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'Don't treat CAT preparation like a gym membership'

Last updated on: November 1, 2011 15:21 IST

'Don't treat CAT preparation like a gym membership'

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In two online chats with readers on October 24 and 31 respectively, experts Naveenan Ramachandran, Rajesh Balasubramaniam and KS Baskar from 2IIM addressed reader queries related to cracking CAT 2011 and how to prepare oneself for the Indian Institutes of Management. For those who missed the live chats, here are the combined unedited transcripts.


anushak asked, hello, i am weak in mathematics. what should i do to improve my score in Quant section? what problems should i practice now? in the new pattern, is there a possibility that i can solve verbal section first?

Naveenan answers,
Hi Anushak ... There is no way that you can solve the verbal section first ... Concentrate on number theory, set theory, functions and inequalities ... More importantly, get a hang of the approach when these topics are intermingled ... Given the short time that you have, I think you will get the maximum benefit if you work on these topics.
red asked, i wanna giv my best shot n crack cat2011 , when to start my studies??

Naveenan answers,
Hi Red ... I suppose you meant CAT 2012. There is a saying that "the best time to start a good thing is NOW" ... I am not sure if you are working or studying. Whatsoever, it might be; a 1 year's preparation with a consistent 2 to 3 hours spent with your books every day will help you bell the CAT ... Practice is the key here. All the best.
arunoday asked, hi navin dont you think it is difficult to crack CAT while working? how much time should i spend in a day to crack CAT? i will have to apply for leave in advance. but what if i dont crack?
Naveenan answers, Hi Arunoday ... In my class at IIM - A, a lot more than half the class was working when they were preparing for CAT. It just requires 2 to 3 hours of practice a day and a little more on weekends. I am sure all professions would allow this amount of leeway ... Take about a fortnight or 3 weeks of leave in September or October ... I do not think an extended leave from work is necessary ... Take it up as a challenge - this is a test to prove your ability to multitask ... Prove your mettle at it. All the best.
rajesh says, Hi Arunoday, I think Naveenan has covered pretty much everything. Just to add my two cents. It is definitely possible to give CAT even as a working person. But the one most important thing for working people to keep at it. Working people start with a lot of enthusiasm, create a grand plan and then tend to let things cool. Remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint. Show your seriousness by keeping at it. Dont treat CAT preparation like a gym membership :)

govind asked, sir which i am having three year experiance in marketing i am looking to attempt exam of cat
rajesh answers, Hi Govind, I dont get your question. What do you want to know exactly?
SATYARTHA asked, sir can u tell me the type of DI questions that came this year..I mean were they too calculative???

rajesh answers,
Satyartha: Calculation-intensive questions are definitely there. The DI questions definitely test the ability to do number-crunching
Naveenan answers, Out of the three sets of DI questions; you can almost always expect one set to be calculation intensive ... The others would be straight - forward ... But, we trust that none would require calculations which are too lengthy.
cheena asked, Hi,Should i read questions first and then the paragraph for reading comprehension?Will it be difficult in computer test as i need to go back and forth?

rajesh answers,
The paragraphs are not too long, and the questions are usually not purely fact-based. So, I would recommend going through the passage. It is difficult to answer quesitons asking for "best title", tone of passage etc without reading the entire passage. And one does not have to scroll too much in the RC passage. At best, the passages for a paragraph beyond the first screen
SATYARTHA asked, sir according to u what should be the good score in the two sections individually?

rajesh answers,
This obviously varies a little from session to session. In my view, in an average section a score of around 20 in each section should put you in the 99th percentile zone. It could be 18, 22 in one session and 23, 17 in the next. But 20-20 should be a reasonable benchmark
Naveenan answers, Hi Satyartha ... A very tough question to be able to get a grip on ... I will take my best shot ... Accuracy is the key here ... Rather than saying that "I will do 27 questions and get 3 wrong"; I think you are better off doing just 24 questions and getting them all right. Overall, I (only a personal opinion) believe that getting that getting 24 + questions right in each of the sections (and no wrongs or max 1 wrong) should land you in 95+ percentile assuring you a call from the IIMs. All the best.
nutcrack asked, does CAT provide an online calculator as mentioned? i cracked in 2005

Naveenan answers,
Hi Nutcrack ... CAT does not provide an online calculator (unlike GRE does in its newest avatar). No calculators of any time allowed. All the best.
IIM asked, Sir, According to you what is the best way to prepare for CAT, attend some coaching classes or buy some CAT books and do self preperation?

