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Tips to crack CAT 2011 and other b-school exams

Last updated on: September 26, 2011 15:14 IST

Tips to crack CAT 2011 and other b-school exams

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In two chats with readers on September 15 and 23, Sidharth Balakrishna, an IIM Calcutta alumnus and adjunct faculty member at leading b-schools across the country, addressed queries related to cracking CAT 2011 and other b-school entrance exams. For those of you who missed it, here is a combination of the two transcripts:


DV:Dear Sir, My Marks have been going up and down....Sometimes I score a 95 in maths and then it comes to 55 in next ..Similiar pattern with English..Kindly advise..

Sidharth Balakrishna:That may be due to the difference in difficulty level of tests and the nature of questions Analyze carefully the tests in which you scored less-which are the kind of questions that appeared which you couldnt solve (ex-Geometry or Algebra etc) and work on those areas accordingly


DV:Ok I am an NIT grad with 4 years of work ex...If CAT does not fall in place would it be better to go for GMAT the next year sir.. This is my first time prparing but my Percentilers have been highly inconsistent acc to CL...

Sidharth Balakrishna:Yes, you can try for GMAT. but also give CAT another shot as there are some similarities in the questions, especially in Verbal.


mukta:can you tell me if/how will the new changes reflect in the scoring pattern and how it will affect my CAP rounds?

Sidharth Balakrishna:that depends on how others do in the exam, since the percentile score is what is important, not your actual score.


kunu:hello sir gd evening... in which field have to do MBA? in HR- marketing-finance??? in future whoes scope will increase???

Sidharth Balakrishna:it depends on your area of interest. there is a good score for all the major streams-Marketing, finance, HR, operations etc


DV:For the last two months I think I have finished the basic theory..What would be your advise to go for last 45 days...With the change in patytern would something else be kept in mind...and what is the marks i should target for a sureshot IIM call

Sidharth Balakrishna:take around 3 tests a week, carefully analyze how you score and work on areas of weakness till around 3 weeks before the exam. then concentrate on revising areas where you are strong


preetim:what is the scope of MBA in operations for girls? i am a Bcom graduate

Sidharth Balakrishna:the scope is increasing. you can look at retail or telecom management, production management, supply chain, logistics, planning etc


papu:how is the difficulty level of question once cat has gone computer based compared to prior going computer based?

Sidharth Balakrishna:most people say that the computer-based test is slightly easier in terms of questions, though you have to get used to doing RC, DI etc questions on the computer screen


AY:MY Q is with IIM's preferring more of commerce grads wat are the chances that engineering grads will be preferred over them ? And what changes are in progress for this year CAT ?

Sidharth Balakrishna:the IIMs will try to maintain a balance between engg and non-engg students. many feel that the changes would benefit non engineers. for the changes , please look at my article http://www.businessworld.in/businessworld/businessworld/content/New-Tips-Changed-CAT.html and my book that can be purchased from http://www.pearsoned.co.in/web/books/9788131763599_An-Introduction-to-the-CAT_Sidharth-Balakrishna.aspx


divya:i have done bscIT. please give some tips for the snap preperation

Sidharth Balakrishna:cannot give detailed answers here, pls look at my book http://www.pearsoned.co.in/web/books/9788131763599_An-Introduction-to-the-CAT_Sidharth-Balakrishna.aspx


jj:i have failed 12th thrice and am doing bcom now, where the marks are good, should i do an mba or will experience be better?

Sidharth Balakrishna:probably some work ex will be better before u attempt CAT


Illustration: Dominic Xavier



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'Gain some work experience before applying for CAT'

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papu: How important is working out previous CAT papers to excel in CAT? Are questions repeated?

Sidharth Balakrishna:it is indeed important and I sugest you do look at prev papers. some questions may be similar to prev ones with variations


gupta:hello Sidharth! my past academic records are class X-45.5% class-XII-61.8% and engineering-54%.. where do i stand a chance in getting an IIM call if at all i secure a very good percentile in CAT 2011?? In addition, do i stand a chance to get into any of the IIM's at all?

