CAT exam – A primer
Common Admission Test (CAT) is one of the most competitive exams in the country. CAT is a prerequisite for entry into the prestigious IIMs and host of other top B Schools in the country including FMS, MDI, SP Jain, IITs and the like.
Since it is an entrance exam to MBA institutes, it tests the aptitude of the candidate in areas of Quantitative Ability, Logical and Analytical Ability, Data Interpretation and Verbal Ability. These are some of the basic ingredients of a would-be manager. In addition, CAT tests the ability of the student to use the twin resources of Knowledge and Time to ace the test by handling the performance pressure.
CAT 2011 had two sections. The first section was of Quantitative Ability and Data Interpretation and the second section was on Verbal Ability and Analytical Ability.
Each section consisted of 30 questions and with a time limit of 70 minutes. A student can take only one section in the prescribed time. A student cannot switch between sections.
Given infinite time and no pressure, any above average student can get a score good enough to get a 99 percentile. The fact that the exam is time-bound and there is infinite pressure to perform (a la world-cup final), only the best finally make to the grade!
While the exam is easy, the fact that more than 200,000 of them write the exam for the coveted 4000 odd seats, makes this exam the toughest around in the world!
Hence, to ensure that you come up trumps, you need a comprehensive strategy for preparation and for test-taking.
The ideal way to start the preparation for any exam is by taking a Diagnostic test. This diagnostic test should ideally be of similar type as the previous CAT exam. Many a student falters in preparation because he lacks the overall view of the CAT exam and hence may waste precious time trying to do things that may not be necessary.
All good coaching institutes provide a diagnostic test at the beginning of the classes. VistaMind Education, a leading coaching institute for CAT preparation, for example, provides Diagnostic test in the same pattern as CAT 2011. To make it replicative of CAT, it also provides the exam online in the same way as CAT is.
Assessing Strengths and Weaknesses
Once the Diagnostic test is written, the scores at the end give you a clear indication of how far are you from your goal of getting a good percentile in the CAT.
In each of the areas, one should go through thoroughly and see the gaps in the level of knowledge for each area separately.
This ensures that there is a clear cut understanding on where one is going to spend the next few weeks/months of preparation before taking the exam.
Making a Study Plan
Any plan, which is made that tries to capture the work for more than a month is going to fall flat.
Make a broad plan for the next three months. However, the detailed plan should be made for only a week.
The week plan could be as simple as completing two chapters of quantitative ability and one chapter of DI. But, make sure that you stick to this plan once you have made it! Never try to pack too many things in a week and find it impossible to achieve the targets. The idea is to gain confidence as you go along and start accomplishing tasks so that you are closer to your goal.
Preparing for the exam
There are three levels of preparation that are required to crack the CAT.
CAT tests aptitude of a student in the following areas
Each of these areas has to be thoroughly prepared for in the run up to the CAT exam. Since students from all back grounds (viz., BBA, BCom, B Sc, BE, B Tech, MBBS etc) write this exam, can be safely assumed that the aptitude required would be that of the 10th Std exam at least in terms of the areas that appear in the exam.
However, the difference would be in the levels of knowledge and practice in solving these areas and hence a thorough study plan (even going to a coaching institute) is warranted.
Before writing the real CAT, it may be extremely useful to write some MOCK exams. The Mock CAT Exams will give you a real feel of the paper as well as help you to strategize the way you will attempt the paper. Writing MOCK CATs at regular intervals will also help in two areas a) Hone your test- taking skills and b) Identify your weak areas and help you concentrate on those.
About 200,000 students write the CAT exam and many have the ability to crack this exam. Incidentally, since the aptitude is of School Level, many students can actually make it to the IIMs too. Knowledge and Test Taking skills can be learnt/developed by practice. However, what is of utmost importance is the confidence one has in oneself.
CAT is as much a mental game as it is a knowledge and skills game. We have seen over the years that the best of the students don’t make it to the IIMs but diligent, confident but may not be toppers from their colleges, make it to the coveted institutes. At VistaMind, we are committed to the student and help him in getting through this rigour of preparation as well as give him the personal mentorship and direction to ace the CAT.
The author is CEO, VistaMind Education Pvt Ltd