CAT exam preparation is not just about the preparation strategies and things to follow at any cost. It is also equally about what an aspirant must not do while preparing for CAT. While the must-dos will help you enhance your CAT exam preparation, the must-not-dos will nudge you towards staying focussed.
So, what are these 5 must-not-do things, after all? Let us delve deeper!
#1 – Do not treat CAT as ‘everything’
There are quite a few aspirants who invest too much in the idea of CAT as the only means to glory. So when they take three mock tests and score, 97, 98.2 and 98.6, respectively, they are flying high. And then, wham! Suddenly, their scores in the two subsequent mocks drop to 91 and 89 percentile, respectively. Now, the world, in their purview, seems to be coming down crashing on them, because their CAT exam preparation has not probably yielded them the desired results in the last two mocks.
What is happening here? What is sitting underneath?
Nobody can avoid the aspect of fluctuation in scores. There is an aspect which nobody knows how to quantify – RANDOMNESS. If, let us say you have scored less in some mock tests, it might be due to a lot of factors.
- You might have done relatively poorer.
- The others who took that particular test could have performed better.
- There could have been an error in the software calculating the scores.
- It could have been a case of high-performers taking that mock.
We are kind of discussing things that are antithetical to the very concept of “randomness”, but you get where we are going with this. These are only some of the multiple variables that create randomness.
The takeaway for CAT exam preparation
Do not live, breath and eat CAT. Then, you might start trying to interpret the causes and effects of several things which are not under your control, when in reality, you simply cannot do nothing much about these factors at all.
#2 – Do not quit your job for CAT exam preparation
We have been blaring this loud and clear every now and then across several years and to thousands of candidates. Despite that, this remains and will continue to remain the most classical question – “Should I quit my job for CAT exam preparation?”
First of all, quitting a job is the cause of the incoming disaster of living, eating and breathing CAT. So, unless there is a compelling reason for you to quit your job – read, health issues, UPSC preparation, et al. – DO NOT.
Oh, and by the way, quitting your job for the sake of preparing for CAT is NOT a compelling reason. Not at all.
How does job help?
Wow, this does not require a detailed explanation. Nevertheless, let us get moving to the next aspect, after seeing a bulleted list of what a job provides and why it does help.
- A job gives you money. When you are not in a position of dependency, it is always an added subconscious advantage.
- Job gives you a form of an identity.
- There is something good you can do as part of your job role.
- Most importantly, your job helps you de-emphasize CAT exam preparation. It also means that you have some other routine other than CAT prep, which is good.
These are all crucial pieces of information, of course for life at large, but more specifically for CAT exam preparation.
#3 – Selection criteria has nothing to do with your CAT exam preparation
Again, this is a variable that is far beyond your control. Fretting too much on this aspect – and other aspects like these – are not worth your time and energy.
There are two types of factors:
- Those under your control
- The others that are not under your control
Worrying about whether or not IIM Bangalore or IIM Kozhikode or IIM Vishakapatnam gives that extra weightage to someone who pursued B.Sc. Agriculture while also wearing a blue dress is not something that you need to worry about at all.
Why does whining about the selection criteria not help?
You can stand on top of the tallest building you have and can scream at the top of your throat for 12 hours a day consistently for 6 months. That does not aid your CAT exam preparation in any way at all. Spending even one-tenth of that time in preparing for the now-dreadful DILR section might help you score three or four more marks and overcome that weird selection criteria that you have a grouse against.
What do we not understand about the criteria?
There are a bunch of aspects that we definitely need to understand about the selection criteria, but somehow we easily overlook those.
1) The criteria works.
Irrespective of any bias towards or against the selection criteria, we might want to confront the reality that it exists. There are in no escaping the reality. Face the fact head-on.
2) The bargaining power is with the B-schools
The candidates are not the ones entitled to fix the selection criteria; the B-schools are. And, that, in turn, is because they get enough and more applicants that they can choose to/afford to fix a criteria – very practical or very arbitrary – and decide to select candidates based on those parameters.
It is time to realize that they fix the bar so high because they are good at what they do. And, they know that they are good at what they do. Forget that, you know why you want to go there? Because you know that they are good at what they do. They can be be as picky as they want since the odds are stacked in their favour.
3) There is random nonsense going on in every corner of the internet
The B-schools are good, and the faculty are good. They have fixed a variety of criteria, and they arrive at these by back-testing several data points from the past and tweaking the parameters if and when needed.
Comments like, “The IIMs do not know what they are doing, in terms of their selection criteria” is just plain random guff. There is no means to believe that statement at all.
Also, the Professors have their hands tied because of certain governmental policies and frameworks which they have no control over. All in all, the criteria cannot be viewed as a one-dimensional aspect, but something that exists because the evidences are backed by data.
So if someone comes your way and tells you, “Dude, you are being discriminated against”, you need to learn to tell them, “Thanks for the information. The exit door is that way”, and double down on your CAT exam preparation.
#4 – Past academic records and chances of getting in vs. CAT exam preparation
This is again a variant of the worry on selection criteria. How does it matter if you have scored x% in your 10th grade Boards and y% in 12th grade? Also, nobody – not me, not the collective intelligence of the top 20 experts in the CAT preparation industry, no power high above in the Heavens or in this earth – can tell you how good your chances are. Your chances are as good as any other candidate on a good day.
Also, there are some B-schools which might automatically be ruled out if your academic performance in the past is not upto the mark. But, that does not change anything when it comes to your CAT preparation strategy.
The distinction between CAT exam preparation and the CAT results
Do not treat CAT exam preparation as an onerous task. Prepare with the fullest intensity. Have loads of fun preparing for CAT. The result and theensuing imbroglio could be onerous but the preparation is intense and fun. Make sure to get the best and most out of it.
Several aspirants who prepared well for CAT and took this examination but ended up not scoring well have come out and said, “I have given my best attempt. This three-hour examination will not decide who I am and what I am capable of”. These are the candidates who have gone on to well in their life. More importantly, this mindset gives you the rigour to come back and have one more shot at this examination.
You want to know what uncertainty or unfairness is?
See a watchman. He can lose his job on the count that some inmate on a particular house in an apartment complained against him, or made an allegation. People would want to take the path of least resistance and fire him. That is uncertainty. So, do not overemphasise and overcook this “The system and the other people are out there to get me, and I am being treated unfairly” part.
#5 – Do not try “building your profile”
If you quit your job to look for ways to build your profile, that is the most unfavourable thing you could do to yourself. If you have quit your job, that is because you hated the job, not because you wanted to build your profile. If you ask me, quitting a job is euphemism for “I hate(d) my job”.
If you have quit your job, find one. If you have quit and have been trying to find a job, but somehow, things are not falling in place, and you are not able to land a job at all, then, by all means, start building your profile. Do something meaningful.
Stay safe, stay focused, stay positive and best wishes for CAT preparation.
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.