Sidharth Balakrishna:I strongly suggest that you gain some work experience before applying for CAT since that will help


kunu:in which area or field i can use my MBA-finance.

Sidharth Balakrishna:in banking, insurance, capital and equity markets etc or in the Finance dept of any large company


gupta:hello Sidharth! my past academic records are class X-45.5% class-XII-61.8% and engineering-54%.. where do i stand a chance in getting an IIM call if at all i secure a very good percentile in CAT 2011?? In addition, do i stand a chance to get into any of the IIM's at all?

Sidharth Balakrishna:I strongly suggest that you gain some work experience before applying for CAT since that will help


AY:MR. Bala .. Also I wanna know that currently im earning in the range of 50-70K pm, with 2yrs+ Work Ex, what jump can i expect if i go for a fulltime MBA next year with roundly 3 yr of Wrk-ex, or shud i go for a part time one ??

Sidharth Balakrishna:full-time one is likely to be better. the salary varies considerably depending on the company and role, but you can certainly expect an increment!


gupta28143:Sir, i am very weak in QA..which books and what all i have to go through to excel in the quant area upto perfection?

Sidharth Balakrishna:HAVE a look at my book http://www.pearsoned.co.in/web/books/9788131763599_An-Introduction-to-the-CAT_Sidharth-Balakrishna.aspx


SK:My CGPA'a are very low yet I have a 3+ work ex. Would being an engg background student curb me from making my way into the IIMS.. + What should be the cutoff score I should expect?

Sidharth Balakrishna:no since you have good work ex. cutoffs can only be predeicted after 1-2 days of the exam depending on the difficulty level of the paper this year.


Illustration: Uttam Ghosh



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'It is important to do your MBA from a good institute'

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SAHIL:Hi I had a 76.76 percentile in my previous CAT 2010. For same wht are the best b schools. I had 40 in QA that is why it was low what to do?

Sidharth Balakrishna:it is important to do your MBA from a good institute, so suggest you give CAT again and try and increase your percentile


AY:ok, my bad ....but how about Delhi School of Economics .... can it give a candidate a ryt path to start a career into a different stream ?

Sidharth Balakrishna:it is a good institute. you can study MIB or economics


SK:What are the last month study patterns to be followed + My DI is weak...inspite of being a Engg Grad :P....Wat are the ways out to bell the CAT

Sidharth Balakrishna:practice 8-10 sets every day; you will find that the pattern of questions is similar for analytical reasoning questions, convert the data given into a table and then solve the questions.


adarsh:with no work experience and one year gap after doinf BE, IF I GET 98 OR 99 PERCENTILE, CAN I GET A CALL FROM IIM????

Sidharth Balakrishna:yes, especially from the new IIMs. also other good institutes such as SP JAIN, MDI etc


chetan:how to concentrate on study?

Sidharth Balakrishna:practice by reading continuously a classic book for 40-45 minutes and doing maths puzzles


Rahul:where on Internet to find CAT level topics to read and how much time should be given for same?

Sidharth Balakrishna:look at the articles on magportal.com


Illustration: Dominic Xavier



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'Overall, CAT is the toughest to crack'

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Ashank harlalka:Dear Sir, What percentile do you ave to get to get into IIM, Ahmedabad

Sidharth Balakrishna:one cannot say before the exam for this year, but for last year it was: "540 candidates whose percentiles in each section were 94 and above, and who had an overall percentile of 99 and had an Application Rating of >= 21 were considered for personal interview." The important thing to note is that the B-school has considered three parameters for calculating the 'Application Rating'. These are: 1. Pre-Bachelor's Degree (% in 10th Std., 12th Std) 2. Bachelor's Degree (% in Commerce, Management, Agri-Engg, Architecture, Engg/Tech/Comp. Science, Arts, Law, Medicine and All Other Branches) 3. Master's/Professional Degree (% in Engg/Tech/Comp Sci, All Other Branches)


red:i wanna crack the test. when 2 start studies?

