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As CAT 2007 nears, your tension mounts and anxiety rises. No matter how hard you study, your scores won't increase.
But don't panic just yet. Even if the above applies to you, remember that roughly 200,000 others are experiencing the same feelings.
You have approximately 90 days before the CAT (18 November 2007). This is not a test or an exam where you can prepare in the last one week or even the night before and hope to crack it. Every day is important and cannot be wasted.
This is true even if your goal does not include the IIMs, as CAT is an entrance exam to more than 100 Business Schools. Also, the areas that come in CAT are similar to those for every other management entrance exam. In addition, these other exams are scheduled in December and January, leaving you hardly any time to prepare for them after the CAT. Hence, your basic preparation must conclude before the CAT.
One of the fundamental mistakes that people make is to consider mock CATs as the solution for all preparation problems. This is far from the truth. While tests give insight into your exam-taking techniques and help you measure your progress and how far you are from reaching your goal.
However, if you do not strengthen your basic concepts and skills, any number of tests will not serve the purpose.
You have to first understand your strengths and weaknesses in each test area. This can be done by checking your scores in practice tests and mock tests. Unbiased introspection will give the roadmap to your preparation.
The main areas that need concentration are: reading practice and comprehension, quantitative/arithmetic concepts, data interpretation and speed calculation practice and vocabulary/language improvement. This has to be supplemented with practice in various test areas.
With that in mind, let us now look at the best way to use your final 90 days. Today, we'll discuss how to improve your preparation for the verbal component; tomorrow we'll discuss how to improve both quantitative and data interpretation.
That there is no shortcut to improve your reading speed is obvious. However, not doing anything about this would make the problem worse. You must read every day. At the very least, carefully read two articles each from two topics used in the CAT.
These are: economics, philosophy, psychology, politics, sociology, language, culture and arts, abstract thinking and sciences. Make the effort of choosing as wide ranging a topic base as possible. Also, read from every possible genre: non-fiction, fiction, novels, magazines, journals, etc.
Consciously improve your reading speed by measuring it every day for the first fifteen days. You'll notice that your speed varies depending on your familiarity with the subject/topic.
In addition, take a test every two days for reading comprehension. Make sure that you analyse every question and every passage in the test. If, in the allotted time, you do not complete all passages in the test, then take those passages as a test once again. This continuous work will do wonders to your reading comprehension ability.
Though it may seem impossible to learn 3000+ words in the next three months, that should not discourage you from increasing your vocabulary from whatever level it is at now.
It's important to use the words you learn from reading comprehension passages and to write down/memorise their various usages and meanings. Good reading habits will improve your vocabulary automatically and a systematic way of learning will enhance the same.
While referring to the dictionary for the meaning of a particular word, a few other words in the dictionary -- synonyms and antonyms -- may also catch your attention. This is a splendid source of new words; so make a conscious effort to add them to your vocabulary.
Also, because English has words from Latin, Germanic and other origins, learning the roots of a word will help you immensely. The origins of words, if understood, allows you to infer the meaning of other words with similar origins.
Finally, never forget the importance of prefixes and suffixes. For example, look at the word malevolent. Even if you don't know the exact definition, the prefix 'mal' tells you that the word means something bad or negative. In the same way, look at the word benevolent, with the prefix 'bene', which means someting good.
If you keep these simple points in mind -- read every day, read from wide-ranging topics, note definitions and meanings, study antonyms and synonyms, study word origins and remember prefixes and suffixes -- your verbal score will surely improve.
Part II: Analysing mock exam papers
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