The CAT 2011 has finally dawned on the horizon. Those who have been anxiously waiting for the mother of all competitive examination are now greeted by the IIMs with an announcement of change in the pattern from the previous year.
The 2011 CAT is in some way a throwback to the 1997 CAT and a decade prior to that with sectional timings.
The IIMs have announced that there are going to be two timed sections in the 2011 CAT. Quant and Data Interpretation in a section of 70 minutes and Verbal and Logical Reasoning in another section of 70 minutes.
The discussion seems to be centred on the Verbal and Logical Reasoning section -- whether the Logical Reasoning is going to be the Quant based Analytical Reasoning or the critical reasoning of the verbal. However, the student simply needs to be prepared for all the combinations possible in this section -- predominantly verbal with a few questions in analytical reasoning or a section equally divided between these two types.
Preparedness is all. The student however must not fail to take account of the certain other myths related to the CAT.
In the process of teaching and observing students appearing for the CAT, one realises that the fundamental difference in those who crack it and those who don't is the mindset. Beyond a basic level of intelligence and aptitude that the exam demands, it is indeed more about attitude than brilliance.
Most students cross the basic threshold, but stumble when it comes to having the right mindset. In fact, most start out with telling themselves 'CAT is too difficult an exam for me to crack'. This self-defeating thought is supported by some false notions that only further strengthen the negative belief.
Let us first bust a few myths that students generally hold onto.
Myth 1: Only engineers can crack the CAT
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Terming the CAT as a 'difficult exam' and relegating it to the likes of engineers to have the ability to crack it is pure escapism from the effort that the preparation entails.
Results have proven that non-engineers have done equally well.
One needs to ask the question 'What does a difficult exam really mean?' and break it down to its components.
Myth 2:If I'm not great at quant, there's no way I'll make it
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Myth 2: I need to be brilliant at both verbal and quantitative aptitude. If I'm not great at quant, there's no way I'll make it.
It's absolutely possible to do well with any one area as the core strength.
Many people who didn't think of themselves as 'numbers people' managed to crack CAT by following a simple strategy manage your weak area, maximise in your area of strength, and manage time to maximise overall score.
CAT has many simple, basic questions as well. Having a block against any one area makes one ignore these questions or approach them as if they were tough to solve. It's possible to get over the numbers phobia when the paper is approached with practical sense.
Myth 3: I need work experience to get admitted
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Though the proportion of people with work-experience is usually higher (varies across institutes), it does not say anything about the chances of a fresher making it.
Most institutes want diversity in their batch, and hence freshers will surely be given a chance for the fresh perspective they bring in.
Myth 4: CAT is only about the IIMs
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One need not limit the notion of cracking CAT to getting a call from the IIMs. There are so many good institutes that one can look at after appearing for the test.
As much as an IIM call is vied for, CAT is also about beyond the IIMs.
Myth 5: CAT preparation similar to other exams
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CAT cannot be approached the same way that one is used to approaching regular college exams with. It is neither a matter of 'last minute study' nor something to be left to a 'preparatory leave'.
CAT needs regular, consistent practice and being in touch with all the relevant topics. It's a classic case of 'slow and steady wins the race', where gradual, consistent effort is far more important than short bursts of intense study. It makes sense to plan the preparation well in advance and spread it over many months of regular practice and constant touch.
Another important point to be kept in mind is to never accept a current method of solving a question until one reaches the optimum one.
One needs to look around, learn from how others are approaching the same question, and keep fine tuning one's own method of doing the same. It's a case of constant and never ending improvement, not a bare minimum that one should be satisfied with.
Let 'I can' be your mantra
The adage 'Success is not about falling down, but about how quickly one rises from every fall' is very real when it comes to CAT preparation.
Second is about enjoying the process. Believe in the Bhagwat Geeta principle of 'Do your karma and worry not about the results'.
Enjoy the process of preparation so much that immerse yourself totally in it, giving very little thought to what the outcome would be. It helps focus your energies and do away with the pressure of results.
Above all, effort needs to start with saying 'I can crack CAT'. Tell yourself that you are good enough for the IIMs, and believe it with all your heart. If you wouldn't, then the battle would be lost even before it begins!
And so, let 'I can' be your mantra. That's where the right mindset begins.