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CAT: 'I wasted 15 whole minutes'
Siddharth Goyal |
October 21, 2005
The Common Admission Test, one of the most competitive exams in the country, is nothing but an aptitude test -- it tests your intelligence, sharpness, presence of mind and ability to handle pressure.
There are 1,60,000 aspirants vying for 1,200 seats, which makes it 133 students per seat.
I have always believed CAT is a test of character; this cannot be developed by mugging for hours as you can do for some other exams.
Though I opted to join a CAT coaching centre due to family pressure, I have always believed CAT does not differentiate between those who have been trained for it and those who haven't.
On the contrary, CAT aims at identifying those who can appear for the exam on any given day and still come out with flying colours.
Countdown to CAT 2004
The day before: November 20, 2004
I decided to unwind and get rid of all the anxieties and expectations I carried with myself as I prepared for CAT.
No more SimCats, no course materials to be seen, no formulas to be revised. On second thoughts, I had never learnt a formula; I knew most of the formulas and, in the past months, all I had done was learn their applications.
So I didn't think that any more revision was required. I went for a movie with my friends, relaxed, watched television and ensured I slept well for eight hours so that I was fresh for the exam next day .
30 minutes to go: November 21, 2004
I woke up early, feeling fresh. My centre was some 40 minutes from my home. I wanted to reach my centre half an hour before the exam, though most arrive about an hour early.
It not a good idea to reach so early, because it is physically draining to stand for so long as well as mentally taxing to see so many worried and sullen faces around you.
Many aspirants at the centre will say negative things, like how they had no hope of clearing CAT. Ignore them. You may even come across people who were the all-India number one in some MOCK CATs. If someone comes up to you and tells you he used to score in the seventies in the Mock CATs, you can always say you got 75.
I was not nervous to start with but, as the moment to give the exam drew nearer, some restlessness crept in. The half an hour wait outside seemed too long. I tried hard to keep a clear head and to keep cool.
The grand finale: CAT 2004
The paper looked intimidating. It was poly-wrapped with a whole page of instructions. Seemed like a Data Interpretation in itself. You get 10 minutes to read the instructions. I read the instructions at least three times and formed a plan of action. I was still not rigid about my strategy, but I did know where to begin and, if all went well, how to proceed.
If you feel things are not moving smoothly, don't lose heart. CAT does not go perfectly for anybody. During my exam, I wasted 15 minutes in DI without attempting a single question. In the next 20 minutes, I managed about 18.
DI isn't based on mere calculations. If this was the case, one could have solved it with speed and accuracy through training and effort. DI is based on logic, which is the true test.
Quant was simple and required a simple application of formulas and common sense. I knew I had to make up for the time I had lost in DI in Quant, so I started aggressively with all the two-mark questions and ended up attempting 35 marks in 30 minutes.
English Usage has always stuck to the standards a B-School expects from any management student. You don't need to have impeccable English. If you are good at conversational English and have moderately good reading habits, it should be pretty comfortable.
My strategy: Smart study
My pursuit for CAT 2004 began when I joined Erudite, a training centre in Kolkata. From day one, I was clear I was only aiming at the IIMs and IIFT as I was inclined towards foreign trade.
Still, my strategy was different from most of the other aspirants. Where everybody was busy solving course materials from each and every coaching institute they could lay their hands on, I stuck to the basics.
I spent my time analysing the SIM CATs, putting right the things that went wrong for me. For example, if I messed up DI, I would figure out where I went wrong and brush up on that.
I prepared for Quant by going through the formulas and familiarising myself with forgotten topics.
Reading Comprehensions were a nightmare as I wasn't much of a reader and my concentration level suffered. So I worked on it by practising back-to-back RC sections for about two weeks before CAT and it also fell in place.
On the whole, instead of slogging day in and day out, I chose the route of 'smart study' (which I always promote). I believed in myself and believed that CAT is more about attitude and application rather than slogging.
I told myself: CAT will take notice of me; after all. it is their job to dig out the talented lot.
Do you need formal coaching?
I don't say there is no need for hard work or training for CAT. One stands an equal chance even if he or she hasn't enrolled at a coaching institute. What coaching institutes do is to help you organise your preparation in a structured format, which is something that can be managed by anyone.
To do well in CAT, you require an approach that is both structured and personalised.
Identify the ways in which you can help yourself the most.
Don't do things just because everybody else is doing it. Do what suits you best so that, on the day of the exam, you have no regrets about what you have missed studying and no worries about whether you can make it or not.
This will help you believe you have done your part, now it is time for CAT to play its part.
In short, get the basics right. Once you have mastered the basics, you can make it not only to IIMs but also to many other destinations you look forward to in life.
Siddharth Goyal is a first year student at IIM-Calcutta. He scored a percentile of 99.50 in CAT 2004.
Have you taken CAT? Did you feel nervous?
What was your study strategy? Did joining a coaching class help?