Every year IIMs conduct the Common Admission Test, or the CAT, to shortlist candidates for their MBA program, and each year more than 2 lakh registrations are done for the same. But only around 5000 aspirants finally make it to the IIMs. So this definitely makes CAT one of the toughest management entrance exams in the country.
To get admission in one of these coveted B-schools, one needs to have a well-planned strategy and dedication to work on these plans throughout the preparation period.
But sometimes, it is hard to find the best way and what is actually required to ace the exam. There are some simple and very beneficial key-points that most of the aspirants tend to ignore and eventually miss out on their chances of making it to the IIMs. So let’s understand CAT with a new approach that will help you optimise your CAT preparation.
● SECTION-WISE APPROACH TO CAT
1.Verbal Ability/Reading Comprehension:
Reading Comprehension: This section comprises of various unseen passages as you might have done in your school time. CAT includes a total of 4-5 passages from different areas. Student should strategize to focus on those areas he/she is comfortable with. The good news for CAT aspirants is that unlike at the time of offline method, now the length of the passages has been cut down. Questions are generally factual or inferential based, which may require Critical Reasoning. One should try to attempt these questions but should not mark them unless they are fully confident as it will help them minimise their time wasted on negative marks.
Verbal Ability: This section includes various types of questions such as Vocabulary Question -these are very easy if you are familiar with words and their meanings, synonyms, antonyms etc. Then the most important Sentence Correction - these are highly difficult because they are mostly Non-MCQs type and you have to find the correct order but the advantage is you can attempt them as there is no negative marking. Other than this, Para Jumble also has much importance in this section, but again they are Non-MCQs so you have to be vigilant and should have good reading habit. The most important rule to excel in Verbal Ability is READ, READ, and READ.
2. Logical Reasoning/ Data Interpretation:
Logical Reasoning section includes at least 4 puzzle questions with one being the easiest and one difficult. The other two lie in moderate difficulty level. To get through this section, one should not only focus on Practice but also on a correct approach and logic behind the puzzles. Continuously solving LR questions in mocks will definitely help you to find the logic and the way towards 99+ percentile in this section.
Data Interpretation includes questions based on Bar Graphs, Pie Charts, Caseletes etc. One should be quick with the calculations and interpretation of data given in graphical form. CAT does not check the speed of calculations but how well one can interpret the data and finally get to a correct answer. The advantage in this section is that if you correctly interpret the whole data, you can get through the entire set in one attempt.
3. Quantitative Ability:
It includes questions based on Geometry, Time speed and distance, Ratio and Proportion etc. To get through such questions you need conceptual clarity, practice of all types of questions by solving mocks. You will also need to understand your strengths and weakness and invest time on those questions you are confident about. CAT includes questions ranging from easy to difficulty level, you need to have a look and solve easy questions first and then move to medium and difficult questions. Manage your time accordingly. Also, leave those questions where you are not comfortable because it will not only save your time but also minimise the negative return.
Continuous and regular study of all these sections is very important but discussions improve learning and also focus on brainstorming. There are many websites which focus on peer to peer learning, where students from different areas gather, discuss and clear off their doubts related to CAT and other entrance exams.
● Questions to be attempted
In order to get a stellar percentile in CAT, you don’t need to attempt all the questions. Many falls trap to this and waste their time in maximizing their number of attempts. What you have to do instead, is to make sure that whatever questions you attempt have to be correct. First go through the whole section and mark those questions that you think you couldn’t get them right and don’t come back to them. Now tackle all the remaining questions one by one with full concentration and only answer them if you are sure of the answer.
An overall attempt of 70 correct questions from all the sections will fetch you a 99.9+ percentile for sure. If we talk about each of the sections, then for VA-RC you need to reach around 27 questions as a scaled score of 81 will give you 99+ percentile. You should definitely go for a minimum of 21 correct attempts if you are aiming for more than 95 percentile in this section.
In DI-LR section, if you are able to tackle 5 out of the 8 caselets, then you will be among the topper in this section. Set a target for yourself that you have to at least be done with 3 caselets in all of your mocks. A minimum of
16 correctly marked questions are required for a 99 percentile in this section.
For quantitative section, you really have to be competitive. There are people who score a full 102 marks in this section so you have to go through all the questions where you are comfortable with the topic. More than 75 marks are required for a 99.5 percentile in quantitative section. So around 24-26 questions can be considered as a good attempts. Finally keep in mind that CAT is just a game of accuracy and attempts.
● Focus on Accuracy and avoid Negative Marking:
Always keep (-1) in mind while giving CAT. Any carelessness or impatient behavior can take your score to 29 from 99. CAT checks the accuracy and not the number of questions you attempted. A person attempting less no of questions can score more than the one who attempt higher no. of questions. You cannot take the risk of attempting those questions you are not confident about. There are approximately 75 MCQs where you can lose 1 mark if answered incorrect.
Few points that can minimise your Negative Score:
1. Avoid Guesswork in any of the 75 MCQs type.
2. Accuracy is very crucial, so focus on your strengths and invest your time in those areas only.
3. Always start from easy questions and then move to medium and difficult types.
4. Read the questions carefully and try to eliminate the options first before marking the answer to ensure the accuracy.
● MOCKS - THE DECIDING FACTOR OF YOUR CAT SCORE
Always keep in mind that mocks are the single most important factor of your preparation. Your scores in mock reflect how you will be performing in the actual CAT. Treat each one of your mocks as it is the real CAT exam and always try to sit for 3 hours at a stretch. Aspirants often fail to do so and end up minimizing their chance to get their seat in Top Management Schools. Following are the points one must keep in mind when it comes to CAT MOCKS.
When to take mocks - One must start taking mocks around 4 to 6 months before the exam so that there is enough time to work on your weak areas.
Why to take mocks - CAT mocks is important to develop your speed and having an idea about your accuracy. It also helps to develop strategies for the final exam as regular practising puts you in an environment which will ultimately help you form a pattern of attempting the exam. You will be able to evaluate your current performance and it will help you identify the time you are taking in each section.
Analysis after mock - Once you are done with Mocks, focus on specific areas where you lacked rather than chilling. Continuous and regular preparation is the key to success.
What they say about the mocks –“Mock exam provide an insight about your preparation and help you focus on key strategic points like performance, strength, speed, technique and pattern of questions. A considerable time should be spent in analyzing the performances thereafter. Focus on your strengths and decide on a time management strategy’’ says the person who scored 99.94 percentile in CAT 2013.
“The single most important thing is MOCKS and their analysis because this will help you identify your string areas and how you could improve them for optimising your final percentile. Go for at least one mock test every week and allot equal time for their analysis.” says the girl who scored perfect 100 percentile in CAT 2017.
So, there you have it, a detailed roadmap that will guide you to success in CAT and straight into IIMs.
About the Author:
Ritesh Singh, an alumnus of IIT Delhi, has been teaching for Engineering and CAT and various other competitive exams. He started online courses on his website Eckovation in 2015 and currently has more than 1,000,000 learners.