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CAT: A 15-day preparation plan
AKRS Srinivas
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November 03, 2006

With CAT 2006 just a fortnight away, candidates are probably on tenterhooks. If you are taking the examp, try and stay calm. Also, work on gearing up for the final showdown. The next two weeks may hold the key to consolidating all you have studied so far. It is easy, at this stage, to become nervous or lose concentration � both mistakes that could prove costly.

Do remember that there are more than 1.75 lakh people writing the exam. And only a couple of hundred making it to the IIMs. That clearly means there is no chance of a letup at this stage. You need to keep yourself focused and continue preparations until the last day.

Here, we offer solutions to some recurring or irritating issues that may worry you during the last lap.

Also Read: Taking CAT: It's all in the details

Should I take a MOCK exam every day until the day of the exam?

No. Make sure you spend enough time revising the areas you have already learnt. Take 3-4 exams over the next 15 days (if possible, two exams on each of the Sundays remaining). At this stage, revising all MOCKs you have already taken is the need of the hour.

I have been able to clear cutoffs for two sections consistently, but haven't been able to clear the cutoff for Quant. What should I do?

There are two possibilities: 1. You are okay at quantitative ability but haven't been able to convert the same into scores.

2. You are neither good at Quant nor have you spent enough time preparing for this area.

One of the problems many students face is time management during the exam. By the time you come to the fifteenth or twentieth question in the Quant area, you have already exhausted the time available. So, you miss out on the easy questions given in the subsequent portion of the paper.

Or, due to time constraints, you skim through the questions and miss out the simple ones, thinking they are difficult. To arrest this problem, it is advisable to take 35-45 minute slip tests everyday for the next 10 days in the Quant area. The objective of taking these tests will be to get the knack of selecting all the easy questions from that section. If you are not very good at Quant and find yourself scoring hardly any marks there, it is advisable that you restrict your preparation to areas you are comfortable in. And, as a strategy, maximise your scores in the other two sections.

Should I take up new areas in Quant or focus on revision?

As mentioned earlier, it depends on how prepared you are at this stage. Areas like clocks and calendars -- which take just about an hour for preparation -- can still be done, whereas areas like coordinate geometry, permutations and combinations, if not already studied, are best left out at this stage. Predominantly, the focus should be on consolidation right now.

I have not been scoring in grammar. What should I do in the next 15 days to get a better score?

This is a typical problem students face. Clearly, the next 15 days are not sufficient to master grammar. However, it is important to understand that we are not trying to become grammar experts at this stage, but just seeking a couple of marks in that area.

You should examine the MOCKs you have already taken, identify all grammar-based questions and make a pool of them. Spend 15 minutes doing about 15-20 questions every day from this pool. That way, you may be able master 300 such questions that you were earlier making errors on, and also become familiar with sentence structure. Though there is no guarantee any of these questions will feature in the exam, you will be able to tackle questions on the patterns you studied, after using this method, without much trouble.

I have always left out the RC portion in the MOCKs, as I get most of them wrong. Is this a good strategy?

One of the reasons for low scores in reading and comprehension may be because you have not taken enough tests. Even now, it would be beneficial to take an RC test every day and ensure that you attempt at least two RC sets in the exam. Please realize that the idea of skipping RC to spend time on the other two sections is flawed. This is because, if you have spent, say, 50 minutes on Quant already, you will have already solved almost all easy questions in that area. Spending extra time there would be unproductive as there wouldn't be many easy questions left. Instead, spending those 12 minutes on RC may get you 3-4 marks.

What is the best strategy for attempting the CAT?

It obviously depends on your strengths and weaknesses. As it is a three-section paper, you should try and sandwich your weak area between two strong areas. Some strategies that can be followed, keeping in mind the total available time of 150 minutes, are:

Strategy I

45-45-45-15: Here, you give 45 minutes to each of the three sections and use the remaining 15 minutes for the section in which you can maximise your score. Also, if you don't perform well in one of the sections, the last 15 minutes can be used to salvage that section.

Strategy II

40-40-40-20-10: Here, you give about 40 minutes to each of the three sections. Use the last 30 minutes in propping up your score in two of the three areas by giving 20 and 10 minutes respectively at the end.

Strategy III

60-30-60: This strategy should be followed by people who are not comfortable in any of the three sections. Here, the basic idea is to maximise your score in two sections and sandwich your weak area between the two strong areas.

What should be done in the last two days before CAT?

We will be back with final tips for CAT by November 15. Please watch this space!

-- AKRS Srinivas is an alumnus of IIM-Calcutta and current director of the CAT course at T.I.M.E. , Hyderabad.

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