Why You Need To Forget About Your Percentile In CAT

So you have decided that MBA is for you but it might seem as though getting into b-school is too difficult a road to traverse. The unrelenting assault of DI and LR in CAT, verbal dizziness brought upon by a ‘serious case’ of paragraph jumble and the unfortunate dilution of the quantitative section to set the deck against engineers: it might seem as though you don’t have what it takes to get yourself an MBA from premier b-school. This is exactly what you need to forget about getting that coveted call from your dream b-school. What you need to remember and understand before you venture into this phase of your life are your strength and weakness and by that, I don’t mean whether your quantitative ability is weak or your inability to crack LR. These are the symptoms of your problem, not the problem. I want you to look for something more fundamental about yourself that you want to work on to get to your dream b-school.

If you think you’re weak in Verbal it is not because you lack aptitude but it is rather it is the fact that you haven’t realized the importance of a reading habit. Verbal is put on b-school tests because unless you can distil complex ideas to make an insightful inference, you won’t be able to solve any company’s problems. MBA students are not bibliophiles by any measure but they have to have a reading habit in some form or another, be it reading the newspaper, books, following Reddit threads religiously and even reading the English translation of obscure Chinese authors (yes, one of my colleagues reads them avidly and he loves it). These people are not the ones formulating heavy worded sentences but rather they are people who can communicate and infer ideas from a myriad of information effortlessly. So you shouldn’t try to improve your CAT percentile by working on verbal questions but instead pick up something to read that challenges you and adds to your knowledge base. I wouldn’t dare recommend a novel to the predominantly engineer audience of this article but you can always pick up a book on finance if you are  interested in that domain and trust me, the jargon finance guys use  would improve your vocabulary far better than a certain red book that  your coaching  institute is pushing down your throat. The most useful and accessible source is an English newspaper (yes, only English; no offence to any other language) and reading it religiously but I would again recommend reading only what interests you, it is the quality that matters, not the quantity. If cricket interests you then start reading books on cricket, there are a tonne of them out there, lack of sources cannot be the reason why you’re not reading to your fullest potential. As a thumb rule do not read anything that doesn’t interest you because what you need is a habit and not a passing attempt at cracking verbal section of CAT. I am not advising against practising your coaching material but trust me you will not see any substantial improvement in yourself till you start reading for yourself, this is a habit that will take you farther in life than any material recommended to you by  “experts”. By reading habitually you would have acquired the biggest strength of a good manager, because despite what you think you want out of an MBA, what you really need to be is a good manager. Once you have this habit, results will follow, you would try newer articles that you once thought were too obscure simply because you have a habit of reading rather than a requirement. So find yourself something to read because what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it (paraphrasing Oscar Wilde in case you thought I was profound).

I can argue all I want about reading rather than rote learning of coaching institute for improving your verbal ability but I will yield in case of logical reasoning and all I can say is that either you’ve got it or you don’t. I haven’t met a single person who got good at logical reasoning by practising questions but you can get even better if you’re already good at it. In case you are the master of puzzles then find as many as possible because as an MBA student all you have to do is solve business puzzles. Why are my sales down? Why is my company’s attrition rate so high? And so on. However, if you are in the majority of the population then all I can recommend is practice Data interpretation like hell. In all my idealistic musings, unless you can clear CAT section cut-off in all sections, competition will beat you by long shot. Get smart rather than getting bogged down by your weakness, most people would give up but you need to identify your strengths and work on them. As difficult as it is to find your true weakness, finding your strengths is much more difficult. Focus on where you can improve with a process, and if doesn’t work then tweak the process rather than blaming it on yourself and your abilities. My operations professor taught me that more often than not, it is the process at fault and not the person. People would give up because it might seem oo difficult but you need to identify your strengths and work on them. Crack every DI puzzle in past examinations and trust me with the continuous effort you can crack them because unlike logical reasoning question where you need to have a light bulb moment or stroke of genius to solve the question, in data interpretation question what you need is perseverance and speed to get to the answer. You don’t have to crack every puzzle just the ones where people gave up because they didn’t practice enough or couldn’t do it in a given time. Most people would give up because it requires sheer will and hard work but this is where you can beat the system, just go an extra mile than what you would have otherwise and you would realize in time how far ahead you are of the competition. Remember what you need is a call from your dream B-School and not 100 percentile or a stellar score in Logical reasoning section.

Now comes the staple of every engineer that walks the earth – Quantitative Ability. Practice, Practice and practice -it doesn’ matter if you are an engineer or not, it is one section that has been diluted in recent past and you just need to practice as much as possible to get better. Formulas area bae and the best way to crack most of the questions in this section. Engineers might take this section for granted but if you can boil every question to a formula there is nothing wrong with it, this is not JEE exam, all you need is working knowledge of the most basic concept and a crazy amount of practice to get through this section no matter what you’re background, forget if you are good or bad at mathematics, you can beat the best of mathematicians if you come prepared to the arena. Any book from your typical collection – Arun Sharma, Aggarwal would suffice. Here sheer hard work will take you farther than anything else. I have seen the smartest people fail miserably because they did not practice. Do not take this section as a given if you think you are good with numbers because you can’t beat the hard work of another person with your skills any day of the week.

If you have made it this far then you have read through some generally accepted and vague remarks but trust me if you try to imbibe these simple ideas then you would have done something most people cannot do because most people value complex ideas rather than simple ones. But the trick is not in planning complex ideas but rather in executing simple solutions.

Swapnil Tyagi

Currently pursuing MBA at XLRI , Jamshedpur.




Very nicely written with proper decoding of how to study for a long term & not just for exam.