CAT IS NOT DIFFICULT”
Here’s his preparation strategy:
Question: Does coaching play an important role in CAT 2016 preparation or is self-study sufficient?
Answer: It depends. For me, self-study played a significant role in the sense that I always knew what I was supposed to be doing at any particular period before the CAT. If you can figure that out yourself, coaching might not be that important. However, it is important that you get hold of reference material and mock series in case you’re not joining any coaching centre.
Question: When is the right time to start preparing for CAT 2016?
Answer: Ideally no matter when you start preparing, you need to be comfortable taking mocks at least two months prior to the exam day. The syllabus is pretty charted out, and if one is comfortable with the basics, even 4-5 months of preparation would do. Key is practice here, and there is no quantification for that. The idea is to identify your strong and weak zones, and then increase your attempts and improve the accuracy along with that.
Question: What should be the routine study strategy of CAT 2016 aspirants?
Answer: Initially, brush up your concepts. You can do this in Quant and DI sections at least. Solve as many questions as possible, but always stick to the time limits. Always have this at the back of your mind that CAT is not a challenging exam in terms of the level of difficulty of questions asked. It’s more about solving the paper in time. As part of a routine strategy, I would recommend reading one good newspaper and one magazine on a daily basis. If you enjoy reading novels, do that. It would increase your reading speed and also your concentration span, both very vital for the exam day.
As CAT is roughly 70 days away from now, I would recommend you go through the entire syllabus again in all three sections and make a note of your strong and weak area. Start taking mocks at good frequency now, but always keep in mind your strong/weak zones. You have enough time to improve on your weak areas. Go through the reference material again, take topic wise tests and make yourself comfortable with every last topic in the syllabus. DON’T leave any topic. You might find a very simple question on any topic in the final exam which you would certainly not want to miss.
Question: Which books/study material should CAT 2016 aspirants use?
Answer: There is so much of online content and reference material available from different coaching institutes, that I don’t feel the need to solve entire books. If I have to name a few, I used books by Arun Sharma and Nishit Sinha just to practice a few topics.
Question: What should be the sectional preparation strategy?
Answer: It can vary from person to person, and there is no ideal recipe here. As far as I am concerned, I felt comfortable with Quant and DI-LR. I always looked upon these sections as a set of 35% easy questions, 50% moderate difficulty questions, and 15% tricky/difficult questions. The idea was to look at a particular question for 5-7 seconds and identify the difficulty level. Once you get used to taking mocks, it becomes easier to identify the category at a single glance. Run through all the easy questions in the first 12-13 minutes, medium questions in the next 25-30 minutes. (I used to mark all the medium questions that came along my way in solving easy questions as ‘mark for review’.)The aim now would be maximize the number of attempts in the last 15-17 minutes and score some brownie points by solving some of those difficult questions. Verbal is a section where it is often difficult to maintain the consistency of scores. I used to bank upon RCs to get me to a decent score. A good reading speed is a must here, and that naturally comes when you become habituated with reading novels, newspaper articles, and any other piece of literature for that matter.
Question: When appearing for CAT 2016, how should the aspirants decide which questions to attempt from different sections: Quantitative Ability & DI, Verbal Ability & LR?
Answer: As I have mentioned before also, nothing is more important than identifying your strong and weak areas. And believe me, everyone has a weak area somewhere across the three sections. You identify this by taking multiple mocks and practice tests in a time bound manner. Once you are clear about this, the second skill you need to develop is identifying the level of difficulty of a question just by the first impression. That is in initial 3-4 seconds. Rate the questions as ‘easy’, ‘medium’ and ‘difficult’. Attempt all the questions in the way I mentioned in the previous answer.
Don’t panic if you don’t find enough easy questions. If the paper is difficult for you, it is most certainly difficult for everyone. Don’t just answer random questions to increase your attempts. It almost never works unless you are super lucky. This happened in CAT 2015. DILR was quite challenging. People who score well in the mocks are normally accustomed to attempting 28-30 questions out of 32. This was not that easy with the level of difficulty of the questions in CAT 2015. I know so many people who got frightened when they could only attempt 20 odd questions in the first 50 minutes. Just to increase the attempts to 26-28, people ended up getting negatives. The final result of DILR clearly indicates that 20 correct was a very good effort fetching 99.5+ %le easily.
Question: Time management plays an important role. Any tips for CAT 2016 aspirants on time management?
Answer: I have talked about time management already in the previous answers. Just to consolidate everything:
1. Be done with all your syllabus topics at least two months prior to the exam, no matter when you start.
2. Take topic wise tests for another 15 days. This would be a step in the direction of identifying your strong and weak area. Never let your strong area get weaker by being over confident and by giving all your time in improving your weak area. There has to be a balance.
3. Jump into taking mocks now. You have around 45 days from this point. Take at least 20 mocks. Analyse every mock thoroughly. I maintained an excel sheet for this. I recommend you to do it also. Make sure you are constantly improving. You should be ideally scoring 99.5+ in the last few mocks.
4. Don’t worry if you are not hitting the 99.5+ mark. I have met so many people here who never ever got a 99 before the actual test. CAT is largely unpredictable. And it works the best you have no performance pressure. Take it this way and just stay calm and relaxed on the D-day.
5. Already explained the time management section wise before. Just to add to it, it all works well only if you are confident and calm. Don’t Panic. That would be fatal.
Question: How can an aspirant judge his/her weak areas, and how should one work towards improving the same?
Answer: By taking mocks and time bound practice tests. Analysing them thoroughly afterwards. Once you identify the weak zones, go back to basics. Pick up one of those ancient modules you started your preparation with. Don’t hesitate to ask help from friends/faculty. Go slower than your first attempt, but make sure you get it right this time. I was very poor in Geometry till a month before the exam. I referred to my school textbooks from std. 8 and std. 9 just to understand the basics. There is no harm in doing any such thing!
Question: Should candidates also appear for other management exams? If yes, which exams?
Answer: It always makes sense not to keep all your eggs in one basket. At the end of it all, CAT is a very unpredictable exam. May be your slot turned out to be more difficult and there was not reasonable normalization, may be the first 3-4 questions in your set came from your weak zones and broke your confidence. You couldn’t concentrate well even on other questions. May be you fell sick. May be your PC crashed and this broke your rhythm. (This happened to the guy sitting next to me on CAT day). Or maybe, you were not at your best and couldn’t perform well. For some reasons, you can’t wait for another year for an MBA.
So many possibilities. Take as many tests as possible. It will only build your confidence level. The syllabus remains same for almost every test and there is no additional cost apart from the monetary cost associated.
I personally took IIFT, NMAT, SNAP, GMAT and XAT. IIFT was a week before the CAT, and believe me when I say that IIFT was the reason why I did well in CAT.
Question: Share some do’s and don’ts that CAT 2016 aspirants might find useful.