CAT is a mixture of aptitude test and time management skills. If you mess up on either of these, things can go south pretty quickly.
Here’s my performance in CAT.
CAT 2019 (Marks and Percentile)
VARC: 68 and 99.39%ile | DILR: 47 and 98.13%ile | QA: 63 and 99.08%ile
Overall: 178 and 99.69%ile
Converts: IIM B, C
The reason why I mentioned my marks was to bring home the point that one should not aim at attempting all the 100 questions. As far as I remember, I attempted around 75 questions (30, 20 and 25 in VARC, DILR and QA). One should maintain a proper balance between accuracy and number of attempts. Also, don’t expect 100% accuracy, because even if you get it, you might end up solving too few questions.
The most important part of CAT preparation is, undoubtedly, the mock season. I bought the test series of IMS and Time (There are other players in the market as well). Try to solve the mocks within the given schedule. It helps you in understanding your current level of preparation, your weaknesses and your rank amongst a pool of serious aspirants. Start giving mocks once the schedule is announced by these institutes regardless of the fact whether your portion is complete or not. Attempt mocks as if you are actually giving CAT so that in the actual exam, you are pretty much comfortable. After the mocks, analyse each and every question. You can invest close to 7 hours in analysing each mock test initially to analyse your mistakes and to understand if you are missing out the sitters. I gave close to 30 mocks this session.
I will try to summarise my preparation for each section separately. These are based upon my “Experiments with Mocks" and other experiences which I feel might add value. These are just my personal opinions.
Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension (VARC)
This is the most unpredictable section of CAT. It generally has 24 questions of Reading Comprehension and 10 questions of Verbal Ability (Parajumbles, odd one out and fill ups). I divided my 1 hour in 2 parts- 45 minutes for RC and 15 minutes for VA. You should find your perfect mix through experimenting in the mocks. You will find some of the questions pretty much doable, and in others, you will end up eliminating 2 options out of the 4 options given. The other two options will be mighty close. So read the appropriate para once again and try to find out. If you can't, just don’t leave that question (As per probability, you have 50% chance of getting incorrect and 50% chance of getting it correct. So you will end up with +2 marks (+3 for correct and -1 for incorrect) for every 2 such confusing questions. Please use this tip with caution. Also, try to maximize attempts in this section. Read a RC, if the topic of the RC is such that you are interested and have read earlier, go for it. Else, keep that RC for the last in the chronology.
Apparatus for this section: Mocks + Sectionals of IMS and Time + Any one of Arun Sharma for VARC or coaching institutes material
Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning (DILR)
This section will test your time management skills. It generally consists of 8 sets having 4 questions each. I would strongly recommend you to spend 3-4 minutes initially during the beginning of this section in mocks and actual CAT to scan through all the sets and rank them in order of difficulty. Make sure that you do all the easy sets and grab the marks which will boost your confidence while doing the tougher ones. Never aim at solving all sets. Pick and choose. One can work on the basic question types of graphs, linear arrangement, circular arrangement, matches and games, etc. These questions can help you in solving most of the sets. Remember not to miss out any easy sets. It can make or break your score. Also while solving, don’t get stuck on a single set and take that set on your ego. If you can’t solve it, leave it and move to another set. (You can set a time limit of say 15 or 18 minutes for the same)
Apparatus for this section: Sectionals of IMS and Time + Mocks
Quantitative Aptitude (QA)
This is one section in which you can be at the driving seat. For those of you who have studied Mathematics till 12th standard, this section, with some efforts, can become a scoring one. However, for people like me, who had maths till 10th, need to work a little harder. People who are from commerce background should not miss questions based on Profit & Loss, Interest, Alligations and Mixtures and Partnerships. Prepare thoroughly for other topics such as Modern Math, Algebra, Time Speed Distance, Work and Time and Geometry. Read and understand the formulas and practise as much as you can to improve your speeds. For complex calculations, an online calculator can be used. But make sure that your mental maths is above average as it would save you a lot of time. Online or offline classes will be helpful. Divide the entire section into 3 rounds. 1 round should be of such questions which could be solved within a minute or two. So in 30 odd minutes( if the paper is easy or difficult, time will vary), solve all such questions by going from Q1 to Q 34. In the next round, again visit the questions which are of medium difficulty. And if the time permits, go for another round of tough questions. In this manner, you will be able to solve easy questions which are at the end instead of not going through them if you keep on solving the tough questions first.
Apparatus for this section: Mocks + Sectionals of IMS and Time + Arun Sharma for Quant/ Sarvesh Kumar or coaching institutes material + coaching classes
If you spoil one of the sections, forget about it and brace yourself for what's coming next. If the questions are hard for you, it will be hard for the other test takers and hence you should always focus on maximizing your marks. Coaching classes would certainly help if you can spare time and money (Although many people have cracked the exam without it). Apart from the tricks and shortcuts, you will interact with like-minded people thereby making it easy for you to focus. Also, if you are not able to crack the CAT in the first go, don't get disheartened. Try again and quit only when the happiness and the desire of belling CAT < Fear of Failing.
My CAT Journey
I gave CAT 2017, scored 97.7%ile, converted one of the old IIM and all the new IIMs. But I wanted to be with best and hence tried again. I gave CAT 2018 without much preparation as I had my CA Final exam in May 2019 and scored 99.37%ile but did not get calls from the colleges I wanted. So after completing my CA, I tried again and finally made it to the B-school of my choice. I would like to conclude by saying that “Have faith in your faith”.
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