation who cannot prepare close to the exam. It is not necessary in CAT to prepare close to the exam. They can plan the time of the stages to suit their requirements.
Tentative timeline: Stage 2 can be started 3 to 6 months before the exam. Stage 3 can be started 2 to 4 months before the exam. Stage 4 can be started 1 to 2 months before the exam. Stage 5 can be started 1 to 2 weeks before the exam.
Hope this article helps you in your preparation.