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Tips for cracking CAT 2009
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February 05, 2009

Munira Lokhandwala completed her MBA from IIM-Calcutta in 1999. As a CAT coach at she has been taking CAT exams for the last six years now. As a result she scored 100 percentile in CAT 2007 and in CAT 2008 where she has an amazing score of 290 out of 356 marks.

Here she gives tips to all those who have started preparing for CAT 2009 or were not able to crack CAT in 2008 but will again be appearing for the exam this year.

Starting off: Analyse the areas where you need to work. Prepare a schedule that ensures that you study 2-3 hours every day six days a week and stick to it.

For engineers: Start by working on your English. Read books with difficult prose. Look at RCs from GRE, GMAT and SAT. Work on improving your vocabulary. You can start Maths around March. Focus on understanding concepts rather than on mugging formulae.

If you wish to prepare via distance learning, has an online course with an integrated Ask-a-doubt facility which enables you to study at your convenience.

GMAT: If you have prepared for CAT, you do not need any extra preparation for GMAT but you will need to give online tests for practice.

The IIMs are not biased for or against work experience. Therefore if you do not have any work experience you need not worry provided you are young. However if you are 25-26 years old and have not been working after your graduation then that can prove to be quite harmful.

For working professionals: Make CAT preparation a part of your morning routine. Working has its advantages. It is easier to access a vocabulary site online and to read non-fiction passages. Photocopy one or two exercise pages and keep it on your table while working.

Preparing for group discussions

Importance of practice: To avoid nervousness and anxiety, practice a lot. Candidates usually panic because they feel the panelists or the moderators are out to get them. That is far from the truth. Feel positive for them and you will automatically begin to relax.

How to practice: Start by initiating discussions amongst friends, become a little aggressive with them and move on to discussions with strangers. Reading from books loudly will help you with your tone. You do not have to shout but a slightly higher tone has a better chance of being heard.

How to get a chance to speak: The noise level in GDs has a pattern -- there are peaks and troughs. If a GD gets too noisy, try and enter during the troughs. It takes some practice but learn to enter at the troughs.

If you do not understand a GD topic, wait for someone in your group to start. Pick up from what the group is discussing. You could also try and become the de facto leader of the group by summarising the discussion at regular intervals and providing a new direction from time to time.

Do not read simply for the sake of learning facts. Form opinions with justifications and apply them in practice GDs.

How to do well in the IIM-A written assignment

IIM-A introduced a written assignment in place of the GD last year. The topic is given to students and they have 10 minutes to write on it. Ten minutes is not a lot of time to cover all perspectives but what is crucial in making a good impression on the panelists is your coherence and consistency in presenting some aspects in your essay. Marshall your thoughts before you start writing; pick one or two points which you think are important, cover them coherently and with grammatically correct English and you should do fine.

Accent [Images] is not as important as the content and the presentation. Ensure that you speak without grammatical errors and know your content. Regular practice will make your accent fall into place.

Current affairs: Topics of common knowledge that you should be familiar with are the global recession, sub-prime, Obama's [Images] victory etc.

How to tackle case studies: First identify the problem and then try and ascertain whether it is part of a bigger problem. Come up with a few possible solutions. Remember, always advocate an ethical solution. The Mckinsey site, Harvard and MIT sites are a good repository for case studies.

Preparing for personal interviews

Academic questions: Questions on academics are often asked of candidates with less than one year of working experience. Know the basics of every subject and work on one or two subjects extensively. Know your curriculum well.

Answering 'Why do I want to do an MBA': There is no ideal answer. It depends on your background. Answer why an MBA education makes sense with your long term goals, combined with your work experience and your academics. How you believe in the concept of learning throughout your life etc. If you can come up with something honest and unique then your chances of making a good impression will increase exponentially.

Answering 'Tell me something about yourself': Avoid repeating from your resume. Lead the interviewer into an area that you are comfortable with in your academics or in your work experience. What has shaped you as a person? Do not mention facts. Your answers should be self explanatory. For example mentioning that you play cricket might seem irrelevant but mentioning how playing the game made you appreciate the importance of team work would make it self explanatory.

Preparation: Do a lot of soul searching for PIs. Along with academics and your work experience you should work hard on your personal questions. Avoid lying as the interviewers are quite good in detecting inconsistencies in your statements. You could ask your friends to describe you in three words and flesh out the words. Get feedback from your seniors or your boss. Try and get some mock interviews from experienced people in your field.

The tips above are based on a chat conducted by Munira Lokhandwala, CAT 2008 100-percentiler for ( users.

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