Sidharth Balakrishna:start immediately as only few weeks away now!


mitwa:sir, can you tell me the difference between CAT, XAT, SNAP and IIFT? which is more difficult and how can i prepare accordingly

Sidharth Balakrishna:CAT-overall the toughest to make it to the IIMs XAT- the Quant session is often tougher than CAT SNAP and IIFT are definitely easier tests


crackcat:so many surveys are published on rediff. can u tell me which one is correct. which are leading IIMs today?

Sidharth Balakrishna:IIM A, B, C and L


crackcat:Which institute offers the best placement offers? what is the highest package in these IIMs

Sidharth Balakrishna:that varies from year to year. not much difference between IIMs A, B, C in terms of placements


crackcat:also there are some vast differences in the tuition fees of IIMs. why so?

Sidharth Balakrishna:because they are run as autonomous institutes with different managements


manish:Sir, I am an engineer in psu already getting near abt 6 lpa in hand. So would IIM MBA guarantees more than 10 lac salary fot 30 months exp.

Sidharth Balakrishna:yes most likely


munshi:give me some tips to crack quant section and para jumble problems. it is difficult to concentrate

Sidharth Balakrishna:it would be best if you look at my book that gives detailed methods: http://www.pearsoned.co.in/web/books/9788131763599_An-Introduction-to-the-CAT_Sidharth-Balakrishna.aspx


Illustration: Dominic Xavier



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'Ability to do mental calculations is important'

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munshi:sir, i am an mechanical engineer. i am already working in a good firm in pune. but i am confused if i should go for Mtech or MBA... which is better in ur opinion?

Sidharth Balakrishna:MBA offers you more choice in the long run, especially if you lose interest in engg related work later in life


sdsad:any specific topic which should be covered for logical reasoning and data interpretatsion ?

Sidharth Balakrishna:i suggest that candidates choose the sets to attempt based on factors such as their familiarity with the data format, number of variables etc Reasoning-based caselets, may be avoided if there are too many variables, because there is always the possibility that the candidate may miss out on some aspect of the logic and get the entire set wrong. Given a choice, it is preferable to attempt graphs or tables, even if you need to perform some lengthy calculations, as you will be more certain about the final answers. Perform Mental Calculations: In a Computer-based Test, the ability to do Mental calculations successfully will be important, especially for Data Interpretation. Try to make sure you improve on this by practicing regularly-for example, while watching cricket matches, you can try and calculate the run-rate, strike rate of a batsman etc on your own.


viswanath:Hello I am Viswanath, 8 years work exp in IT. What are the benefits of a 2 years MBA course for a person with my kind of profile ?

Sidharth Balakrishna:will give you far more opportunities, especially if u dont want to stick only to IT MBA will teach u abt other aspects-marketing, finance, HR etc - these are crucial especially if u wish to become an enterpreneur later


manish:Sir,taking some last years into account whats the possible difference in the OBC (NCL) and genereal cut offs for IIMS?

Sidharth Balakrishna:The section wise and overall cut off for CAT 2010 for IIM Lucknow of all the categories are as follows: Category Quantitative Logic & DI Verbal Total SC 55% 55% 55% 75% ST 50% 50% 50% 70% PWD 55% 55% 55% 75% OBC 75% 75% 75% 80% General 80% 85% 85% 90%


catloser:how many mock tests should i ideally finish before appearing for CAT?

Sidharth Balakrishna:probably around 12-14


udaykiran:Which one to choose GMAT or CAT?

Sidharth Balakrishna:GMAT is for foreign univs, though some indian management instis also except it like ISB etc is an easier exam, but costlier there are essays etc in it, which CAT does not have


sdsad:is it better to focus on quant if one is weak in di and vice versa now that these 2 sections are combined?

