A Counterintuitive Approach That Will Help You Crack The CAT

With less than a month for the Big Day, there are a lot of things that would be going through your mind. By this stage, everyone is more or less well versed with all the concepts and has taken a lot of practice tests in anticipation of getting better by the day. It is very natural if you have tried numerous strategies and are still trying out more. Moreover, it is even more natural if you are getting frustrated because your scores have stagnated or are even going down. The instinctive response to this situation is to start practicing more rigorously. But hold on. Here is the strategy I followed in the last mile (month) to the CAT.

My scores had stagnated in the 140s for a long time and then suddenly they started dropping. I dropped even below 100! I couldn’t figure out where I was going wrong. I was studying very hard. I was taking SimCATs very diligently. I was practicing CAT level questions each day. I was analysing all my test scores in detail. I pretty much ticked every box. It befuddled me as to what else I could do to cross the 150 mark that had eluded me for months and to increase my scores thereafter. There was one thing that I was doing wrong. I had not taken a BREAK!

When you enter the last mile to CAT, it is not going to be about how much you have studied so far or how well you know the concepts. And it is most definitely not going to be about how many tests you take per week (some take 1 test per day which is just insane!). It is invariably going to be about how fresh your mind is. It is very important to remember that CAT is an aptitude test. It is not going to test how much knowledge you have. Yes, a certain level of knowledge is a given. But beyond that, how you perform on that day under pressure is what will make the difference. So what you need to train your mind for in this last month is just that. You need to practice how to stay calm and relaxed under the pressure of that timer on the top right of your screen.

The advice that I have for all of you is, TAKE A BREAK! For a couple of days or so. But do take one. You have earned it. You have worked very hard to reach the level you are at right now. Just compare it to where you were when you started off. You have reached here through pure hard work. But the journey from here on is going to need something else from you. And for that, you need to refresh yourself. So trust me, defy your gut feeling just this once, and do what you have sacrificed upon in the last few months. Do what will really make you happy. Something that makes you forget about everything else. Indulge yourself in absolutely anything you want. It can be something as simple as a 2-day movie marathon to something as exotic as a 3 day Goa trip! It will sure as hell make you happy. I know this advice is very counterintuitive. But trust me it works. If it is of any help, after taking a 3-day break just 3 weeks before CAT, my scores rocketed from 140 to 194 and stayed at 160+ thereafter.

After you do this, do not take more than 2 tests a week. And do not spend too much time analysing the tests. Just enjoy those 3 hours without thinking about the result. Try to be at your best for just those 3 hours and let the results take care of themselves. Again, you have already done the hard work and you have explored every possible strategy under the sun. Now it is all about having fun when you take a test. If you do this, I promise you on the Big Day, you will be the one with no pressure at all. And take my word for it, you will actually enjoy the CAT!

Amol Aranake

Chartered Accountant May 2016 IIM Bangalore PGP 2017-19