Preparation Plan For CAT 2017 – Part I – Vistamind

When it comes to CAT prep, there is always confusion as to what is the ideal time for preparation! ‘Horses for Courses’ is probably the right way to answer as to when to start the prep.

But, before one starts prepping for the CAT (or any MBA entrance exam), it is imperative to understand what entails the CAT exam and what marks/percentiles are required to get into an IIM or other institutes.

CAT 2016 revisited

The CAT 2016 paper, held on 4th December 2016, had Three sections. The exact pattern of the paper is reproduced below.

Section Area No of Qns Marks in Section Time Limit
Section I Quantitative Ability (QA) 34 102 60
Section II Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning (DILR) 32 96 60
Section III Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension (VARC) 34 102 60
Total 100 300 180


The questions were given one section after the other and the students should complete one section before going to the next. Once the student has finished one section, there is no provision to go back to that section again.

Each section consisted of Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs) as well as non-Multiple Choice Questions (non-MCQs).

There were Negative marks for wrong answers for MCQ questions. For Non-MCQ questions, there were NO negative marks

Understanding Percentile

You keep hearing from people that someone got a 100%ile or a 99 %ile or an 80%ile!

What exactly does a percentile mean?

A percentile is calculated as the Percentage of people below your mark in a particular exam.

For example, if in an exam, there are 100 students writing the same, and one gets a FIRST Rank (mind you, it is NOT the Full marks, only the first rank with whatever marks compared to the rest of the students), then there would be 99 students below this student. 99 students out of 100 (meaning 99% of students) are below the student and hence the student will get 99%ile in that exam.

In the same exam, if someone gets a 10th Rank, then the percentile would be 90%ile (as 90% of the students would have a got a mark lower than this student).

An illustration of how a percentile is calculated is given below!

Getting into IIMs is a coveted dream of many students. But, most students do not even attempt CAT or prepare for the same seriously only because they are not aware of what gets them this seat in an IIM. The high percentiles required to get a seat in the IIMs for an Open Category (student with no reservation) student are in the high 97 percentiles and the number 97 appears so high that students don’t even try!

Here’s, therefore, a quick information on what the marks required are for each of the sections as well as the overall marks required for obtaining various percentiles.

CAT 2016 Percentiles and Scores

As one can see, by getting about 150 marks out of 300 marks in the CAT exam, one gets a percentile close to 99!

By getting a percentile of around 96.5, one can easily a call from the New IIMs and with a little higher percentile into some of the older IIMs too! And to get 96.5 percentile, one has to score just about 130 marks out of 300!

Once a student gets to know that it is within the realm of possibility, the seriousness of the preparation would be higher. That doesn’t mean that getting through CAT or the IIMs is a cinch. It requires sincere and consistent preparation to achieve that goal!

Mission IIM

The Mission for IIM begins with the mission for preparation for CAT. Since there are different times in which one begins a preparation, it is, therefore, useful to decide as to what milestones one has to reach at various points of time. This will help in planning and one can increase or decrease the pace of preparation depending on the stage in which one is in one’s preparation!

Assuming that the exam would be at the end of November or beginning of December, the plan would require one to do certain tasks and reach a certain stage.

April to July

The objective in these 100 odd days would be to gain complete familiarity in the areas, topics, concepts and type of questions that the CAT exam has.

In the months of April, May, June and July, the concentration should be on going through all the topics in all areas of CAT viz QA, DILR and VARC. However, the preparation for each would be different and the way to improve in each area is given in the next article. Suffice it to say that these four months (a student may have three or two months only till July depending on when one starts preparing), the expectation is that all topics are covered at least once (First Round of Work).

Funda of Concepts, Application & Tests

  • Basics in terms of Concepts are formulae to be revised for each topic
  • Exercises to be solved to understand Application of Concept
  • Topic-wise Tests to be taken to get know the level and one’s speed

August & September

These two months are crucial to the preparation. One has to work on Strategy, Second revision and start taking Full-Length Mocks (SmartCATs) and Experiment on Strategy.

We will discuss this in more detail once we come closer to August. But, it is important to note that the two months of August and September are also important in applying to various exams at the same time continuing the focus on preparation

Here, apart from the SmartCATs, Areas wise tests and Section wise tests to be taken to iron out the weaknesses while improving/honing one’s strengths.


October & November

The last two months (40 to 50 days) before CAT would be the final assault on the exam! Here one has to prepare for a third revision, taken more sectional tests, finalise on the exam strategy while writing about 10 Mocks (SmartCATs), A thorough analysis of each of the tests one writes, zeroing in on the problem areas, working towards eliminating the problem areas AND finally strengthening the Mental ability to crack this exam would be the requirements.

Once we come closer to October a longer version of what exactly needs to be done would be shared!

In the part-2 of the article, we would get into specifics of each of the areas of the CAT exam.




About the Author:

The CEO of VistaMind Education, ARKS Srinivas, who is an alumnus if IIM Calcutta and been training students for CAT for the last 17 years has taken an ONLINE Class on precisely this topic. Please go through the Video is an hour long video) and it is very much sure to give you the impetus for your Preparation.

VistaMind Education is a pioneer in ONLINE CAT and GMAT training and has been successfully conducting the LIVE ONLINE Classes for CAT and GMAT prep for the last four years. CAT 2017 Online program covers all the areas of CAT including 80+ Classes, 20 Workshops, 20 SmartCATs (Mocks), 200+ Online Tests, Mocks for XAT/NMAT/SNAP/IIFT/CMAT and TISS and the entire GDPI preparation.

To enroll, please Click here. If you are already a student, please share this link to your friends who are planning to write CAT!

ARKS Srinivas

ARKS Srinivas is an alumnus of IIM Calcutta and has been the All India CAT Director at TIME. He is currently the National Head for MBA Prep at Career Launcher.


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