We have now crossed an invisible frontier, we have moved from the general to specific, from what is outside of you to what is inside of you, to that space between your ears. We have reached the last stretch now. If you are in a track and field race, you have turned the last curve and hit the straight. If you have taken CAT before will attest that how well you manage your 2 hours. How well you react to tough set or a section, how well you able to execute a plan, depends on how well you manage the space between your ears. So let’s take section by section, and let’s look at what you need to do right, what you need to watch out for.
How to manage the 40 minutes of VARC
Whether one is good or bad at verbal ability, the single point agenda for this section has to be maximize accuracy.
What if there is a new question type?
The verbal section of CAT has always been the one that has most regularly thrown up some variety. Every two years or so they have thrown in a new question type. So do not be surprised about if you encounter a new question type right at the beginning of the test. Do not panic. Like it is the case with existing question types, if there are 3-5 questions, 1-2 will be easy, 1-2 will be moderate, 1-2 will be difficult.
Do not be in a hurry to quickly read the directions and greedily read the question and options. Take time to read the directions, understand the question type before you jump into solving the questions! Finally, if you are not able to get your head around the first question do not skip the entire set thinking I will deal with this later, remember that there will be do-able questions too!
How to deal with the RC passages?
For most aspirants, success on RC passages directly linked to their comfort level with the content of the RCs.
But if you get 3 out of 4 RCs that are on topics, you do not like? Then in that case, do not panic. Or do not try to attempt the passages half-heartedly. Doing this would mean self – sabotaging the 40 minutes of your VARC section. Instead, take your concentrations level up a notch and steel yourself to the reality that it is going to be testing time. Go into the CAT, expecting this to happen. As they say, hope for the best, prepare for the worst.
the last 5 minutes
You do what you can and reach the end of the verbal section. You take a look at the number of attempts and see that you have attempted 15 questions. In these situations, do not just go mark, mark, mark! Nothing could be more counter productive than this. If you do that the you are setting yourself up for a disaster.
So if you find that you have not managed to attempt enough then use that to selectively attempt a few questions not blindly mark options. Remember your goal for this section is to maximize accuracy.
How to manage the 40 minutes of DILR
Here your goal is to solve the easy and medium sets. So in this section puzzle selection becomes crucial!
You get one do-able LR that can be finished in 10 minutes and 2 super tough sets. If someone has spent 10 minutes and solved one LR set, then it could be seen as a good place to be in and then proceed to the next LR based set. But should you be attempting that LR based set in the first place? If you are good at LR you should recognize ( based on the number of conditions and the nature of information ) that the set is better left alone!
In many cases, those who are relying excessively on their fabulous LR muscle would enter that set and since solving only 1 LR based set is unacceptable to them they end up losing about 15-20 minutes on that one of the tougher LR based sets. What follows after this is quite predictable – try the last set for 5 minutes, desperately and try every other set for 5 minutes and end the section in a panic mode. This is not an unrealistic scenario. It has happened often enough for you to be wary of the script taking this turn.
Do not spend more than 20 minutes on a set until you have solved all the easy and medium sets. “Do not put all your eggs in one basket”.
The DILR section is going to be the most crucial section on CAT. How this section goes is going to determine how you approach the Quant section. In terms of mental energy you will be a bit tired to say the least. If you are psychologically down as well then it is game, set and match before the Quant section begins. So prepare for the worst.
How to manage the 40 minutes of Quant?
Here your objective should be choosing the right question. Your big challenge will be to execute a great Quant section after of 80 minutes of high octane deciphering and solving, and maybe 5-6 hours since you left home.
Unlike the 40 minutes of VARC and DILR, during which you will be operating in chunks of time divided between sets, QA will be an uninterrupted stretch of 40 minutes. Given the fatigue, it can happen that you let the section drift – you start well for about 15 minutes, drift for 20-30 minutes and then switch back towards the end.
Divide your Quant section into 2 sets pf 20 minutes each. The best thing is to knock off the easiest question first without spending too much energy in the first 20 minutes. During this period do not get into questions which you know will take time. Use the Mark button judiciously to single out questions for the second right so that you can return to the questions you are most likely to crack. In the second 20 minute come back to the marked question.
But if it is an easy paper this 20-20 split will not work since many questions will have to be solved on the spot and you will exceed the first 20 minutes. But that, as you realize, is a better problem to have.
A final note!
As prospective leaders, one of the biggest qualities you will need to display over your career is the ability to soak up the pressure and face up to adversity. Having a great plan B is sometimes as important as having a great plan A. Having a good second serve is as important as having a good first serve. So do not go into the test expecting a particular kind of paper, and panic upon not finding it. That would be relying upon hope and not on ability.
Go in expecting a few twist and turns, and be prepared to navigate the same. Prepare for the exam like everything depends on it, but write the exam like nothing depends on it.
Best wishes for CAT 2021!!
Abhishek Mukherjee works for 2IIM. Apart from solving interesting math questions he likes to eat biriyani and watch movies.