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CAT: Gear up for surprises
Manish Malhotra |
November 02, 2005
It's been five years since I took CAT. Thinking about it brings back vivid memories of how I burnt the proverbial midnight oil. Based on my experience, here are some tips for CAT aspirants.
A manager is known by the decisions he takes
I have always maintained that cracking CAT is more about decision making, which is a crucial part of any manager's job.
Whether it is about efficient utilisation of the resources under your control, or making sales pitches, or deciding the next big strategic leap for your organisation, it all comes down to effective and accurate decision making.
That is why I think it is this aspect of your personality that CAT tests to the maximum.
Surprise, the essence of CAT
The organisers of CAT have an uncanny knack of springing a surprise every year. Either the pattern of the paper is changed, or the number of questions in a particular area are changed, or maybe a completely new structure of questions is introduced.
This ensures that, more than anything else, it is good decision making that will help you to sail through. Some people have the tendency to create a pre-planned strategy for tackling the exam, and following the strategy even if the pattern of the paper changes drastically.
Being rigid can, at times, be fraught with risk. It is important to be flexible in your decision making and to take into account the possibility of changed circumstances. I have seen people break into tears in the examination hall because they could not find the questions they were expecting!
Choose the right questions
It won't be wrong to say the results in CAT are more a matter of choice rather than chance. There are a lot of questions that are meant to be speed-breakers. You end up spending more time reading and analysing these questions and this proves detrimental to your rhythm and momentum.
Don't forget, the marks you get are not for the amount of time you spend reading and analysing a question; it is for answering them correctly.
The art of decision making lies in identifying such questions and leaving them alone; there is no way you are going to answer all the questions in the paper.
So, identify your weaknesses and play on your strengths.
Time allocation is crucial, so prioritise
Another important decision one has to make is about the time one will allocate to different kinds of questions. Broadly, there are four kinds of questions that are presented: Verbal Ability, Reading Comprehension, Data Interpretation and Quantitative Aptitude.
It is important to decide the percentage of time of the allotted two hours that each of these should get. If you allot more time, the all important 'rhythm' will get disturbed.
I have deliberately stopped short of saying one should allot time for 'sections', as we normally call them in CAT.
This is what I did when I was preparing for CAT and, when I got the paper, I saw it had three sections while I had been preparing all along for four!
Thankfully, I managed to stay calm and quickly identify which questions belonged to which category and maintain my time allocation.
MCQs: Another dimension of decision making
The fact that most questions in CAT are MCQs or Multiple Choice Questions further highlights the importance of decision making. You are required to decide and choose the correct answer from the four or five options given to you.
Again, what is important is choosing the right option and not the time that you spend 'solving' the problem at hand.
Calculated guesses, for some questions, can prove to be very helpful when it comes to scoring quickly. However clichéd it may sound, selection by elimination really helps to get over some of the problems in double quick time.
I hope you are able to make all the right decisions. Good luck!
Manish Malhotra, 26, passed out of the National Institute of Industrial Engineering in 2003 and is currently working as a Project Leader with Caritor India, Bangalore.