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CAT: How to manage your time on exam day
Aman Bansal
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July 19, 2007

The Common Admission Test (CAT), like all MBA entrance examinations, is basically a test of speed and accuracy.

The most important strategy is effective time management. The bulk of poor scores result from mismanagement of time on exam day.

But why do student so frequently make this mistake?

Some say that mounting pressure during the test caused them to panic. Others say they came across new material that left them shocked and confused. Still others got entangled in a few lengthy questions, leaving them precious little time to complete the test.

Tuesday, we reviewed test preparation and some techniques to learn in the weeks before the test.

Today, let's discuss time management strategies that will help you secure an excellent score. Here are some exam day tips: 

When you receive the CAT, do not start attempting the questions immediately. It is better to scan the paper and try to determine which sections and questions will be easiest to answer.

The exam lasts for 150 minutes. Here's how you should divide your time:

~ 5 minutes for filling in personal data and marking the OMR sheet (145 left)
~ 5 minutes to scan the paper and plan your approach  (140 left)
~ 45 minutes at the most for your strongest section  (at least 95 left)
~ 45 minutes for the medium section (at least 50 minutes left)
~ 45 minutes for your weakest section (5 minutes left)
~ 5 minutes to review your test and make sure everything is in order

If you feel that 45 minutes is more than you need for your strongest section, allocate the time to your weakest section. The extra time may help you get a good percentile in your weakest area.

For each section, start by selecting the questions which will consume less time and you are able to solve with confidence. Only after handling easy questions should you move on to more difficult ones.

Verbal questions such as direct dictionary meanings and sentence corrections should be the priority, as they do not require much time. Say you are good at vocabulary -- you will only need a few minutes for ten questions. The time you save here can be utilised while doing an inference based question from a passage that requires more work.

For Reading Comprehension, select passages and questions with direct answers, as discussed Tuesday.

Some more important tips:

To get a call from an IIM, you'll need to clear the sectional cut off scores. If these lofty requirements are not possible for you, don't panic. Instead, focus on enhancing your score through the above methods and you will earn entry at institutions such as MDI, IMT, SP Jain, KY Somaya and so on.

In short, it's best to understand your limitations. Don't let your ego get the better of you and don't try to secure a perfect score. Recognise your ability and earn the best score possible for you.

Chat, 4pm: CAT registration, preparation and strategy

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The author works as a competitive examination coach for Top Careers and You. He can be reached at 

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