As you prepare for the final countdown to CAT, here are some tips to keep in mind as you take the exam.
How to begin
You will be given the Question Booklet in the beginning and have some time to read it and go through the instructions. Go through the instructions in the booklet very carefully for it will give you information on:
- The number of questions
- The number of sections
- The number of questions per section
- Marks per question
- The negative marking for incorrect answers
Scanning the paper
- Scanning the paper is the most important thing to do in the beginning, as soon as you get the CAT paper.
- Spend at least the first three to five minutes glancing through the paper at the outset.
- Try to quickly grasp how many sections, number of questions in each section, what are the kinds of question sets, the marking system (is there differential marking or not: ie some questions may have two marks and some may be of on emark etc). This should play an important role in deciding your strategy.
Deciding your final strategy
It is only after you scan the paper that you can decide your final strategy. This will include all the following:
- How many questions you wish to attempt and try to solve
- What you think the expected cut-off will be. Remember, the marking system is relative -- this means that it is does not matter whether the paper is easy or difficult. Whatever the nature of the paper, the top one or two percentile of students will get a call. The easier the paper, the higher the expected cut-off in each section. Thus you will have to make a quick call on how many questions you should attempt in the given time limit to clear the cut-offs and further maximise your score.
- It is here that all the mock-tests and practice CATs will help -- in estimating both sectional and overall cut-offs.
Attempting the paper
- Make sure you are conscious of time: It is amazing how often students get so involved in the paper that they lose track of time and suddenly realise that they have far exceeded the time they allocated for a given section!
- Try to stick to your strategy: Don't let panic make you forget your strategy. If you find a particular section extremely difficult, remember that it is so for everybody and hence there is no need for you to panic and forget your basics.
- Make sure you have planned correctly: Attempt the paper in a smart manner. Some types of questions, such as Reading Comprehension and Analytical Reasoning may require your mind to concentrate intensely and without too much time pressure. Do not leave such types of questions for the end when you are likely to be mentally tired and exhausted.
- Accuracy: Accuracy is of paramount importance in business school entrance exams. This is because most exams have negative marking for incorrect answers. Candidates should attempt to have accuracy levels of close to 80 percent overall.
Strategies for questions
- Use the answer choices for solving some questions. Some questions in the Quantitative Ability section can be solved by using the various answer options -- always watch out for these.
- Locate the sitters: Every section has some fairly easy, straightforward questions that are termed as 'sitters'. If you have practiced regularly, you will find these easy to solve. Look out for these while attempting the paper-it is here that the initial scan of the examination question paper before you start attempting it should help.
- Make sure you do the questions that give the maximum return for your time: You have to spend whatever time you have on hand in the most profitable manner possible. This may mean doing the questions that take the least time to solve individually or doing sets of 'linked questions' or caselets. While solving these may take time, you get the answers to a set of 3-4 questions and hence more marks once the problem is solved.
- Watch out very carefully for the 'speed breaker' questions in the CAT exam. Such questions can end up wasting your time as they may take too long to solve.
- Questions on Vocabulary, GK/ Current Affairs: Make sure you attempt the questions on Vocabulary and General/ Business Awareness or Current Affairs (for the examinations that have such questions like MAT, SNAP etc) as these questions take the least time to solve individually. It should not take you more than 10 seconds to do each individual question on General Awareness -- either you know the answer or you don't, you do not have to solve anything!
~ Make sure you are marking the answers on your OMR sheet periodically while solving the questions. If you leave this for the end when there is no time left, you may make a mistake and circle the wrong option even though you have marked the correct answer on your question booklet!
~ Make sure that all the circles you make are made properly -- circles must be darkened completely and there should be no stray pencil or pen marks on your OMR sheet.
The author is an MBA from IIM Calcutta and is employed with a management consultancy. He is also a visiting faculty with MBA coaching centres in New Delhi [Images] and a freelance writer on travel and management related issues.
Visit rediff.com for the CAT answer key and post-CAT analyses chats on Sunday, November 16. Stay tuned for announcements on chats, analysis and cut-off details!