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The things you should keep in mind while preparing for CAT are
1.CAT is a pseudo standardised test
This means that, even though you cannot predict the exact pattern of questions you can still predict the answer pattern -- a net total of about 60 to 65 marks with an equitable distribution in all three sections of the paper will get you calls from most institutions.
Once you realise this, you will find your workload reduced by a huge amount. Your task, as emphasised by all CAT preparation centres, is to attempt the easiest possible questions out of the 120 to 150 odd questions that are put to you. You must work to this pattern if you want to do well in CAT.
2. The identification of easy questions is a difficult task and comes only after practice. Depending on a person's level of ease with the topics, the amount of preparation required may vary. However, you should try to leverage your strengths to the optimum. In the process, however, don't forget clearing cut-offs is essential to getting calls; doing well in one section and not clearing the cut-off in another will not help.
3. CAT is not a test to prove your mettle in specific subjects; you need to prove your overall ability.
4. Most of you must have already started giving mock tests; this is the only way to figure out how you will fare at the national level. There is no need to panic if you are not able to match your expectations in the mock CAT tests; look at every test as a learning experience.
Do your best in all the tests. After returning home, analyse your performance. Adequate practice will give you the knowledge to make informed decisions -- for example, you will realise attempting a reading comprehension question might not be a good idea if you only have a few minutes left before the test ends.
Answer questions depending on your level of confidence on the topics, rather than the feasibility of the answers.
5. You should be careful not to repeat the mistakes made you made in either the mock CATs or while practising at home. Make it a point to take a couple of tests every week from now on.
6. Set a goal while revising or studying the CAT preparation material.
Here is an example of what I mean. If you have planned to study for two hours, you should also know what you hope to achieve at the end of those two hours. This will help you focus your effort. By setting a goal, you will achieve much more in those two hours.
7. As I had mentioned earlier, CAT is all about strategy. There are many talented people who have given this exam but have not got admission into the IIMs. One of the major differences between these people and those who made it to the IIMs is that the latter had learnt to maximise their result in the two hours allotted to CAT.
They knew all sections were equally important and should, ideally, be given equal time unless you are exceptionally weak in a section.
8. Coming to the paper, you should look at accuracy as a priority. Adequate practice will help you increase your speed at a later stage of preparation, but absence of accuracy will lead to widely varying results and not help you get admission in the institution of your choice.
9. Try and understand why you want to do an MBA. Your reasons should be good enough to constantly motivate you during the preparation stage. You should also inculcate the habit of reading regularly.
10. Lastly, flexibility matters.
One can have a strategy is place, but it may not work for you during the actual exam. You should always have a fallback plan. One particular section in the paper might be particularly difficult or you may find two sections have been merged into one. Such possible combinations should be analysed; you should also have a strategy ready in case you are faced with such a scenario.
Focus on improving your strategy during the month of September. Use the months of October and November to work on the speed at which you answer questions accurately.
Before giving mock tests, ensure you have a good grasp on the various CAT sections; you should be able to attempt at least 80 to 90 questions. This will give you the confidence to sail through CAT!
Follow a step by step procedure. Everyone has his/her own learning curve so there is not a single method that will work for all. However I can suggest some steps:
1. Clear you basic Maths Concepts. The best place to start is the text books for Class 10 or some study material provided by an institute. Learn as many formulas as possible and find some shortcuts.
2. Work on you vocabulary. Read a lot and observe how a word in used in different contexts.
3. Develop the habit of reading. Newspapers, Magazines and TV can be a great help here.
4. Reasoning skills can be improved by solving puzzles
5. Practice a lot. Solve sets of questions within a time frame. Concentrate on each section and devote equal time.
6. Once you know your strengths and weaknesses, go for some full-length tests. Observe how you improve your score with each passing test.
7. Revise. This is what most of the students miss out on.
How to Tackle Each Section?
Here are some tips:
MAT Test has relatively easy math sums except probability and permutations which may prove difficult. Generally the paper can be solved with some patience. As mentioned earlier stick to basics.
