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3 valuable lessons from a CAT aspirant
Sravan Bhamidipati
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November 15, 2006

Like many of you reading this, I am going to write the Common Admission Test 2006 too. I have finished my preparation and I now plan to sit back and bide my time before the exam.

The countdown before any important event is tough on everyone. Thankfully, I have other equally good options if this exam doesn't work out for me. I therefore have the ability to detach myself from the situation, step back, turn and look into the past.

For the past three weeks I took a mock CAT every Sunday and learnt three lessons, which I think are imperative for any CAT aspirant:

Mock CAT 1: The resource-result ratio

The most crucial and limited resource we are given is time. The result that we intend to get is a maximised score. It is hence only common sense to try utilising our time efficiently on the test.

Having both one-mark and two-mark questions is not uncommon. But for the first time, there were also three-mark questions in that paper. I ambitiously chased the three-mark questions. Tough to tame, they slowed me down. And how!

Sometimes the rewards may be high. But so are the risks. And what about the security (spending all the time, and still not being able to crack it)? Be very very careful about spending too much time on high-mark questions -- it may kill your score.

Lesson learnt: The resource being utilised should be at best proportional to the result being sought. 

Mock CAT II: Eggs and baskets

Since I am not so good at the Reading Comprehension, I maintain a respectable distance from them. The questions in the verbal section were few and tough. Only after I went home, did I realise that some of the RCs were a cakewalk.

Even a cool cat capable of cracking all the questions in his or her strong area will need to consider other sub-sections. It's not just a difficulty issue. It's also a coverage issue. What if!

Lesson learnt: Don't keep all your eggs in one basket. 

Note: I realise that though this is not necessarily true in all cases, it is 100 per cent true for CAT.

Mock CAT III: General instructions

I never thought I would make this mistake. I am the kind who reads a user manual before using my newly bought cell-phone. But last Sunday in my last mock CAT, I got four two-mark questions wrong because I didn't read the preceding instructions.

It is something that most people taking mock tests tend to do. We've seen so many such questions that we read what we already know, and not what is written there.

We treat every electronic item alike and take every mock CAT alike.

Lesson learnt: General instructions are not that general. Know your problem before attempting to solve it.

I am glad I made these mistakes. They affected my performances on those tests, but they taught me valuable lessons. And though they braced me for what's to come on November 19, it is their generality and their applications in various aspects of life that held my attention.

I used to always read the articles related to CAT in Rediff with a smug look -- who doesn't already know what the experts here are writing? Today, I realise that repetition is the very point of pontification. We make mistakes, repeatedly. Not because we haven't learnt our lessons but because "To err again, is human". I hope we don't err on November 19.

-- The writer is a  final year student at IIT Madras. He is writing CAT 2006.

Have you taken CAT? Or are you planning to take CAT 2006? Post your experiences and tips.

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