Naveenan answers,
Hi IIM, A very subjective question and I am afraid I will have some biases here ! I think you should ask yourself the questions (1) How self - motivated a person am I? (2) How much guidance will I require above and beyond what is given in the books? (3) How much is a peer study group important for me? (4) How will I gain access to mock tests in the format that the IIMs conduct them?. I think these questions will help you decide. All the best !
rajesh answers, Good to have attend some coaching class. This helps you cover all areas well and brings in some discipline into preparation. Having said that, there is NOTHING that is so difficult in CAT that self-preparation will not do. If you are preparing on your own, it is that much harder to maintain a schedule and discipline. CAT preparation is about maintaining preparation intensity for a long time. That could be easier if you join some coaching classes
Sidd asked, Quant is one of my weaker areas...is it possible to cover that up with a strong DI performance?

rajesh answers,
Hi Sidd, Not that easy to cover-up with DI performance. At best DI will be one-third of the maths section. And importantly, DI questions could be more time-consuming than quant questions. You definitely need to have reasonable strength in quant as well
cheena asked, i hav eight years of experience .Should I try CAT or do MBA programs designed for professionals?

Naveenan answers,
Hi Cheena ... With 8 years of experience, I think you might be the eldest in any of the two year programs ... You are better off in a program designed for professionals. These programs are shorter in duration as well - saving you a year. I remember that in my class at Ahmedabad - I was one of the eldest in the batch - given that I had 4 years of experience by then. All the best.
anjali asked, should i attempt a qn in VA if i am not able to decide btw 2 options in FIB/sentence correction?

Naveenan answers,
Hi Anjali ... I think it is better to avoid such questions where you are not able to decide ... They have to be attended only in the remote situation that you have a lot of time in your hand to analyze the options and you _have_ to attend it in the interest of meeting the minimum number of questions. All the best.
Illustration: Dominic Xavier



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'Try to keep your mind cool'

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rajeshwari asked,
hi,iam very much tensed about CAT exam . plz tel me how to come out from stress and depression

rajesh answers,
Hi Rajeshwari, I will give a list of what not to do. Dont go on preparing till the last minute. Dont prepare till 1 am the day before the exam Do not take a series of mock CATs in the last 3 days before your CAT Do not over-analyze the gossip/newsflow reagarding CAT (and this probaly includes this chat) Do not drink 2 rounds of red-bull, double espresso before your CAT. Try to maintain as much of a normal schedule as possible. Spend the evening before CAT with friends/family. Reach the center early and make sure your Id, bike/car etc are in order
Naveenan answers, Yes Rajeshwari ... I second Rajesh with what he mentioned ... Try to keep your mind cool - it is very important to be calm during the process. CAT is just like any standardized test. It is not a measure of your intelligence level. Take it easy. Keep your cool.
dasd asked, i have 5 years experience. Is it better to opt for 1 year mba ir 2 year mba . Please advise

rajesh answers,
Hi dasd, with 5 years of experience, you are probably bang in the middle of the two categories. Anyone with less than 3 years exp, it is better to do a 2-year MBA. With more than 6-7 years, 1-year course is best. I would recommend that you keep your options open and go for both. A 2-year MBA from IIm A,B, C would be better than a 1-year course at ISB which in turn could be better than a 2-year course at TAPMI (say).
abj asked, hi,my biggest weakness is speed in the quant section. what can i do to improve that?
Naveenan answers, Hi Abj ... Considering the very little time that we have left; please concentrate on the accuracy than on the number of questions covered. You are better off answering 20 questions right rather than answering 21 right and 4 wrong. As a drill, perhaps you can start the day by writing down multiplication tables and subconsciously repeating them whenever you can. Bring the focus to accuracy.
abj asked, hi, traditionally the original 7 IIMs have accepted students around 99 percentile. what could be the minimum percentile requirement this year?
rajesh answers, Hi abj, IT is likely to be at arount eh same level. Around 2,00,000 + people take the CAT ervey year. The top 7 IIMs will have about 1000-1300 seats for open quota, that means roughly 0.5% of applicants. So, the top 1% could get calls. Dont think this number will change dramatically.
dasd asked, I am planning for a one yr mba from xlri how would it compare to a 2 year mba from MDI ... Experience 5 years

