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November 20, 2004

Tomorrow is crucial. Give it your best. Relax. Go for a movie. Hang out with friends. Go to sleep early," says Prasad Rao, product head at IMS Learning Resources Pvt Ltd.

Rao, who holds an MBA and a degree in Chemical Engineering, held an hour-long chat with readers, on the eve of the Common Admission Test.

This is the transcript of the chat.


Analyse your CAT paper with Brijesh Singh, Project Head, Prowess, Top Careers and You on Monday, November 22.  

PRASAD RAO: A very good afternoon to all of you. This is Prasad Rao from IMS. I am here to help you with any last minute doubts or queries that you might have.

olivia: You there, Rao sir?

PRASAD RAO: Yes Olivia. Your question please.

olivia: What's the best strategy for Quant?

PRASAD RAO: The broad strategies for all sections are the same:
a) Aim to maximise your score.
b) Look at the options. They are there to help you (especially Algebra questions).

marty: I heard that there will be added stress on Reasoning this year. Is that true?

PRASAD RAO: Hi Marty. Do not let such talk perturb you. No one, and I mean absolutely no one, except for the IIMs, know what the test will be like tomorrow.

Even if it were true, it should not make a difference to you -- I am sure you have put in extensive efforts in preparing for the CAT.

marty: What do you think will be the expected cut-off point for Quant?

PRASAD RAO: Well, Marty, the cut-offs are only determined after the test has been administered!

Avash: Is it possible to get a call from MICA with 0 in Quant?

PRASAD RAO: With 0 in Quant? No.

anujtrip: Sir, how much time should we devote to each of the three sections?

PRASAD RAO: If it is a three-section test, spend 40 minutes per section. No more, no less.

uma: I find this happening to me often: I start with Verbal and RC. My concentration is good. And then, if I am stuck with a problem in Quant, my concentration wavers and I get perturbed. I am used to doing Quant after Verbal and RC. Can I make a last-minute change and attempt Quant last?

PRASAD RAO: Avoid making last-minute changes to your strategy. If anything, refine your current strategy. If you cannot solve a problem, move on. Do not be stubborn about solving it.

PradeepS: Hello Prasad Rao Sir. I'm planning to give my test in the next four years. How do I improve memory? Please tell me some tips.

PRASAD RAO: Well, CAT is a test of learning and application. If you understand, you learn and, hence, can apply.

bhaumik: Would the increase in the number of students affect my percentile in any way? I mean, in mocks I usually get around 90 percent. What would be beneficial to me -- many students or fewer students taking CAT?

PRASAD RAO: The number of students is inconsequential -- you are finally competing among the top students to get a place in the IIMs.

alok: Sir, last year I got 97.6 percent. I did not get any call from the IIMs. What do you think would be the best thing for me to do tomorrow? What would the cut-offs be like?

PRASAD RAO: Maximise your scores in all the sections!

chiku: Hello Sir, what can we do today for revision? How should one prepare before the D-day?

PRASAD RAO: Today is best spent relaxing and de-stressing your mind.

fireinice: Sir, I am an IMS student and haven't been able to do well in Quant. In case I have any doubts, could I approach IMS Delhi for guidance after the CAT exam? I did not get an appointment earlier in spite of asking them for help. Now, it is too late for CAT. But is any help for the other exams possible?

PRASAD RAO: Sure. Please contact your counsellor who will help you out.

baseguy: Last year, I got a call from IIM-Kozhikode and IIM-Lucknow, but I could not convert. What should I do this time?

PRASAD RAO: Maximise your performance and get calls from all the IIMs!

Prasad: I want to attempt CAT after my engineering degree. When should I start preparing for it?

PRASAD RAO: Typically, you need to spend six to eight months to prepare for CAT. Based on your individual learning needs, this could go up to about 12 months.

vijay: Can a 32-year-old take CAT for a part-time management course offered by IIM-Bangalore? The course I want -- software IT management -- specifies that I must take CAT or GMAT. CAT is cheaper than GMAT.

PRASAD RAO: Yes, there is no age limit to take the CAT.

veiloffright: Good afternoon. I have three years of experience in embedded systems. I would like to get admission to the S P Jain Institute, Mumbai. What target score should I get to achieve this? So far, I have a 90 percent-plus accuracy rate and have scored in the 40-50 range.

PRASAD RAO: Ultimately, the percentile is more important than the net score. The net score depends on the difficulty level of the test, whereas the percentile is based on the population performance.

muralidhar: Dear Sir. My son is appearing for the CAT this year. He finds it tough to score in Math. Any hints at this stage to score at least the minimum to pass the examination?