Sidharth Balakrishna:yes you can, but make sure you attempt enough questions to clear the cut offs! read my article in the Business World magazine for details: http://www.businessworld.in/businessworld/businessworld/content/New-Tips-Changed-CAT.html


sid:Sir given the new pattern where a mix of di and quant questions will be there in one section, will it better to attempt the questions in order or to do quant questions first and then go for di caselets(vice-versa)?

Sidharth Balakrishna:the questions are likely to be mixed. first try for the sitters. then move on to cases suggest that candidates choose the sets to attempt based on factors such as their familiarity with the data format, number of variables etc Reasoning-based caselets, may be avoided if there are too many variables, because there is always the possibility that the candidate may miss out on some aspect of the logic and get the entire set wrong.


udaykiran:Which one to choose GMAT or CAT?

Sidharth Balakrishna:answered your question already: GMAT is for foreign univs, though some indian management instis also except it like ISB etc is an easier exam, but costlier there are essays etc in it, which CAT does not have.


sdsad:what is ideal number of questions to be attemted and accuracy to clear the cutoff?

Sidharth Balakrishna:attempts depend on the difficulty level of the paper. out of 30 questions, around 22-24 should be atte,pted with 80% + accuracy.


roshni:Sir, what are the prospects of graduating from MICA? is it a good business school, or is it just another version of a Mass Communication Institute?

Sidharth Balakrishna:it is a Mass Comm institute as the name suggests. however, placements are generally decent but if interested in a more general MBA, try for other institutes.


Illustration: Dominic Xavier



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'Do not spend too much time on one question'

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udaykiran:Name the top B.schools which are offering one year M.B.A programme in india and abroad For those who are having 2 to 3 years of Work Experience.

Sidharth Balakrishna:ISB in India. many IIMs also offer executive MBAs but more work ex is needed; same for foreign univs


nehajain:Sir, what was the least salary offered in IIM A,B,C,L in 2010 & 2011

Sidharth Balakrishna:that is hardly ever revealed!


Mann:I have my exam of CAT on 31st Oct, what should I do in this last stage.....?

Sidharth Balakrishna:attempt mock tests and carefully analyse your performance. work on areas of weakness till oct 10th, then concentrate on your strengths.


sdsad:what are the steps to be taken after we have analysed a mock? If i am getting a particular set worng i should go back to the basics?

Sidharth Balakrishna:yes if you are consistely struggling with certain questions, revise the fundamentals-that is vital


pawan:thanks sir ,but i think i have enough study material of coaching institute.

Sidharth Balakrishna:the approach here is a little different


nehajain:Sir apart from IIM ABCL, which institutes are good for placement?? Narsee Monjee or JBIMS or SP Jain???
Sidharth Balakrishna:MDI, SP Jain, IIFT, FMS, XLRI etc are all good


anuradha:what is the basic percentage required for appearing in exam,percentage and cgpa

Sidharth Balakrishna:prospectus of various institutes gives the details; and it varies considerably between the institutes


raju:suggest us how smartly we should leave teh question in cat test?

Sidharth Balakrishna:Choose the questions to attempt: Even in the new format, it will be important for you to choose which questions to attempt carefully. Do not spend too much time on a particular question, thus decreasing the time you have for the others. Injudicious choices with respect to the questions attempted could also decrease your accuracy levels. This point is particularly important for the questions pertaining to Data Interpretation/ Analytical Reasoning. I suggest that candidates choose the sets to attempt based on factors such as their familiarity with the data format, number of variables etc Reasoning-based caselets, may be avoided if there are too many variables, because there is always the possibility that the candidate may miss out on some aspect of the logic and get the entire set wrong. Given a choice, it is preferable to attempt graphs or tables, even if you need to perform some lengthy calculations, as you will be more certain about the final answers.


raj:Hi Sir, My aimcat (T.I.M.E)mocks scores were in the range of 92-94.(once 98) But suddenly in two mocks it went to 70's. Anyway last mock i came back to 98. I am worried about my inconsistence. What should i do to be consistence. And with my mocks scores how much i will score in real cat.(please tell this from your experience) please answer this sir.

