Cracking CAT – A Realistic Plan
In various articles, CAT preparation is given from the viewpoint of the subject areas like QA, LA etc. and how to prepare for them. Today let’s focus on the other aspects, the planning, the time management, the resources available required to crack CAT.
Is there enough time for CAT?
While there is no specific time frame for CAT preparation, we have more than 5 months to CAT 15 which is definitely enough to prepare well for CAT. As a CAT trainer for over 12 years, many students who started CAT preparation from May/June have successfully cracked CAT.
Let me put in another way. 150 days at an average 2.5 hrs.’ is 375 hours. That’s a lot of time, more time than we would have spent preparing for all 8 semesters of Engineering!
So stop worrying about whether the time is enough. It is important to start right away if you haven’t done so already and very important that you have a clear study plan.
Managing your time
First, fix the number of hours that you can invest every day and fix the specific times, ex: 7 am to 8 am and 8 pm to 10 pm, etc. Plan carefully based on work timings, college timings etc.
Second, all areas of CAT preparation are important. It is impossible to get into the top BSchools unless you are pretty good at each area. And each of these areas are ‘Skills” that need to be in constant practice.
So ensure that each subject area is touched upon at least once each week. A plan, for example which calls for QA preparation in May and June and VA/RC in July would be wrong.
So 3 hrs per day would be 21 hours a week. So a good weekly plan should have
1) Division of 21 hours among various areas, QA, VA, RC etc.
2) Specific timetable which marks out day/time and the specific subject.
3) Once a plan is made, try your best to stick to the plan.
4) Review the plan at the end of the week and make a fresh plan.
The basics of a CAT preparation plan
A good CAT preparation plan should include :
For each Chapter/Question type, spend sufficient time understanding the concepts with clarity. In fact, it would be a good idea that you try to explain the concepts to a fellow student/aspirant. Please note that concepts go far beyond mere formulae.
Application of Concepts
Solving a wide range of questions, which cover the application of the concepts of the chapter that you have learnt. In this case don’t worry about the time taken but instead focus on the simplest way to solve a problem. As you do this you will also learn to classify problems based on similarity of concepts that each Question tests.
Once you have covered the above, it is time to take timed tests. At VistaMind for example, we have over 200 timed tests, which are classified as Easy/Med/Diff.
Here the focus is on
a) Learning how to select Qs to solve and leave. Since you have solved a wide range of Qs and also understand the concepts involved, you should be able to pick Qs.
b) Look at simplest method to solve a particular question. In many cases, you get the best method not on the first attempt but during revision or re-revision.
After each test, analyze your performance and work out the problems that you were unable to solve.
This is the final part of the preparation. While I will outline the basics here, the details will be taken up in another article.
Strategy should be worked out only after you have covered a significant part of your basic preparation covering each of the above steps for most of the chapters/Question types.
Broadly Strategy should include
1) Time allocation for CAT. How to best use the 170 minutes for each of the subject areas. Order of solving questions and time allocation for QA/DI, LA/RC/VA etc. Please note that there is no standard or optimal allocation. You will have to customize your own plan, hopefully with the help of an mentor.
2) Question selection: CAT has always included a good mixture of Qs of varying levels of difficulty, which carry equal marks. So the key is to quickly identify Qs that should be solved, left or marked for review (you can get back to these Qs based on time left.)
3) How to make the best use of a Mock CAT Test series. How to analyze your performance after each Mock CAT and to take the necessary corrective action.
So to summarize,
One, you have enough time.
Two, make a detailed weekly plan and stick to it.
Use the CASS approach (Concept, Application, Speed and Strategy)
We will be having a chat session where will take queries on the issues raised in this article. And we will be back with a detailed note on the strategy part a little later.
All the best!
For previous articles in this series, please visit here
A LIVE Chat will take place on CAT 2015 as usual on Monday at 6.30 pm. Join us here every Monday.
Rahul Reddy is Founder Director and Mentor at VistaMind. He is a graduate of IIM Calcutta – Class of 1997. He was previously the director of T.I.M.E Kolkata for 10 Years.