Data Analysis and Sufficiency (DI)
MAT DI part consists of conventional data interpretation like graphs and charts with questions based on finding percentage increase or decrease.
Like many other MBA Entrance exams, MAT also follows old GRE books. It will a good idea to study from these or some old question papers of MAT.
MAT English part is pure comprehension. This is the area of concern for most students. Only thing that can help you here is reading and reading a lot.
CAT Exam parts
The Common Admission Test (CAT) being an all India entrance exam conducted by the IIM's for their management courses is very competitive& rigorous every year.
Since it is one of the most demanding entrance exams for any graduate institute, the candidate taking the test is expected to be an all-rounder excelling in arithmetical problem solving, geometry, statistics, data interpretation, logical reasoning in solving complex puzzles, and English language skills.
The test pattern is unpredictable&its pattern/ no. of questions keeps varying every year, ensuring that no 2papers are alike & a student approaches it based on his own capabilities.
The basic format of the paper includes 3 general sections with the topics covered listed below:
· Quantitative Ability (QA)- An important section in CAT which is the most time consuming &involves problem solving and lots of calculations. It needs a lot of practice &the paper insists on a good command of mathematical concepts which a student would have learned in school & college. It deals mostly with arithmetic and geometry problems.
A) Geometry, (Lines, angles, Triangles, Spheres, Rectangles, Cube, Cone etc)
B) Ratios and Proportion, Ratios, Percentages, In-equations
C) Quadratic and linear equations
E) Profit & Loss
F) Averages, Percentages, Partnership
G) Time-Speed-Distance, Work and time
H) Number system: HCF, LCM, Geometric Progression, Arithmetic progression, Arithmetic mean, Geometric mean , Harmonic mean, Median, Mode, Number Base System, BODMAS
I) Mensuration, Work, Pipes and Cisterns
J) Simple Interest & Compound Interest
K) Set Theory, Venn Diagram
L) Installment Payments, Partnership, Clocks
M) Probability, Permutations & Combinations
Topics like Trigonometry, Vectors, Binomial Expansion, Co-ordinate geometry, Logarithm, Calendar, Maxima & Minima Progression, Surds & Indices and Complex numbers are less likely but will nevertheless also be considered.
· Data Interpretation (DI) & Logical Reasoning (LR)- As the name suggest, this section tests an individual skills to understand data presented in different forms like bar graphs, tables, charts, line graphs etc. The test questions are given with a set of data and the candidate is required to deduce the required results from the data set.
For this section, a candidate must know the basic forms of data representation, interpret the data effectively, analyze the problem & use effective calculations to solve them. The calculations must be quick & accurate with a lot of pre-exam preparation going towards them. The topics covered are:
A) Data Interpretation based on text, graphs and tables.
B) Graphs can be Column graphs, Bar Graphs, Line charts, Pie Chart, Graphs representing Area, Venn diagram, etc.
C) Critical reasoning, Visual reasoning, Assumption-Premise-Conclusion, Assertion and reasons, Statements and assumptions, identifying valid inferences , identifying Strong arguments and Weak arguments, Statements and conclusions, Cause and Effect, Identifying Probably true, Probably false, definitely true, definitely false kind of statement, Linear arrangements, Matrix arrangements.
D) Puzzles, Functions, Family tree - identifying relationship among group of people, Symbol Based problems, Coding and decoding , Sequencing , identifying next number in series, etc.
· Verbal Ability (VA)- This section covers the candidates basic English skills which include:
A) Verbal Reasoning- Considered a tough section, it requires a lot of practice & contains questions similar to critical reasoning.
B) Grammar- refers to the inherent structure of words in the English language. In the CAT exam, Prescriptive grammar i.e the written grammar is paid more importance & not the verbal grammar which is generally used.
C) Critical Reasoning- which includes questions dealing with an individual's logic and reasoning skills, particularly in evaluating arguments.
D) Reading Comprehension- which consists of a written passage of about 500 words with the candidate being asked to read it & answer questions based on it.
E) Vocabulary- where questions are asked based on an individual's knowledge of words in the English language.
