How to Prepare for the Common Admission Test?
Starting Your CAT Preparation
Even though the pattern of CAT keeps changing and evolving, we believe that at the core level, the strategies stay more or less consistent. It is about hard work, planning your day and keeping a cool mind on the final day. Here we present a generic take that you can use on preparing for CAT or any other MBA examination. For latest format details and updates, please visit official IIM CAT website.
1) How to start the CAT exam preparation?
Start with a diagnostic test or mock exam for CAT. You can give such test at ‘n’ number of places whereas we would recommend TestFunda iCAT (It’s totally free) as our two cents or you may choose any other source that fits you fine. Such tests are also available in preparation books such as Arun Sharma and others but these are not online and the actual exam is.
- Why give a test right now for CAT Preparation even though I am not prepared?
- It will help you assess your current standing and a general overview of your areas over the long run as you go into deeper preparation.
- It will tell you the general areas where you are weak at and where you stand and work accordingly.
- It will help you get a feel of the exam and by the time you are finished with your preparation, you will know the importance of this practice test.
Almost all coaching institutes give it to their students during their classroom program to assess the capabilities of the student. However, it is important that you do not take the results too seriously and do not get demoralized in the process as this is just the start and there is a long way to go.
Similarly, those students who perform well should not rest easy because the percentile in a diagnostic test may not be an accurate reflection of the final day, in fact, far from it.
Buying Study Material and Books for CAT
Now there is a lot of research going on, asking your peers and everything for buying the correct study material for your CAT preparation, however, we have made a list of some great books that are very popular amongst students due to their high relevance and quality that would help you in your study for CAT .
Which books to buy?
- At least one coaching institute package like Career Launcher, TIME, TestFunda or others.
- Arun Sharmas’ Quant + Verbal + DI books.
- Total Gadha Book on Number System. A must have if you ask us, you can find it on Total Gadha website or just make a friend on Pagalguy if you know what we mean.
- Normal Lewis Vocab book (Highly Recommended).
- Shakuntla Devi Puzzle Book
- CAT preparation by IIM Alumni
If you were giving CAT again, then how would you buy books? I personally would keep the 2,3,4th option the same but the first option, I would have changed things a bit because I have referred to the material of many coaching institutes.
Every institute material has its strengths and though we don’t want to talk about the weakness, we would like to recommend a few must have niche Books for CAT.
- CL Reading Comprehension 2
- CL Sentence Correction – The book on Grammar
- TIME – Logical Reasoning Problems Types
- TIME – LRDI both combined If you can get on these books in specific, it would be great and complement the package of whichever coaching institute you buy.
Study Plan For CAT Exam
Ok, I got the books for CAT, now what should be my study plan?
The date of the CAT exam is variable but we will still use relative terms to plan this in general.
- Plan your study schedule such that you finish the entire syllabus or the most part of it at least two months before the date of the exam.
- Try and study all the three subjects as often as you can rather than sticking to just one subject over a prolonged time. Divide time between the subjects and then continue your studies on all three fronts. This is something you can vary depending on your suitability. Some students find it better to concentrate on just one subject. However, it is advised that you stay in touch with all the sections.
- Read Novels and articles online for building stamina on the screen.
- Take a break in between and try to stick to your schedule. Remember, CAT is more about diligence than intelligence. There are many average students (academically speaking) who have made it to the IIMs.
- Join the Pagalguy Quant thread if you still have time on your hands. Its simply amazing and gets better each year.
I finished my preparation much before for CAT , what should I do? Solve the entire book set again. What again..? Yes, it is not a typo, do it again and again and keep on doing it till the time you can recall each question of Arun Sharma (LOD 1 and 2 specifically) by heart. You may not believe but this single sentence differentiates the Quant Gods and the lesser mortals.
Not only people good in Quant are actually good in quant but the fact is that they have done similar questions over and over again, non stop.
Try this approach, and the same is also recommended by Arun Sharma, an IIM-B Alumni. If you are looking for some tough questions, get a hold of TIME AIMCATs of the previous years as they take the quantitative aptitude question to ridiculously difficult level. (Much higher than the actual level of the CAT exam)
- You have said that finish the syllabus two months before – Why so??
It’s because of the next aspect – Mock Exams.
- What exactly are mock exams?
These are exams exactly on the pattern of the CAT paper which students around the country give to assess their capabilities and preparation level.
- Which all institutes provide these tests?
All most all the major institutes preparing students for MBA! We recommend that you join two test series of which one should be of TIME. Why TIME ?- Because we get money…..LOL .. We don’t get paid from TIME or anything but the reason is that the maximum number of students join this series and the quality is at par with other institutes, if not better.
