Can a Weak Student Crack CAT Exam?
Of course! More than 5000 candidates who write CAT Exam every year get into the IIMs. Not all of them can be geniuses, can they? 🙂 As is the case for most exams, cracking CAT Exam is all about dedicated effort. It is about understanding the exam well, assessing and working on your own strengths and weaknesses well and working diligently with a proper plan.
There is more to CAT Exam than Math
Most students think of themselves as weak or as good contenders based on their Math skills. This is where the fallacy lies. CAT Exam has three sections: Quantitative Ability (QA), Verbal Ability/Reading Comprehension (VARC) and Data Interpretation/Logical Reasoning (DILR). You have to score well in all three sections to crack the exam. Most students, at least initially, underestimate VA and think that DILR is just an adjunct to the QA section. Can’t get it more wrong. We will come back to this after we look at CAT Exam QA section first.
CAT Exam only tests you on school-level Math
If you can work on the topics covered by NCERT up to 10th standard level, you can solve most CAT Exam questions. The exam is meant to test the average student. You don’t have to be an expert in Math to crack it. All it takes is the willingness to start from the basics and work hard.
Plus, you have got maturity on your side
You may have sucked at Math in school, but you are no longer the kid you were at school. Remember how envious you were of your younger sibling/friend who had to just do ‘the easy’ Math lessons while you slaved away? You get a chance to go back in time your CAT Exam preparation. Most students underestimate the role maturity plays in improving logic and understanding. Start brushing up your Math and you are likely to be pleasantly surprised by your ability to progress.
Almost everyone begins ‘weak’ in DILR
The DILR section, believe me, looks new and different to everyone attempting CAT Exam at first. The kind of analytical thinking and logical reasoning that is necessary to start doing well in this section is something that you develop, with practice, over time. No school or college exam or even other competitive exams, for that matter, has a section quite like the CAT Exam DILR section. My point is this: At least one-third of the paper is something everyone has to work on, most probably from scratch (unless they are great at solving puzzles. But then, let us ignore the outliers!)
Strengthening verbal skills can ease your way
If you want to crack CAT Exam, you must have a nuanced comprehension ability, the ability to decode trickily worded questions and sound reasoning. Start honing your verbal skills and you will have a great advantage over the majority that thinks this section does not require much preparation.
Starting ‘weak’ may become your strength
It can certainly help you avoid the traps that the over-confident fall into: Trying to learn tricks and shortcuts, instead of strengthening fundamentals; valuing speed over accuracy; not having a proper preparation plan. Your attitude can make all the difference.
I will leave you with this thought from Mark Manson’s excellent essay, ‘In defense of being average’:
“The people who become truly exceptional at something do so not because they believe they’re exceptional. On the contrary, they become amazing because they are obsessed with improvement. And that obsession with improvement stems from an unerring belief that they are, in fact, not that great at all. That they are mediocre. That they are average. And that they can be so much better.“
All the best for CAT!