The Common Admission Test (CAT) is a computer-adaptive test designed to evaluate the potential of an MBA aspirant to answer tough questions on Quantitative Aptitude, Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension, Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning in limited time. CAT is a very competitive exam and a high level of performance with equally flattering scores is required to help you sail through your dreams of getting into a top- notch B- School in India. It is compulsory to take the CAT exam for admission to all the IIMs. Apart from the IIMs, CAT score is also accepted by hundreds of other good B- Schools in India. The number of test-takers is on the rise every year making CAT a tough nut to crack! The right approach to excel in the CAT exam is to have a good preparation strategy. A lack of preparation strategy and poor performance in the exam can easily turn out to be a very taxing and daunting experience for any MBA aspirant, irrespective of their knowledge and potentiality.
To help MBA aspirants perform well in the CAT exam, Career2NextOrbit team has devised an effective plan and prepared a list of some important strategic points that students must keep in mind while preparing for the CAT exam.
- Set your Goal
Having a clear vision of what you want to achieve is the most important first step in your journey of securing admission at a Business School. While setting the goal, avoid building unnecessary pressure on yourself and set a realistic target that looks achievable. A little indulgence in self- research can help you get an idea of the CAT percentiles that are usually required at your dream B- schools and hence, make it easier for you to set your target. It is important to set a liberal goal and not to fall into the trap of over-estimating or under-estimating your potential, as both can prove detrimental to your CAT exam preparation and performance. A good way to gauge the amount of effort needed to secure your targeted score is to take the mock tests. Mock tests have a reputation for helping students not only identify their strengths and weaknesses but also in helping them enhance their performance through practice.
- Understand the Syllabus
The next most important step is to get a complete understanding of what you are required to study for the test. There are a definite pattern and syllabus that are followed by the IIMs for conducting the CAT exam every year. The syllabus and pattern prescribed are strictly followed by the CAT conducting institutes. A comprehensive understanding of the syllabus will help you prepare for the exams and let you manage your study schedule more effectively. It will also erode chances of any confusions and procrastination later on!
- Get your basics right
Right after you have developed an understanding of the requirements of the syllabus and the test pattern, it is important to focus on getting the basics right. Getting the basics right means working on the fundamental concepts of different sections in the CAT exam. A great way to clear doubts and build a solid foundation is to practice some middle school and high school books and not to get discouraged if there is something in the syllabus that you have not studied before. Learning is a part and parcel of life at all stages, and one must always be open and willing to learn new things and not be disheartened by the age or circumstances.
- Indulge in action and don’t procrastinate
Having a plan is good, but a plan without actions will not take you anywhere. So don’t just procrastinate but build a solid strategy to implement for your success in the CAT exam and take active steps to prepare for the exam. Without action, there is no outcome. Another thing to keep in mind is, if you put half- hearted efforts in the preparation, that’s exactly the kind of results you will get.
- Have a Schedule and timetable
Keeping track of your progress and making sincere efforts to achieve the goal every day is another important aspect of a good CAT preparation strategy. In this regard, having a schedule and a timetable could be very beneficial. A schedule can help you keep track of the definite objectives that need to be achieved in a certain amount of time and a timetable will help you break the preparation requirements into hourly tasks to be performed every day. Consistent efforts and the right focus can yield invaluable results.
- Overcome the weakness
Once you have started the preparation, practicing and reading only the sections that you are good at, won’t help you fetch an overall great CAT score. It is essential to identify your weak areas and to brush them up. A good way to do this is by solving sample questions from every section and taking some mock tests. Many CAT toppers swear that taking mock tests was the single most important aspect of their preparation strategy that helped them ace the CAT exam.
- Have a Checklist
Having a weekly checklist may also prove beneficial. After all, the first step to success involves knowing your priorities and taking solid steps to attain them. Purposeful and persistent efforts are the little steps that ultimately open the doors to great success. Also, every time you put a tick mark against your targets, you become aware that you are another step closer to achieving your goal. This is a great confidence building exercise that also keeps you positive and motivated.
