This blog will cover how one should prepare for CAT, starting from April. CAT Preparation can broadly be categorized into three phases. Learning from Fundamentals, Getting your practice in, taking mocks. There’s an extra point at the end -- read on and find out what it is!
CAT Preparation Phase 1: Get your Fundas in place (April to July)
It’s a very common phrase: A building is only as strong as its foundation. This applies for your CAT preparation as well.
Where to start?
During the initial phase of your preparation, it’s very important to get a good grasp of the fundamentals of a topic & understanding the theory. If you are not thorough with your fundamentals, then you will find it difficult to crack the “tougher questions”, especially in the exam setting. Getting to the 90th percentile is possible, but breaking into the 98+ percentile range can be done only if your fundamentals are in place.
Things to worry, and things to not worry?
At this phase in your preparation, you’ve got to not think about CAT Preparation, Percentiles, B-Schools, etc. When you start off with, say, Linear & Quadratic Equations -- your focus should be on what kinds of solutions can linear equations have, for different solutions, what would the set of equations look like on a graph, what kinds of roots can a Quadratic Equation have? What’s the formulaic approach to finding roots, what is splitting up of the middle term, when do I use which method, etc.
What is most important?
Getting your fundas in place will include learning/understanding the theory presented, solving a few questions based on said theory, and getting your doubts clarified in the process. Switch off CAT mode at this initial stage and focus on getting your fundamentals right. If you know every bit of a topic, then ramping up speed can be done mechanically by sheer practice, which brings me to the second phase of preparation, practice.
CAT Preparation Phase 2: Do the “grind” (June to September)
Do the “grind” because practice makes perfect.
Managing multiple things
There will be a bit of overlap between basics and practice. Intuition is a fairly important part, but it is just as important, if not more, to have the energy to power through a ton of questions without feeling fatigue. During practice, you’re going to be practicing 20 or 30 questions from one topic in an hour. However, in the exam setting, you’re going to be solving 34 questions from 20 different topics -- and this will be after an hour of reading, and an hour of solving puzzles and breaking down datasets.
What is automaticity?
In this phase of your preparation, you’re looking to expend less time and mental energy in solving a question. You’re looking to mechanise the process of solving questions. Major parts of processes should run on Auto-pilot. When confronted with a tricky question, you have to break the question down and pick the correct approach to solving it within 30 seconds. But the next minute and a half during which you actually solve the question should be in a mechanical fashion; in a manner that does not take much out of you.
More the processes on auto-pilot, the less fatigue you feel, the less tired you get, which means you have more to give in whatever questions remain, which means better are the odds of you cracking the next question. Also read this for more on automaticity: http://math4schoolkids.blogspot.com/2012/12/article-role-of-automaticity.html
Side note: You don’t necessarily need to solve insanely tough questions to get comfortable with a topic. CAT does not test on JEE level. Solve CAT level questions and stop there. To get an idea, browse through this question bank of ~1000 questions which will include actual CAT questions so that you can get a feel for what difficulty level CAT tests at.
CAT Preparation Phase 3: Mocks & Gap Filling
Don’t wait to take a Mock!
I have seen, over many years, students wait to finish their portion so that they can take a few mock tests and get themselves exam ready. Trust me when I tell you, this never happens. Mock-taking is an imperative part of CAT preparation and you’ve got to start taking mocks once you’re done with 50% of your portion.
You can take your first mock as early as May, especially if you’ve never taken the CAT exam before. Take one mock a month till June. You can then take a mock once every couple weeks in July, August, and September. In the last couple months, you can take a mock a week, or at times two.
Find the right balance between three things: 1) Practice, 2) Taking a mock, and 3) Find gaps in basics & re-learn/practice to fill the gap.
Persistence is the Key!
This practice goes on till CAT. But how big a gap you fill has to get lesser with each mock -- or you’re not getting anywhere. Don’t fret about Percentiles, and All India ranks in your initial few mocks. Your focus should be on analysing your mock, understanding your gaps, and filling them.
If there is one thing to learn from a mock, find 3 questions you should have not attempted but did, and 3 questions that you should have attempted that you didn’t.
Additionally, Read.. A lot!
It has become tradition for us to say this ever so frequently because it is that vital to CAT Preparation. Considering the lockdown that we all are under currently, we have ample time to build a habit. At Least for the sake of your CAT Preparation, pick up the habit of reading on a daily basis.
If you don’t know where to start, we have compiled a plethora of articles (around 500+) across different topics that can be found here -- Bharath’s reading list. We keep updating this list everyday/week. Follow us on Youtube & Facebook to get updates on daily articles for reading.
Finally -- Start your preparation TODAY
One common trait of many of us is the tendency to procrastinate. Start your preparation TODAY. Because of how important it is to start “TODAY”, we have gone through the trouble of uploading a video for it, and have also written a blog about it. If you are one of the few people who like to read this in a blog format, click here. If not, watch the video below.
Cheers & Good luck with CAT preparation!
Article written by Praveen Thankasala -- A perpetual mis-match between what I want to do and what I actually do. Aahh.. I’ve got to go sleep again.