Managing CAT Prep And Work
by ARKS Srinivas, CEO, VistaMind
So, you have decided to write CAT and be an MBA!
Once THE decision is taken, the nitty-gritty can be solved much easily.
The myths surrounding CAT are legendary. That CAT is only for IITians or that Engineers have it easy or Work-ex is required to get into the IIMs are just some of them going around. In addition, the time required for preparation, that it takes 1 year of preparation etc, make the myths complete!
(You can read all previous stories by ARKSS and his team on MBA entrance exams and a MBA career here)
The Common Admission Test (CAT) to the IIMs is conducted once a year for the admission to the IIMs and a myriad other B Schools in India. The exam tests the applicant in various aptitude related areas viz., Quantitative Ability, Verbal Ability, Reading Comprehension, Data Interpretation and Logical & Analytical Ability. None of the above areas require any formal training and any degree holder – BA, B Com, B Sc, BBA, BMS, BCA, BE, B Arch, B Tech, MBBS, B Pharm, etc. – can write the exam. Hence, it should be clear to anyone writing CAT that a consistent and dedicated training in the aptitude areas should get one through the coveted portals of the IIMs and it has very little to do with your background or where you have graduated from.
Having said that, there are advantages for an Engineer, who, it is expected, is well versed in the quantitative and analytical ability part. So, it could be an advantage for a person who has taken up English Literature in her Undergrad and be well versed in the Verbal and Reading Comprehension area.
In this article, we will restrict our objective to address various concerns of that of an aspirant who is also working full time in an organization and desires to appear for CAT.
I will try to answer such questions through the following FAQs
Q. Is it possible to prepare for CAT while continuing to or taking up work in an organisation.
A. YES. This is a fundamental question and let’s get this off our mind and start working towards the ‘HOW?’ and not ‘Whether it is possible?’.
Almost 60% of the students in the IIMs are with work-experience and almost all of them have written CAT while working. Managing work and preparation therefore is a given. The only issue is to hit upon the right plan/schedule to ensure that neither CAT nor Work suffers.
Over the last ten years, the number of people with experience and writing CAT has increased manifold. Not everyone gets into the IIMs the first time. In a career spanning 35 to 40 years, spending, nay investing, a year for getting into the right institutes should be an automatic decision.
Q. How many hours should one put, per day, in preparing for CAT?
A. While I will answer the above question, it is important to note the time required for each person varies and depends on the state of preparedness. If one has written the CAT exam already/or has gone through coaching once, then the time required would be lesser than say for a person who is writing CAT for the first time.
Even for those who are writing for the first time, it is going to vary as per the aptitude one already has. Since Aptitude (read Quant, Verbal, Logical Skills) can definitely be improved, it just boils down to the present level of skill one is at.
Writing a Diagnostic test can definitely help. One such paper will be made available on www.vistamind.com where a student can write a Free Mock CAT and check out his/her level as on date.
Now moving on to the answer to the question!
Studying for 13 to 15 hours per week is a better answer to the above question. It is virtually impossible to give time every day especially when you are working.
Typically, one can give an hour or two per day during the weekdays and about 3 to 4 hours or more during the weekends.
We will also look at the time to be spent for the prep as per your unique requirement(s). I have tried the categorise the people writing CAT into four categories and for each one, we will look at what they can do to prepare for the CAT!
Not Working and AT Home
Ideally, you should not be in this situation. When one goes into the Interview, defending this situation is never going to be easy. When all around people are managing more than just one thing (Studying/Working), your defense would be weak. But, there are times when you have just finished your Engineering/Degree and are awaiting joining orders from the company you have been placed in. It is probably an ideal case to be in!
Do not over do the preparation bit. Plan to spend about 3 hours per day on a consistent basis and leave the Saturday or Sunday for writing the Mock CATs (SmartCATs of VistaMind) and analyzing your progress.
Since, you would be free for a major part of the time, try working part time for an NGO or taking up a teaching job (part time) at a school nearby. This will give you also a sense of purpose and improves a bit of self-esteem.
Studying in the Final Year
If you are in or getting into the final year of your degree or engineering, then this is an ideal time to prep!
Use the time of commute to & fro from your college to improve your Vocabulary or Reading Comprehension. Make it a point to carry the day’s news paper (you can use mobile Apps too) with you and finish reading the paper and jotting down the words that you come across in a small note book. This would be a very productive way of spending your time.
Once again, spend at least 2 hours practicing on the Quant , DI, Logic areas on a regular basis.
Working for 5 days a Week
For a person who is working 5 days a week, it is recommended that he puts in at least ONE hour a day for the 5 days of the week. Typically verbal (Vocab and RC) and speed math can be taken up on a daily basis (giving half hour to each).
However, on the weekends, one has to put in about 4 to 5 hours per day.
I recommend students to take up ONLINE training (Typically the LIVE classes are at 9:30 pm (cat.vistamind.com)) so that one gets the right direction to prepare and use the weekends for spending on thorough practice in QA, DI and Logic areas.
The above can schedule can continue till end of August and then one can step up the hours depending on the status of prep by that date.
Working for 6 days a Week
For a person working 6 days a week, it is a bit difficult and it has to be acknowledged. However, the desire to get into an IIM should be far higher than personal comfort at this stage of career.
Since, one is working for 6 days a week, squeezing out about 1 ½ hrs per day during the 6 days would give one 9 hours of preparation. Adding about 5 to 6 hours on a Sunday (assuming that the free day is a Sunday) would make the total preparation about 14 to 15 hours per week.
Q. I work in night shifts and get very tired, how can I give time for CAT?
Aspirants working in night shifts face the maximum problem. But, I believe that the Desire to get out of the night shifts and get into a Managerial position is far stronger and can easily overcome the hardships one faces in the current position.
For a person working in a night shift, work typically starts in the afternoon/evening. Hence, the best time would be the couple of hours before starting for work. In addition, if the commute time is utilized well, then one can give a solid 15 hours per week without much ado.
Five months is more than enough to prepare for CAT provided one does this systematically and consistently. We at VistaMind and InsideIIM are committed to give you all ingredients for success in CAT. It is upto you to utilize the same and come up trumps.