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Rediff.com  » Getahead » Want to study at a top B-school? Read this

Want to study at a top B-school? Read this

August 30, 2018 08:50 IST

The Common Admission Test is scheduled November 25, 2018.
Here's a three-month strategy to crack the exam and get admitted into a top business school.

How to crack the CAT in 3 months

p style="text-align: right;">Photograph: Kind courtesy Pixabay.com

By now, MBA aspirants may have warmed up for their preparation of the Common Admission Test 2018 as the most competitive exam is around the corner. 

CAT scheduled for November 25, 2018.

Candidates are left with approximately three months to take the test.

Although, three months are a substantial amount of time to devote to CAT 2018; for that matter any entrance examination.

Ideal planning should include 7-15 hours a week studying for the exam.

Aseem Garg, a working professional at ISRO bagged a seat in IIM Calcutta scoring 99.97 percentile in CAT 2017.

His unwavering focus and smart work for three months helped him to crack the tough nut!

He comments, “People say there is no substitute for hard work and I completely agree with this with a little modification of making it smart hard work. There were times when I felt that three months is too less a time to prepare for an exam like CAT which many people are trying for years. I had a belief that the exam is not so tough, if I can come up with the right strategy.”

Know the exam pattern 

To begin with CAT preparation, one should be thoroughly aware of the CAT exam pattern and syllabus.

As IIMs do not release the official syllabus for CAT, the previous years’ question papers act as the syllabus of the same.

So, it is imperative that one should reach the examination hall only after solving at least 10 years’ CAT papers.

Sectional Preparation

CAT 2018 is not a regular exam, but an aptitude test where one should have absolute clarity on the mathematical and verbal concepts and know the art of applying the same.

Hence, memorising study materials will do no good!

Candidates need to identify one’s own strengths and weaknesses which would, in turn, help in effective planning and balancing their focus on the required section/s and topic/s.

Verbal and Reading Comprehension (VA-RC)

Gautam Puri, vice chairman and MD, Career Launcher opines, "Practice RC sets of the commonly asked genres and try to read articles and books online to get comfortable with reading lengthy passages on the screen. Practice solving the verbal logic questions through selection and elimination method."

For faring well, one can indulge in reading two to three editorials/opinions from The Hindu, Livemint website, Business World on a regular basis.

Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning (DI-LR)

It is not a mandate to solve all sets.

On the day of test, candidates can afford to just pick the ones they are most comfortable with.

However, regular practice would help aspirants identify which sets are suitable for them.

Practicing sets related to Logical Reasoning based on Data Interpretation sets will be useful as they carry more weightage as per the previous year’s exam pattern.

Quantitative Ability

Manek Daruvala, director, T.I.M.E. comments, "Students should have a clear understanding of their comfort level in all Quantitative Ability topics. Mock-CAT performances should be analysed at the topic level. The areas where the students have been scoring below par repeatedly and the areas where the scores have been fluctuating should be the areas of focus."

Choosing the right books

The overabundance of CAT preparatory books at times can leave an aspirant bewildered.

The best way to select books that can be suggested is to follow the ones the experts and toppers refer to; in other words to purchase or obtain the tried and tested resources.

Shikhar Sachdeva, 99.98 percentiler of CAT 2017 comments, "Classroom coaching is not necessary for CAT as it takes you to a certain level but the end of the day, practice and self-motivation are the keys of success."

Books for D-ILR

  • How to prepare for Logical Reasoning for the CAT by Arun Sharma (Tata McGraw Hill)
  • How to prepare for Data Interpretation for the CAT by Arun Sharma (Tata McGraw Hill)

Books for QA 

  • Quantitative Aptitude for Competitive Examinations by Abhijit Guha (Tata McGraw-Hill) has a comprehensive step-by-step problem-solving guide.
  • Arun Sharma’s How to prepare for Quantitative Ability for CAT, published by Tata McGraw Hill.

Books for VA-RC

  • Norman Lewis’ Word Power Made Easy.
  • How to Prepare for the Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension for the CAT by Arun Sharma and Meenakshi Upadhyay (Tata McGraw-Hill). This is a workbook with practice questions and tips based on previous CAT papers.

Solving CAT Mock tests with detailed analysis

After learning the concepts, the immediate step is to understand the navigation system and start taking the mock test.

Hitesh Lohani, currently a student of FMS Delhi and 99.91 percentiler of CAT 2017 comments, “One thing I was doing consistently which most of the aspirants don’t do only to regret later -- is giving mock tests.”

The mock tests capture immense importance as they are crucial in improving one’s speed, accuracy and getting used to the three hours so as to use it effectively on the day of test.

Initially, prospective test takers can take up sectional mocks and then turn to full tests for a comprehensive preparation.

A student of IIM Calcutta, Ankit Gupta scored 99.91 percentile in CAT 2017 and his piece of advice for future candidates is, “Jot down the learnings in a notebook after each mock test and revise them daily.”

This way one can avoid the same mistake in other mock tests and the final CAT examination.

Time Management

Time Management is one of the vital parameters for the D-Day as scoring depends much on how efficiently allotted time has been utilised.

As per CAT syllabus, it comprises of three timed sections, namely, Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension (60 minutes), Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning (60 minutes), and Quantitative Ability (60 minutes).

Now, one has to decide how to spend the time in the most lucrative manner. 

  • Candidates can try solving the Non-MCQ questions of interest first; then continue with the ‘difficult’ Non-MCQs. As the Non MCQ questions do not encounter negative marking this will ease the built-up tension in aspirants.
  • Next step will be to pick the regular MCQs; candidates should follow similar norm; start with the easier ones and end with the questions demanding more time. This will enable one to save time for revision and boost one’s confidence. It is important for test takers to concentrate more on the correct answers rather than the number of questions attempted.
  • It should be noted that even candidates who have put their best foot forward during the CAT preparation would require 3-4 minutes to answer each question accurately.

Chhavi Gupta, one of the two women toppers securing 100 percentile in CAT 2017 and currently pursuing PGDM in IIM Ahmedabad, says, “Selection of the questions was the first thing I indulged in and devoted five to seven minutes for doing the same.

"I had answered 24 questions in RC and spent 42 to 45 minutes as my accuracy level was very high. In general, the accuracy in VA questions was low, so for rest of the VA questions (Jumbled sentences and Fill in the Blanks), I spent nearly 15 to 20 minutes."

"For the Quantitative Ability section, I gave 30 minutes each to the two sets of 17 questions.”

Gain experience from toppers 

It might apparently sound irrelevant, however, it is one of the most effective ways to gain experience without appearing in the exam even for once!

Read as many CAT topper interviews as possible to know how they tackled questions, managed their time efficiently, methods of selecting questions, preparation strategy etc.

The toppers talk about the books and study materials they have referred to, they even narrate their exam day strategy which often helps the future aspirants.

Some go to an extent of revealing their secret techniques for their illustrious success.


Dear readers, have you cracked the CAT?

How much did you score?

How did you prepare? What was your strategy?

Share your tips, suggestions and advice with our readers.

E-mail us your tips to getahead@rediff.co.in (CAT Tips) along with your NAME, AGE, LOCATION and photograph if possible. We'll feature the best ones in Rediff.com

Ranjini Basu

Careers360 is a complete education and career magazine offering campus and course reviews, career features, scholarships, expert advisories, entrance exam preparation & solved papers, admission alerts and more.