PRASAD RAO: Prioritise the attempted questions. Everyone has their individual strengths and weaknesses. Attempting questions in your areas of strength first would be the way to improve the score.

mohitsaim: Hi Prasad, I'm a graphic designer and would like to do a course via distance learning. Are any of the IIMs providing such courses? If yes, what is the admission procedure, etc?

PRASAD RAO: IIM-Kozhikode offers a distance learning programme.

arulmani: Hi Prasad, I am a software engineer. Can I appear for CAT?

PRASAD RAO: Yes. All you need is a Bachelor's degree from any institute which is recognised by AIU/ AICTE.

hyc4a115: Hello Mr Prasad, I would like to know when I can consider it safe to switch on to the next section?

PRASAD RAO: Divide your time equally [between the sections]. Because when you are fighting for the IIM calls, the competition is fierce and the peer group is more or less equal. If it is tough for you, it is likely to be tough for the others and vice-versa. Dividing your time will ensure that you maximise your scores across all the sections and clear the cut-offs.

tootsie: Does CAT do psychometric testing/ psychological evaluation?

PRASAD RAO: No, CAT does not do psychometric testing.

veiloffright: Thanks for the answer. Actually, I am not going to settle for less than IIM-Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Calcutta, but I am unable to concentrate properly because of my professional commitments. Should I quit my job and focus on IIM? Moreover, I want to start my own firm in embedded systems and IT software. Kindly provide some assistance so as which college I should approach and what I should do.

PRASAD RAO: Do not quit your job. Manage your time better. Apart from the IIMs, look at the S P Jain Institute. If you are an engineer, try IIT Mumbai/ Delhi.

stud: Hi, how should improve my visual reasoning scores in CAT?

PRASAD RAO: There have been no visual reasoning questions in CAT thus far. I presume you are referring to CET Maharashtra?

hyc4a115: Quant has been my strong area. But, of late, my Quant scores have been decreasing due to this so-called division of time! What should I do?

PRASAD RAO: Prioritise and capitalise on your strengths.

Atul: Mr Prasad, what is the rough total you need to score to get called by the IIMs?

PRASAD RAO: Hi Atul. As I said before, the answer to your question will only be clear after the test tomorrow. Prior to that, your guess is as good as mine!

AmbrishKapoor: Dear Sir, will it help me if I did a part-time MBA from FMS, Delhi? I have four years of experience in the technical domain. I am very keen on pursuing a management degree.

PRASAD RAO: Unless your personal circumstances force you otherwise, I would recommend that you pursue a full-time MBA.

shiva: Sir, apparently an average guy can solve all the questions in CAT, given sufficient time. Is that true?

PRASAD RAO: That is true because, remember, it is largely based on Class X Math and English, with some of it extending to Class XII.

hyc4a115: Mr Prasad, I am bad at Reading Comprehension. What do you suggest I should do?

PRASAD RAO: Read the passages carefully. They are only testing your English comprehension skills. Do not be unduly perturbed by the jargon in the passages.

Sujay: Mr Prasad I have scored around 40 to 50 in mock CATs. Do I stand a chance of making it to TAPMI, Nirma, etc?

PRASAD RAO: Please go into the test with the attitude of a winner. Every one of you has the capability to crack the test. If you have set your sight on the best, the others will follow.

Ranjit: Hello Sir, I am an IMS student. I have stood in the top 150 consistently in all the SIMCATS. Yet, I have been unable to clear the Quant cut-offs in any of the SIMCATS. My strategy for tomorrow is to allot 45 minutes for Math and aim to achieve a target of about 15 to 20. Would this be a safe strategy, since I don't see myself scoring over 20 in Quant.

PRASAD RAO: Do not set numerical targets for yourself. Your objective is to maximise in the given timeframe. How much you get depends only on the difficulty of the test.

biswajit_ghatak: Sir, I have a BE with 57 percent from a not-so-well-known private engineering college in Karnataka. Do I stand any chance of any IIM considering me? I now work for HCL Infosystems Ltd.

PRASAD RAO: Do well in CAT tomorrow. The IIMs only need you to have a Bachelor's degree.

PRASAD RAO: Well, I am sure all of you have worked really hard to get this far.
Consolidate all your strengths and capitalise on them tomorrow.
Irrespective of how you have performed so far, tomorrow is crucial. Give it your best!
Relax today. Go for a movie. Hang out with your friends. And go to sleep early!
Make it a point to visit the test centre allocated to you earlier on so that you do not need to hunt for it tomorrow.
Wake up early tomorrow. Go for a jog, if possible. Have a good breakfast. You will be surprised at the amount of calories the brain burns!

CAT on!

Analyse your CAT paper with Brijesh Singh, Project Head, Prowess, Top Careers and You on Monday, November 22.

'CAT 2004 could be a four-section paper'
• To succeed at CAT: Keep cool
• 'CAT's difficulty level does not matter'
• 'Be ready to improvise'

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