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CAT 2007: Analysing mock exam papers
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August 28, 2007

If you hope to attend an IIM, you'll need to ace each section of CAT 2007. Being exceptionally good in two of the three, while still weak in the other, won't earn you the much coveted seat you desire.

Yesterday, we provided an overview of the exam and discussed methods you can use to improve your verbal score. Today, we turn our attention to the quantitative and data interpretation sections. Afterwards, we'll look at how you can analyse your mock CATs.

Quantitative concepts

First of all, the real reason people do badly in quantitative is fear. Fear of mathematics. But, the fact is that the questions asked in quantitative have all been done, in theory, in the eigth, ninth and tenth standards. The questions are of a higher level of difficulty, but the basic methods for solving are exactly the same.

Have a weekly plan that forces you to refresh your fundamentals in each area. Plan your schedule in such a way that you cover all the topics and the basic concepts in each topic in the next 25 to 30 days. You should try solving all the models that come in a particular chapter so that you are at least ready for the kinds of questions that may appear in CAT.

Some chapters like numbers, geometry and mensuration, permutations and combinations, quadratic equations, inequalities, simple equations, ratio proportion and variation, percentages and profit and loss, time and work and time and distance have to be done at least a few time to ensure that you are comfortable.

Data interpretation and calculation practice

There are six to seven types of data representation that come in the DI section. Spend time understanding the data and check whether you can interpret the data or not. Look at sets of data and spend as much as time required ensuring that you are able to understand the intricacies and the proper method of analysis. Then, go to the questions, and, without keeping any time limit, try to locate the relevant data to answer the questions.

To tackle DI, you need accuracy, approximation and speed. Accuracy comes with your ability to solve and by not making silly calculation mistakes. In DI, we see that getting the right answer is more important than getting the exact answers. While solving problems, always look for approximations from the answer choices.

Analysis of mock CATs

You should obviously take several mock CATs as part of your preparation. You should take them at regular intervals instead of bunching them together in the last fortnight or one month before the exam. Ideally, you should take two mock CATs per week in the last two months. Of course, one of them should be the AIMCAT (All India mock CAT) on a Sunday. This will give you your relative ranking compared to aspirants across the country. The second one could be in the middle of the week, which will allow you to measure yourself against a more intimate group of test-takers.

Taking mock CATs is only one small part of your preparation. After taking any practice test -- particularly comprehensive tests like mock CATs -- you should spend enough time analysing the results so that you get the maximum value out of the experience. If you spend two and a half hours on the exam, you should spend at least four to five hours on analysis and review. Otherwise, you'll only get partial value and won't learn your relative weaknesses and strengths. 

After you've finished a test and its analysis, you're still not done. Attempt the questions which you gave a miss the first time through. This should be done without looking at the answer key to check your marks. Set a time limit to do this; it may require two to three hours depending on how many questions you left blank on your first attempt.

Now is the time to check how many of your attempts are right by using the answer key. At this stage, do not look at the solutions with explanations, if they are available in your mock CAT.

Re-attempt all those questions which you answered incorrectly, still without looking at the solutions, to see if you can correctly answer the same now. You will find that you are now able to get a few more questions correct even without looking at the solutions. This is the way to improve your learning. You do not need to set any time limit for this stage. At the end of this stage, there may still be some qusetions that you answer incorrectly.

Also, there is the possibility that you run across a type of question that you just do not know how to solve. For these questions, look at the solutions and review the fundamentals and theory. In the following weeks, be sure to spend time on that area separately.

When your mock CAT results are available to you from your institute (if you are taking coaching), check your section-wise results as well as area-wise results. Focus on your percentile position as well as your All-India rank in each section and in the entire paper as a whole. Discover whether or not you have crossed the cut-off marks in each section -- this is important because the IIMs require that you perform well in all the sections.

Also, check for additional marks required in various sections to reach a desired level of All-India rank. Then, fix a target for the next mock CAT that you are going to take.

A planned approach to preparation is a must for the best results. Remember, a systematic approach to exam-taking will ensure that you scale the heights required to get the institute of your choice.

Part I: How to improve your verbal score on CAT 2007


CAT 2007: A ten-week study strategy

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