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“Perfection Is Not Attainable, But If We Chase Perfection, We Can Catch Excellence”

Common Admission Test, colloquially called as CAT, is the entrance examination conducted by the IIMs for the admission into their post-graduate management programs and the score is used by few other colleges which are associated with CAT. This article tries to help the MBA aspiring students on how to go about in the preparation and how to crack the most decorated entrance examination in India. This article also tries to break some of the myths that are associated with CAT examination and WAT-PI rounds.
What is CAT?
Before we start and understand how to crack CAT, let us first understand what CAT comprises of and what is the importance of each section. The examination tests students in four fronts:

i)  Quantitative Aptitude(QA),
ii)  Logical Reasoning (LR),
iii) Data Interpretation (DI),
iv) Verbal Ability (VA).
The pattern and the difficulty level of each section is set with respect to the industry requirements. The four sections are the key in the functioning of a Manager in any firm. QA will help understand and showcase the quantitative aspects of a decision taken. VA helps managers to be quick in comprehending the many pages of text in time and accordingly come to a conclusion. LR and DI go hand in hand to understand the growth, profitability, industry attributes etc of the firm. Hence, these sections are tested.
Now, the first million-dollar question: How to crack CAT? The plan that is given below is for those students who do not have the access to the coaching institutes or those who prefer self-study.
Myth 1: CAT is easy for engineers.
Answer: The answer is NO. CAT does not favour engineers. The quantitative aptitude in CAT is of the level of standard 10. Similarly, the LRDI section does not favour any engineering stream. The questions posed have methodical solutions which tests a person ability to come a conclusion logically. Step 1: Understand the syllabus thoroughly. It is a common mistake made by most students who prepare topics that are not included in the syllabus. This just leads to wastage of precious time. Step 2: Follow a test series by a single institute and try to stick with problems mentioned in the test series till the end. Solving problems from multiple institutes does not do any good in the longer the run. Rather the same time can be utilized to solve many test papers and gain confidence.

BASICS: In order to crack the examination, it is very important for a student to understand the basics. CAT papers are known to ask mind twisting questions and without a proper understanding of the basics will lead the student into trouble. A stronger basics will also help the student to come up with the answer quickly and can also help then to come up with shortcuts. It is my personal advice for students to be thorough with the following:
a) Tables: 1X1 to 30X30,
b) squares and square-roots: till 30,
c) cubes and cube-roots: till 15,
d) fraction to percentage conversions & vice-versa.

Myth 2: Solving tougher questions is necessary.
Answer: Absolutely not. Rather solving easy questions faster will help. It is almost impossible for any serious CAT aspirant to crack all the questions. Moreover, IIMs do not want mathematicians or logicians rather they want managers. So, it is recommended to students to be sensible during the exam and answer the questions from the areas comfortable to them. There is no hard and fast rule to solve each and every question. Be frugal and spend your time wisely. If time permits, then think of the difficult questions.
Quantitative Aptitude:
One should be intellectually strong to crack this part of the examination. In my view, all one needs to do in their preparation period is to understand their strong and weak topics. A student should be able to identify in which areas he is very confident and in which areas he is not. There is no denying in the fact that it takes good amount of time and practise to find out the strong and weaker areas. But it is worth it. How does this help? To give an example, I am very strong in Geometry. When I say I am strong in Geometry it means that I will be able to solve almost any question from that area. My weaker section is Probability. Except for the basic questions I cannot solve the other questions. With this scenario in mind, I would make sure that I answer all the geometry questions accurately. Similarly, I read through the probability questions once – if they are basic level questions I solve else I will move on to next question thus saving time.

Myth 3: It is not necessary for a student to be experts in all the areas. As aspiring managers, CAT test one’s ability to manage time to get maximum score. Accuracy: This is one of most ignored part of the entire game of cracking CAT. Most students are concerned with the number of attempts they make in the paper rather than how accurately they answer. There is no doubt that a less number of attempts lead to less percentile but just to be clear on this – the less the accuracy is, the more it hurts your percentile. So, it is my advice for the students that in the initial stages of your preparation be more concerned with your accuracy rather than attempts. Once your accuracy stabilizes focus on your attempts and try increasing them.
As the name indicates once should understand the logic and sequence to answer these questions. The only guidance I can give you for this section is practice. Practice and understand the logic behind your answers. As per DI is concerned, a student should be quick in his/her calculations. Though a calculator is available, it is time saving if the student is through with tables, squares-square roots, cube-cube roots and percentage-fraction conversions.
Verbal Ability:
To score well in this sector it is required to have a holistic perspective. Reading comprehension carries the maximum weightage (20 to 24 questions) followed by para-jumbles. One of two questions from each of word-meanings and grammar can be expected. If you are not good at reading comprehension it would be an uphill task to get a decent percentile. Now the question is how to improve the RC performance. The answer again boils down to practice. An RC a day keeps bad percentile away. To better improve the performance read through the editorial section of The Hindu or The Hindustan times. The same articles are available in website and in respective apps as well.

Myth 4: Skipping the RC section and scoring well in the rest of questions is a myth and probably will lead you to flunk in the examination.
Do not fall into the Trap: This is just a reiteration of one of most common traps students usually fall into. Never ever spend too much time on a single question. Never take the question upon your ego. Unlike GMAT or GRE the question paper is not adaptive and all the questions carry equal weightage. In fact, it is a skill that should be developed by the students to find out the easy, medium and tough questions and solve the paper accordingly

The day before CAT: Another million-dollar question. What to do the night before CAT or a weak before CAT. To strengthen one’s basics, my advice is to maintain a copy in which all the quant formulas are written. It is foolish and utter waste of time to try and derive a formula for a question and then trying to solve it. If you find any logic intriguing (for LR) and if you think it will save time, jot it down and revise it before examination. Read through tables, squares-square roots, cube-cube roots and percentage-fraction conversions and make sure they on the tip of your figures.
WAT-PI: WAT stands for Written Ability test and PI stands for Personal Interview. For WAT, the student must have his/her opinions and facts ready on the burning regional (related to his/her domicile) and national topics. Interviewers are more interested to know your take on the topics rather than blatant facts. If you do not have prior writing experience in blogs or newspapers, fall down to standard 4-paragraph rule – that is: Opening, facts, opinion and conclusion. Generally, the topic given for WAT will have a dilemma and you are expected to give your opinion on it. The ‘Opening’ paragraph should start with the elaboration of the topic followed by the ‘Facts’ section which should contain the blatant facts regarding the topic. It is advised to state the source of the fact as it will add more credibility. In Opinion section you can take any side you want. May it be for or against the topic. A neutral opinion is not advisable. Most interviews would be stress interviews. That is, the interviewers try to push you to a corner and may even try to demean you. Here you should maintain your calm and answer accordingly. There is no shame in admitting your ignorance for a question posed to you. No one ever know everything. But be sincere in your answer. The professors take the interview are highly experienced and it is only a matter of time to identify if you are sincere or bluffing. Be through with CV/resume. A good CV/resume should have the following sections: Name, educational details, industry experience (includes internships), position of responsibility, co-curricular & extra-curricular activities, achievements and hobbies. A complete one-page CV is more than enough.

– Yashvant Kavila
  IIM, Raipur
  CAT (2015)  –  97. 96 Percentile.

May 19, 2020