rajesh answers,
I would prefer to stay away from direct comparisons. The XLRI 1 year course has got an excellent reputation, and MDI has also done really well in the past few years. Both should be in the top 15-20 in the country. There is not much to choose between the two. All the best. There are also plenty of institutes that offer quality correspondence material for CAT. You can always pick up the material and start preparation on your own
abj asked, thanks naveenan... i have focussed more on accuracy in the mock tests. but if i want to let's say increase my attempts to 20 from 15 then what should i do?

Naveenan answers,
Collect the pool of questions from the mocks that you were not able to do ... Take a go at them in a timed test environment ... Try to learn as to how you should have looked at them in order to complete them in the stipulated time. In fact, you should analyze the 15 questions that you got right also ... Are you spending more time on them than you should? Is it a formula issue? Is it a calculation issue? Those are some questions you should ask yourself. Thanks.
dasd asked, wat types of logical reasoning questions can be expected ?

rajesh answers,
4 people - Engineer, doctor, painter, builder drive 4 cars santro, i10, ford ikon, inoova. live in blue, green, yellow, pink houses. the person who drives santro does not stay in the pink houe, etc etc This type is common
rajesh asked, traditional coaching available for IIMs?

Naveenan answers,
Hi Rajesh ... Based on your questions, I think you are concerned about the availability of infrastructure in your town ... I am afraid you should not be ascribing so much importance to them ... If you really think that you have it in you and more importantly, if you are willing to work towards it given the opportunities available to you, I am sure you will be able to bell the CAT. A lot of my batchmates hailed from small villages in the nook and corner of India. All the best !
naren asked, Sir, Planning for MBA from ICFAI... I am working professional... course is 24 month.,,has it got value...by for now...i know only ICFAi only to give MBA degreee..all others give PGDBM..plz suggest..

Naveenan answers,
Hi ... We may not be able to pass judgments about educational institutions. Having said that, whether a institution calls its program PGDM or MBA or PGP depends on its status as an university and whether the university that it is a member of has recognized that course. The name of the program hardly matters. What is more important is its standing in the industry, the experience of the professors, the intellectual level of the students who make it to the school, the opportunities available immediately upon passing out of the institution etc. All the best !
rajesh asked, sir according to u best way of preparation for cat?

Naveenan answers,
1. Clear the fundamentals - whether it is number theory or english grammar. (2) Stick to the topic list issued by catiim.in; (3) Practice for 2 hours a day (4) Start practicing a mixed bag of questions 3 months into the process (5) round off the preparation by taking mocks in the last 4 months (6) condition the mind to this rigmarole by taking a healthy 20+ mock CATs. Crack the exam.
rajesh answers, Best plan. Start early, prepare from very basics. For quants, solve plenty of questions. For verbal - READ A LOT. There is no substitute for this. Most importantly, maintain discipline. Do not let go of the preparation plan after 2 months ot 3 months
Illustration:Uttam Ghosh


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'Do not make the mistake of shying away from too many questions'

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mindovermatters asked,
hello sir, could you tell me how difficult the quant problems were this year? which chapters should i focus on? how many hours to study in a day?

Naveenan answers,
Hi ... I am not sure whether you are asking with CAT 2011 in mind or with CAT 2012 in mind. Number Theory, Set Theory, Geometry were some of the areas which were tested more often than others. Number Theory has a great leverage - in that if you completely thorough with it, a lot of other topics will fall in place. All the best.
hi asked, QA,DI,LR & VA which section was most difficult? Could you please summarise about each section in a line?

K S Baskar answers,
QA average level of difficulty. If you know your basics and have solved enough questions, it should be sufficient. DI - calculation intensive in some cases Verbal - If you are used to prolific reading, this section should be easy - short term prep will not really help in this section.
crackcat asked, kindly advise where i can get free mock papers and how many mock papers to practice in a day?

K S Baskar answers,
Do not take more than 1 mock test a day. The key to success is in analyzing the one paper that you take a day properly. Identify areas that need revisit or concept clarity based on individual question analysis before you take the next test.
hi asked, Please tell which section was most difficult?

