Frankly speaking, I had never expected to achieve the much-hyped 99%ile, guess I just followed my strategy and held my nerves on the D-Day, which in fact are the two most important lessons. As simple as it sounds, you can't even imagine the number of candidates who have ruined months of hard work by forgetting this dictum. More on this later, let me set a few things straight first.
After getting a taste of life in Corporate, I found myself raring to go for CAT and a little confused about preparing alongside a Full-time job, so I have decided to document my journey and the learning thereof in the hope that my experience might help future aspirants. Moreover, I have structured it in such a way that this article will act as a guide to anyone looking to Bell the CAT. So, as Anthony Horowitz said,
"You cannot defeat your enemies until you know who they are."
It becomes imperative for us to understand what does the exam demand from us. Barring the modalities, CAT is a 3-hour exam aimed at assessing the aptitude of the candidate in three broad subjects -
> Verbal Ability (VA) and Reading Comprehension (RC)
> Data Interpretation (DI) and Logical Reasoning (LR)
> Quantitative Ability (QA)
Now, it is interesting to know that the questions asked are of the 10th Standard level which provides equal footing to aspirants from varied educational backgrounds.
Coming to the preparation, a full-time job does limit one's time, but it also leaves you with just enough to cover what's required and do away with the unnecessary, while also giving you the work experience which will come in handy during the B-school interviews.
I managed to squeeze in a couple of hours of study after work on weekdays and a little more on the weekends, which is more than sufficient if you give 4-5 months to your preparation with reasonable dedication.
The first step will be to chalk out a detailed strategy, depending on the time you have. Remember to allocate almost equal time to all the 3 sections, neglecting the section(s) you already feel confident about will be a fatal mistake. CAT tests application rather than theory, more often than not, getting the correct answer quickly through shortcuts is better than following a textbook approach and wasting precious time hence it is advisable to practice more and more questions, which brings me to...
Mocks, Mocks, and Mocks
I cannot emphasize the importance of writing mock exams enough, start giving mocks early on in your preparation. In fact, even before you begin, write a mock exam. The reason I am stressing on this is that it will give you a first-hand experience of what you are up against, give you an idea about your strengths and weaknesses and will tell you where you currently stand, which is crucial for monitoring progress. Also, another rookie mistake is to not analyze your mock performance comprehensively, which should be avoided at all costs.
It is easy to get carried away or feel demotivated when you look at the competition or the amount of syllabus left, I got intimidated by all of it too. The answer? Remember this beautiful quote by Robert Collier
"Success is the sum of all efforts, repeated day in and day out."
Break down the goal into weekly and daily targets with a buffer over the weekend to cover up for that occasional late night at work, the quintessential Friday party, or simply for when you want to binge-watch Netflix. I used to shuffle through topics from DILR, VARC, and QA simultaneously to avoid drudgery, but hey, to each his own. Also, remember that time when our elders used to urge us to read the newspaper, well, as it turns out, they were right. So, get hold of a Daily (paper or PDF, doesn't really matter) and start reading. Not just the Sports page, the International and Business sections, and the Editorials as well. This will not only help in the RC but also keep you abreast of what is happening around you. You can also pick up novels of any genre if that's your thing, the idea is to develop a habit of reading rapidly.
Now that we have covered everything, time for one final advice,
Remember your Goal
I know it, you know it, everybody knows this, yet, somehow there will be times when you will deviate. You need to be particularly careful during these times. Getting the answer is more important than how you get it. No R&D during the mock exams, try out as many methods as you want during the non-timed practice sessions. Don't get attached to any topic or question and waste undue time on it. CAT tests your strengths, not your weaknesses. This one is especially valuable if you (like me) are an Engineer, gone are the days of JEE, CAT is a different ball-game altogether, devising a different strategy beforehand for those 3 hours is of utmost importance. Or as my mentor used to put it, "If you are thinking of a plan during the exam, then you have no plan at all." It is to be developed individually by writing as many mocks as possible. My advice is to look it as 3 exams of 1-hour each rather than a 3-hour long exam. Then the only thing left is to...
Rock it on the D-Day!
With this, I am done with my pep talk, I hope it helped answer some questions and allay some fears. Remember, it is just a test of your Aptitude, not of your knowledge or calibre.
Cheers and All the Best!
Recommended Readings For You:
- How Urvi Mehta Cracked IIM Ahmedabad As A Fresher? Tips For CAT 2020 From A 99 Percentiler!
- How I Scored 99.46%ile In CAT 2019 In 40 Days | Suhani Singhal, IIM Bangalore '22
- How I Made It To IIM Calcutta | Palash Godbole, CAT 2019 99.35%ile
- Completing The CAT Syllabus Is A Myth | Mansi Gupta, IIM Lucknow '22