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CAT 2015 Tips: How to optimise your score

By Sai Kumar Swamy
October 26, 2015 13:54 IST
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Use the next 30 days to revise the concepts and attempt more mocks, says Sai Kumar Swamy, director, TIME, Delhi.

CAT Tips: Revise the concepts and attempt more mocks

The Common Admission Test 2015 is scheduled Sunday, November 29, 2015.

With just a month left to prepare, here are some tips to help you score better.

Pre-exam preparation

The Common Admission Test in 2015 will see a record number of 2 lakh plus aspirants taking the test.

The sheer number is enough to daunt any aspirant and cause some amount of nervousness at the magnitude of the task ahead of them.

This nervousness and heebie-jeebies has derailed the intense preparation of many a student in the past.

However not all is gloom since there are quite a few things that one can do in terms of preparation as there is a little over a month left for the D-Day.

Many aspirants have an erroneous notion that one has to be a 'genius' or have an 'Einsteinian' IQ to do well in the Common Admission Test.

Nothing can be further from the truth -- each year the test setters have devised an exam that can be 'cracked' by someone who has common sense, is alert, smart and remembers the basics that s/he had learnt while in school.

The syllabus of the exam in the Quantitative section is roughly equivalent to the Class 10 level mathematics and therefore if one is strong with the concepts, the chances of cracking the questions increases exponentially.

The key here is to use the next 30 days to revise the concepts across all test areas.

This requires perseverance and planning and it will certainly help if one is able to draw up a time table for revision and stick to it in a disciplined manner.

Along with this one should take as many mock tests as possible -- this ensures that you are in the 'test taking mode' and also have exposure to as many 'CAT level questions' as possible.

However, taking countless 'mocks' without following it up with a through analysis of the exam is futile.

To be able to gain most from such mocks, one has to analyse each and every question; especially those that were not attempted and ones where mistakes were made.

To do this one needs to spend at least 8 to 10 hours on each mock -- three hours to take the mock test and a further 5 to 7 hours analysing it.

At the end of this one should be able to clearly identify the strong and weak areas so that necessary steps can be taken to work on the weak areas.

The other major advantage of taking a large number of mocks is that it helps one estimate the difficulty level of the section while taking the test and accordingly modify the number of attempts (either increase it when one finds the section 'easy' or decrease it if the section appears difficult and/or tricky).

Tips for the D-Day

The ones who have cracked this exam in the past (including yours truly) have done so using some simple but effective tips.

This year CAT will have three separately timed sections which means that taking CAT this year is equivalent to writing three mini tests of one hour each.

The implication of this is that one cannot 'save' time in their stronger section and allocate it to their weaker section/s.

Hence one needs to go all out in each section to maximise their score.

The best way to do this is to understand that the exam will have some easy, some moderate and some very tough questions -- those who wish to ace the exam must learn to spot the easy ones and avoid the tough ones.

Therefore, an approach where one goes through the Qs in a sequential manner and leaves out questions at the end is fraught with danger.

A 'scan the section first' approach is required to identify the sitters -- it is quite possible that many of the sitters may be bunched together at the end of the section.

This year each section has 30 plus questions and just one hour to answer them therefore the constraint will be the time and not the number of questions -- What does this mean?

It means that no one will be able to attempt all questions in the given time and therefore the best approach is to focus on accuracy rather than on the number of questions to be attempted.

In this scenario the key to cracking the CAT is the 'selection' of the right question to attempt.

Selection of questions must be done based on parameters like familiarity of test area, length of the question, level of complexity of the question and your own proficiency in solving those kind of questions.

This ensures that you have avoided the 'snakes' and tried to maximise the 'ladders'.

This year the IIMs have introduced non-multiple choice questions in the CAT which have no negative marking.

This might tempt many of you to attempt such questions.

The caveat for these questions is that one should attempt them 'ONLY' if you are sure of the approach and are reasonably certain of the answer.

One must avoid guesswork like the proverbial plague or rather the dengue.

And last but not the least ensure that you pace yourself during the exam.

Do not lose excessive time over any question -- the golden rule is that if you are no closer to solving a Qs even after 2 to 3 minutes then it is wise to abandon that Qs and move on to other more promising questions.

It is a given that there would be more than enough 'doable' questions in each of the sections and do remember that if it is tough for you it must be tough for all the others taking the test.

The author Sai Kumar Swamy is an alumnus of the IIM Bangalore and is currently the director of TIME Delhi.


Lead image used for representational purposes only.

Photograph: Francisco Osorio/Creative Commons

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