My preparation started from March but I was unable to give much time because of academics and college activities. I was able to focus solely on CAT only from July after the end term examinations of my college. During the period from March to July, I tried to go through all the basics of the three sections. Then after July, I started practising questions and previous year papers along with regular mock tests. Regular practice along with mock tests helped me a lot. One thing to note is that all the mock tests should be analysed so that the shortcomings can be identified and worked upon. I worked on my weak areas a lot to improve them along with sufficient practice for the strong areas. Mock tests are an integral part of preparation as one would not be able to judge their preparation without them. Solving questions under time constraints should be practised regularly. Along with full-length mock tests, I gave chapter wise tests and sectional tests on the areas which I was not comfortable with. I think that mock tests are necessary as they help a lot in preparing for the final exam.
VARC section plan - The most important part of VARC in CAT, is RC. There were 25 questions from RC out of a total of 35 questions. So one strategy to score well in VARC is to focus on RC. For RC, I practised a lot of questions from the book and also from online resources. One needs to develop intuition to solve the problems because it is never possible to be sure of the answers to the RC questions except for 2-3. Most of the questions were inference based, and a few were fact-based. Another strategy which I applied was option elimination. In this way, I was able to eliminate options which narrowed down my choices and made the job easier. I always tried to solve all the 25 questions from RC and devoted around 45 minutes to 50 minutes to do so. In the VA part, the questions were of Non-MCQ type which made it little risky. I avoided the arrangement questions as it was never possible to get them correct. I focused on summary and sentence completion questions and tried to solve 5 of them in 10-15 minutes. In this way, I divided my time so that I could attempt 30 questions to a high accuracy level out of the 35 questions.
DILR section strategy - In DILR my strategy was to attempt four sets and allot 15 minutes for each set. For DILR one needs to practice a lot of different types of questions so that they get accustomed to the kind of cases. In this section, I always glanced through the 8 cases in the first 2-3 minutes so that it becomes easier for me to choose the 4 cases which are easier to solve. If we start answering from the very first one, it might be that we get stuck in the difficult one and do not get time to solve an easier one.
QA section strategy - For this section one needs to practice a lot of different types of questions from all the chapters. During the exam, I attempted the paper in three stages. In the first stage, I solved all the questions which I could do at one go till the end. In the second stage, I attempted those questions which I thought I would be able to do after giving it a try. After attempting all such questions if there was some time left I tried those which I thought were the hardest for me. In this strategy, I could solve all the questions which I could do. If one goes question by question, then there might be a scenario where one gets stuck at one problem then he or she might miss out on some easier questions at the end. In QA, there are a lot of question which can be solved by going through the options or checking with some values whether the condition is satisfied or not. This approach saves a lot of time than doing by the conventional way.
For the challenging sections, I practiced a lot and went through given examples and solved exercises to get a better understanding of the topics. I tried to figure out the parts which I was comfortable with and focused on those. In this exam, one does not need to solve all the questions. Score maximisation strategy is mainly by attempting all the doable questions and leaving out the tougher ones. So, the ones which I felt was very tough for me I left them and concentrated on my strong areas so that I was confident of solving the questions from those areas.
The different books and study materials I referred are -
- VARC section – Coaching Center study materials and previous year papers
- DILR section - Coaching Center study materials and previous year papers
- QA section - Arun Sharma Quantitative Aptitude, Coaching Center study materials, and previous year papers
Mock tests were significant for me and helped me a lot in my preparation. It helped me in my time management and finalise my strategy in attempting the paper. I could find out my weak areas through mock tests and was thus able to work upon them. I started taking the mock test from August. For the first two months, I used to take a single mock per week. Then from October, I took 2-3 mock tests per week till the date of the exam. For the analysis of the mock tests first I used to watch the video solutions of the mock test solved by experts in a real-time scenario. Watching the experts explain the paper helped me in developing my strategy and learn various shortcuts. It also helped me in improving my thinking process in case of RC questions. Apart from that I also went through the solutions of the questions which I could not solve or were wrong. If possible, I glanced through the QA questions which I got correct to see if there was any shorter way to solve them. I could modify my strategy by the mock test analysis as I could identify my weak areas and work upon them. The main positive point from this outcome was the time division plan which I could do from the analysis of mock tests. Mock tests helped me in implementing my strategy well under time constraints and make me more comfortable with the sections.
In case of VARC, I aimed to solve the 25 questions of RC in 45-50 minutes. Then I tried to address 5 VA questions in 10-15 minutes. In DILR section I tried to solve one case in 15 minutes so that I could solve 4 cases in one hour in that section. In QA, I had no particular target, but I aimed at maximising my number of attempts in the three-stage strategy. I tried to finish the first stage in half an hour. Then I gave 20 minutes for stage 2, and in the last 10 minutes, I tried to solve questions from the third stage.
Use of calculator and Non-MCQs - I used calculator only for some complex calculations. I did the necessary calculations by myself as using the onscreen calculator was more time-consuming.
In the VARC section, I attempted five non-MCQs and guessed the rest. In the DILR section, I tried to attempt cases with lesser non-MCQ questions as it made difficult for me to get the correct answer. MCQ questions are easier to solve and get the right answer. In QA section, I did not give any particular attention to non-MCQ questions and attempted them only if I was sure of solving them. Though the non-MCQ questions did not have negative marking still one does not have any idea whether they are getting the correct answer or not and thus it took more time for me as I was not confident whether I was correct or not.
In the end, the suggestion which I would like to share with aspirants is that to concentrate on the preparation and not to think about the result. Giving mock tests are very important along with analysing them. Mock tests also make one mentally strong to tackle the paper for three hours. One must keep calm on the exam day so that he or she can give their best in the exam and I wish best of luck to all the aspirants.
About the Author:
CAT Percentile: 99.64
Graduated as an Electronics and Communication Engineer in 2016, currently pursuing PGDM at IIM Shillong. Sports enthusiast and ardent football fan.
- Overall Score- 171.75
- VARC Sectional Score-84.10
- DILR Sectional Score-43.44
- QA Sectional Score-44.21