There are about 165 odd days left for CAT 2019 (CAT is expected to be on 24th November 2019). This is a time everyone starts thinking of an MBA and figures out whether one has to do an MBA or not!

In this article, we will look at some of the key ingredients of CAT and what it takes to ace the exam. The first question, however, is a simple one.

Are 5 months enough to prepare for CAT 2019?

I start with an emphatic YES!

Five months are more than sufficient if one is systematic, consistent and committed. Very few students have started their preparation in right earnest and almost everyone is gearing up to the same. June and July are the months in which students wake up to the reality of taking CAT. If you plan your 5 months properly, there is more than enough time to prepare and become ready for the exam!

Also read: Top 8 MBA Entrance Exams Every Aspirant Must Consider

How many hours per day one needs to prepare for CAT?

There is no right answer to this question. However, the time required for preparing for the exam should be gradually increased from say around 10 to 12 hours per week in June & July to about 25 to 30 hours in October & November.

For the next two months (June and July), depending on the state of preparedness, the number of hours per week can range from 10 hours to 20 hours per week. If one has prepared and has had a flavour of the CAT exam earlier, then about 8 to 10 hours per week may be sufficient.

But before one starts prepping for the CAT (or any MBA entrance exam), it is important to understand the exam the percentile system of IIMs and what it takes to get to the coveted institutes. The CAT pattern has remained the same for the last four years (CAT 2015, CAT 2016, CAT 2017 and CAT2018).

Here are some excellent CAT 2019 preparation guidelines by CAT toppers and experts that can help you crack CAT 2019.

CAT 2018 Paper Pattern Revisited

The CAT 2018 paper, held on 25th November 2017, had three sections. The exact pattern of the paper is reproduced below:

Section Area No. of Questions Marks in Section Time Limit
Section I Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension (VARC) 34 102 60
Section II Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning (DILR) 32 96 60
Section III Quantitative Ability (QA) 34 102 60
Total   100 300 180

A student had to follow the same section order as given above and once a section is over, the student could not go back to that section.

Each section consisted of Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs) as well as non-Multiple Choice Questions (non-MCQs), also known as Type In The Answer (TITA). Also, there were Negative marks (-1) for wrong answers for MCQ questions. For Non-MCQ questions, there were no negative marks. (Check (in detail): CAT Syllabus & Exam Pattern)

Understanding The Concept of Percentile

You keep hearing from people that someone got a 100%ile or a 99 %ile or an 80%ile!

What exactly does ‘percentile’ mean?

A percentile is calculated as the Percentage of people below your mark in a particular exam.

For example, if in an exam, there are 100 students writing the same, and if one gets a FIRST Rank (mind you, it is NOT the full marks, only the first rank with whatever marks compared to the rest of the students), then there would be 99 students below this student. 99 students out of 100 (meaning 99% of students) are below the student and hence the student will get 99%ile in that exam.

In the same exam, if someone gets a 10th Rank, then the percentile would be 90%ile (as 90% of the students would have a got a mark lower than this student).

CAT 2018 was written by about 2,20,000 students. To be in the top 80 %ile, then one has to be in the top 20% of the students (or in the top 44,000 ranks).

Many students at 90%ile would be able to get into the top 40 ranked institutes in the country. And with 80%ile too, there are at least 60 top institutes (among 3000+ MBA institutes) that one can get into. Incidentally, not many students prepare seriously for CAT and hence the real competition is among the top 50,000 and given that there are close to 10,000 seats in the top 40 management institutes in the country, the competition is just 1 in 5!

The percentile required to get a seat in the top 3 IIMs for an Open Category (student with no reservation) student is around 99.6 percentile. To get into an IIM in the Open/General Category, a 96%ile would suffice. However, the exact percentile required changes from institute to institute. An OBC candidate, an SC or an ST candidate will require much less percentile to make it to the top IIMs. Add gender diversity and academic diversity to the same, then the percentile required reduced even further.

