Practice! Practice! Practice! I remember myself thinking day and night about the sections of CAT, and how to ace it. Thankfully I had my mentors from a coaching institute and online portals like InsideIIM that helped me through my journey. More importantly, they helped me keep my confidence up even when I was on the verge of losing hope. It's tough to realize the toil one has to put emotionally when you're continuously scoring low in mocks.
I remember when I started this journey a year ago, around this time with a score so low, I almost lost hope as my peers were doing better. Much better. Well, I learnt that not everybody's pace of learning is the same; not everyone's growth curve starts from a higher point along the y-axis. One thing that I had under control was the slope of the mentioned curve, how steep can I make it. Fast forward to October; I wasn't doing so good. I had my college exams and final year projects and what not weighing on my shoulder. I genuinely thought of trying for CAT next year, I realized I had to stop this on and off attitude regarding CAT, once and for all, and start grinding before it's too late.
VARC - Starting with VARC, I remember I once got negative marks in this section(lol?); to worsen my situation I had no habit of reading, and that put me in a position where I could not understand any passage at all. I used to look blankly and sometimes even trace the questions back to the passage, which delayed the completion of the section. What I realized the most crucial thing about VARC was the amount of concentration you put while you're solving it. I had to push myself every night to read at least a few pages of whatever novels I had. One advice I came across regarding this section was: 'I had to read as fast as I could" –– that's one valuable advice I agree, but getting answers wrong because of that only demoralized me. I started with understanding the passage first; however, slow it might be. I had plenty of time to increase my reading speed, but before that, it is essential to get acquainted with the style of passages that will be there in CAT. I started by solving three passages and ended up with finishing 6 of them in CAT with the right amount of time for the rest of the 10 questions.
LRDI - One of the best things about LR or DI, which I realized was that it took 10 mins to solve the set and less than a minute to finish all 4 of the underlying problems. But in the initial days, I lagged vehemently in this section as well. I could do only one or two sets correctly in 60 minutes, and I did whatever game came to my sight. I used to complete the section in a very haphazard manner. So, I followed the advice where I concentrated on one part, either LR or DI. In my case I chose DI. It helped me get stronger in a part which contained four questions out of 8. I knew I had to face 4 LR and 4 DIs; of which I used to find that at least one if not two were straightforward and could be completed within 5-7 minutes. Hence, I tried to complete one set within 10 or 12 minutes. If I got extra time, I used to solve one or two from the LR part as well. This helped me complete at least five sets in the stipulated time. I used to find shortcuts to reach to that point, but very soon I realized that only practice could get me there. One thing I missed out on initial days was navigating through the section. Easier questions might be present later on in the section. So, I started to jot down the questions that I would solve. Yes, it took five extra minutes to select the questions I'd solve, but I could smoothly glide through the section after that. Fast forward to November; I could easily complete five sections correctly.
QA - QA may seem to be the most natural section for most; I found it very easy to lose my concentration and equally essential to keep it intact. Since this is the last section in CAT, I had to go through all the turmoil of the first two, which derailed my focus. This section haunted me because I couldn't keep my focus intact. I realized the importance of staying calm through the first two sections. I even took a two minutes break before attempting QA in CAT 2019. Clear headspace seemed to be the most critical aspect to me while solving this section.
PS: It might be an unpopular action, but I attempted a set (DI) containing TITA within last 3 minutes by guesstimating, and fortunately got 3 of them correct. Back to the future in January 2020, I had calls from CLIKS, baby and new IIMs, MDI, NITIE & SJMSOM.