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CAT: It's not rocket science!
Aashish Sood
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September 29, 2008

With a little over a month 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, Aashish Sood, a student at IIM Lucknow (Batch 2007-09), shares his experiences.

The only way to prepare for CAT is to study at least 10 hours a day; all seven days a week, join as many coaching classes as you can and practice all the mock tests that you can lay your hands upon. That is a sure shot formula for success at CAT.

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If anyone has told you the same thing then I suggest that you react to it as you would to someone telling you that earth is square. IGNORE IT!

For the uninitiated, CAT is the guru of all the management exams in India. Cracking CAT paves your way to the next phase of admission process for getting into an IIM. Not only IIMs, several other top institutes subscribe to CAT such as MDI, S P Jain, etc.

Prima facie, there is no sure shot way of cracking CAT. The only thing that can ensure that you crack CAT is -- YOU. Unlike the various exams for entry to graduation courses, the "syllabus" for CAT is very basic. It is your application of the concepts that makes you a winner. Unlike these exams, you do not have to mug up the formulae and revise and re-revise the applications for CAT.

The concepts in CAT are not rocket science. They are concepts that you learned during your schooling and form the basis of your advanced studies. Where CAT, and other such post graduation exams, differs is that it actually tests how well you can withstand the pressure of those two/ two and a half hours, how well you are able to do within a fixed time limit and how well you are able to make choices under pressure.

While preparing for CAT, one common mistake that most students make is to get into a herd mentality. Doing something just because the rest of your friends are doing it is never a wise move. What they practice may be totally different from what you need to improve upon. You should know what suits you best. Hence, bear in mind that you have to make your own decisions, regardless of how different they may seem from the ones that your friends are making.

Further, studies with any coaching institute would take you only that far. They are teaching thousands of students with the same curriculum. Hence, any differentiating factor in your performance would need to be initiated by you.

For people with comparatively poor vocabulary and comprehension skills, this would an ideal time to pick up the newspaper that you didn't bother to look at during your graduation; and I mean newspaper with big, wordy articles in them and not just sports or gossip columns. Start reading novels to build up your reading speed.

For the people who are not very good in the quantitative skills, it is high time to google and search for relevant material on the net (trust me, there is a lot of material available online). Form study groups with your friends and share material among yourselves. The sole key to cracking CAT is practice and lots of practice. With repeated practice, you can gain enough experience to help you bell the CAT.

In my case, I had earlier joined a premier coaching institute for their regular coaching sessions around January 2004. When I decided to attempt CAT 2006, I was working for over one year. I realised that due to work I would not get (nor probably would require) to join a regular course of any coaching institute. Thereby, I decided to join the test series for two prominent coaching institutes in Delhi [Images]. These helped immensely in gaining exposure to different styles of questions and facing the uncertainty commonly associated with CAT.

One very important thing associated with mock test series' is their analysis later on. It was on this front that I feel that I could have gained substantially higher than what I did. The mock CATs should be taken very seriously and be approached with the same manner in which you intend to approach the real paper.

Further, merely attempting a mock CAT is not important. What is important is what lies ahead -- how you treat the results of that mock test. Every test should be subjected to a rigorous analysis of how you fared in it, what went wrong, what went right, where and why?

You should analyse what your strong and weak areas are and how you should work on developing each one of them. With each question that you could not attempt in the mock test, more of similar questions should be attempted to help familiarise with pattern of similar questions.

For every wrong question, you should analyse what went wrong with the question and how you can work towards correcting the fault.

Finally to D-day, when it is time for your year-long efforts to culminate, it is your performance during those 2-2.5 hours which really decides whether you crack CAT or not. It is immense pressure and you may feel that it may impact your future. But do not let it take a toll on your performance.

At this point, I would emphasise that it is very important for you to be at your coolest on the day of your CAT exam. If possible, take the week before CAT off. Relax. Do all the things that you feel would help calm you. Watch a movie. Try to be in a positive state of mind before the exam. Remember, a relaxed mind can think much better than a stressed mind.

On a different note, do not make CAT your dream of a life. Keep on reminding yourself that CAT is not the only thing in the entire universe. If, by any chance, you are not able to crack CAT then do not fret too much about it. It is not the end of the world. There are still a lot of other options just around the corner -- and there is always a next time!

Ending with a big best of luck to all the CAT aspirants!

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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