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B-School: How tough is CAT?
Career Launcher Writer's Club
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March 01, 2006

In the Common Admission Test, a prerequisite for admission to a good B-School, a student is required to solve 150-165 questions in 120 minutes.

You get about 45 seconds per question -- to read it, assimilate the data and do the calculations (if required).

In these two hours, you have to tackle 10-odd questions on para jumbles, each with four long sentences, all jumbled up, read six passages of 800 to 1,300 words each and solve around 40 questions based on the passages, understand six to seven sets of data given in tabular or graphical form and calculate growth percentages, etc, without a calculator.

The question booklet itself is 40 to 42 pages long.

Scary, isn't it? So much so that, for most CAT aspirants, the battle is lost even before entering the arena.

How tough is CAT?
 
If you don't believe in your abilities and end up worrying about the question paper, it will be tough.

CAT is an entrance test for would-be managers; hence, it simulates everyday situations a manager has to tackle. The exam, in fact, tests much more than one's skills in the English language and quantitative aptitude.

It evaluates one's managerial capabilities -- these include working under pressure, managing time, making decisions and tackling change. Strangely, most students neglect this aspect of CAT. As a result, many bright students do not clear the exam. If you want to do well in CAT, you should devote time to developing and honing a managerial aptitude.

Here are a few pointers on how to go about it:

Time management

This is a crucial skill; if you want to master CAT, you need to be able to manage time well. It goes without saying it is really not possible to solve about 165 questions in 120 minutes.

This means the time pressure is deliberately imposed to see how a student deals with it. Rather than cracking under pressure (of solving one question in 45 seconds), keep a more realistic target. 

To receive an interview call, you have to clear the cut-offs in each section. It will be useless to have an excellent overall score if you have neglected one section and done very well in the others.

This is where time management between sections comes into play. Be proactive; set time limits for each section. Based on the possible cut-offs (around 45 per cent of questions for the quantitative aptitude and data interpretation section, and 50 per cent for the English usage and reading comprehension section) and your own accuracy level, set an attempt limit (the number of questions you will try and do) for each section.

A common mistake students make is exceeding the time limit they have set themselves so as to solve a few more problems. But such a strategy leaves very little time for the last section (which could be the easiest) and panic sets in.

Time management is also crucial while preparing for the test. The real test is when it comes to managing time between your job or final year studies for your graduation, and your preparation for CAT.

Make a habit of working in Quadrant II of Stephen Covey's time management matrix, where one spends time on matters that are important but not urgent.

In simpler words, graduation exams may not be urgent today, but one need not wait for the last moment to prepare for them. Unlike other years, you can spend about an hour or so from the beginning of the year on your graduation studies.

Good judgement

Like we said earlier, it is just not possible for anyone to solve all the questions in the stipulated time. You need to exercise good judgment in selecting which questions to attempt. About half way into reading the question, you can get a fair idea about whether it is tough or not. No points for guessing that any tough looking questions should be left without wasting time.

Remember, if you are leaving a question unattempted without wasting more than 10 seconds on it, you are ensuring no question will be left unseen and you will still be left with ample time to come back and attempt the questions you have left.

Most of the time, after spending more than a minute on a question and still not being to solve it, a student finds it difficult to leave the question. His logic is, "Since I have already spent one minute, a little more time and I will crack it."

This could be hara-kiri.

Do not attempt a question if you are unsure of the process. Remember, if you could have, you would have solved it in the given time frame. Almost each question that appears in the paper has a decision attached to it; you have to decide whether you will attempt it or not. The wiser your choice, the better your chances of clearing CAT.

Tackling pressure

Winners are inspired by the prospect of beating the competition, whereas losers are cowed down by the competition. It is this pressure that takes the heaviest toll and this happens during the preparation and not during the two hours of the actual test. Year after year, we see that about 30 to 40 per cent aspirants who are very serious about taking CAT cannot sustain the pressure during the preparation process. By the time they take their mock exams in October, they have mentally given up.

Remember, the paper is the same for everyone. If you have studied well and put in hard work, there is no reason why you should not be selected. In fact, it is this competition pressure that weeds out the losers from the winners.

Your attitude goes a long way in contributing to your success. For some students, maths has been a problem area throughout school. Others have come from vernacular mediums and have serious doubts about their proficiency in grammar and vocabulary. Just remember, you need to move away from the 'conditioning' of your past experiences.

Maths may have been difficult in school but, with time, a lot of concepts could have become clearer. Besides, we are not dealing with calculus and vectors but tackling numbers with percentages, profit-loss discount, interest, ratio proportion and time speed distance. All you have to do is go back to the textbooks of Class VIII to Class X and start revising.

Similarly, start off with a good vocabulary list instead of bemoaning the fact that your English in school wasn't good enough.

The best of both

Time management and one's own strengths are the two resources you need in order to crack CAT.

Time management has been discussed earlier.

As for managing your strengths and weakness, start by identifying them. The best way to do it is to spend almost twice the time usually spent on taking a mock test and analyse one's performance. Identify topics you sailed through and topics that were difficult to crack.

Then, spend time on deciding a particular strategy for taking the exam, the order in which you would like to tackle the sections, which questions to attempt first and which ones to avoid within a section, the approach to tackling reading comprehension, etc. Experiment with these parameters while taking the various mock exams and take a call on which strategy works best for you.

Change is constant

Every CAT paper has surprises in store. Keep an open and flexible mindset while taking the exam. You can't go in with a fixed strategy of doing English section first or spending such and such time on a section. For all you know, the paper may have no sections at all!

Your strategy must be flexible.

There also are a few new questions introduced every year. Tackling them requires a quick understanding of the style of questioning and sound judgment as to whether to attempt them or let them be.

Career Launcher, an education company present in 52 cities across India and West Asia, offers career-oriented training and preparatory education to over 35,000 students each year.




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Number of User Comments: 6




Sub: cat-2007

sir, im a B.COM-II year student from allahabad university.i'll b appearing for cat next year,=. i wanted to know that does extra curricular activities at ...


Posted by TANYA





Sub: Query

Sir, I recently finished my 2nd year papers in arts.I am presently doing niit course.sir I just wanted to know that is it necessary for ...


Posted by Divya





Sub: eligibility for cat

sirs, i have done my class 10 th with 50% and class 12th with 40% and B.E.(comp sc) with 50%. should i sit for CAT ...


Posted by abhishek





Sub: Wrong Info

CAT is nowdays not of 150-165 Questions. Surprising bu this utdated info is being given by a reputed institute like Career Launcher


Posted by Balpreet





Sub: Does not matter how tough it is

provided the IIMs teaching staff can score good (if they take the test now). Otherwise it is hyposcrisy.


Posted by MJ




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