How did you prepare – Self-study or Coaching? Which one do you think is better?
I mostly relied on self-study. I did purchase a VARC course because I wanted to know why my answers were considered incorrect. There is some extent of ambiguity in this section and it's important to understand why your thought process was incorrect.
Given my background, I already knew the basic concepts for QA and LRDI, so it made more sense for me to solely focus on mocks. I brushed up on the topics that needed attention as and when I encountered them in my mocks. There is no one right answer about which method is better since everyone starts from a different baseline. After giving a couple of mocks, if you still feel like there is a lot of ground to cover, go for coaching. Enrolling in classes may also help you bring discipline into your preparation.
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According to you, what is the most important aspect of preparation?
There are a lot of resources for someone to brush up on certain topics. However, it is also important to prepare mentally for the exam day. You may score well when taking a mock at home but may fumble after encountering 100s of other candidates on the day of the exam. And from experience, there aren't any external resources you can use to build upon this.
Dealing with exam-day stress is something that differs from person to person. I had experience with all the engineering entrances I had given earlier and knew what worked for me. I have a set morning routine I follow religiously on the day of the exam. I like to minimize decision making on that day and also tend to cut back on interactions with others. It helps me focus on the exam.
How many full-length mock tests did you take?
I took about 25 full-length mocks. In the initial few months, I spaced them out such that I'd attempt one per week. Towards the end I took about 2-3 per week, switching between the different test series which I had purchased.
The reason I spaced it out was to take time to analyse my mocks. I would go through the questions I couldn't attempt and classify them according to whether I knew the topic or ran out of time. For the ones I got wrong, I would try to understand why: wrong concept, misinterpreting the question or calculation error. Finally, I would go through the questions I got right and try to figure out a quicker way to do the same.
How many sectional mock tests did you take?
I took around 20 sectionals, mostly LRDI and Quant. Based on my mock test, I would focus on a section. On the days I didn't attempt a mock, I tried to take a sectional and a few shorter tests.
How do you think the mock tests helped you in your preparation?
Mock tests are the best indicator of where you stand. It perfectly simulates the time crunch you'll face. There's also the question of stamina, whether you can sit through a 2-3 hour long exam.
Apart from all of this, a mock also helps you build that mental resilience. You will learn to separate the sections and not let one affect the other. If you mess up in VARC, it may happen that you get demotivated and ruin LRDI and eventually QA too. Taking mocks will help you tackle this issue.
Which section were you strong in? Since you were strong in that section, how did you focus on the other sections?
My strongest section was QA. I would spend 10-15 minutes a day practising mental calculations. The problem with preferring a section is that you want to spend more time than is necessary. It is important to identify the absolute bare minimum you need to do, such as practising calculations. Anything extra that needs to be done can be worked upon after analysing mocks. You can say that it's better to follow an additive approach in sections you're comfortable with.
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Which section was your Achilles heel? How did you overcome that?
VARC was slightly tough for me since I found it nearly impossible to concentrate for such a long period of time. Just to finish it early I would speed through the section, hence lowering my accuracy. To overcome this issue, I tried to actively engage with what I was reading. I would try to mentally create a mind-map or even jot down some pointers.
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How much time did you devote to preparation on a regular basis?
I spent 3-4 hours on the days I took a mock and 2-3 hours on other days to analyse mocks. I slowed down my prep towards the end because I did not want to burn out before the actual exam.
Tell us about the lowest point in your preparation journey and how did you overcome that?
My college started in September and I had a few other things going on. At that time CAT took a back seat for me. When I restarted my prep in October, I realized that I had slipped in LRDI. I was not confident that I would be able to regain the lost steam. However, I had to prep regardless and being underconfident about it didn't serve any purpose. So I just kept practising and attempting as many diverse sets as I could.
What resources would you suggest to 2022 aspirants?
Along with the mock series, I also bought the QA and DILR books by Arun Sharma. I mostly practised questions but also referred to the concepts if I repeatedly made the same mistake. The archive of previous CAT papers is also an extremely useful purchase.
Apart from all these resources available for purchase, it is important to also make your own system to analyse mocks. Create a proper Excel sheet to record your performance over time, along with details of the mock and a comments section
What according to you are the DOs and DON'Ts of CAT preparation?
1. Be confident of scoring an amazing percentile.
2. Frequently set apart some time to see if what you're doing is right for you.
3. Use the online screen calculator.
1. Comparing yourself with others.
2. Buying all and any material you see moderately good reviews about.
3. Not analysing your mocks.
Which mock series would you like to suggest to CAT 2022 aspirants? Is one mock series sufficient or do you suggest a combination of 2 different mock series?
I purchased mock-series from 3 places: IMS, TIME, and iQuanta. I bought the most basic packages and was offered some discount because of my college. These packages also generally come with mock-sectionals and topic tests. The variety will help you be ready for any kind of question which comes your way.
What would be your final advice to CAT 2022 Aspirants?
The first step is to believe you can do it. The second is to use the onscreen calculator wisely.