A Timeline for CAT preparation - Maruti Konduri
Co-founder at www.Cracku.in | IIT Bombay (CSE) | IIM Ahmedabad | CAT 99.97
The ideal time to start preparing for CAT exam is 7-8 months prior to the exam date. Preparation for CAT is similar to preparing for a marathon and planning and executing your strategy can help you improve your performance significantly. Students, especially engineers, should realize that most of the CAT syllabus has already been learnt by them in their 11-12th standards and early engineering. The only thing that is needed to crack CAT is practice and lots of it. So, I personally discourage students from devoting time exclusively to prepare theory. Brushing up formulae and theory should be done simultaneously while practicing different questions.
Importance of Practice:
Increasing Speed: Speed is of paramount importance while giving CAT. Solving different types of questions helps you improve the speed with which you answer questions in the actual examination.
Improving your accuracy: With more practice, the percentage of 'silly mistakes' committed would decrease. With sufficient practice, an intuitive sense would develop about whether an answer is correct or not and this helps in avoiding 'silly mistakes'.
Eliminating Wrong Options: In CAT, with +3/-1 marking system, with practice you can eliminate 2-3 options after reading the question. This helps a student make calculated guesses which can prove valuable in the end.
Avoiding Difficult Questions: Some of the CAT questions are time traps which should be avoided. A student with sufficient practice develops the ability to recognize these questions quickly and hence saves valuable time.
The first thing to do is to write down the entire syllabus of CAT and categorize it according to topics. There are around 15 topics in Quant and around 10 topics in Verbal. Once you note them down, it is time to start practicing each one of them.
Buy a text book or better still, subscribe to an online platform as the latter will provide you immediate feedback about how your progress is when compared to other students nationally.
Keep a cheat sheet (formula/tip sheet) for each topic and keep adding formulae or tricks you learnt while solving questions. This will help you revise fast a few weeks before CAT. Spend the first 2-3 months practicing different types of questions so that by the end of May, you have a good sense of your strengths and weaknesses. Spend at least an hour everyday to practice solving different types of questions. Initially you might not be able to answer many questions, don't feel disheartened. Analyze the solution and add the relevant formula/shortcut to your cheat sheet. If you feel there is any theory you are unaware of, read up about it. Always remember, it is more efficient for theory to follow practice and not the other way round.
Start taking Mocks from the middle of May to get a better sense of the level of your preparation. The questions you did well and the questions you got wrong in each Mock should be analyzed in detail. The latter questions should be used to add to your cheat sheet. Try to ensure that in future Mocks, you don't miss out on similar questions. In the last four months, give at least one Mock every two weeks. This will help you manage your time better during the examination and you can identify your strengths and weaknesses well.
In the last three months, start answering the previous CAT papers from the last 10-15 years and assess your performance. Use these 3-4 months to improve the topics you are weak in. You can subscribe to Crash courses or read the important concepts in these topics in the last few months to improve.
Do check out Cracku's Study Room (Exam Prep the smart way!) which provides an excellent database of solved questions and topic tests categorized by difficulty level to help students prepare better and know their strengths and weaknesses.