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Expert tips to crack the CAT 2013

Last updated on: October 11, 2013 10:05 IST

Image: The Common Admission Test is upon us all. How well are you prepared?
Photographs: Adnan Abidi/Reuters
In an online chat with readers, ARKS Srinivas, an IIM-Calcutta alumnus and CEO of VistaMind, a Bangalore-based CAT training institute answered questions on how to crack the test and offered advice on how to choose the best MBA programme.

The Common Admission Test is a crucial entrance examination taken by lakhs of management aspirants across India.

The CAT is scheduled between October 16 and November 11 this year.

For the benefit of our readers, had organised an online chat with CAT expert ARKS Srinivas, CEO, Vista Mind Education Pvt Ltd, a CAT coaching centre in Bangalore.

In the chat, the former director of T.I.M.E addressed queries and shared advice on how to crack the CAT and make the most of the last few days ahead of the exam.

For those who missed the live chat, here's the unedited transcript:

Anuj Goyal: sir, I am able to manage only 12-14 attempts in QA with 70-80 per cent accuracy. In VA, I have 20-22 attempts but accuracy is 50-60 per to improve in the remaining few days?

Arks Srinivas:
The attempts in both can go up a bit. The only way for that is to understand that you are spending more than 3 minutes time on some questions. This is detrimental to your attempts and accuracy both.

anuj: And also please tell me upto what percentile should be better to pursue MBA?

Arks Srinivas:
Hi Anuj, I am not sure you have correct information about CAT and percentiles. If you get in the 90 plus pecentiles, then the top 20 odd institutes will be considering your candidature. Similarly, depending on the percentile you get, you can choose the institute and the institute chooses you.

anuj: Good Afternoon Sir,I had done . I am confused about what to do . Is CAT will be the correct Option?

Arks Srinivas:
Depends on what you want to do with your Life! If you are a person who likes business and taking up responsibilities then MBA is a good option.

Sudipta Das: Hi Mr. Srinivas, how one should approach in school days to clear CAT in coming years. Thanks.

Arks Srinivas:
This is a good question! All the IIMs are giving weightage to school marks too. If your percentages in 10th and 12th are above 90 per cent, then the chances of getting calls from the IIMs increases (for the same score in CAT). Similarly, participating in extra and co-curricular activities enhances chances of getting selected. Hence my advise is to take Schooling & Activities in School very seriously!

sharad nalawade: Hello Sir, i have been solving the TIME mock tests and securing within a range of 80-85...However the verbal scores continuously fluctuates from 35 to 45..what pattern should i follow to get above it??

Arks Srinivas:
Hi Sharad, If you are getting 80 to 85 percentile in TIME mocks, you can be sure that (unless you mess up the exam on the D Day), you can end up with more than 90 percentile (even more actually). However, for VA, please see that you solve the LR and RC sets in good time to catapult your score to a respectable level.

Anuj Goyal: Sir. I tend to become very nervous while giving the test and hence lose concentration. This affects my speed as well. how to tackle this?

Arks Srinivas:
It clearly shows that the exam is very important to you. Once you have put in your hard work towards preparing, forget about the result. Your only aim in CAT should be to give the right time to each set of questions and solve any and every question that you can (at that point of time). If you have forgotten a formula or not getting an answer, SKIP that question. Clinical approach is what is needed

Anand Kulkarni: Is there any cutoff within the section also?

Arks Srinivas:

adil: sir I missed the cat deadline this year? which are the other tests I can aim for? will GMAT be an option for me?

Arks Srinivas:
Hi Adil, It depends on how much of work experience you have. You can still apply to XAT, SNAP and CMAT exams. Many schools take the XAT and CMAT scores apart from CAT scores.

jitesh: I will be appearing for CAT in November and m planning to take the CMAT in December. is there a different strategy for cracking CMAT?

Arks Srinivas:
Yes Jitesh, The strategy for CAT and CMAT would be different. CMAT has 100 questions (four sections). Giving the right kind of time limits to each of the sections (4 sections and 180 minutes) is the key in CMAT. In CAT, the section time limits are already given. Hence the issue would be in using the time within the section. So practice mocks of CMAT after your CAT exam.

Sunil: Sir,my percentiles in SmartCATs fluctuates between 60 to 85 even now. My cat is on 20th Oct. How should i go about in last few days?

Arks Srinivas:
The percentile fluctuation is normal. Solve about 3 Mocks in the next ten days. Revise the topics which are your strengths. Do RC, LR and DI sets every day till the date. And be confident!. All the best.

Sunil: Ideally, how many mocks should I solve every day till the day of my CAT Exam ?

Arks Srinivas: Maximum ONE Mock in 2/3 days till the date of the exam. Don't over do Mocks. It won't help.

sudaram: Good evening Mr srinivas. is it true that placements at IIMs have taken a beating. Would you advice doing an mBA from IIms or from some other institute?

Arks Srinivas:
Hi Sudaram, While the Placements at IIMs have definitely taken a beating, the placements at other institutes are worse. Also, when one speaks about placements, you are discussing near term. Please understand that your career is 30 year long and hence an IIM degree behind you will help through out your life.