A student, who prepares himself comprehensively on all the subjects detailed above, will be successful in acing the CAT exam.
Common pitfalls hampering students attempting CAT
Preparing for the CAT exam thoroughly is definitely a good idea, but what if a student overdoes it & in the meanwhile loses an opportunity!!
Preparing only selected topics: The biggest mistakes students make is to narrow down the syllabus and prepare only for select topics based on what has come in the past few years of CAT. CAT has been an extremely unpredictable exam and is known to surprise every year and catch students off-guard. There is a high probability that topics or areas that have not had much of a weightage in recent years might make a comeback and catch the unprepared ones by surprise. Therefore it is in the best interest of students to prepare for all topics and hope for the best in the exam.
Overdose of mocks: Most students believe that the best way to prepare is to take as many mock tests as possible. This obviously isn't the right way to go about it as repeated mocks highlight the same weaknesses and if students are not analyzing their mistakes and rectifying them then there will not be any major improvement in their performance. Thus a thorough analysis of every mock will yield far better dividends than taking a large number of such tests.
Speculating on the composition of the paper: As specified earlier, CAT is known to ask questions from a wide assortment of test areas and therefore there is no point speculating as to what might happen this year.The IIMs have disclosed that there would be 'around' 60 questions across three test areas viz. verbal, quantitative and logic and data interpretation in CAT2010. Moreover, such speculation would only fritter away your energy and make you nervous before the testing period begins.
Missing out on items to be carried to the exam centre: This year students should carry along with them their admit card, the CAT voucher, valid photo identity (anyone amongst driver's license, passport, PAN Card, voter ID, college ID, employee identification card or a notarized affidavit with photo, signature, date of birth and residential address) and a valid document as proof in case the student belongs to the SC/ST categories. Ensure that you have all these items neatly filed the day before the exam so as to avoid last minute searches for some of these items.
Unequal distribution of time across sections: The IIMs give calls only to those students who manage to clear the cut-offs (passing marks) in each section of CAT and also the overall cut-off. To meet this objective, it is imperative that you spend equal amounts of time across all three sections so as to give yourself enough opportunity to clear the cut-off in every section. Moreover, since the difficult section of CAT is known in advance, an unequal distribution of time across three sections is not a good strategy.
Not having a buffer time : This year the exam will be for135 minutes and a good time allocation strategy would be 40 minutes across three sections with 15 minutes of buffer time. The buffer is essential to cushion you against a bad performance in any one section or to tackle a section which is exceptionally difficult or one where the student is not confident of clearing the cut-offs.
Blind guessing: CAT always has had negative marking in the past and this is set to continue in CAT2010.The negative marking is to deter students from attempting an extravagant number of questions without even solving them. It has been seen in 'experimental' conditions that blind guessing almost always leads to a negative/low score. Therefore avoid blind guessing and marking answers indiscriminately.
CAT reference material
For those intending to take up the CAT exam, preparations should start well in advance &from the available literature whether online or in books.
With regards to books, a few of the important one are mentioned below:
· Data Interpretation - Understanding of data though very crucial can be achieved with lots of practice & some of the reference books that will help a candidate in this are:
- Any good book in statistics
- NishitSinha's DI LR book by Pearson
- R.S. Agarwal's books on verbal reasoning.
- Aptitude & Data Interpretation, by Vivek Gupta &Sandeep Amar
- How to prepare for the Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning for the CAT 3rd edition, by Arun Sharma/ Tata McGraw Hill
- Course in Mental ability and Quantitative Aptitude, by Edgar Thorpe
- Fundamentals of Reasoning & Logic, by Robert M. Johnson
· Quantitative Ability- Since this section measures an individual's numerical ability and accuracy in mathematical calculations, below is a list of some of the books which will be good reference material to prepare for CAT.
