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This article was first published 12 years ago

6 steps to crack CAT 2012: An expert guide

Last updated on: July 12, 2012 07:23 IST

Planning to appear for the CAT this year? ARKS Srinivas, CEO, VistaMind Education Pvt Ltd tells you how to strategise your planning and preparation so that you can optimise your performance.

Taken by over two lakh students in the country, the Common Admission Test (CAT) is undoubtedly, one of the most competitive exams in the country.

A prerequisite for entry into the prestigious Indian Institutes of Management, performance in the CAT is also crucial for admission to a host of other top b-schools in the country including Faculty of Management Studies, Delhi, Management Development Institute-Gurgaon, SP Jain Institute of Management and Research, Mumbai, Indian Institutes of Technology and the like.

Since it is an entrance exam to MBA institutes, it tests the aptitude of the candidate in areas of Quantitative Ability, Logical and Analytical Ability, Data Interpretation and Verbal Ability. Interestingly, these are also some of the basic ingredients of a would-be manager.

The CAT tests the ability of the student to find out how s/he uses the twin resources of knowledge and time to ace the test, given the performance pressure.

CAT 2011 also introduced a few changes -- it had two sections instead of three. The first section was Quantitative Ability and Data Interpretation and the second section comprised questions on Verbal and Analytical Ability.

Each section consisted of 30 questions and with a time limit of 70 minutes. A student can take only one section in the prescribed time. Another disadvantage being that a student cannot switch between sections.

However, given infinite time and no pressure, any above average student can get a score good enough to get a 99 percentile. The fact that the exam is time-bound and there is infinite pressure to perform (a la world-cup final), only the best finally make to the grade!

While the exam is easy, the fact that more than 2 lakh aspirants write the exam compete for the coveted 4,000-odd seats, makes this exam the toughest around in the world!

Hence, to ensure that you come up trumps, you need a comprehensive strategy for preparation and for test-taking.

Illustration: Dominic Xavier

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1. Take the diagnostic test

Photographs: Rajesh Karkera/

The ideal way to start preparing for any exam is by taking a diagnostic test. This diagnostic test should ideally be of similar type as the previous CAT exam. You may take the test online/offline.

Many students falter in preparation because s/he lacks the overall view of the CAT exam and hence may waste precious time trying to do things that may not be necessary for the exam.

A diagnostic test will tell you what to expect and how to plan your preparation for the big day. Most coaching institutes will provide you with a diagnostic test at the beginning of the classes. Ensure that you take one before starting your preparation.

Tags: CAT

2. Assess your strengths and weaknesses

Once the diagnostic test is written, the scores at the end give you a clear indication of how far you are from your goal of getting a good percentile in the CAT.

When you sit to analyse your performance, you should see the gaps in the level of knowledge for each area separately.

This ensures that there is a clear cut understanding on where one is going to spend the next few weeks/months of preparation before taking the exam.

Illustration: Uttam Ghosh

3. Make a study plan

Any plan, which tries to capture your work and attention for more than a month is going to fall flat.

While, you can make a broad plan for the next three months, the detailed plan should be made for only a week.

The week plan could be as simple as completing two chapters of quantitative ability and one chapter of DI (Data Interpretation) etc.

But, make sure that you stick to this plan once you have made it! Never try to pack too many things in a week and find it impossible to achieve the targets.

The idea is to gain confidence as you go along and start accomplishing tasks so that you are closer to your goal.

Illustration: Uttam Ghosh

4. Preparing for the exam

There are three levels of preparation that are required to crack the CAT.

  • Knowledge
  • Exam Strategy
  • Confidence

You may start by working on improving your knowledge.

CAT tests aptitude of a student in the following areas:

  • Quantitative Ability
  • Logical Ability and Data Interpretation
  • Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension

Each of these areas has to be thoroughly prepared for in the run up to the CAT. Since students from all back grounds (viz., BBA, BCom, B Sc, BE, B Tech, MBBS etc) write this exam, can be safely assumed that the aptitude required would be that of the Class X exam at least in terms of the areas that appear in the exam.

However, the difference would be in the levels of knowledge and practice in solving these areas and hence a thorough study plan (even going to a coaching institute) is warranted.

5. Device an exam strategy

Before writing the real CAT, it may be extremely useful to write some mock exams.

The mock CATs will give you a real feel of the paper as well as help you to strategise the way you will attempt the paper.

Writing mock CATs at regular intervals will not only help you hone your test-taking skills but will also enable you to identify your weak areas and help you concentrate on those.

Illustration: Dominic Xavier

6. Be confident

About two lakh students write the CAT and many have the ability to crack this exam.

Incidentally, since the aptitude is of school level, many students can actually make it to the IIMs too.

Knowledge and test taking skills can be learnt/developed by practice. However, what is of utmost importance is the confidence one has in oneself.

CAT is as much a mental game as it is a knowledge and skills game.

We have seen over the years that the best of the students don't make it to the IIMs but diligent, confident but may not be toppers from their colleges, make it to the coveted institutes.

Wish you all the best!

Tags: CAT