It is pertinent to note that CAT is also used as the written exam for almost all top management institutes in the country including FMS Delhi, SP Jain Mumbai, MDI Gurgaon, NITIE Mumbai, all IITs and a host of other top B-schools!

The only reason students don’t take up CAT is that they do not even know how easy it is to get into an IIM (given, of course, that one prepares consistently)!

CAT 2018 Percentiles and Scores

Given below are the marks required at different percentiles in CAT 2017 and CAT 2018:

Percentile CAT 2017 CAT 2018
99.5 190 167
99 173 155
95 140 120
90 125 102

As one can see, by getting about 155 marks out of 300 marks (that’s 52% of the marks) in the CAT exam, one gets a percentile close to 99!

By getting a percentile of around 96, one can easily get a call from the New IIMs (for a General Category Student). And to get 96 percentile, one has to score just about 126 marks out of 300! (42% of the exam!). Here is an in-depth analysis of CAT 2018.

Mission IIM – Month-Wise CAT 2019 Preparation Strategy

The road to IIMs is through CAT (except of course if one is an NRI for whom GMAT is the requirement!)

Preparing for any entrance exam requires an executable plan! Here is one that can give the broad contours of what one has to do to make it to the coveted IIMs:

June to August – Building Foundations

The objective in these 3 months would be to gain complete familiarity in the areas, topics, concepts and type of questions that the CAT exam has.

In the months of June, July and August, the focus should be in going through all the topics in all areas of CAT viz., QA, DILR and VARC. The first two to three months to be used for the first round of preparation in all areas of the exam through a simple method called CAT!

Funda of Concepts, Application & Tests (CAT)

  • Concepts: Learn all the basic concepts and formulae for each topic. Here are scoring QA topics you don’t want to miss out on.
  • Application: Solve exercises to apply the concepts/formulae learnt.
  • Tests: Taking topic-wise tests to asses your speed and strategy.

In addition to the above, one has to start taking Mock CATs. Ideally, not more than one per two weeks is sufficient for the months of June and July and from August onwards, one is expected to take one Mock per week.

September & October – Second Revision Phase

These two months are crucial for CAT 2019 preparation.

One has to work on strategy, second revision and continue taking full-length mock CATs. In addition to that, this is the time to experiment on the strategy of taking the exam. The 60 days in September and October have to be used for the second revision of all concepts and through topic-wise tests and section-wise tests; one can monitor the progress in each specific topic or area of the exam.

Full-length mocks are to be used to hone one’s strategy and arrive at a strategy that gives maximum benefits. Please note that there is no one good strategy and depending on each person’s strengths or weaknesses, the strategy should change. A full article on test-taking Strategies for CAT will be made available soon by this author. Here is how an IIM Ahmedabad student and CAT 99.96+%iler analysed his mock tests.

November – The Final Assault

The last 25 days before CAT would be the final assault on the exam! Here one has to take up selective revision, take mock CATs and additional sectional tests and finalise exam strategy.

After every mock, a thorough analysis of each of the sections, zeroing in on the problem areas, working towards eliminating these problem areas and most importantly strengthening the mental ability to crack this exam would be the main requirements in November!

In part-2 of the article, the method of preparation for each of the sections in CAT would be taken up. In part-3 of the article, a detailed methodology to crack CAT through understanding different Test Taking Strategies would be addressed.

ARKS Srinivas, CEO – MBA Group, Career Launcher

About the author: ARKS Srinivas (Arkss) is an alumnus of IIM Calcutta and has over 19 years of experience in training students for CAT and other Management Entrances. He is the CEO for the MBA Products at Career Launcher, which is the No 1 Test Prep institute for Management and Law entrances.

To enrol, please click here. If you are already a student, please share this link to your friends who are planning to write CAT!

ARKS Srinivas

ARKS Srinivas is an alumnus of IIM Calcutta and has been the All India CAT Director at TIME. He is currently the National Head for MBA Prep at Career Launcher.