CAT 2015: How To Chalk Out 100-day Preparation Strategy?
Are 100 days enough to prepare for the toughest exam in India?
Yes. Instead of giving a roundabout answer and an explanation, I thought that the best way to address the question is by giving the right answer. And yes, the answer to the above question is that 100 days are more than sufficient to prepare and ace the CAT exam. However, it does not matter if I think so, as long as the student does not think so.
CAT is an aptitude based exam and improves one aptitude is a matter of practice. 100 days is enough 150 would have been better 300 is even better.
But the truth is that June/July is the time when almost 95% of the students writing CAT start the preparation for it in right earnest. Most institutes start their Mock CAT series around this time only. The key, however, is to utilize these 15 odd weeks that exist and not waste (lose) as you may have done for the past few weeks and months.
First and foremost, you have to understand that CAT is not any insurmountable hurdle to get into the IIMs. The exam has very simple areas some of which have been done as far back as 8th, 9th and 10th classes. Of course, the fact that these areas have been done a long while ago may also be a cause for your concern. Second, with a systematic preparation, CAT can be probably one of the easiest exams to crack.
What is most important at this stage is to take stock of your preparation/situation. Know what have you achieved till date and what are the areas where improvements are required. Writing Mock CATs will give you a clear indication of where you stand in terms of achieving your desired percentile.
More importantly, understanding the CAT exam and the requirement of marks will make your preparation that much easier.
While almost every student gets a different paper (not all questions are the same for any two students writing in the same date and same slot) the CAT exam, careful analysis and feedback from the students who have written CAT 2012 has given enough insights to figure out what would be the cutoffs/safe scores.
To get a 90%ile in CAT 2012, students needed to get around just 35% marks net. Even at the 98.5%ile level, the requirement was less than 50% of the total marks. This shows that diligent preparation can get one into the IIMs and other top B Schools much more easily than one may anticipate or expect.
What should you do?
Let’s understand on a broad basis what should be done from now on to mid-October. It is also advisable that students book their slots early so that they don’t have to worry about not getting the date of their choice. Normalization ensures that there is no difference in your overall scores whether you write the exam on Oct 16th (the first day of CAT2013) or Nov 11th (last day of CAT2013). Scheduling your date of the exam around the end of October or beginning of November will give you that extra month (15 days) to prepare.
Let’s look at time lines that give you some idea as to where your preparation and preparedness need to be.
Last Month/October: The last month of preparation should be less of preparation and more of practicing through Mock CATs. Since CAT is a Computer Based Exam, it is useful to get comfortable with the mouse (clicks!). Reading on a Computer instead of on a paper should become a habit. In addition, the most important part of any competitive exam is the strategy you adopt. Given enough time, you will realize that you can always solve almost all the problems. But the fact that the same has to be done within a time limit makes the task onerous and challenging.
Target as on October 1st - You should have finished learning all the concepts by then. You should have solved as many possible exercises in each of the areas/topics as possible and get the ability to solve every possible question. Speed is important but, more important than that would be the accuracy that you get for doing each question. Confidence builds up if you find that you can solve almost every problem that you see. By this time you should have solved all books/study material that you have at least once, preferable twice.
July 15th – Sept 30th – These two and half months are very critical for your preparation. Those of you who are working, please do understand that taking leave in the last few days before CAT and trying to prepare would not really be a good idea. It is better that you use the leave (that you intend taking for your preparation) partly in this period and partly in Oct.
Watch CAT sections
Quantitative Ability – The best way to prepare Quant is to divide the entire area into topics and make a target for each of the topics. Also, ensure that while you are keeping your targets, the revision schedule is also incorporated in your targets. Ideally, you should have finished the quant portion (going through the basic study material) by July 15th. However, those of you who have started late can keep this target as August 31st. Those students who have completed the basic material should do it once again so that the concepts are better understood.
At the end of each Mock CAT, you can check your scores in each area/section and find out where you are lacking expertise in, and concentrate on those topics more before the next Mock CAT. This way, you would ensure that whatever the weak areas you have you can work on them before the next Mock CAT
Data Interpretation/Logic – To be good at DI, your ability to calculate fast can make a huge difference. Spend 10 minutes everyday on Speed Math techniques. Make a checklist of all the types of graphs and questions that come in CAT. Give yourself a target of 10 days to go through each and every such graph and questions. Revise the same in every 10 days. Take tests periodically.
Verbal Ability/Reading Comprehension: Verbal Ability can be divided into three broad areas viz., Vocabulary, Grammar, Verbal Reasoning.
There is no way you can mug-up hundreds of words in the given time. The best way to improve vocabulary is to concentrate on the words that appear in the Mock Tests and see that you are thorough in these. Since the words that are given in CAT are the words in vogue, it is very likely that by going through the Mock Tests and Individual tests you would come across almost all words that may appear in this years exam.
Grammar is a habit. The more you read the better your comfort zone in Grammar. There is no other way but to practice as many questions that come your way and keep reading. It looks like a simplistic way of preparation, but this is the only way. There could be hundreds of grammar rules and trying to remember them would be futile.
For Verbal Reasoning and Reading Comprehension, getting familiar with the type of questions and paragraphs is the key. Make sure that you spend at least half hour every day on this area so that you are either taking a slip test or reviewing one.
Every student, whether he is a BE, B Tech, B Com, BA, BMS, BBA or MBBS can become a Manager. Hence any exam that tries to test all these at the same level has to be at a level that is comfortable to all the students with these backgrounds. The only common level that these students have had is at the 10th STD Level. Hence, the CAT and other such exams test aptitude at that level. Each one of you is capable of getting there if you prepare systematically. There is enough time to revisit your school level math and aptitude. Start Now, You can MAKE IT.