My Musings On Getting The CAT Out Of The Bag – Niteen, IIM Calcutta

Somewhere during the second year of engineering I had decided to pursue MBA. Whether, just after graduation or after work ex would depend on circumstances. I started preparing during the sixth semester. But it was half heartedly and used to do so for some time during lazy Sunday nights, if I was not playing Age of Empires with my friends. (I am nocturnal. When the world sleeps, it is peaceful and that is when the mind races :p ). It was mostly about connecting back to the good old basics and trying to get acquainted back to the concepts. For instance, I had forgotten the reasoning behind quite a few formulas such as progressions (Just remembering formulas ain’t of much help. There is a reason why the sections are called ‘aptitude’, ‘reasoning’). For this, I went through CBSE textbooks of 8,9,10 and basics of verbal ability and logical reasoning questions. There was no internal pressure to get answers right and hence would rarely even attempt questions and look into the answers directly. I have since beginning been a voracious reader and was also familiar with the concept of skimming, so did not put much effort in reading section.

 I shifted gear during the summer break. I started applying the concepts to questions from leading CAT training institute materials. Tried to solve quickly, but would rarely keep a timer. If I didn’t get a question after some pondering, I would move on to the next. After completing I would come back and think hard and long about the missed and incorrect ones, before looking into the solutions. After some time, I started solving questions from online materials from various sources. As CAT is notorious for surprises and unpredictability, I wanted to solve all kinds and types of questions. There were times when I would solve a question monotonously but it would eat up time only to realize later that thinking a bit more of a hatke approach would have saved lots of time that could have been devoted to other questions. But sometimes, thinking of a different approach would yield no result and end up wasting time. This is crucial since self-realization is very important to score at exams such as CAT. You need to balance everything – speed vs accuracy, formula vs concept approach. This requires a lot of prior practice which would help in quick feet thinking. Moreover, I started concentrating on grammar which has always been my Achilles heels and also reading complex passages.

It was time to move gear in the final year. Initially took it light and since it was final year gave it little importance, trying to live the college life. Moreover, there was a flurry of placement activities going on. Having a bad CGPA made it worse. After a lot of rejections, I finally got placed a month before the exam. This is when I went full gear. Stopped playing football. Stopped watching movies, TV series. Started solving a lot of mock tests. I believe there is no better way to prepare than to solve mock tests. This gives a lot of perspective about yourself as well as the exam. Moreover, it builds confidence and tenacity. Since it was timed, I had to strategise about each section approach. Practice question papers beg to be scratched, tramples, used, thumped on and finally answering their questions. That gives them real pleasure. A week before the exam, I again went back to just the basics and revising my learnings. The rest, as they say, is history 😀

CAT exam is true to its name. I guess someone played a word play here. It is just like the animal – unpredictable, self-centered. You might end up with a lot of scratches, but ultimately animal instinct does matter. Obviously, I am exaggerating a bit to make a point.

All the best to all the aspirants 🙂

PS : This is my individual experience and hence this cannot be a generalisation since each person is different. Customisation is the key. I am not in a position to give advice and hence have just penned down my experience. Learn from it, criticise it and move on to create your own one.


May the force be with you !

Niteen Bali

Student at Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta