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'A CAT paper with no sections?'
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November 07, 2008

With only about a week to go for CAT 08, are there strategies to maximise you DI scores?

What is the best way to tackle the CAT?

What should you time management strategy be?

To answer these and other CAT related questions Ajeet Khurana, director of Peak Seekers, an institute that trains CAT aspirants, hosted a chat with GA readers on November 6. For those of you who missed the chat, here's the unedited transcript:

Ajeet Khurana says, Hey everybody. This is Ajeet Khurana from Peak Seekers. Here we are, 10 days away from the CAT. Tell me how I can help you.

Lokesh asked, Hi Mr. Ajeet, Good afternoon. I am appearing for CAT this year.Just wanted to know how to get deal with function and number theory in Quant.and what you think can be the new surpurises?

Ajeet Khurana answers, Hi Lokesh, first of all congrats on rightly identifying two major areas of recent CAT interest. The number of questions devoted to functions and number systems is alarmingly high. For functions, I have found that the range of questions asked in the CAT is not very high. So, a study of the Functions questions over the past 5 years will be great preparation. The same cannot be said about Number Systems, and you will really need to strengthen your basics on that.

rob asked, hi, any predictions for possible surprises CAT may have this year?

Ajeet Khurana answers, Wait, let me get my crystal ball :) Just kidding. I must point out that the overrated "CAT surprises" have more to do with format changes than substance changes. So, try not to get hassled with the number of questions / sections changing, or for that matter a change in the marking structure. Of course, I have my wishlist of what should change in the CAT, but I do not see any IIM faculty logged into this chat yet ;)

rr asked, hi sir, do you have any last min prep tips for DI section?

Ajeet Khurana answers, Yes, I can help a bit. Most people think of DI as a section where you have to: 1) Interpret the data (tables, graphs, caselet...) 2) Compute the answer. They forget that most DI errors take place because of an incorrect interpretation of the questions. So, make sure to spend some time making sure that you have understood the question. The CAT is an intelligent exam. So, even if your interpretation is incorrect, there would probably be an answer choice that has your computed solution.

neeraj asked, hello sir, i just need some last our tips for RC. actually i m suffering with the accuracy rate in this portion... dont kno wat to do?

Ajeet Khurana answers, Well, improve the accuracy rate :) Just kidding. You will have to evaluate the reason for a low accuracy. Here are solutions to 2 common problems: 1) The passage is on a highly unfamiliar topic. This has no 10-day solution really. You could try and read up passages on varied topics, especially: sociology, Indian non-fiction, or any other that you do not like. 2) You narrow down the choices but choose the wrong one. You are quite likely falling prey to some of the common techniques exam makers use to make the CAT tough. So, collate all your errors and find a common thread underlying them. If you are lucky, you will find one. Naturally, there could be many more reasons for a low accuracy, but you will have to first figure them out, and then ask for help.

Sam asked, hi Ajeet, is it worth doing new topics now or revise the ones that we already are strong at?

Ajeet Khurana answers, Thus far, this is my favourite question. Congrats Sam. Since we are 10 days away from the CAT, I would say, spend most of your time (say 80%) on topics that you are strong in. At least these topics should not let you down in the CAT. Given how low cut-offs can fall (25-35% of the max marks), even a small set of strong topics could help you make it through. But do use the remaining time (20%) on exploring new topics. The idea behind this exploration would be that you enable yourself to attempt easy questions from these topics, in case they appear in the CAT. Yes, come CAT questions are easy :)

iimb asked, hi..i have no preparation what so ever for this year's CAT..what ar my chances to get into IIMB

Ajeet Khurana answers, x + y (where x is a measure of how lucky you are, expressed as a percentage between 0 and 100; and y is how well you are intrinsically prepared again represented as the same percentage). 1 out of 100 applicants succeed in getting into an IIM. Of these 100, about 10 are well prepared. So, I would rate your chances slim. Of course, you could be a born genious :) In that case, come work from me. :)

Sushant asked, Hi Sir, What should we do to improve aour performance in this 10 days

Ajeet Khurana answers, Sushant, a good general guideline can be found in my response to "is it worth doing new topics now or revise the ones that we already are strong at?"

Vinrag asked, i hav a doubt regarding time allotment to each section. is 40-40-40 + 30 mins buffer the best way? i found 50-50-50 mins the best way in mocks, but will this backfire in case of any surprises?

Ajeet Khurana answers, This has to be based on your personal strengths and weaknesses. But spending equal time on each section is a pretty smart strategy. What that ensures is that you do not spend too much time in your weak sections, where the expected yield is low. At the same time, it gives you enough time in weak sections to give the cut-off a good shot. Having said that, I must admit that your chosen strategy should be time testing. Since 50-50-50 mins has worked for you (i.e. equal time to all sections), you could consider sticking to that.

crack_cat asked, i used to get around 95 percentiles in the TIME Mock cat ,but over the last 4 mock cats ,it has fallen in the range 85-90 percentiles.What should be my approach during the last 10 days now?.

