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CAT 2014 prep: What questions to attempt first?

May 15, 2014 15:34 IST

Image: Performance in the Common Admission Test is crucial for admission to leading management colleges in India.
Photographs: Rohit Gautam/ Deepak Nanwani

Want to crack the most difficult management entrance test? Attempt questions from your strong areas first.

An important part of taking the Common Admission Test (or for that matter most of the other Indian MBA exams) is to go through all the questions.

If you do not time yourself well in the exam you might miss out on some sitters at the end which might just make the difference between a shortlist for interview and a reappearance for the exam the following year.

Going through all the questions will also give you a good idea of the overall difficulty level of the test, how well you are placed at attempting questions across various topics and help you allot your time accordingly.

There are two approaches candidates follow here and here's why your decision is crucial:

1. Attempt questions from your strong areas first and then go on the weaker areas.

The idea here is that attempting questions from your strong areas gives you a lot of positive momentum and confidence which helps you in the further stages of the exams.

This also gives you a very good idea of how many more attempts you would need to clear the sectional cut offs.

In this case the moment you encounter a difficult question you skip it.

2. Attempt the difficult questions or Attempt questions from the weak areas first.

If you are attempting questions from your weak areas towards the end when the time is running out, you would be under extra pressure and may not be able to perform to your potential.

Hence in certain candidates' cases it is advisable to go for the questions from strong conceptual areas later (which you will be able to do even under pressure).

This might backfire at times (it did with me once) -- so the key is to know the benchmark time you would give to a question.

If you cannot solve a question even after giving it a good one and a half to two minutes better move on to the next question.

The other important advise that I often give candidates is that you should not be leaving Reading Comprehension, Data Interpretation sets or Logical Reasoning sets for the end.

The problem with such questions is that before you can solve even the first question of the set you need to assimilate and organise a large amount of data.

Once you have done that then the entire set can be answered within a minute or two.

The point to note is that DI/LR and RC questions are generally not individual questions but they rather come in sets -- which puts a "minimum time required" constraint on them.

At the end of it, if you have five to ten minutes, you can attempt a question from Quantitative section (say algebra, number systems etc.) But you would certainly need more than 10 minutes to answer an entire DI/LR set or an RC set.

So, it's important that you strategise your pattern of attempting questions for success in the exam.

The author is the co-founder of, an online adaptive solution for GMAT and CAT. An alumnus of IIT Guwahati and IIM Bangalore, he is a master strategist for all competitive exams.

Dear readers, have you recently cracked the CAT? How did you prepare? 

Which are the most important study topics?

What are the common problem areas and how did you approach them?

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