K S Baskar answers,
It is a function of whether you are basically stronger in quant or in verbal.
mindovermatters asked, i am appearing for CAT 2011 but since i am not too confident i may appear in 2012 as well. pls advice

Naveenan answers,
Please give your best shot without planning CAT 2012 at this stage. That can wait ... I think your only focus ought to be on achieving the best score that you can get in CAT 2011. Thanks.
sumit asked, hello sir my QA+DI part is good but my i not so much confident about my VA so this year is it possible to clear sec-2 cut-off by attempting LR completely and and some few of VA ???

Naveenan answers,
Hi Sumit, Good to know about QA + DI strength. Yes - you ought to play by your strengths - Make sure that you completely ace the LR questions (˜ 9 or 10 of them) and do your best in the remaining 20 - idea is to clear the cut - offs. Pls do not make the mistake of shying away from too many questions. Remember that cut-offs matter the most. How you reached it - does not really matter.
a asked, approximately how many questions should be correct/attempted in each section for a >98%?

K S Baskar answers,
Quant DI about 20 to 22 correct. Verbal LR about 22 correct should get you 98+ percentile
sumit asked, hello sir for practicing LR which source should I refer, please specify some online site or material because that would be easier to obtain???

Naveenan answers,
The issue with free online sources would be that they may not have been updated for the most recent CAT pattern. I might also be a little biased here - I believe our collection on the website to be pretty decent.
asha asked, sir pls.advise which is most difficult section?

Naveenan answers,
Hi Asha, It depends a lot on your strength or weakness. Probably, we could approach it in the light that with respect to the section 1; there is hardly any ambiguity in the answer choices. In verbal, you might end up not being sure of certain answers due to the nature of the subject. Wish you all the best.
anushak asked, what is the average score one requires to get into IIMs? how many questions should i attempt in every section?

K S Baskar answers,
Open Category students require over 99 percentile in the CAT to get a shortlist from some of the IIMs. However, remember that CAT is an important parameter - but not the only criteria. Your previous academic record, work ex etc count. To get a 99 percentile plus score you need to attempt 22 plus questions in Quant + DI and about 24 questions in Verbal with most of them being correct.


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'Solve only the really easy questions in the first go'

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DINESH asked,
NAVEEN & BASKAR, CAN U PLEASE GIVE FEW MANTRAS TO SUCCEED IN CAT ANY TIME?

Naveenan answers,
Practice. Practice. Practice. There is no way somebody can win in F1 if he is not too comfortably driving a Maruti 800. Get comfortable in the basics. Know your formulae inside out. Know the reason why the formulae work. Develop the habit of reading (active reading - not passive). These disciplines developed over a period of time should see you through. All the best.
Rajib asked, Hi sir, Thank u very much for giving such imp suggestion in the peak hours My query is that how to score good marks in the english like verbal reasoning,LR comprehension section.

K S Baskar answers,
Fact is you cannot do anything in a short while to improve your RC skills. If you are used to reading a lot, you will find RC easy. Else it is quite tedious. However, other parts of the verbal section such as Sentence Correction, Para Jumbling and of course the LR section can be cracked with systematic practice in a short span.
Yogesh asked, Please suggest scores to achieve in each section to get a 98%+

Naveenan answers,
Hi Yogesh ... As mentioned in one of the previous questions - to get a strong 98%-ile plus score you need to attempt 22 plus questions in Quant + DI and about 24 questions in Verbal with most of them being correct.
arvindh asked, Sir what is the best way to practice DI problems so confusing how to get accurate answers?

Naveenan answers,
Many students spend a lot of time going round in circle. Pause before jumping at the questions. Organize your thoughts into two groups. (1) What is the information given (2) What has been asked. Once you have done this, figure out the route to arrive at group 2 based on info in group 1. You might take a minute or so in this rumination - But, I have seen that the accuracy goes up if one does this pre-work. All the best.
Ronn asked, Can you please mention the tentative sectional scores required to have > 98%ile

Naveenan answers,
Hi Ronn ... As mentioned in one of the previous questions - to get a strong 98%-ile plus score you need to attempt 22 plus questions in Quant + DI and about 24 questions in Verbal with most of them being correct.
sumit asked, hello sir do you have free updated sample test paper or collection of LR , DI question Or could you please send it because that would be very helpful for CAT 2011 aspirants... please do the needful work..

