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CAT: Your 10-day strategy
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November 05, 2008

With just 10 days to go before the big day, here's what you should and should not be dong in terms of your CAT preparation.

Age of experimentation?
There should be no fiddling with your test-taking strategy at this stage. The time for experimentation is over now. As long as you know that the strategy you are using is giving you rewards, don't change it. For example, you would know if your best bet is to scan a passage and then move onto to the questions, while another person could be more at ease scanning questions before going onto the passage. So just stick to whatever works best for you.

Taking the tests
Take four or five full length tests in the rest of the time. You could however keep doing short span section tests to keep the rhythmn on. Do not overdo it now.

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Gauge yourself
You should be clear by now, which institutes you are targeting. This means you must have decided by now, whether you are playing the "Cutoffs Clear Strategy" or "Score Maximisation Strategy". 

Finishing touches
Don't have an ambitious target of revising everything especially in quant. Pick the most important topics and spend time on them. Do not try anything new now. Look at your log of errors which are conceptual. Make sure you do not repeat those in CAT.

Besides spending time on why some answers went wrong, also concentrate on why some answers were correct or whether there is any better way of doing the question. Furthermore, in any well-planned CAT paper, you will not be able to complete the whole section or paper. So go through the questions that you did not attempt and see if you made a mistake by leaving out those and attempting the ones you did.

For D-Day
One of the biggest pitfalls is that as students we always search for shortcuts, asking 'which is the easiest way out and which are the easiest questions?' A critical issue here is the tremendous urge to skip questions.  If you want to identify the questions to attend, it is imperative that you read all the questions. So learn to leave questions that you do not understand. This will eliminate the need to skip questions without reading.  

Start with stuff that you are familiar with. This will ensure it will will take you less time to identify whether you can do them or not.

Be decisive
Decide in two readings whether you are going to attempt the question or not. This is perfectly normal and don't let it bother you.

A strategy that works with some is  "If there are five sheets, can I get atleast two questions on each sheet?" So if the quant paper is covered in five sheets, it forces you to remember that you have to get so many questions on each sheet. This keep you on tour toes. It helps you scan the paper fast.

Here and now
This is also the time when students have to appear for other MBA entrance exams. For IRMA, XLRI, IIFT and others, the one section where you need to work on is general awareness and business aptitude. Good reading habits help. But right now, focus on CAT till November 16 and nothing else. In the last month, people are under a lot of tension. Reading the newspaper just before the exam or meditating just before the test , will also help you relax.

The DI Angle
Let's talk about the Data Interpretation (DI) section for a moment. If you have seena fair amount of variety, CAT DI would not be tough to tackle. And out of a set of five questions, at least three are bound to be easy. Learn the art of skipping questions in DI. The misconception is that you have to solve the whole set before you move on to the next set. Working on DI will pay richer dividends at this point of time. Those weak in Quant should focus on basic Geometry and algebra to get their minimum scores. You would not find Arithmetic beyond you even if you do not practice now.

Risk taking
Avoid wild guessing. What if you bring it down to two choices? Weight your options. It pays to make intelligent guessing then. If history says you are a poor  guesser even when you are down to two options, just leave it.

Expect surprises
The surprise is more in terms of format than spirit. They will change the structure somehow. CAT is traditionally known to check how students deal with ambiguity because it is necessary to be a good manager in real life and the IIMs are very clear, they are looking for smart people. Keep your cool. Fight till the last moment. Do not pronounce the verdict till the last minute is over. You may be in for a lot of surprises once you come out of the exam hall.

Ease up: Learn to relax.
Many a time, very high potential students have not made it to the IIMs because they could not handle the pressure. So unwind, go for movies, do things that help you relax, go for walks, meditate. Do all that it takes keep your head clear. People who stick it out, hang in there and continue to peg away will make it.

This article has been compiled by Career Launcher (, an institute that trains students in various competitive exams.

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