Ajeet Khurana answers, Since I too am from a test-prep institute (ie Peak Seekers), let me share an insider secret with you. As you proceed with mock tests, the number of people attempting the test reduces. This usually means that weaker students are dropping out. So, even if you are not getting worse, your percentile tends to drop as the average quality of the pool rises. So, do not get too bugged by falling percentiles. Focus on your strengths in these last 10 days. Do not go nuts appearing for too many practice tests.

money asked, how many questions are expected

Ajeet Khurana answers, The last 2 CATs have probably been the only two where the paper-format did not change. But this is not enough to make any conclusions. Let us assume that there will be 75 questions with 4 marks each in 2.5 hours. The important thing is that even if this changes dramatically, it will change for everyone. Your score will not be compared to others who appeared for another CAT. So, do not let alteration in the paper pattern bug you.

getki asked, hi ajeet, my vocab is not that good still. is there any quick fix?

Ajeet Khurana answers, There are hardly any quick fixes for any areas of CAT. One thing you could consider is evaluating the question structure and reaching the correct answer. This is tough to explain over chat, and I wish I had you in a Peak Seekers class, but let me try. Last CAT had a vocab question in the RC section which asked you the meaning of "flotsam and jetsam". Even if you had never heard of these words before, you would probably be able to narrow down the choices based on the context. Luckily the emphasis on advanced vocabulary has fallen down to a question or so per CAT. So, if you are doing fine in other sections, you are still in the race.

Sri asked, can there be a CAT paper with no sections in it???

Ajeet Khurana answers, Since 1990 (when I appeared for CAT as a final year student of engineering), CAT has been section based. In fact at my time, the two sections (English, Math) would be separately times, 1 hour each! That has changed, but I do not think that CAT will abandon its sections. They seem to love them, as much as they love their jumbled sentence questions :)

Vinrag asked, sir, can you give a brief idea about the cut offs

Ajeet Khurana answers, For the IIMs, previous experience shows that each section tends to have between 25 and 40% of the maximum marks as a cut off for the open category. But that can always change. asked, Hi Sir, I was a little weak in DI and Quant. So over the last few weeks i practised hard and now am clearing the cut offs (Time aimcats). But my earlier strong area Verbal has gone for a toss. I am getting very low scores in that. Pls Advise Thnks!

Ajeet Khurana answers, One of the saddest situation is when your strong-areas desert you. As I have mentioned earlier in this chat, do not let that happen to you.

sagar asked, hello sir i am from non-english medium background and looking to go for CAT 2009. How shoud i approach english parts like RC and vocabs.

Ajeet Khurana answers, Naturally it is going to be tough. In a recent newspaper article, I had written about how vernacular medium students get slaughtered in the verbal section of CAT. Having said that, you should not be affected by the statistics stacked up against you. You are an individual, and only your score matters to you. Make sure to speak English whenever possible. Avoid sms language in emails or for that matter even in smss. Read good books. Practice more than your competitors are practicing. And be ready to use the non-verbal section as your strengths.

asdfgh asked, would you recommend attempting more in verbal ability with a bit lower accuracy or going for higher attempts...

Ajeet Khurana answers, Such strategic questions are inherently trying to solve the jigsaw of: accuracy, attempt, yield, negative marks. If you perceive that your performance might yield a score close to the cutoff, then risking negative marks is imprudent. But, if you seem to be scoring pretty low, more negative marks will not worsen the final outcome, and even the off-chance that you will score positive points could help you out. But we are dealing with probabilities and luck here. So, follow this advice with caution.

Sam asked, Ajeet Sir, my next question is "Must one solve the paper section-wise or randomly?" I mean i've suffered on both so am confused which strategy to use? Also, my profs at CL tell me that go for easy questions in Round 1 and then try the tougher ones in Round 2 especially for Quant

Ajeet Khurana answers, Profs at Peak Seekers (I am one) do not say that. The problem with spending time on choosing questions early on is that you lose a lot of time. What I would do (and you are free to follow other profs here :) is that I would jump into sequentially attempting questions in a section for the bulk of the time I have allocated to a section. In the last part of this allocated time, I would choose from the remaining questions to see if there are any easy ones remaining. Since I would now have to choose from far fewer questions, the time wasted will be lower. Of course, as with all matters of strategy, your mileage might vary.

Rajesh asked, Wil it be of any use now if I learn any new topic as the time is very short???

Ajeet Khurana answers, Since you can't really "learn" for CAT, I would advocate, keeping an hour or so each day for gaining familiarity with new topics. I say gaining familiarity and not developing competence, as I have seen some CAT questions that are amazingly easy. There are not too many of those, but if you come across one, you should be able to solve it. Of course, the significant proportion of your time should be invested in strengthening you strenths.

avradeep asked, Hi I just want to know if in the last 10 days should I be solving more practice mock CAT papers say around 2 per day or should it be revising topics?

