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CAT: 'There is no shortcut to success'
Rahul Sanghvi
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September 02, 2008

With a little over two months to go for CAT 2008, the pressure on B-school aspirants is mounting. Strategising, mock CATs, time management -- each have their own importance and value when it comes to making your CAT attempt meaningful.

To help test-takers, we asked students who have taken the CAT to share their tips and tricks. Here, Rahul Sanghvi, IIML Batch 2008-10, shares how he went about his CAT prep.

CAT, is one of the most sought after tests in the country and the IIMs (the conducting body), the most sought after B-schools in the country (or even the world). The word CAT reminds me of the third Sunday of November (November 18 in my case) when lakhs of students set out to crack this test in order to be able to fulfill their dream of being a part of one of the six(now seven) IIMs.

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I too was one of those with the dream of landing up in an IIM one day. That was the sole driving force for when I went to take the CAT. Hard work coupled with a little bit of luck, that is what is needed to get into the IIM. At least that was what was needed for me to reach where I am today -- IIM Lucknow.

But the journey to where I am started around a year back. Cracking CAT is not just about luck. That is a very small part of it. What matters most is hard work, perseverance and the zeal to ace the CAT. There is no shortcut to success. You need to work hard and practice hard if you want to be able to score well.

But how does one prepare for the CAT? According to me there is no set way or methodology to prepare for it. It is a very subjective thing. The way to prepare or study differs from one individual to the other. So there is no standard framework or rule which should be followed. I will just discuss the way I approached CAT, my strategies to crack it and some mistakes I made which could have been avoided.

First and foremost one needs to identify one's strengths and weaknesses in Quantitative Ability, Verbal Ability and Data Interpretation. Once that is done, the next thing to be tackled is time allocation. One needs to devote more time to the section s/he feels s/he has difficulty in. That does not mean that the other two sections should be neglected. Those too should be given importance; but you should make sure you get close to perfect in your strong section, so that it can compensate for the not-so-strong sections.

Regular practice is what is needed. Last minute preparations will not help you crack CAT. Those who spread out their preparation throughout the year rather than the last few months are the ones who will most probably crack the exam.

Quantitative Ability
This is a section that demands a lot of practice. You can never be perfect in this section. So the more you practice and try out different types of sums, the lower the chances of messing up on the final day. Thus it is advisable that you solve as many different types of sums from different class notes or some standard books before you take CAT.

A word of caution: Please do not read the sums (as in first the sum and then its solution). It does not serve any purpose. It is only when you solve the sums yourself that you come to know where you went wrong or where you need to put in more attention.

I personally concentrated a lot on this section. Initially I too made the mistake of reading through the sums (all engineers have this habit, right?) , but I very soon realised my mistake. Thus I got down to practicing a lot of sums. I not only solved class sheets from my coaching institute but also solved class notes of other institutes. One more thing, the Quantitative Aptitude book by Arun Sharma is very helpful. The level 2 and 3 sums in this book are really good.

Data Interpretation
I personally found this section very interesting. The sums here are very varied, ranging from Data Interpretation to Logical Reasoning. The DI section was always my strength. The best part according to me is Logical Reasoning. I generally gave preference to all LR questions over mathematical DI questions.

Family Tree type of problems particularly really interested me. Since I always felt confident while attempting DI questions, I tried to maximise my attempts in this section in the minimum time. The time I saved here, I generally gave to the Verbal Section. For example in CAT 2007, I just gave 20 minutes to this section and still managed to 99.7 percent in DI.

Verbal Ability
The Verbal section had always been my weak point. I was never comfortable solving those long and boring Reading Comprehensions. Even while preparing at home, I always used to neglect this section. I would hardly practice any RCs.
However, as the Mock CATs started, in the initial few tests I realised that, I was struggling to clear the cut-offs in this section. I would comfortably clear the sectional cut-offs in Quant and DI while fail to do so in verbal. That's when I actually started to take this section more seriously. I did a lot of RCs at home. But by this time, it was already too late. By doing all this, I just managed to clear the cut-offs but could never score well in this section due to which my overall percentile always suffered. This also cost me my IIM A call as I failed to clear their Verbal percentile by a mere 0.8 percent.

To conclude, I would just like to say that practice is the only way you can ace CAT. Also last minute preparation does not really help. Never neglect the section you find difficult or boring to solve. On the contrary, concentrate more on these sections so that you do not face problems like I did.

I was lucky to have scraped through without much damage by neglecting the Verbal Section. But not everyone can be as lucky, so why take a chance?

Finally I would like to say, CAT is not "rocket science", it is just another exam. If I can crack it, why can't you?

Have you aced the CAT? Do you have tips that could help students improve their scores or stress-busting strategies to beat pre-CAT nerves? Send in your advice to and we'll publish your strategies right here on

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