Since a large number of students are using their test series with a more even span throughout the country, you get a better picture of your relative performance.
- Why 2 Mock Series then?
Though TIME has a great test series, there is one thing that other institutes are doing better right now in our opinion. What is that you ask? It is “The post exam analysis.” You can see this for yourself once you give the free iCAT of Test Funda.
The post exam analysis with in depth info via charts and interactive mediums is just fantastic which is not the case with TIME. They have analysis tools but IMHO, they are nowhere close to that of TestFunda or for that matter CL.
- Why are these post exam analysis important?
Ok, this is where the 2 month early finishing comes in handy.
Understand it thus:
2 months before – Finished with my syllabus for CAT.
- This is how it follows from here on a tentative note, obviously, you juggle it based on your propensity:
- Monday – You give the exam
- Tuesday – You get the result and start analysis. Ideally, if the mock takes 2 and a half hour, you should spend 5 hours while analyzing. You start analyzing the questions you did, did not do and which you did but got wrong and see the reasons to it.
- Wednesday – You start revising the weak areas that the analysis has projected. Hypothetically, let’s assume that you may have done all topics but somehow you are not able to solve questions of Geometry and Grammar properly (as per the analysis) so you prepare Geometry again.
- Thursday – You give smaller tests like skill builder and Total Gadha free test options while revising Geometry and Grammar in specific and other areas that you feel like in general.
- Friday – You continue to do Geometry and grammar chapters from Arun Sharma and CL book respectively.
- Saturday – Give smaller, 20 minute test of Geometry and grammar and a few others.
- Sunday – Break !! Now you have revised your weak areas in particular and ready to start the next week with your flaws covered. Rinse, repeat and follow !! Then again the same routine. This will allow you to prepare for the test in the best possible manner and you can amend the flaws in your preparation.
The season has kick started again and many things have changed while the core still remains in tact i.e. CAT is still one of the most coveted and toughest management exams in the world and some normalization.
It’s assumed that the CAT exam mutates every year, however, the truth is not that simple or easily expressible. While we have seen CAT paper change over the years, the intensity with which the basics and concepts of students are tested still remain the same.
The CAT exam may change in structure, may go from offline to online and other things but the general crux remains the same and the game is still played in pretty much the same way as it was in the older days and little has changed in that sense.
The test became harder almost each year in the previous decade in the written mode. Since it came onto the online scene, the difficulty level took a dip and cut offs zoomed upwards, and some students got the dose of normalization. So that was the background and this is the present.
Now the CAT will have two sections since CAT previous year exams and it has fixed time allotted to each section. All this has meant that students need to change and adapt to the various nuances like:
- Change in test taking strategy for old students though the pattern remains the same.
- Since two sections would be normalized instead of three, more accurate results would ensue. Cheers !
- Students who had one strong area, did that in lesser time and used the extra time for weaker sections, this would not be possible now and students may find their percentiles fluctuating by +-5% due to this.
- The importance of general speed over all the sections increases and so does the need for equal competency in equal time over different sections.
- No fuss of dividing time b/w sections.
Further Understanding The CAT Paper
Most probably, the number of questions will remain same as before in CAT. What is happening is that the LR DI section is split in two. So first section would have 20 quantitative aptitude, 10 DI and next one 20 VA and 10 LR. However, if the IIMs keep the same number of Quant questions, it is highly unlikely that engineers will feel the heat. Now the most important question – How to adapt to these changes?
- Get used to it. This is the first thing that comes to our mind because as managers your world will be highly unpredictable. Right, now something more realistic –
- Give your mocks very seriously as it will help you adapt to the new pattern. However, do not over do it. Start some time in August and give 5-8 mocks. Anything more would probably make you worn out.
- Focus on Reading Comprehension and Logical Reasoning. Most coaching institutes have indicated that the results of CAT 2011 were biased towards those who did well in Logical reasoning this time and some skewness was observed in the same.
- Giving the exam at later stages may help you offset the unpredictability factor, but those who cannot bear the stress, get over with it soon. Time it on a weekday, which is not a holiday to reduce the chances of serial cat givers especially working professionals being in your slot.
The Big Day – Last Lap to CAT
You revise the core concepts once again, get a hang of the questions, get good sleep, have a good mood.
We will be running an entire article on the last lap and you can connect with us using Facebook, Twitter, RSS or Email (just enter your email in the box on the right hand side) to stay updated with loads of useful information like exam form updates, cat exam updates and others.
Further Reading – How to Solve Questions Fast?
Also Useful – Are you eligible for the IIM? – Find it out over here.
Recommended Read – Why MBA?
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