Well then, CAT 2023 is upon us! And for many of us, it brings with it the chance to make our dreams and goals come true. For some of us, it may be about transitioning careers into a different field. For some, it may be about reinforcing our capabilities and intellect and bolstering career growth. And for some, it could be as simple as experiencing campus life one last time before being swallowed into the corporate world! But there is one common denominator for all of us. We have just 3 months left to put ourselves in the best position to live out our dreams and goals! How do we make the best of this time? What should the CAT preparation strategy be from here on? What should I prioritise?
Read on to find out!
PS: Our very own experts have dolled out these wonderful videos entailing what you should be doing in your CAT preparation from the months of August and September! But, if you cannot watch the video because you are stuck at work next to your boss or if you are at a college lecture you cannot escape from, worry not fam, this article has got you covered!
Anchoring Your CAT Preparation
Let’s start with what should be the focal point of your CAT preparation from here on- Mocks.
Mocks will always be your compass as you navigate your CAT journey. They will help you find your bearings and give you an idea of where you stand and what you must do next. Your mock scores may at times turn out to be lower than your expectations. But I urge you to not let this faze you. This only calls for your attention towards analysing where you can improve and charting out a plan for preparation.
With 3 months to go, you should structure your CAT preparation around mocks. The reasons are-
- Question selection is a skill as important as being able to solve the questions themselves. Only mocks can provide you with the challenge of choosing the right questions in a time-sensitive setting.
- One cannot underestimate the importance of getting acclimated to the question paper pattern, the duration of the exam, the use of the on-screen calculator etc.. Familiarity is key. As the saying goes- Knowing your ‘enemy’ is half the battle won!
But taking mocks alone is not enough! Analysing your performance is arguably more crucial and one should spend considerable time- upwards of 4 hours doing so. How to analyse mock tests is a question that deserves its own post and you can find it in Rajesh’s insightful article here! You can also watch Rajesh’s live attempt at solving an entire mock paper here!
Cultivate a routine of taking mocks and analysing them religiously. As for the number of mocks to be taken, the 100 percentilers at 2IIM recommend 1 mock every week from now and then ramp it up to 2 per week from October onwards.
How much time should I be dedicating to my CAT preparation?
A serious attempt at CAT with less than 90 days to go mandates your unfettered dedication and focus on a consistent basis. Now whether you are a working professional or a college student or on a break may decide the amount of time available for you. From personal experience as well as interacting with many successful CAT givers, approximately 400 hours are required in total to take a solid crack at CAT. So for instance, if you have started your preparation in August, you must look to dedicate about 30 hours per week towards CAT preparation. You are at liberty to choose how to spread out the hours over the week depending on your workload/ availability. But aim for consistency and make every hour count. Now is the time to make some sacrifices and squeeze out as many productive hours as possible.
Moving on, let’s dive into tackling the three individual sections of CAT!
Without the luxury of time, the depth and strength of topics are more important than the breadth of topics covered. Arithmetic and algebra form the bedrock of Quantitative Ability as well as DILR sections. Make sure to get your fundamentals right. Practice extensively and expose yourself to as many advanced-level/CAT-level questions as you can. Geometry should be next in your priority. Once you have covered these topics thoroughly, you can then decide on number theory and modern math based on available time.
If you are someone with fairly advanced experience with quantitative questions and are comfortable with math, then by all means, broaden up your scope and aim for the stars! But one common maxim to note is: “Fast is fine, but accuracy is everything”. If you find yourself attempting 19 to 20 questions and getting 4 to 5 wrong, dial down the attempts to 10 but get all 10 right.
Arguably, the most important factor in DILR is set selection. There will be sets with multiple charts of different types, sets with more than 10 constraints, and sets with graphs you have never seen before. Choosing the right set based on your strengths is the key here. Now how will you find out what your strengths and weaknesses are? No brownie points for guessing it right, the answer is practice and mocks!
Solving 2 sets per day will leave you in a great position to carve out a top percentile in this section. At a minimum, aim to solve 1 set per day. Expose yourself to as many types of sets as possible. You will undoubtedly come across extremely frustrating sets but persevere and spend time to solve 50% to 60% of the set before viewing the solution. With more practice and familiarity, you will gain the knack of choosing the right question. DILR is notorious for its ability to wear students down, but perceive and keep at it just like a certain superhero does ever so valiantly-
With the limited time for CAT, practising VARC questions should be your primary focus. Unlike in quants, there is no leeway to choose between VA and RC questions. This is a common mistake that people make and can direly hurt your score. However, you can build a strategy for the type of questions you want to choose under the VA and RC sections. If, for instance, you have come to realise that philosophical passages are difficult for you to follow, then do not hesitate to jump to a passage that you are comfortable with. Then, if time permits, circle back to the more challenging one.
While there are no definitive formulas that govern your solution (like in quants), there are certain strategies and heuristics that can streamline your thinking process. VARC is not just about language, it is language + logic, and strategies help in the latter part.
You should be looking to solve 12-15 RCs per week (3 RCs per day) and around 20 to 25 VA questions per week. I would be remiss if I didn’t clarify that the number of hours or questions I have mentioned to target on a weekly or daily basis is not set in stone. These numbers have been obtained purely from witnessing the preparations of hundreds of CAT givers. And more often than not they came up trumps with high percentiles.
Having a habit of reading goes a long way in bolstering your ability to tackle the VARC section. Hence, along with practising questions, foster the habit of reading for 30 minutes every day until the exam. And it helps to keep your reading list diverse. This will help you when you counter an article, the likes of which you have never read before. If you are looking for an expertly curated list of articles covering a plethora of topics, you are in luck! Head over to Bharat’s curated reading list. And I kid you not, you will love it so much you will keep coming back long after CAT.
And now for perhaps the most important bit….
Will I be able to crack it? What if I fail to crack CAT? What if I fail to crack CAT again? How will I compete with others?
All these are questions that are as useless as that box in which your phone came in, that you refuse to throw out. I say nay to these gloom-ridden thoughts!
There are no rewards for mulling over what could have been or dreading what will be. And on the other end of the spectrum, don’t fantasise either! Keep yourself grounded and focus on the now.
You will have to make some sacrifices. And you have to bring your A-game in terms of dedication, focus and sheer hard work throughout these 3 months in order to have a serious crack at CAT.
CAT preparation can be an endearing journey. You can join prep groups and meet new people. Solving the quantitative problems and the DILR sets can unlock and reinvigorate your critical thinking capabilities. Cultivating a reading habit can open your mind and make you aware of the many wonders of the world around you. Hence, if you give your best and staunchly prepare for CAT in the next 3 months, regardless of the result, I am certain that you will be a better person than before and that is certainly something to cherish.
In the end…
With all this said and done, we must smartly recognize that CAT is not the be-all and end-all of your career or life. It is just one of the many ways to achieve your dreams and goals. Dig in and give your best, but do not get bogged down and suffer from stress.
I will leave you with the wonderful words that the ever-cheerful Mr Rajesh himself sent to his students after the CAT 2020 results were out.
Are you off to do an MBA? Are you giving CAT another go? Are you taking the prudent option, saying, to hell with this CAT malarkey, and continuing merrily with life?
From my experience of interacting with students, I can tell you that whichever one among the three options you choose, the likelihood of future success and happiness remains more or less the same 🙂 Best wishes for achieving great results in whichever direction you choose to go in.
Prashant is a freshly baked product of the ever-growing MBA-churning institutions that are the Indian B-schools. He has a penchant for the English language and relishes the opportunity to write informative blogs and occasionally teach as well, to help budding MBA aspirants!