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Gear up! Countdown begins for CAT 2011

Last updated on: February 25, 2011 15:08 IST

Gear up! Countdown begins for CAT 2011

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TestFunda.com

Often, we hear stories of how a CAT 100 percentiler was a genius right from school, and aced all the semester examinations in their under graduate years. Yet, there are ample real life examples of average students without great academic scores who have not just cracked the CAT, but also made successful careers after their MBAs at the IIMs.

The question really is: How does someone who is not born with the required aptitude skills go ahead and crack the CAT? Most competent CAT aspirants have acknowledged that the difference in the knowledge between themselves and someone who has made it to the IIMs is not high enough to warrant a massive difference in CAT scores. (Here, by 'knowledge' we mean 'CAT related knowledge'.) Yet, most aspirants become skeptical about their own abilities during CAT preparation and resign themselves to thinking about other institutions.

This article is all about the preparatory period before the CAT. It deals with all that you need to do right from the time that you decide to prepare for it, to the final chilly morning when you check your admit card, CAT voucher and other essentials before going for the exam.


TestFunda.com is the leader in online MBA test preperations and has complete preparatory material for comprehensive MBA preparation. To free download and recieve SMSes, logon to TestFunda.com


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Plan backwards

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With approximately 8 months left for the CAT (assuming that your CAT is sometime in October), you need to work backwards starting with mock tests. Right now, it's a good time to decide on how many mock tests you will take. The main objective behind taking mock tests is to get your test taking strategy in place as you measure your own strengths (absolute scores) across different sections. The second objective is to take a relative performance measurement (in terms of percentile scores) with other mock CAT takers across the country.

Around 15 to 20 computer based tests are fairly sufficient as there is no point taking a test everyday or worse, taking 2 tests each day. Working with 20 tests will easily take between 60 to 70 days. This is because if you take a test followed by detailed analysis reports and evaluation on day 1, you will revise concepts and take some concept tests and topic tests on day 2; you may also need a break of 1 or 2 days. So assuming you are going to take 70 days for comprehensive tests, your deadline will be around the end of August.

Before you formulate your test taking strategy, you need to measure your performance in each section. That is where section tests come into play. So, in the last two weeks of August it is advisable to take around 2 section tests, from each area, and spend some time going through the analysis and learnings for the tests. This will be the first time when you really start solving with the timer playing in your mind. This will help you get used to working within timelines before you venture into the full length test territory.

Working backwards from here, by the second week of August, you would ideally finish learning new concepts. From the third week of August you will be primarily looking at applying what you have learnt and if you have learnt it well, then you will surely enjoy the process.


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Make a schedule

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With the third week of August as the deadline, you should make a list of what is the kind of theory you want to complete till that time. Here is a rudimentary representative list to work with:

Diverse reading
Word List

Study Material for:
Verbal ability questions
Reading comprehension questions
Analytical reasoning
Data interpretation
Math

The maximum time should be spent doing two major activities: reading and math.

Daily schedule
Make a daily schedule which incorporates all your routine and all your breaks. If you watch movies a lot then it would be silly to make a schedule that does not consider 3 hours a week on the weekend spent in catching the latest release. Also try to shuffle the subjects so that you do not get bored with one subject. A good time table for 2 days can look like this.

Day 1
Half an hour reading
Half an hour word list
2 hours maths

Day 2
Half an hour reading
Half an hour word list
1 hour analytical reasoning / data interpretation
1 hour reading comprehension exercises / verbal ability


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Reading

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For those who read as a hobby, this will not be a major problem. For others, it is essential that you keep at least an hour to 1 hour for regular reading. For the uninitiated reader, you can start by reading fiction but it is no use if you spend 3 months reading one big book; instead pick up any collection of short stories by assorted authors and start reading those. You will get used to various styles and different settings and of course different content. After reading fiction for one month or one and a half months, you can graduate to non-fiction. So, the next time you log onto testfunda start a parallel window where you google various CAT topics and read articles on them.

The advantages are two-fold. Firstly, you will get used to CAT-like passages and secondly, you will start gaining some knowledge on these topics so next time you have an RC on the same topic you will not feel completely lost. For these reading sessions, never focus on time only; focus on understanding as well, if you read enough your time will automatically decrease.

A good daily habit is to solve the FREE daily RC passage provided by TestFunda. Type your central theme and summary and discuss it with other serious CAT takers on TestFunda forums.

Reading will not only help you in the verbal section, but also increase your comprehension in the other sections. It is the single most important factor that will help you crack the CAT. And if you form a habit of reading on the computer screen with various online journals and magazines, it will make you more comfortable while taking the actual test.


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Word list

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There are very few questions that directly require knowledge of words. But knowing a lot of good words and improving your vocabulary will never harm you -- it will help boost your confidence. So pick up a good word list and start looking at it every day. If your vocabulary is good, then every alternate day should work fine. Even if you do words listed under one alphabet per week, you will take around 6 months to complete the entire word list. The TestFunda wordlist is also a good ammunition for your preparation. Having a good vocabulary ensures fluency in the essay, the GD as well as the PI. This is the part where students are lazy, but you might wish that you had learnt more of it for the sake of that one extra mark in the CAT.

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Math

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Mathematics, based on strengths and weaknesses, should be done either every alternate day or every day. Go through the theory, solve examples, and then tackle exercises. If you cannot solve a problem do not rush to the explanatory answers, give it some time, think, get your mind to oil those rusted math gears and levers.

  • Try solving problems in the head, and try to minimise the use of pen and paper. This is one habit that you need to incorporate consciously so you don't unnecessarily waste time during the computer based CAT. To achieve this, develop the ability to simplify a complex problem situation and learn tables well to do calculations faster.
  • Make a note of important relationships in a topic.
  • Make a note of innovative approaches.
  • Remember that writing is very unhealthy for the CAT, but after you solve a problem in your head, you may want to bookmark, flag your online material, and make notes on short cuts, explanations to be referred to later all this on the computer screen.
  • Solve the question of the day and daily dose of brain tonic on TestFunda.
  • With the increased focus on logical reasoning based Data Interpretation in CAT, practice solving puzzles from TestFunda puzzle of the week. These challenging puzzles will help you develop a logical base and channelise your thoughts in constructing diverse possibilities.
To sum up, CAT can be cracked with reasonable preparation and focus. All you need is strong belief, a plan, and a regimented effort to get that one IIM seat that has your name written on it. Good luck!

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