5 Step Plan To Ace The CAT By An IIM Student
I am a student with a Computer Engineering background, and like most engineers, I was placed as a software developer in a well-known firm. I always wanted to pursue further studies, and the harsh truth hit me that it was difficult to cope up with studies when you’re working; since a period of 8 hours during weekdays was dedicated towards “office life.”
My first attempt at CAT 2015 was really poor. I managed to score just 69 percentile; barely enough to help me secure an admission in any good b-school. I also gave my GRE and TOEFL during around that time but managed to bag only just 307 and 99 in the tests respectively. Something was surely amiss, or I wasn’t doing things correctly. I was surprised to see a few of my peers get through CAT and GRE successfully. However, I blamed my failure to my work profile rather than making amends in my study schedule.
On mustering some strength and determination, I decided to retake the CAT exam. Although I could not bring myself to resign from work since it was too much of a gamble for me, I decided to make amends in my approach and preparation methodology. After a few hits and misses, I followed a comfortable study routine and technique which I shall discuss in the following sections, but one should keep in mind that the tricks or techniques mentioned here might or might not work out for you. I highly recommend to pick out the best points that suit you and craft out your custom-made technique that would serve you best. So, with that said, the steps that follow would try their best to present a path to follow in this battle against CAT:
STEP 1 – Create rules to rule by –
In other words, create a study schedule. It would probably be the most difficult step since we usually have several other things (office, sports, video games, etc.) to get done before we can adjust study time within our schedule. So, adhering to a study schedule is MANDATORY. The schedule should have an even distribution of all the sections of CAT (Quants, Data Interpretation, Analytical Reasoning, and the Verbal section). If you are a working professional or in your final year of studies, do know that you need to put in an extra amount of time; I would suggest splitting the load into smaller chunks of time throughout the week. Keep weekends free for mock tests or revisions.
STEP 2 – Getting things done –
The thing that needs to be accomplished here is CAT, and for that, we need to solve tonnes of questions. I think, “throwing yourself into the fire” right away is the approach that, as long as you have a constructive attitude, will yield the best results. In other words, attack all types of questions and start attempting Mock Tests at the earliest. This would help in understanding your strengths and weaknesses so that one can specifically work on those areas. Do note, to be eligible for interviews in a good b-school one needs to clear all sectional cut-offs. Thus, one cannot neglect any section whatsoever. Always keep standard study materials at your disposal, and do make separate notes to keep all the formulas at one place for a quick peek. Use flashcards to improve vocabulary for the “Verbal” section’s preparation and dedicate at least 1 hour other than regular CAT studies for this.
STEP 3 – Retrospection –
One of the most important parts of studying effectively, possibly the most important part, is analysing your practice and learning from your mistakes. That means carefully revisiting every single question you get wrong and spending ample time analysing why you got it wrong, how you could have gotten it right, and what you can learn to avoid the mistake in the future.
If it were possible never to make the same mistake twice, you would become an absolute master of the test in a very, very short time. So be sure to get your queries resolved, study the related concepts very carefully, research methods or material you’re not comfortable with, and analyse the questions.
Don’t be afraid of mistakes! Instead, keep an error log to keep track of any mistakes you make and questions that took you a long time to solve. For each of these questions, write down the question number, type, and concept involved. Then write down answers to the following questions:
Why did you miss the question?
Why is your answer wrong?
Why is the correct answer correct?
What will you do to avoid this next time around?
Review your log frequently. You will start to think more like test makers and avoid wrong answer patterns. This is key to success.
STEP 4 – The “Quality” factor –
Make it your motive to thoroughly understand every single question you attempt so that if you see that same question in the future, you know that you will solve it. In fact, if you review a question one day, it’s good to go back to it 4-5 days later, to see if you still understand it. Always check how much you have retained, or, in other words, how much you actually can remember from what you think you understand. Until you can recall something any time, without any hints or warm-up, immediately and with complete clarity – until you can recall it like that, you don’t understand it as deeply as you need to. The goal in learning is NOT efficiency, but thoroughness.
STEP 5 – “U” Time –
Take breaks while you’re studying! Also, give time to yourself and focus on health as well.
I hope this covers quite a bit. All the best for your preparation!