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'Solve every problem that you can; don't think of the result'

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anil: Sir my DI is strong but my score suffers in QA. How to overcome this

Arks Srinivas:
Hi Anil, If your DI is strong, then I expect that you do about 7 questions at least out of 9 in DI in around 25 minutes. You can easily get around 4 to 5 arithmetic questions (out of 21). Crack 3 out of that and you are clearly getting close to 85 percentile plus. Now , if you can add to this, another 5 to 6 questions (in Numbers/Geometry/Algebra) etc, then you should get comfortable scores.

kavita bavekar: I will be taking the exam on October 16. This is my first attempt. pls share some last minute strategies and tips

Arks Srinivas:
Hi Kavita, Since you are writing the exam on the first day, you may be apprehensive as to what the paper pattern would be. In all probability, it will be same as that of last year. If you are prepared for the exam, then all you have to do it, go there and SOLVE EVERY PROBLEM that you can SOLVE. Don't bother about what you don't know. Also, in the exam, don't think of your result.

shaishav: Is there a cut off relaxation for candidates with work experience? pls guide. I have more than 7 years of work experience

Arks Srinivas:

shaishav: how many correct answers should I aim for to clear sectional cut offs? how many wrong answers can I afford per section?

Arks Srinivas:
It depends on the overall score and your expectation. Clearing sectional cutoffs for IIMs would mean that you get over 95%ile (at least) in each of the two sections.I expect that scores of around 40/45 in each section can safely catapult you to a comfortable score to clear cutoffs.

naman: plz share some tips to crack QA section

Arks Srinivas:
Hi Naman, I have answered the time limits to the section in one of the posts. Please see that you only attempt those questions that you are reasonably sure of. Make sure that you spend time on each set of DI without fail. 2 questions per set in DI can give you close to 18 marks . Add another 10 to 12 questions in QA and you will be home and dry!

Sunil: Hi, Can you please help me with some tips on solving parajumbles ?

Arks Srinivas:
Hi Sunil, for Parajumbles, remember that there are three parts to a Para. 1) Start 2) Body 3) End. a) Read the sentences given to eliminate which one of the sentences cannot be either starting or ending. b) Once you have zeroed in on the possible Start Sentence (s), then look for links between any two sentences. c) Eliminate more choices. Once you get to 2 options, mark one after reading both.

salim: Please share some tips to maximise accuracy and how to tackle negative marking. Thank you

Arks Srinivas:
1) Don't wildly guess. 2) If you have spent too much of time on a particular question (> 3 min), leave the question. 3) Don't worry about the result!

haresh: sir can you pl suggest some strategies for time management? how much time to devote to each section or per question?

Arks Srinivas:
Hi Haresh, In Section I, QA should be given around 40 to 45 minutes and DI should be given around 25 to 27 minutes. In Section II, LA should be 25, RC another 25 and the rest to VA.

sheetal: I have been getting 90-94 percentile in mocks. how much should I aim to get 99 percentile in cat?

Arks Srinivas:
Sheetal, If you can tell me the scores, then I can hazard a guess. Also, which institute's Mocks are you writing?

Navin Shah: How to prepare for time table?

Arks Srinivas:
Hi Navin, it all depends on what amount of time you have and how much is left to study. Please see that you match these two issues :)

Ankit Dave: How to handle verbal ability questions? usage of words in different contexts?

Arks Srinivas:
Ankit, at this last minute, it may be very difficult to have a strategy for the question you have asked. However, revise the questions from your Mock CATs, and it should help.

naman: also how to revise geometry concepts in the last minute?

Arks Srinivas:
Dear Naman, Make sure that you go through every question in Geometry from the last ten years of CAT papers. If you are taking coaching, then ensure that you solve every question of Geometry from the Mock CATs (Smart CATs in case of VistaMind) of your institute. This should do.

bhanu: sir how to increase reading speed for RC passages?

Arks Srinivas:
Hi Bhanu, at this stage, the best thing to do would be to take Tests. Ideally a Sectional Test on RC with Three passages. You give yourself about 8 to 9 minutes ONLY for each set so that the three RCs can get solved/done in 24 to 27 minutes. And review the same at the end of the test. Do this everyday till the date of your exam. Stick to the time limits as I have put up (or lesser time).

sheetal: Also, what are the sectional cut offs I should aim for to get a call from IIMs?

Arks Srinivas:
Hi Sheetal, depending on the IIM, the cutoffs (for each section as well as overall score) vary. Also if you are General Candidate as against a OBC, SC or a ST, the cutoffs vary. Most of these marks/percentiles are already given on the individual IIM websites. 99 percentile is a safe score for almost all IIMs except A and C (if you are a General Category Student).

mustafa: How to respond to a differential marking scheme if that is specified?

Arks Srinivas:
Hi Mustafa, There will be no mention of Differential marking. However, please realise that since NORMALISATION of marks is done, it automatically means that there is differential marking. However, it is same for everyone and hence you should not bother about that at the time of the exam.