- Don’t hesitate to ask
Based on your requirements and hold on the subject area, you may choose to get professional assistance or opt to study on your own. Joining a coaching center for CAT preparation is purely a matter of personal preference and not a necessary requirement. There are many students who do extremely well in the CAT exam without any professional assistance. However, if you do not understand the solution to a problem in any of the sections of the CAT syllabus or feel that you could enhance your performance with some extra help, do not hesitate to ask for help.
- Read about the experiences of other successful candidates
Reading about the strategies and experiences of other successful candidates may prove an invaluable learning experience and help you devise a great strategy and method of approach for CAT exam preparation. This will also give you an idea on which areas to focus on the most, the different ways a problem can be tackled, and some of the other key things that you can do to get a good CAT score. It will also prove useful for the next round of the selection process that follows right after the CAT exam results i.e. Group Discussion and Personal Interview rounds.
- Have some study buddies
It is said that two heads are better than one. Having a study partner to discuss solutions to problems and provide feedback on performance and progress may prove priceless in CAT preparation. Another advantage is you can motivate each other and share resources as you will be studying the same course for CAT. You can even teach each other and clear doubts. Having a study buddy can certainly make learning more fun and easy.
- Study from the right sources and books
As important as it is to study regularly with a consistent focus on the goal, it is equally essential that one studies from the right material and refers to the correct source that is compatible with the CAT syllabus. Regular study and all the hard work done would be rendered meaningless if the materials and books being used are not apt and relevant for the CAT preparation. Making use of the right resources will drastically improve the chances of attaining a great CAT score. One should take advantage of the numerous MOCK tests that are provided by authentic resources and the sample questions that are provided with the books.
- Practice and practice some more
Practice makes a huge difference. It is important to realize that most people who score well in CAT, work hard and invest time and effort in preparation. CAT requires not just your time but a consistent commitment as well. It is said that Practice makes a man perfect and it couldn’t be truer in the case of CAT. Practice will improve your chances of a good score in the actual exam. So attempt a lot of CAT mock exams.
- Review Mocks:
Many MBA candidates that have performed exceptionally well in the CAT exams claim that Mock tests were helpful in enhancing their performance. Mock tests will help you finalise your real- time exam strategy for the CAT exam and immensely help you in deciding how to approach the exam. It provides you with experience almost similar to the actual exam. The correct way to take a mock test is to solve questions by setting a time limit. This will allow you to adapt to the CAT exam environment. This will also give you a fair idea of which kind of questions take up the most time to solve and you can leave such time- consuming questions in the actual CAT exam, that not just tests your ability to solve questions but the speed as well.
A good idea is to maintain a notebook that you can update with every mock test that you take. You can use this notepad to update all the formulas that you come across in the Quantitative Aptitude sections of the mock tests. In this notebook, you can also keep track of your performance in the Verbal Ability section. Later, you can use this information to analyse your performance and to memorise and revise all the formulas and enrich your vocabulary.
- Balanced preparation of all the 3 sections
A balanced preparation will help you achieve a higher score. A score that is consistently good across all the sections of the CAT exam will help you score your dream CAT percentile. Therefore, devote time to mastering all the three sections, even if those sections don’t appeal to your interest areas as they can substantially increase your overall score. A mathematics genius must know the conventions of the English language and usage, and vice-versa. Another credible way of increasing chances of scoring better is learning more than one way of solving the problems.
- Have a clear exam strategy
Having a good strategy for the actual exam is as important as studying effectively for CAT preparation. All CAT aspirants must get a good sleep the night before the exam to be able to tackle questions with a fresh mind, have a plan to manage time during the exam as time management is crucial in the actual exam and a concise and clear idea about how they are going to proceed with each sections keeping in mind their strengths and weaknesses.
- Know the marking scheme
CAT scorecard is a statement of a candidate’s relative performance in the different sections and the overall test. It is in the form of percentiles and not in the actual individual percentage score. Oftentimes, when a CAT/Mock CAT exam is difficult; a candidate with a lower individual percentage still has a chance of better percentile result. Similarly, for an easy CAT/Mock CAT, a candidate with a high individual percentage score may not necessarily score a high percentile, as other candidates would also be doing well in an easy exam. So always analyse your performance for CAT/Mock CAT exams based on percentile and not on your individual score.