This is a wonderful time to be starting off on new projects! Preparing for CAT 2021 and working towards your MBA Dream is most certainly a wonderfully fresh endeavour. I am going to outline a guide to help you realise your preparation plan.
- What should you be doing in order to prepare for CAT 2021?
- What kind of mental makeup is required in order to be doing that?
Preparation phase for CAT 2021 neatly breaks into 3 parts:
- Learning Fundamentals.
- Consolidation and Practice.
- Taking Mocks and getting Exam-Ready.
Let us explore these in further detail.
1. Learning from Fundamentals
The first part of your CAT 2021 Preparation should be focused on learning from fundamentals. Learn the absolute basics.
What is the average of 2 numbers? Why does a concept such as the average exist? Why does a certain system of equations have a unique solution? What is the proof for the idea that the sum of two sides of a triangle is greater than the third side? What in the world… is subject-verb agreement?
This kind of stuff should be bubbling within your brain amidst neurons firing up due to curiousity. Why is something the way it is within the rules of Math and English? At this point in your preparation, focus on learning these fundamental ideas. Why?
Because these will form the land upon which you will grow your CAT Crops. These will comprise the wood that starts your MBA Fire. Throw in all the metaphors you can think of, but stick to learning your fundamentals with a sense of joy and curiousity at this phase! 😀
Do NOT worry about speed or doing things dramatically quickly at this point. Learn for the idea of learning for that topic. Don’t be continuously consumed and plagued by questions such as, “What is the CAT Level Question going to be like?”, “How many questions will come from this topic/should I skip it?”
Cross off percentages, inequalities, parajumbles, geometry and everything else. Learn the idea of solving one type of logical reasoning questions. This should be a big focus area and will form the main part of building the base on top of which everything else will be laid.
Learning and revisiting fundamentals goes on throughout your CAT Preparation, but it will be predominant in the first 5-6 months.
Let’s move on to the next part of your CAT 2021 Preparation.
2. Heavy-duty Drill and Practice
The middle chunk of your CAT Preparation will comprise the heavy-duty drill and practice that is an essential part of preparing for anything. Why is this important?
Your mind has to automate a bunch of processes and build a kind of…intuition. This is extremely crucial because the CAT is a competitive exam. If you’re saying total wealth is 25 and is being divided in the ratio 2:3, some people will automatically arrive at 10 and 15. Others have to write it out as 2:3, add it up to 5, plug in 25 and then compute, in order to arrive at the answer.
The point is that the more practice and drill you put in, the more automatic these processes become. The time saved can be put to use by solving another question or revisiting a set you set aside within the CAT. Practice helps in 2 ways:
- Building Speed
- Building Stamina
The people who really get this exam, switch off and on. The routine processes that accompany the solving of a question just come to them due to the countless hours of their practice. The trickier bits is where they come into process. This saves time and energy, and is a massive advantage.
An appropriate parallel I can think of is learning to ride a bicycle. For the first few tries, all you can think of is trying not to fall. Balance. Is there a car coming? How do I turn? All these questions start to pop up. As you keep riding the cycle, balance gets automated. That’s when you start to think about going faster, correctly turning at the slightest whim, navigating through traffic and the like. You might even listen to music and get on the bike. This is the power of automation within the mind.
You don’t start learning by going on a 15-km cycle track around the hills.
So do the drill, build speed, covet accuracy, intensity, and stamina. This lets you amp everything up. This takes about 3-4 months, but you can’t finish step 1 and then start step 2. You learn from fundamentals for 2-3 months, do the drill in order to consolidate ideas better and better, then revisit fundamentals and add more layers to the drill.
Check out this insightful video that talks about the importance of revision and the science behind it.
Let’s move on to the last lap of your CAT 2021 Preparation!
3. Make Mocks your friends
You should look to take about 25-30 mocks from different providers with varying styles between questions. You need to figure out your strengths and weaknesses, your strategies while approaching the paper. Give yourself the freedom to tweak and finetune the way you approach the exam.
Play with variables at this point and look to figure out what works for you. These will make a huge difference when you finally take the CAT. By then, you will be familiar with the way the interface works, familiar and comfortable with the idea of sitting in a place for 3 hours, and confident in your approach towards the multiple sections within the CAT.