Ajeet Khurana answers, Attempting a CAT test involves 2.5 hours of solving time. 0.5 hours of scoring. 3 hours of figuring out the questions that went wrong. 2 hours of learning from the multiple choice of those questions that you got right. So, that is about 10 hours if you include about 2 hours of break time. Doing more than 1 test a day should be impossible at any stage, unless you are simply attempting without gaining from it. I agree with the strategy of doing a lot of tests. That is why at Peak Seekers we give more than double the number of tests that others give. BUT, merely attempting tests without the requisite follow up is like repeatedly using the thermometer with a hope that your fever will reduce. Not going to happen :)

Vini asked, hw much weigtage is given to wrk ex guys in CAT?

Ajeet Khurana answers, In CAT, nothing. After you clear this hurdle, a significant weightage is given.

Monish asked, Hi,I am not sure if i will make it o the IIM's, so what would be a better strategy, going for the cutoff's or overall score?
Ajeet Khurana answers, I rarely come across students who are sure ;) Unless you have given up on the IIMs go with the optimizing strategy, i.e., maximum overall score while attempting to reach the cutoff in each section.

vipul asked, sir this year 3 lac students will take cat so if a person taking cat is in the top 30000 students then will he get 90 percentile?

Ajeet Khurana answers, Yup, rank 30000 out of 300000 applicants is at the 90th percentile. asked, Hi, With Cat online next yr..wud the students be able to appear more than once in a calender yr?

Ajeet Khurana answers, I was the first author of a GMAT book after it went online a decade ago, and have many exciting inputs to give for the online CAT. But let us keep that for another day, as this CAT is not online.

skr asked,  for a fresher in general what fraction of the total score may get a call from atleat one of the IIMs?

Ajeet Khurana answers, This changes from year to year, but a score of 105-110 out of 300 (based on the last two years patterns) assuming achieving cutoffs in all sections, should get you a call from an IIM.

Sushant asked, Should we start the paper from our strongest section OR from our weakest ???

Ajeet Khurana answers, Tough to generalise. But as a student I would begin with RC. On the one hand it is easy to locate owing to the passage preceding it. On the other, I would find that RC in the last 30 minutes would panic me too much to actually understand what the passage is saying. Having said that, I must tell you that allocation / prioritising strategies that take away a significant portion of your test time should be re-evaluated.

Rish asked, Hey Ajeet, Plz answer my query Is IMI, Delhi [Images] worth a try?

Ajeet Khurana answers, If we divide institutes into 5 tiers, it would fall into tier 3, probably. If that is acceptable to you, it is definitely worth a try. For some even tier 5 works, for others, nothing less than IIM Ahmedabad [Images] would do. I even had a student (no kidding) who got into IIM Ahmedabad, attended it for a week, and then quit!

CATcode asked, sir ji...........plz reply............sir, whether it's officially declared that CAT 2009 will be online? I'm to appear for CAT 09. Pl. reply. If it's online, should we practice more ONLINE? what should be the preparation strategy? Any website which offers online CAT tests?

Ajeet Khurana answers, Not yet official. It is one of the possibilities. Preparing for the concepts will not change. Attempting mock tests would have to be online. But more of that on a later date so that I can help students with the exam that is 10 days away :)

skr asked, as a fresher wid no work experience if i manage to score 1/3rd of the total marks,will i get a call from any of the IIMS considering that i have cleared the sectional cut offs?

Ajeet Khurana answers, 1/3rd would be 100 out of 300. That is quite close to what has been required in the recent past. A little higher would definitely have got a call last year.

mukki asked, Hi Ajeet ..could you please tell me which question exactly qualifies as a easy or a difficult question in terms of time it should take to get solved in Quant..many times I get involved in doing difficult question and in the end I may be able to solve that question but it ends up eating a lot of time.

Ajeet Khurana answers, Tough to get into definitions. But questions that require one-step, only a basic knowledge of the topic, and avoid a secret trap, could be called easy. Each CAT has a few easy questions.

Ajeet Khurana says, We are reaching the end of our hour long chat. I do not know if the system will kick us all out, or whether we will get a few extra minutes. There is no way I can reach all the questions, but let me take one or two more for now. And to everyone here, I wish you the very best for a sincere and fabulous performance in the CAT. I hope that your performance is commensurate with the effort you put in. Good Luck. Ajeet

dinakarb asked, sir in many of the questions of rc or for that matter in the verbal section, i eliminate easily 3 options and then unable to decide on the last 2 options which are very close.what do you suggest?

Ajeet Khurana answers, If you find that usually the real answer is one of the 2 that you narrow down to, even randomly choosing from those 2 will stack the odds in your favour. But there are no guarantees. And I have also found students who narrow down to 2 choices and then complain of always choosing the wrong one. What they miss out is that this was inevitable, as both the choices they had narrowed down to were wrong!

Ajeet Khurana says, Ok, that brings us to the end of today's chat. To all those who cried themselves hoarse shouting out a hi or hello to me, well, hi and hello to you. Have a great day, a great CAT, and a great life. B Bye

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