Naveenan answers,
Hi Sumit ... They have been updated at www.2iim.com Please mail Rajesh@2iim.com for further directives on the question bank. Thanks.
nimi asked, sir, how should i prepare for personal interview ?

K S Baskar answers,
PI questions can be broken down into 3 major categories 1. About you 2. About your subject knowledge 3. About your general awareness The first part is crucial. Work on questions such as a. Tell us something about yourself b. What are your career goals or where do you see yourself 5 or 10 years from now c. Why an MBA? d. What specialization? e. Why MBA now? f. Why this school You have to provide convincing answers to these questions. Primarily get clarity on your career goals and then explain how this MBA fits into that career goal. 2. Revise your subject basics. If you are an engineer, know how some core concepts in your specialization. For instance, you cannot be an electrical engineer and not know the difference between a single phase and 3 phase motor - important - but comes second in deciding your candidacy to the first set of questions. 3. Your awareness about matters relating to economics, politics, etc. Have an opinion and justify it with reason. The opinion is not as important as the jsstification. Reading extensively will help - reading should include newspapers and economist kind of magazines will help.
PKM asked, I HAVE DONE A TOTAL OF 48 QUESTIONS. WHATS THE CHANCES?

Naveenan answers,
Hi PKM, Of course - a lot depends on the accuracy. If you are sure that _all_ of them are right; and if you have done 24 questions from each of the sections; you could be fairly certain of getting calls for interviews.
Ronn asked, Since you are mentioning a target of 22-23 questions from each section,could you also mention the accuracy needed?

Naveenan answers,
Ronn ... We are talking about almost 100% accuracy ... Assuming there is 1 point for each wrong answer and -1/3 for each right answer; it translates to a loss of 4/3 marks if you miss out on even one question. It can always be argued that somebody can write 25 questions and afford to go wrong in 3 questions - but, nobody really knows the extent of the penalty as a proportion of the award. Hence, there is not much room for error. Thanks.
druid asked, Sir, when attempting the questions for QA/DI would it be a good idea to scan through the 30 Qs for the sitters? If so, how much time do you think one should typically spend on the scan, if I am to include attempt of the sitters too?

K S Baskar answers,
You will end up wasting 2 or 3 minutes in scanning. When you look at q1 - see if it is easy enough for you solve - if so go ahead. else click on mark and move on. Solve only the really easy questions in the first go. If you feel that a question could slow you down, do not attempt it initially. Thats the optimal approach.
Raj asked, Hello Sir! Do you need consistent good grades (above 70%) for 10th, 12th and graduation to get into IIM?

K S Baskar answers,
IIM A, and B are known to place a lot of emphasis on previous acads. However, IIMs may not place such a big emphasis on previous academic record.
pramodkumar asked, what should be the strategy while revising for cat in last week. I have CAT in 1 week

Naveenan answers,
Taking more than 3 mocks is not going to be effective. Take a mock - analyze the result - identify your weak area - that is most probably the only low hanging fruit that can be grabbed - work on the weak area before you repeat the process. Overall, I think you should stay calm and cool over the next week without paying too much heed to the plethora of last-minute-tips that are suggested by every other person. Keep your cool. May the asset that you built over the last several months play itself out on the day of your CAT exam. All the best.
jam asked, hello sir i wanted some gud book to refer for cat exams so kindly help me out

K S Baskar answers,
1. For the quant section start getting your basics in place. CBSE 7 to 10th standard math books are a great place to start. 2. Verbal - improve your reading habits - both in terms of number of topics that you read and the variety of topics. A book such as Raymond Murphy will help you with sentence correction. 3. DI - you will need help from some CAT prep books or study material.
JIGS asked, CAN I DO MBA AFTER MY BBA

Naveenan answers,
Yes - if you have met the criteria mentioned in catiim.in All the best.
Raj asked, Thanks for your reply Sir! I am doing graduation from IGNOU...Would I fail to get into IIM because of distance learning...Please suggest and guide me..Thanks!

K S Baskar answers,
If your grades are good you should not worry about whether it was from a full time college or a distance education program.


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