The last few yards are the toughest. Going from 95th percentile to 99th is the toughest. Going from 9000th in the Country to being in the top 1800 or so cannot be easy. So, what do the top 1800 do differently? Or, put differently, what should you do to give yourself the best chance of doing this?
The most important point here is straightforward. Be anal about accuracy. Not some notionally brilliant 80% types, but nigh on 100% accuracy.
The big difference between 93-94 to 98-99 is accuracy. Having a high accuracy rate is a necessary but not sufficient condition. So, from day 1 aim for near 100% accuracy.
Read a lot. If you have the reading habit, build on it. Read all kinds of nonsense. If you don’t have the reading habit, build it. Read all kinds of nonsense.
Reading always pays off. Some folks will tell you that Reading for the last two months alone won’t help. Run from them. Run like the wind.
Prepare in a cocoon.
In the last few weeks, every Tom, Dick, and Rajesh will want to give you gyaan and tips on preparation. They might be good (some are great, you know who). But you still need to tune out of this and focus on your preparation. You need to come up with YOUR plan, YOUR exam strategy and build YOUR routine to crack it. A lot can be outsourced in life, but not this.
Take 'n' mocks. And then some more.
Taking mocks should become second nature. Take lots and lots of mocks. Preferably from more than one provider. You should reach a point where taking a mock just does not take much out of you. And then start at zero and throw so much into a mock that you get tired at the end of it.
Build a strength.
It really helps if you can tell yourself that no matter how tough the paper is, you will get 99.8 percentile in Quant definitely. That kind of strength can anchor an assault on 99.5 wonderfully. If you can have one of the three sections nailed in, that’s brilliant. If you are strong in one section, set the bar high. Very high.
Note: It should not become an obsession and lead to you chasing a mirage and getting too hung up over your strong suit. Keep that in mind.
Build attention to detail.
Very crucial. The difference between 95 and 99 is a bunch of small things. If you make these small things a matter of habit, the big things will fall into place automatically. As the saying goes, the devil lies in the details.
Point 7: Expansion
What are the small things?
1. Computing to the last decimal in DI.
2. Carefully eliminating the last choice in RC. Instead of saying “this is a one-out-of-two choice. Sometimes it works, sometimes it does not”
3. Worrying about ‘another’ way of filling the grid in LR AFTER you have got one solution.
4. Reading the paragraph in the sequence you have chosen in para jumbles. Just to make sure it reads well.
5. Continuing to read slowly. Even under time pressure.
6. Taking a deep breath and pausing to tell yourself you are on the right track even after skipping 4 questions in a row.
Stamina is critical.
A lot of students get burnt out during the exam. Make sure you build stamina carefully from Day 1. You need to have a sense of when your fatigue errors happen and counter them.
Stamina automatically gets built when you take a bunch of mocks. But focusing on it specifically also gives good returns.
Point 8: Extrapolation
How to build stamina?
1. Go step by step. Create an artificial target. 2 passages from the Hindu, 2 Sudokus and 6 questions from the 2IIM question bank at break-neck speed. Don’t time yourself and plan to optimize. Pace yourself and promise to remain switched on.
2. Rattle your weakness area: If you hate DI, tell yourself you will do 10 DI sets without getting into a murderous mood. Again, don’t tell yourself you will do DI for 1 hour. Tell yourself, you will stay switched on for however long it takes to complete 10 DI sets.
3. Play around with strategy: One of our students took back-to-back mocks in order to combat fatigue. His reasoning was “If I can last 6 hours at a stretch even twice. I will have the belief to stay alert for 3 hours easily”. Crazy idea, but it worked for him.
4. Most importantly, have fun while preparing. This is a fabulously fun exam to prepare for. You read 4-5 readable passages, solve 25 fun questions and 3-4 interesting puzzles. Become the person who thinks this is a fun way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Not the one who has a feeling of impending doom.
Push yourself harder.
This is broadly an extension from whatever we have spoken of thus far. Apologies if we are entering into self-help gyaan territory. But truth is, the guys who crack this exam are the ones who set high demands of themselves. If you work until 8 pm but are behind on your mock count, freshen up, have a light dinner and take a mock from 9 pm to 12 am. Might not be your best performance, but will give you new belief that you can do this stuff. Chances are you will get a decent score and then tell yourself that “If this is what I can do when I am this tired. I will bloody kill this exam when I am fresh”
Try your best to handle pressure.
This ain’t easy. There are no easy fixes for this. Make sure that you acknowledge that this is a high-pressure exam and take every effort to de-emphasize that. You need to carry ‘josh’ into the exam hall, not anxiety.
Read this article. If you are into sports, definitely read this article. Take this as inspiration when you have a go at this exam.
Get ready for D-day well. Do your favorite things in the run-up to the exam.
I have stopped taking this exam now. I did not take it last year, am not taking it this year. But when I used to take the exam, I would work myself up with all kinds of fun thoughts and stuff the day before the exam and the day of the exam. Chocolates – yes. Planning for extravagant lunch after the exam – Yes. Favorite attire – Yes. Day-dreaming about smashing the paper out of sight. Yes, oh yes.
Drink lots of water, get copious amounts of rest and gear yourself up really well. Think of Virendra Sehwag and how he does not care about the opposition players, think of Dhoni and how he stays cool, think of Usain Bolt and about how he comes alive on big occasions. If you are into football, think of how Iniesta operates with amazing speed but in extremely unhurried fashion.
All the Best for your CAT Preparation.
About the Author:
Rajesh Balasubramanian runs 2IIM’s CAT program and handles more than half the classes for CAT preparation. He completed his Electrical engineering from IIT Madras in 2001 and PGDM from IIM Bangalore in 2003. He worked as an equity Research Analyst at Credit Suisse, London. This was an enriching experience, in a literal sense; and a soul-sapping experience otherwise. He finally quit his job in 2009 and joined 2IIM as director in 2010.