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How To Bell The CAT?

With CAT Exam being unpredictable in terms of difficulty level, a claim of any prediction here just misguides aspirants, rendering to be ineffective from actual exam perspective. However, overall CAT Pattern has been stable over the last few years and it is expected to remain the same this year.

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As CAT 2018 Registration started and with only 2 months to go, it’s pretty sure that CAT 2018 preparation must have been already started with full throttle for some, while few may still be thinking if they still have apt time in hand to crack CAT 2018 and if yes, then what should be their CAT 2018 Exam Preparation Strategy. 


For the latter, 2 months is a good enough time to crack CAT 2018 and achieve your dream of studying in a top IIM if you are armed with the efficient CAT Preparation strategy. Even if you fall in the former category, it is important to have the right checks to ensure the effectiveness of CAT Preparation strategy.


CAT Aspirants should start with their full-length mocks around four to five months to CAT. For those starting their preparation at this time, the best way is to start off by taking a diagnostic mock to know where you stand and then come up with a customised study plan basis the result and the analytics out of the mock test result. 


As we go ahead, lets discuss few issues which always pop up in the mind when we think of CAT Preparation with exam few months away. 


What Does CAT Exam test you at?


CAT 2018 Exam would be conducted by IIM Calcutta, with the objective to select a candidate who has a "potential" to become an efficient manager who can contribute to the growth of the industry and the nation. This is tested through Quantitative, Verbal, Reasoning and Data Interpretative abilities of an individual. The questions are designed in such a manner that one needs you to use logic along with basic concepts to arrive at the right answer. After all, the success of the IIMs and other top B Schools of the country depends on the quality of the managers that they create.


Is Enrolling for Coaching at this time right?


Whether you be a first-time taker or a retaker, 2 months is adequate time to score high in CAT. All you need is an efficient CAT Preparation Plan, coupled with dedication, hard work and commitment towards your dream of IIM. 


While coachings are never mandatory to crack any exam, they do help in maintaining consistency and in ensuring you are getting apt mentorship and support to ace the exam. However, with 2 months to go, its strongly recommended to go for Online CAT Coaching option than offline coaching, as it helps you save time. You cannot be sitting in offline centres for 2-3 days in a week if starting preparation at this stage. Same applies to work professionals who should not be wasting their weekends at offline centres but should be utilising them efficiently. 



What is the effective 2 Months Strategy to Score high in CAT 2018?


It will help immensely to have a measurable and personalized study plan for the next 2 months. Identify strong and weak areas first. Divide each of them further in two parts. For strong areas, divide the topics into two layers – One where you solve with almost 100% accuracy in less time, and the other where you solve with 100% accuracy but usually end up taking more than average time. For weak areas, divide the topics in two layers – One where you miss out at accuracy big time but can easily overcome this by spending some more time on the question, and the other where you are missing out at the basics itself and need to work from scratch. 


Above will help you to understand how to distribute time across topics and how many questions you should be solving for a topic. 


You may include reading a few novels in your plan. Avoid vocabulary building at this point in time, it is no more needed to score high in CAT. 


As you take more sectional tests and full length mocks tests if you realize that your performance in any one of the areas is trailing that in other areas then you could begin with getting the weak area on par with the others areas. It will be important to devise a plan for each topic/question type within each subject and define targets for the same. 


August should be spent on building concepts to eliminate weak areas and practicing applications to further strengthen strong areas. September can be used for further improving weak areas to ensure around 80% attempt in them with at least 80% accuracy, and 95-100% attempt in strong areas with at least 90% accuracy. October and November should be spent on fine-tuning the test taking strategy by focusing on better question selection, spotting tough questions so that one can prevent spending time on them unless done with sitters and medium level questions. Also, you should have a dedicated time to take 2 mocks every week in October and 3 mocks every week in the month of November.


However, do remember that more than the number of mock tests, what matters is how you analyze the mock and take the outcome as an input to further improve yourself before taking the next mock test.


How to Analyze a Mock Test?


STEP 1: Once you have the scores with you along with the solutions, have a check of the accuracy as well. Jot down the topic vis a vis accuracy list with you and this is something you should be tracking mock on the mock basis. Remember one thing that it is not an absolute score that one may call good or bad. Rule of thumb is to score 45-60 % score in every CAT Mock Test (based on difficulty level) and if you are not scoring this much as of now, ensure that you are progressing towards this percentage score with absolute improvement from one CAT Mock Test to the other.


STEP 2: With the above points noted, first start going through the questions that you solved correctly in the CAT Mock Test.


Look out for shorter methods or tricks mentioned for the questions in the solutions and cross check if you solved through the longer method or did you adopt the apt and the shortest approach to solving the questions which you solved correctly.

