CAT 2021

Cracking CAT: How to prepare for the MBA entrance exam for 20 IIMs

Sumit Singh Gandhi
Sumit Singh Gandhi
Posted on 20 Nov 2021
13:37 PM
CAT is the mandatory entrance test for admission to IIMs for Management Studies.

CAT is the mandatory entrance test for admission to IIMs for Management Studies. Shutterstock

CAT and other MBA entrance exams differ in terms of syllabus, topics and sections
CAT has a uniform marking pattern where each correct answer merits +3 marks

The most popular exam for Management Studies has come knocking at the door yet again. IIM Ahmedabad is going to conduct CAT 2021 on November 28 in three shifts, each of them lasting two hours. The exam is scheduled to be held at 400+ test centres in 159 cities.

But how would you prepare for CAT? And what happens if you get a low CAT score at your first attempt? Time management and a good game plan are essential tools to crack the exam with flying colours.

What makes CAT different from other MBA entrance exams:

  • CAT is the mandatory entrance test for admission to IIMs. It’s the MBA entrance test for 20 IIMs, FMS, IITs (for Management Studies), MDI, SPJIMR, IMI, IMT and 3,000 other MBA colleges.

  • CAT and other MBA entrance exams differ in terms of syllabus, topics and sections. CAT does not have Decision Making and GK sections, but other MBA entrance exams like XAT, CMAT, TISSNET and IIFT have those as separate sections.

  • CAT has a uniform marking pattern where each correct answer merits +3 marks, while a correct answer in IIFT or other such exams fetches 0.5 to 1 mark.

How to approach CAT

The secret is to concentrate on what can be done rather than on what cannot be done! Writing CAT requires two distinctive approaches. The first approach aims to utilise the two hours at the test centre, while the other focuses on fetching the maximum returns for the hours invested in preparations. All you need is to choose a mix of these two approaches.

Basic techniques to follow in the exam hall

  • Read all the questions in a section/set of questions.
  • Try to identify and solve the easy and medium-level difficulty questions first.
  • Identify and avoid difficult or lengthy questions.
  • Have a cut-off time for every question/every set.
  • Maximise your attempts.
  • Get your emotions out of the window during the exam.
  • Be systematic and clinical in your approach.

How to stay motivated even with a low CAT score

  • Low CAT scores can be seriously demotivating. Some students get anxiety attacks as they can’t decide on the next course of action. But there are bound to be ups and downs in life! Just remember that staying focused is the mark of a true champion.
  • Scoring low in bad mocks can leave a student highly demotivated. They might start asking questions like “Am I ever going to make it?” If such questions pop up in your mind, know one thing — it’s okay and completely humane! But what you do after asking those questions is the most important part of your preparation next time.
  • Stay focused and follow these steps to stay motivated :

1 Break the psychological barrier

Train your mind to not exhibit any sort of emotion after seeing your score in the mock. It may be low; it may be high. Just take a mental note that there is more to a mock test than just numbers.

2. Refresh and relax

Isn’t it amazing that everytime our mobile or laptop heats up, we immediately shut it down but fail to replicate the same practice when it comes to our mind and body? The more you invest in your mind and body, the better results you’ll get. Post-test refreshment is as important as pre-test revision. If your mind isn’t refreshed, your mock analysis is going to take a hit.

3. Mock analysis

You have seen your score. Now it’s time to pull out the big guns — mock analysis. Attempting a mock test without analysing the previous one is like digging a hole with a spoon. You will definitely get there, but that is not the fastest or the smartest way to do it. Do write your mocks properly and analyse them minutely to know your strengths and weaknesses.

Final strategy for the exam

  • Decide on the time you would spend on each section. Here is a rough outline of how you can approach the sections:

Quantitative Analysis (QA): Do the two rounds (25 min and 15 min) or 6 questions in 10 min

Data Interpretation (DI): 20 min (7.5 min for each set)

Logical Reasoning (LR): 20 min (7.5 min for each set)

Reading Comprehension (RC): 25 min (7 min for each passage)

Verbal Ability (VA): 15 min

  • Stick to your game plan. Not going beyond the time limit for each section is sacrosanct.
  • In each set of DI/LR/RC, doing all the questions is NOT the objective. Reading and trying to attempt is!

How to plan for mocks

Going for a mock test once a week is more than sufficient. It is possible that your friends and seniors will tell you to write mocks more frequently. No harm in that — except there is only so much time to do anything. Writing mocks alone isn’t going to improve your CAT score. Hence, use the time judiciously.

Prepare in a planned way

Preparing properly for 30 days can make a huge difference. You can add at least 30 marks to your score. It could mean jumping about 15 to 20 percentile in the final analysis. For instance, if you’re getting 80 percentile now, you can realistically hope to touch 90-95 percentile with this approach.

Important topics for CAT 2021

Here are some of the important topics in QA, DILR and VARC sections:

  • QA: Numbers, Modern Maths, Arithmetic, Geometry.
  • DILR: Puzzles, sitting arrangements, blood relation, syllogisms, Venn diagram and graphs.
  • VARC: Reading comprehension passages, para jumbles, para summary, odd sentences, sentence completion and correction, word usage (vocabulary).

Sumit Singh Gandhi is the CEO and Founder of CATKing Educare, a coaching centre for CAT students.

Last updated on 21 Nov 2021
10:37 AM
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