- NCERT Maths from 8th to 10th, published by NCERT for brushing up your fundamentals
- How to prepare for Quantitative Aptitude for CAT, by Arun Sharma/ Tata McGraw Hill
- Quantitative Aptitude for CAT, written by NishitSinha/ Pearson
- Quantitative Aptitude for MBA Entrance Exams, by AbhijitGuha
- Quantitative Aptitude for MBA Entrance Exams, by R. S .Aggarwal
- Puzzles & some other number books by Shakuntala Devi
- Higher Algebra, Crack the CAT Quantitative, by Hall & Knight
- Aptitude & Data Interpretation, by Vivek Gupta &Sandeep Amar
- Quantum CAT, by Sarvesh Kumar Verma
· Verbal Ability- Studying a reference book for language skills might not help much since English can only be mastered by speaking it regularly, reading voraciously all the different media like books, newspapers, blogs etc& picking up the right grammar &pronunciation skills which is something not everyone may be familiar with, thus requiring a concerted effort.
Besides as Indians, although our English Language skills are much better than our other Asian conterparts, what poses a problem is the Mother Tongue Influence (MTI) which we have while we speak & read.
Thus overcoming this hurdle, is entirely in the hands of the candidate not only in preparation for the CAT exam but also if he wants to be at par with his colleagues based all over the world.
A few good books that might be helpful are:
- High School English Grammar & Comprehension, Wren and Martin
- Word Power made easy, by Norman Lewis
- English Proficiency IMS India
- A Communicative Grammar of English, by Geoffrey Leech
- Business English & Communication, by Clarke
- All about words, by Rosenblum&Nurenberg
- 30 Days to a More Powerful Vocabulary, by Wilfred Funk and Norman Lewis
- How to prepare for the verbal ability & Reading Comprehension for the CAT, by Arun Sharma &Meenakshi
Besides the above books, candidates can also prepare for CAT by:
· Working out the previous year's CAT question papers
· Working on Online and offline mock CAT Tests
· Working on course materials provided by leading MBA Coaching Institutes
· Keeping yourself up to date on world news & general knowledge by reading newspapersand magazines like The Hindu, Economics Time, The Statesman & others.
· Reading Business Magazines like:
- Business Line by The Hindu Group
- Business Today by India Today Group
- Business World
- Management Compass Career Launcher
- Business & Management Chronicle by Chronicle Publications
- Competition Success Review
Therefore, leaving no stone unturned in your preparation, is the only way one can get through it!
CAT- GD & Interview
A group discussion (GD) being a simulated exercise, done to evaluate a student's quick thinking & response pattern will let evaluators see the student in the right perspective where he cannot suddenly put up a show.
Normally a GD involves:
· Groups of 8-10 candidates which are formed without a leader, & are given a specific situation to analyze and discuss within a given time limit.
· The group may be given a case study and asked to come out with a solution for a problem.
· The group may be given a topic and asked to discuss on the same.
A panel will observe the proceedings and evaluate the members of the group based on their participation & response.
The main objective of this is to know how a student can contribute meaningfully in an attempt to help the group reach a right consensus without any negative participation.
The Panel members will basically judge candidates based on the below factors:
· The individual should be noticed by the panel. Merely making a meaningful contribution and helping the group arrive at a consensus is not enough. You have to be seen by the evaluating panel to have made the meaningful contribution, ensuring
- That the group hears you i.e what you are saying rather than the decibel of your voice.
- Being assertive, not stubborn or bull-headed
- Make your chance to voice your opinion rather than being a passive listener
- Being well prepared for the GD by having numerous practice sessions
· The candidate has to make a meaningful contribution to the discussion which will send across the message that
- he is knowledgeable
- he is able to put forth arguments logically and is a good communicator
- The quality of his speech is more important than the quantity of it.
Below, are mentioned a few pointers on how a student can handle the CAT Group Discussion conducted for the short-listed candidates.
· Always come well prepared with a piece of pen & paper & jot down any ideas one may have in the first few minutes itself
· Always note down both sides of any argument which will keep you prepared to take up any side when faced with a question & will also give you an idea on how to stand out while putting forth your own arguments
· Try & put forth points that are not very obvious which will bring a new perspective to the discussion, a fact that is much appreciated by the selection panel. This will alsogive the discussion a fresh approach & will take it forward if stuck at some point.
