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Taking CAT: It's all in the details
Merril Diniz
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November 02, 2006

"Read, read, read." This is actor Rahul Bose's advice to those who want to crack competitive exams like CAT, GMAT, GRE, MAT, XAT, etc.

Bose attempted the GMAT in 1988 and scored 680 on 800. He secured admission to the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth in the US, but never pursued his MBA, opting for a career in cinema instead. He attributes his GMAT score to being good at quick mathematics and having decent English skills. His recommendations include a book from the Institute of Management Studies (IMS). For more on what he has to say, read on...

Improving one's English appears to be the order of the day. You could be trying for a job at a BPO, where decent command over spoken English is a must. Or, you could be an IT professional vying for the post of manager, where command over spoken and written English is important while interacting with foreign clients. Or, you could be mugging big words in the hope of cracking the verbal section of a competitive test.

Hence, vocabulary, grammar and reading comprehension -- which you thought you'd left behind with your school syllabus -- suddenly become a priority.

According to Bose, reading is the best way to improve your English. He recommends two books: Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything and Nautical Miles, a book compiled by trainers at IMS. Nautical Miles focuses on building vocabulary, but in a rather interesting way -- it is presented in the format of a novel. Like any work of fiction, it has a plot and characters. But, in this case, you don't have to reach for a dictionary every time you stumble upon a difficult word. The meanings are giving at the bottom of every page and you have exercises at the end of each chapter that test you on synonyms, antonyms, etc. If you need a crash-course in English, the book (Rs 150) could be a good bet.

For those attempting CAT on November 19, here are some more tips:

Reading Comprehension

The only way to prepare for this is to develop a good reading habit, which includes topics, subjects, or articles you dislike or are uninterested in. You need to read material you don't usually read because the examiners are not going to set passages according to your likes and dislikes.

Although speed-reading is important, make sure you also comprehend what you read, correctly. Try and achieve a reading speed of 400�500 words a minute with 80- 90 per cent comprehension. Your reading speed is directly proportional to the subject being read. So, if you are in the habit of reading diverse topics, you will be able to read and comprehend the passages faster in the actual test.

RC is relatively time-consuming; even the best students do not attempt all passages. They choose some from among those given. You could choose the passage depending on your likes and dislikes, the yype of questions (direct or indirect), and ratio of length of passage to number of questions.

Verbal Ability

This section can be completed in far less time than, say, a problem-solving section, because the exercises here are not time-consuming. You either know the correct answer at first glance or you don't know it at all. This is where you can achieve highest accuracy in the least amount of time.

Even while taking the test, if you don't know an answer, the wise thing to do is to move on to the next question.

And finally, as they say, the devil lies in the details. I remember enthusiastically telling someone, "I wouldn't mind giving CAT." I was corrected by Charanpreet Singh, an IMS trainer and quizmaster, who said, "You can't give CAT. You take it." He attributed the common error to a literal translation from Hindi or a regional language.

So, will you be giving or taking CAT?

-- With inputs by CAT trainers at the Institute of Management Studies (IMS).




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