This is very important. CAT is not only a test of aptitude but a test of your time management skills as well. Hence it is important to do questions in the shortest time possible. This will help you save enough time for difficult questions.


STEP 3: Once done with the questions you solved correctly, get to the questions that you solved incorrectly. This is the most important part. Make sure that you never make the same mistake again. Note down the mistakes (conceptual, logical, application based) that you made somewhere and go through them periodically. Seems stupid but very helpful nevertheless. With regards to the incorrect answers, you will encounter the following scenarios:


(a) Silly mistakes: In spite of cracking the logic and going all the way, you ended up getting entangled in the paper setter’s trap, because of reading the question incorrectly or comprehending it wrongly or because of a calculation mistake. It is a crime to make such mistakes and you should find the reason and fix it as soon as is possible. This is more critical in case you are attempting fewer questions and so, cannot afford to make such errors due to lack of concentration, minor lapses or pure carelessness while taking a mock.


(b) Conceptual errors: You might have read a concept somewhere and have imbibed the same in your system to be plugged in next time you see a question. Paper-setters thrive on this naivety of aspirants and play around oh-so-slightly with words. There is a lot of difference between 4 cards put into 8 boxes, 4 identical cards put into 8 boxes, 4 identical cards put into 8 identical boxes and 4 cards put into 8 identical boxes. If one blindly applies the ‘number of non-negative solutions to an equation’ concept in each of these cases, it would be incorrect. The better thing would be to make sure that you understand a concept fully along with all the relevant wordplay before considering it ready-to-use.


(c) Inappropriate shortcuts: A lot of aspirants get impressed by shortcuts and reverse-engineering techniques propagated by seasoned takers and past/present toppers and try to replicate the same. These techniques are a result of years of hard work and dedicated preparation and crystal clear understanding of concepts. Just because it looks easy doesn’t mean that it is easy. Many aspirants fall into the trap of blindly going for these techniques without understanding the hidden connections and end up getting a lot of incorrect answers (which gives a false security with regards to the number of attempts during a test). If you are unaware of the depth of a concept, shortcuts won’t help. Most of the time, it is better to swallow your ego and do it the conventional way unless you have mastered the art of shortcut.


(d) Guessing: Many aspirants resort to ‘intelligent guessing’ while taking a mock to boost their attempts. If it is actually intelligent guessing, it is a very good idea to do so (generalizing scenarios as equilateral triangles, integers, squares and so on). But many let go of the ‘intelligent’ part of it and mark options that they ‘feel’ are closer to what they have got. If there is no mention of the word ‘approximate’ in the question, it is a sure shot indicator that you have made some blunder while calculating the answer. In these cases, you can either check your calculation and figure out the right answer or again, swallow the humility pill and refrain from marking the ‘closest’ option.


For verbal questions, usually, you must be facing the issue of being left with 2 close options and then marking the incorrect option. For such questions, while checking the solution, to ensure that you are understanding the thought process behind the solution arriving at the correct option (which you did not mark) and your thought process which made you mark the option (which was incorrect). Identify the gap in two thought processes, what led you to go with an incorrect thought process, work on the reasons identified and ensure that you are taking care of identified points while solving the next Mock CAT Test.


STEP 5: Solve the unattempted questions setting a time limit of 1.8 minutes per question (For example: If 30 questions were unattempted, you should solve them with timer of 54 minutes) and then analyze them using earlier steps.


STEP 6: After around 10 days, come back to the Mock CAT Test which you analyzed in detail earlier. Now, attempt the same Mock CAT Test setting the time limit of 3/4th the original time. It will make you feel great.


What are the Must Prepare CAT 2018 Topics?


Despite the fact that few experts say that CAT is unpredictable, it’s strongly believed that there is a very strong and reliable pattern when it comes to important CAT Topics and a serious aspirant should not overlook it. 


Most important topics in the Verbal section are Reading Comprehension, Para jumbles and Para Summary. 


Geometry and Algebra lead the pack when it comes to Quant, followed by Arithmetic and Number System. 


In LRDI section, maximum case lets would come from Logical DI, Awkward DI and Einstein Problem based concepts; followed by usual puzzles. 



What to Expect in CAT 2018?


With CAT Exam being unpredictable in terms of difficulty level, a claim of any prediction here just misguides aspirants, rendering to be ineffective from actual exam perspective. However, overall CAT Pattern has been stable over the last few years and it is expected to remain the same this year. 


With CAT 2018 being conducted by IIM Calcutta, based on past trends, QA and VARC to be on the moderate side and LRDI to be relatively the most difficult section of the exam. 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house


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