Sidharth Balakrishna:it maybe that the test where your score decreased had questions of a type you are not good with. for ex-maybe it had more questions in geometry, which is your weak point. that is why you should analyse your tests carefully if weak in some area, work on that uptil oct 10


cse:What type of MBA would yousuggest for working executives?

Sidharth Balakrishna:if more than 4 years, exec MBA is better-most IIMs, XLRI, great lakes, ISB etc offer this


cse:Does executive MBAby IIFT offer good placements?

Sidharth Balakrishna:yes decent, but not as good as IIMs


ChatAdmin:What Salary a fresh MBA gets ?

Sidharth Balakrishna:depends on the institute!


rizone:i m 30yrs, working with exp of 9 yrs, any MBA course for me in which field should i do it, i have exp in finace & accounts, operations & administration

Sidharth Balakrishna:yes executive programmes-in the IIMs, ISB etc


cse:What is the salary that an Executive MBA gets if done from IIFT?

Sidharth Balakrishna:varies a lot depending on years of exp, the company, foreign or domestic placement etc


gupta:sir i hold a very low profile in terms of percentage as far as my Xth, XII and enggineering percentage are taken in to consideration...they are X-45.5%, XII- 61.8% and engg-54%... do i still stand a chance to get into any of the IIM's if i score a decent CAT score over all?? plz let me know what CAT score will land me the coveted IIM seat??

Sidharth Balakrishna:you have a chance but will have to do really well in the written exam, GDs, Interview etc


Illustration: Dominic Xavier



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'What MBA is best suited for me?'

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frnanupam:Sir, this is my 1st attempt for CAT and i have not taken any classes aur courses in past few years. I have been working in M.Navy since 2007. I have started my preparations this month and I think I am lagging in Maths. I have started revising all mathematics. Can u please guide me on what topics should I stress more.. some topics that I reckon are important are sequences-series, equations, Perm-Comb, Circles, Maxima and minima. what else should I keep on priority?

Sidharth Balakrishna:algebra is always imp max-minima, perm-comb not so imp for CAT


mitalee:hello sir, Ive started preparing for Cat-2011 since july...Iam currently pursuing Btech-4th yr in CSE . My slot is on 24th,Oct .So can u suggest me the best approach that i shud take up now..??

Sidharth Balakrishna:mock tests till oct 17th-18th then revise all fundamentals and take tests on 21st, 22nd rest on 23rd!


sunil.krs:I am 31 year old .4 years work ex in cinstruction .Salary 8 lpa .Should i do MBA ? in which Specialization?

Sidharth Balakrishna:probably operations executive MBA maybe better


cse: i am a mechanical engineer from Jadavpur University having 3.5 ys experience. I cannot do the full timeMBA. What do you suggest?

Sidharth Balakrishna:ISB, IIFT, XLRU, IIMs are ok but you may need slightly more experience..


mk:Sir can u suggest the best stream in MBA gor a CSE engineer?

Sidharth Balakrishna:depends on your preferences, but systems or operations may be better


nehajain:Do SCDL (symbiosis) dual PGDBA in operation & finance is good??? any help in job with 3 years experience

Sidharth Balakrishna:Other institutes are better if you have the choice!


frnanupam:Would you suggest someone from Merchant Navy whose projected salary will be above 5 lacs per month after some years (mentioning the Capt or other top ranks)? Should he opt for MBA? Are there scopes?

Sidharth Balakrishna:Yes as it offers much more scope


nehajain:Sir, which institute is best for correspondence MBA???

Sidharth Balakrishna:Correspondence courses are generally not so useful, but you can try symbiosis


sdd:After doing BE (Mech) & MTech (Manufacturing), I have around 8 years of exp. in the field of Product Design & Development. 1) What type of MBA courses you suggest which suits my profile. 2) From which institutes ?

Sidharth Balakrishna:operations or systems from the top institutes only, don't settle for less you can also look at executive programmes.


Illustration: Dominic Xavier



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