How To Prepare For CAT In 4 Months – Tips By An IIM A Student

First of all, let me assure you 4 months is a sufficient time frame to crack CAT and I say this from personal experience.

So, let’s start with first things first.

  1. Join a mock test series – Mocks are going to be the foundation on which your dream house will be eventually built. So, join a reputed test series (with a significant number of test takers) at the earliest.

Personal suggestion: SimCATs by IMS – well prepared by a bunch of experts (IIM alumni) and with in-depth analysis post tests. The level of the SimCATs turned out to be a good indicator of the actual CAT exam in 2015.

2. Take your first mock – This will be the flag-off of your Grand Prix, so make sure you are strapped well for the ride. This step is important to gauge your current level of preparation. Don’t read too much into the result – you are barely out of the blocks (again, speaking from personal experience).

3. Know the syllabus – Take out a list of all the subject topics under the three main verticals (QA, DI/LR, VA) that have been asked over the past few years (see any coaching institute’s past material if you are having issues figuring this out) and then divide them into appropriate categories. For eg – arithmetic, geometry, algebra etc. in QA; arrangements, data reasoning in DI/LR etc.

4. Make a study plan – You need to keep your preparation structured. It might happen that you end up practising topics which you find interesting and leave the tougher nuts for later (used to happen a lot with me). If you have a dedicated plan in place giving appropriate weightage and time to the various topics, you will be much better off.

Ideally, if you could spare a couple of hours on weekdays and 5–6 hours on the weekends, that should be enough. Obviously, it will also depend on your current level of preparation.

5. Taking mocks – Since the sequence of attempting the sections (VA -> DI/LR -> QA) and the time allotted to each was fixed (1 hour each) for CAT 2015, the only thing you can work on is using the time for each section to its fullest.

  • Have a quick Round 1 where you identify and attempt the low-hanging fruits. This round can go on for 30–35 minutes and try to attempt around 15–16 questions (would also depend on the difficulty level of the paper). Also, mark the questions which seem solvable but might take more time.
  • Attempt the marked problems in Round 2. If time is still left, go for another stab at the tough questions.

6. Analysing mocks – I can’t even begin to emphasise on the importance of analysing mocks for cracking CAT. The best way to analyse mock is

i. If your answer was correct

  • a. Take a quick look at the answer. If your method was the best way, move on.
  • b. If there is a better and a faster way mentioned, note it down. Revise it weekly.

ii. If your answer was incorrect

  • a. If it’s a conceptual mistake, go back to the reading desk and fight it out.
  • b. If it’s a calculation or any other avoidable error, a quick curse under the breath would suffice for today. Make sure your following weeks see your cursing less.

iii. If the question was left unattempted

  • a. Try it out yourself before checking out the answer. If you knew the concepts and lack of time was the issue, it is unacceptable. Having had a proper look at all the questions is imperative for your success. Read the next pointer very carefully, if you are prone to this error.
  • b. If you don’t know the underlying concepts, you know where to go and what to do.

This step should ideally take 5–6 hours, if done properly, until you aced the test 🙂

7. The art of leaving – Now, this isn’t a name of a crash course on how to break-up with a clingy partner but actually one of the most important tricks you should have up your sleeve to crack CAT. Just like in life, you have to let certain people go for your own good, likewise in CAT, you have to let the rotten eggs (read: troublesome questions) go.

I used to prepare a performance summary for each mock, something like this:


For further details of the mentioned six-categories, please go through the article mentioned in the source. It’s by Gautam Puri Sir, a renowned CAT faculty of Career Launcher. Thank you Sir!

8. Working on your weaknesses – Since the detailed analysis of your mocks will leave you with more questions than answers, now is the time to work on your weak topic areas one by one and recording the improvement in subsequent mocks.

9. Practice, practice and then practice some more – Remember Federer still works on his forehand every day. Remember Ronaldo still practises his free-kicks every day. Remember Kohli still practices his pull shot every day. If they need to do it, you and I most certainly do.

10. Relax and have fun – Do not make CAT the center of your life. At the end of the day, it’s just another exam with its idiosyncrasies. So, give it your best shot for sure, but don’t stop living your life because of it. Have fun every now and then, indulge in your hobby, play a sport, whatever helps relax your mind. Remember, a relaxed mind is your one true friend on the D-Day.

PS: Joining coaching classes or preparing through self-study is a personal choice. Personally, I did join coaching as I am a procrastinator of the highest order and coaching helped provide discipline to my preparation. Also, as it was my first attempt, I was apprehensive about being able to pull it on my own. So, understand what works best for you and then stop questioning your judgement. More often than not, our gut knows what to do.

This answer first appeared on Quora


About the Author:

Utkarsh Goklani is a PGP student of IIM Ahmedabad (2016-2018). He scored 99.62%ile in CAT 2015. Prior to joining IIM A, he worked as Macroeconomics Analyst at Credit Suisse.

Utkarsh Goklani

Global Ecomomics at Credit Suisse