· Finally, the most important purpose of the GD is to build a group consensus, i.e the ability to support or influence colleagues to take a common stand at the discussion. Although not always possible, it will give an idea to the panel members of a candidate's role while working as a team&whether he is capable enough to accept joint responsibilities and take decisions as a group.
The MBA interview is mainly conducted to size up an individual in all his dimensions.
The questions can range from specific ones about his job to broad discussions on life & are best approached as a conversation rather than a question-and-answer ordeal.
The questions may range from casual ones like a person's hobbies & recent trip, to serious ones asking the purpose of a management degree.
The questions may also be close ended & to the point or open-ended asking details about oneself.
The candidate should always be prepared for this interview by:
· Showing he is at ease, by being witty, charming & his natural self.
· Not trying to show-off or create a false persona
· Being prepared for some expected questions such as , "His greatest strengths & examples for these", "some negative traits & overcoming them" etc.
· Even though a simple question of a person's educational background is asked, he/she has to be prepared to give an intelligent &knowledgeable answer without repeating what the examiner already knows.
Steps to approach a personal Interview:
· Do a thorough homework- Consider & be prepared to be asked questions on your strengths & weakness, your career aspirations etc. This will portray an individual's forethought & organization. Always give examples when necessary
· Never waste time- Both yours& the interviewers by beating around the bush or repeating what he already knows. A first impression created goes a long way & shows how coherent an individual really is. Rather than going on & on, state the important points & then wait for the interviewer to say something. Sometimes he may not do this but it is just a stress tactic to catch you off-guard & might induce you in making the mistake of talking irrelevantly once again. Try & ask pointed questions yourself wherever necessary.
Although very brief, the above points give a fair idea of what to expect during the final stages of your IIM selection process.
General Tips & Tricks to crack CAT
Cracking the CAT takes a lot of preparation and consistent hard work. The two main things that play an important role are, number of questions attempted and accuracy which will alone decide the outcome of your results.
Given below, are some of the tips which might help you in getting admission to the MBA School of your choice.
· CAT being an application driven test, regular practice with complete focus is the key to clearing the test.
· Analyze your strengths & weaknesses and plan accordingly both for your studies as well as during the written exam.
· As the curriculum for the CAT is limited, it is essential for you to cover the entire curriculum without leaving anything.
· After having studied most of the course, start giving mock CAT tests. Higher the number of tests that you take, higher would be your learning curve.
· Thoroughly analyze the results of your mock CAT test for identifying your strong and weak areas. Now follow a structured and organized approach to turn your weak points into your strengths.
· Spending an hour or two in trying to find out what you could have done better in the mock CAT test is a very good step. Always keep in mind to learn from your mistakes. This 3 step method of test- analyze- review will make you better prepared.
· Help from teachers, joining a coaching institute, study of the fundamental concepts and solving solved and unsolved questions would help you in gaining command over the concepts that you find difficult.
· Build mathematical proficiency. You should thoroughly work on the math problems of 10th and 11th standard.
· Building a good vocabulary is an absolute must for CAT & other MBA exams but will never be achieved by 'cramming' or 'mugging' information. Only 'association skills', makesthe information more relevant& this can be got by preparing for the exams well in advance.
· Follow the 3 times principle. Solve every question 3 times; first time would be the attempt, second would be a solution and finally for the purpose of revision. The 3 times principle would help you in understanding the concept better.
· Knowing what to leave for later during the exam will save you much needed time. Solve the questions which you think you can answer correctly & leave complex questions for later. Develop this practice while doing your mock tests & remember time management is the key!
· Also in the first attempt, answer only those questions which would take less than a minute. Long and difficult questions should be reserved for later. Mark such questions and solve them after completing the simpler and less time consuming answers.
· And lastly, do not give in to anxiety, since most of the brilliant students are ones who lose out here. Try using techniques like 'Visualization', 'thought stopping'&'Self-talk', to overcome this crippling issue.
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Very few i.e. only the exceptional have cracked the CAT in one attempt. Is it possible for an average student to crack it in one go. Practically speaking.