With hard work and dedication, anything is possible
– Timothy Weah
Preparing for CAT exam is like performing tapas (penance). It requires hard work, smart work, some amount of luck and sound temperament. We will break it down into the components listed further down and see why each part is vital.
It goes without saying that there are a lot of topics to prepare for CAT, and lot of ideas to revise & revisit. For instance, there are a bunch of types of DILR Puzzles such as Seating Arrangement, Sequencing, Blood relations, Grid puzzles, Table based, Chart based, Graph based etc. Though the recent editions of CAT have not tested them directly, knowing how to approach these ideas sets the base for a good DILR preparation.
Likewise, Quantitative Aptitude section has 30+ topics, broadly classified into 4 headings as Number Systems, Arithmetic, Algebra and Geometry. The number of ideas to learn, remember, understand and practice is a lot, hence the absolute necessity of Hard work in CAT prep.
The Verbal ability section is no less easy than the other two. It requires at least a few hundred-hours’ worth of reading for a strong foundation for the CAT VARC Preparation.
There is a fine line that distinguishes smart work and hard work, especially in context of CAT. Learning Remainders, adding Chinese remainder theorem and pigeonhole principle in your arsenal is a great thing to do. If you follow it up with 100 fantastic (read insanely tough) practice questions on remainders – that is an excellent example of hard work. But is it smart? It is patently not. Why is that so? Because in the last several years, there have been close to zero questions on remainders tested in CAT.
Another example to drive home the idea of smart work – learning 18 different formulae to solve speed time distance, represents hard work while, knowing that S=d/t is enough to solve any speed time distance question is smart work.
Same goes for memorising words through flash cards, knowing grammar rules by-heart etc. Intuitively figuring out meaning of words in that context is smarter than going back to the dictionary every time you are faced with a new word. CAT has moved away to a large extent from things that can be fixed only with hard work (this does not mean hard work is not necessary, but hard work is essential, but just not enough, and requires one to do smart work as well).
Why is Luck important in CAT prep?
Does that mean, all the preparation you do is not going to help?
You got to see it the other way round. Your CAT preparation occupies 50% of the pie, which contains all the factors that are important for “Great CAT Results”. If you do not have it in place, your base is shaky and will most likely lead to abysmal performance in the CAT Exam. But, if it is in place, does that guarantee a fantastic CAT score? Maybe, maybe not.
Factors such as your mental state, whether you are unwell, did your Car breakdown on the way, did the invigilator behave rudely with you and umpteen other external factors matter on the D day. I am not saying that luck is very vital, and if you are lucky you can nail this exam. If anything I am saying the opposite, prepare well, have your wits with you. This is an exam of temperament. Luck helps you keep your composure, if you are naturally not gifted on that front, or have not gone through enough experiences to be there already. Hope and pray (if you believe in that) that your day should be a good day.
Why is having a sound temperament important in this context?
You have to hang in there, in multiple occasions to get to a great place.
It could be when you have crossed the 15th minute into a DILR puzzle, and you know the answer will take another good 5 minutes, and you do not want to let stress get the better of you.
You could get a few bad mock scores time and again. It takes lot of mental strength and grit to hang in there and keep pushing more mocks into the system without worrying about the results.
Having it in you to keep pushing and focusing on input metrics compared to output metrics is a brilliant thing, and you need lots of discipline and grit to keep at it continually.
These are the most important factors that can make or break your CAT exam. The line that distinguishes hard work and smart work is too close to be distinguishable. Make sure you realize which side of the rope are you in. Also remember, there are many who got into brilliant b schools in their 4th attempt, 5th attempt at this hit or miss exam.
Best Wishes for CAT Prep!