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Countdown to CAT: A few tips

November 18, 2004

CAT strategyGet Aheadinvited readers who have successfully cracked the CommonAdmission Test to share their tips/mantras for success. Select entries now form a series of reader-driven articles on how to ace CAT.

Manage your time.

Balancespeed withaccuracy.

Analyse your mock CATs.

These are justfew of the tips given to CAT aspirants by different organisations that help you prepare for the CATexam.

The countdown toC Day (CAT Day, November 21) has begun. So have sleepless nights, nervous breakdowns andlast minute revisions.

Remember, though,those who slog mindlessly for this test fail to acknowledge the inherent nature of the CAT examination.

As many of the articles we have carried earlier on Get Aheadhave reiterated, CATis a test of your managerial aptitude andmanagerial skill sets like:

~Time management
~How you handle pressure and uncertainty
~Decision making

Remember, CAT is not about solving 150 questions in 120 minutes.

It isabout solving 90 to 95 questions with85to 90percentaccuracy.

Here are a few tips that should fetch you a call from the best B-Schools in the country.

Tip 1: Handle pressure and uncertainty well. And reap the rewards!

Handling pressure and uncertainty is a crucial element of CAT. This is a vital skill that a manager requires in his/ herdaily decision-making process.

The CAT examination spans 120 minutes, but if you are able tohandle the pressure in the first 15andlast 10 minutes, your chances to excelincrease.

Some pointers to help you excel at this stageare:

  • Have a flexible strategy.
  • Scan your question paper for the initial three to four minutes to locate easy questions.
  • Attempt your favourite section first.
  • Remember CAT is just another name for uncertainty. If it ain't uncertain, it ain't CAT! This year, you might get a paper based on Reasoning. Or you mighthave an additional section on Reasoning.

(The above prediction is based on the increasing emphasis on Reasoning in the last decade. Also, CAT patterns/formatsare revamped every five years. The last time thepattern was changed was four or five years ago.)

Tip2: Sequence and prioritise -- your mantras for success

Sequencing and prioritising mean:

~Deciding on the sequence in which you willattempt the various sections.
~Allocating an approximate time to each section.
~Prioritising questions within sections.

Deciding your sequence before enteringthe examination hall helps youmethodically attemptCAT.

As a result, youdon'tshuffle between sections and lose time. Once you have scanned the paper, allocate an additional five to 10 minutes to a tough section and take out five to 10 minutes from an easy section.

Let us assume that, before entering into the hall, your strategy was:

~ Scanning:3-4 minutes
~ Quantitative Ability:40 minutes
~ Data Interpretation/ Data Sufficiency:35-40 minutes
~ Verbal Ability:40 minutes

If, say,Quantitative Ability is tough and the other two sections are comparatively easy, your changed strategy may look something like:

~ Scanning:3-4 minutes
~ Quantitative Ability:45-50 minutes
~ Data Interpretation/ Data Sufficiency:30 minutes
~ Verbal Ability:30-35 minutes

By all means, attempt your favourite section first.

Those who havetaken CAT, though, will advise younever to attempt Quantitative Ability in the end. QAutilises your core fundamentals and formulae; sometimes, they aredifficult to recall under the twin pressures of timeand mental fatigue.

The other two sections are primarily practise-based.

Here are some sequences you could adopt if you do not have a strategy yet:

Sequence I

1. Quantitative Ability
2. Data Interpretation/ Data Sufficiency
3. Verbal Ability

Sequence II

1. Quantitative Ability
2. Verbal Ability
3. Data Interpretation/ Data Sufficiency

Sequence III

1. Data Interpretation/ Data Sufficiency
2. Quantitative Ability
3. Verbal Ability

Sequence IV

1. Verbal Ability
2. Quantitative Ability
3. Data Interpretation/ Data Sufficiency

Tip 3: Tame CAT by taming each section individually

Here are some specific section-related strategies:

Quantitative Ability

Attempt questions in three rounds.

Round 1

~Attempt all one liners.
~Attempt all two liners.
~Attempt all four liners.

Round 2

Come back tothe leftover questions of Round 1. Under pressure, you might just have left easy questions from Round 1 unattempted. Attempt them again

Round 3

If time permits, tackle thelengthier questionson your favourite topics.

There is asecond school of thought which sayslengthier questions are easier.

But remember:It takes just five to 10 seconds to decidewhether you should attempt to answer one or two liner questions. Lengthier questions take more time to read, comprehend and crack, if at all you are able to do so.

Verbal Ability

~Moststudents attempt English Usage orReading and Comprehensionquestions first.
~In Para Jumbles, look out for structural and logical connectors.
~Before attemptingReading and Comprehension, scan the questions once.
~Narrative RCs have generally provedstudents' nemesis. Be careful.
~Generally, students scan a poem before an RC. A poem is short and easy to read, thanks to fewer eye fixations. Youwill also come to know within a few seconds whether it should be attempted or not.
~Grammar questions should be your forte.

Data Interpretation/ Data Sufficiency

~Reviseyour percentages and approximations.
~Data Sufficiencyquestions are independent of each other and should be attempted first. Try not to useexternal knowledge while answeringDataSufficiency questions.
~Once you are done with the Data Sufficiency questions, attempt single graph questions followed bythe double graph questions.
~Questions based on logical games and long tables are generally attempted last.

Speed breakers

CAT also featuresspeed breaker questions. Beware of them.

These questions constitute about twoto five percent of the CAT paper and are best attempted by not attempting them.

Theyare also known as 'take home' questions.

Most important!

1. Relax.

2. Take two easy full-length tests on November 19 and November 20 from 11 amto 1 pm.

The test on November 20 should be a three-section test.

Try taking a four-section test on November 19 (Remember, CAT may have an additional section on Reasoning).

3. Do not over-burden yourself on November 20.

4.Revise your mathematics formulae.

5. Watch a war movie to pump up your adrenaline!

If you have prepared well, do not worry.

All the best!

Brijesh Singh is an alumnus of Mumbai's Jamnalal Bajaj institute of Management Studies(Class of 2002). He has writtenregularly on MBA preparation. He is now Project Head,Top Careers and You,an organisation that prepares students for professional courses.


There's more to CAT than Math and English
Tips to attract B-Schools
Why do you want an MBA?
CAT's a speed game
CAT: For those who came in late!
Take the fear out of CAT
Not prepared for CAT?
Techies can crack CAT too
CAT: A reality check

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