From your first mock to your last, your scores will more than double. You’ll find each of those wins, by thinking about the big picture!
Don’t forget to plug in the knowledge gaps you identify when you take your mocks. Mock Analysis is everything! Check out this A-Z guide for Mock CATs…it is a treasure trove of knowledge!
On top of everything that we’ve covered so far, what else should you be looking to do?
Read. Read. And then Read some more.
Look to read for at least 1 hour everyday. Reading for an hour or so everyday is a habit that is built over months. Start that TODAY, if you haven’ already developed a reading habit.
Check out Bharath’s Curated Reading List for your daily reading and curiousity needs.
What is the plan overall?
As far as the theory is concerned, there is definitely a heavier Quant bias. The initial months will involve more and more math. While that is definitely understandable, at some point in time, you have to switch out and think about the big picture as well.
We’ve created 3 comprehensive articles which focus on the preparation plan for each of the 3 sections of the CAT. Do go through them and utilise them for CAT 2021. 🙂
- How to Prepare for the Quantitative Aptitude Section
- Preparation Plan for the Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension Section
- How to Prepare for the Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning Section
How many hours/week?
During the first 5-6 months, you should be looking to do 10-12 hours per week. Post 6 months, you can amp it up to 15-18 hours per week. The last few weeks will easily involve 30+ hours per week, largely due to mocks and analysis.
Now, this isn’t an astronomically high amount, but it is extremely crucial that the 10-12 hours than you put are complete 10-12 hours. What I mean by that is that those 10-12 hours should involve you preparing and studying without any distractions. Allot your time accordingly and carve out a schedule. You will go places.
Remember, CAT Preparation is a marathon…not a sprint.
How you carve out the schedule is up to you. Suppose you have a very tight work week and you can’t do anything else, carve your CAT Preparation out on Saturday and Sunday.
Suppose you’re the kind of person that wakes up early and can do 1.5 hours early in the morning everyday, go for that option. Say you’re a night owl, then get those solid 1.5 hours everyday after work (do get enough sleep though :P)
As you keep going through phases 2 and 3, you’ll have to find the time to prepare for the exam and take your mocks. That part will come later.
Mental Makeup and Temperament
Temperamentally, what should you be doing? Well, remember that you’re signing up for a long journey. For a learning journey!
You must plan very diligently and learn with discipline. Learn with a sense of curiousity and fun. It may seem like opposing views, but they are not. Be disciplined about the number of hours you put in, and have joy in the act of learning within those hours.
If you don’t do that, the pressure will slowly start getting to you. From day 1, look to enjoy this process. Don’t have a heavy-duty, final process in mind and keep that as a driver from day 1. Some part of the motivation should be intrinsic.
You’ve got to say, “Okay I am going to understand percentages and profit and loss really well. I’ll have fun solving these questions and see where it takes me.
It cannot ALWAYS be, “I need to get 99th percentile and crack this exam. Go to this B-School and get this package.” It tends to become de-spiriting if you have a couple of setbacks in mocks.
Secondly, have tons of belief!
You’ll be preparing for this exam with clearly uncertain outcomes for a long stretch of time. Stuff may happen on the day of the exam. A week before, something else may happen. The scores may go your way or not. You cannot be heavily contingent on investing heavily in 1 outcome. It doesn’t always play out like that.
These are wonderful metrics to chase.
Enjoy the process, learn tons of stuff, measure input variables very aggressively. How much have you learned? How many hours did I do this for? Did I read that long article? What about those books I want to read?
On the other hand, ‘Am I at 95th percentile level?’ is a question for which you cannot get a concrete answer. Nor is it that meaningful very early on.
Once you’re in the last leg of your plan, then you can have a realistic expectation of where you’re headed and what you can tweak.
For those of you who are retaking CAT, check out this article for certain key strategies.
Have loads of belief, learn with discipline and fun, and give yourself a great shot! If things fall your way, they fall your way. IF they don’t, you still have tons of things to look forward to. The CAT is just one way and it is just an exam.
Learn with us here! Happy Learning!
Stay Safe and Best Wishes for CAT.
Rajesh Balasubramanian takes the CAT every year and is a 4-time CAT 100 percentiler. He likes few things more than teaching Math and insists to this day that he is a better teacher than exam-taker.