‘Don’t Miss The Easy Questions And Spend Minimum Time On Difficult Questions’ – Mir Noaman Ali – 99.87%ile CAT 2015 – FMS

How was your experience of CAT, since the pattern changed, calculator was introduced?

As good as it gets! I had to score very high in order to land in a top B-School (GEM profile) so the pressure was always there which worked as Eustress and kept me focused during the preparation and the duration of the exam.

The introduction of calculator did help out in doing complex calculations but I tried to avoid using it as far as possible. Its handling can be quite inconvenient and if you are good with numbers it’s better to use the calculator for only those calculations that will necessarily take a lot more time.


When did you start preparing for CAT? What was your overall preparation strategy for CAT 2015? And did you change your preparation strategy after the announcement of the pattern change or you followed the same routine?

I started CAT preparation during my engineering days itself. Having thoroughly prepared for IIT JEE Maths, my fundamentals in Quant topics were fairly strong so I got going well. I had already scored a 99.41%ile in CAT 2014 so this time it was all about going the extra distance. For CAT 2015 I appeared for about 8~10 mock exams of varying difficulty levels and did a thorough analysis of my performance, figured out areas where I can still improve and tried to maximize accuracy. Given the prior notification of 60 minutes each for a section, my task of deciding how much time on what questions became simpler and gave a concrete direction to my test taking strategy and targeted accuracy.


What was your strong/weak section and what was your overall test taking strategy?

Giving ample mock tests made me realize that it’s perfectly alright to leave some questions straightaway, the sooner you decide which ones to leave the better. I was well acquainted with QA, LR and DI and faced difficulty in RCs.

My strategy was to not miss the easy – moderate questions, spend minimum time on difficult questions and quickly get an understanding of how difficult the paper is so as to attempt accordingly. Giving enough mocks will help one estimate a ballpark figure of where the 99, 99.5 and 99.9 will fall, so one needs to decide the right mix of attempts vs accuracy vs targeted overall percentile.


What was your strategy for individual sections (Quant/Verbal/Data Interpretation/Reading Comprehension)?

DI-LR needs to be handled tactfully. I never jumped onto the first DI-LR paragraph that appeared on the screen. Instead, I took a couple of minutes or so to quickly go through all the paragraphs and decide a sequence in which I’ll attempt them, easiest to toughest (some passages will be straightforward ones that’ll take hardly 5 minutes while some may take more than 10 minutes so decide and finalize quickly)

This helped me keep my confidence high and maximize correct attempts. Also, I made it a point to cross check my LR-DI answers after I have solved the paragraph and answered the questions. The extra minute you spend can help avoid any silly mistakes you might have made and the assurance of getting 4 questions right gave a supreme boost to my confidence going into the next paragraph.

For Verbal I tried to read calmly and understand the gist of the sentence/paragraph. When in sufficient doubt I didn’t hesitate to leave the question, and you got to do this with no guilt taken forward to the next question.

Be on the lookout for straightforward questions in RCs. Even the most difficult RC may have a simple straightforward question that’ll take less than a minute to answer. If in doubt avoid questions like “what do you think is the reason why the author…” “what is the most likely reason for …”. Instead target direct vocabulary based questions in RCs and straightforward ones like “why does the author not agree with …” “what does the author mean by ….” etc, answers to which are quite likely available in plain language in the corresponding paragraph.


What was your test prep strategy over the few months leading to CAT? (Last 3 months, last month, last 15 days). Was it a test series inclined one or a chapter by chapter strategy?

I tried to give at least 1 mock per week and spent at least equal time in analyzing the paper. This isn’t restricted to only figuring out the right answers to the remaining questions, I tried to minutely examine how I could have scored more by avoiding all possible errors and attempting questions based on merit. Also, I gave high emphasis to spending minimum time on questions that I wasn’t going to attempt anyway. This helped me immensely in maximizing accuracy in mocks and in CAT. The Round 1, Round 2 and Round 3 approach immensely helped me in QA in both attempts and accuracy.


How did you manage to prepare for CAT and other exams within the same time frame?

Having already been a 99 %iler in CAT 2014, I was fairly confident about doing well in CAT 2015 so I decided against appearing for any other B-School entrance exam. However, it’s always good to appear for as many entrance exams as possible to diversify risk and target other top colleges apart from FMS and IIMs.


What was your strategy for the D-Day? How did you plan your CAT test taking?

Your D-Day strategy is as much important (maybe more) as your months/years of preparation. I usually feel good under pressure and take it positively which helped me perform on the D-Day. My test centre was in Pune while I stayed in Mumbai so I reached the exam location a day in advance and had a good night sleep (which is very important!)

It’s difficult to ignore the ideal number of attempts talk doing rounds so I tried hard to go with an open mind and attempt questions on a merit basis. If it’s an extraordinarily easy section the priority was to maximize attempts and for a comparatively difficult section maximizing accuracy was essential.


Any message you would like to share with the candidates preparing for CAT 2016.

Bad stress does no good to anyone. You’ve got to enjoy the feeling of an important day and raise your game accordingly. When in doubt don’t attempt for the sake of increasing your overall attempts as it does no good unless you get it right. Make sure you do not miss out scoring on all easy questions so that you can guilt-freely skip the difficult ones and save time. If required, you can attempt the section in reverse sequence too. Try to get a good understanding of overall difficulty level of the paper so that you can roughly estimate the mix of attempts vs accuracy vs percentile on lines of your mock exams

Although it’s called rough work, I felt that doing rough work neatly and systematically can save you a lot of trouble in the examination.

Post CAT you’ve got to start your preparation for WAT-PI immediately. Get in touch with a current B-School students to help figure out how you can productively utilize your remaining time not just to clear WAT-PI rounds but also to get a headstart to your B-School journey.

Develop stamina through mock papers to be attentive for 180 minutes. If you are still finding it difficult then take a minute break to relax, stretch and think about what makes you feel good. Your adrenaline should do the rest!

All the best!




The interviewee Mr. Mir Noaman Ali is a first year MBA student at the Faculty of Management Studies, Delhi and a B.Tech graduate from IIT Roorkee. He has 9 months of work experience in Oracle (OFSS) and has scored 99.87%ile in CAT 2015. At FMS Delhi, he recently secured a summer internship with TAS: Tata Group’s flagship leadership program.