How to Prepare for CAT

Does Common Admission Test (CAT) make you nervous? Are you confused about where to begin your preparations? These are the normal feelings for anyone who has just started to prepare for CAT for pursuing management education.

Irrespective of getting admissions to IIMs or not, you must aim to score high percentile in CAT. For achieving this, you definitely need a sound preparation strategy.

The method of preparation for CAT depends on your current preparation level and circumstances pertaining to the work experience or education. More than two lakh candidates register for CAT every year. These candidates have varied profiles related to education background and experience. The preparation method and strategy will vary accordingly.

If you are fresh out of college or if you in the final year of your graduation, you must have not given CAT once. You need to start your preparation from the basics. The first step is to get familiar with the CAT pattern and types of question asked in the test, and gradually move towards concepts and practice questions.  

For advanced level candidates, who have already prepared for CAT before and have the basic idea about the exam, preparation is about revision and practising more and more questions, taking mock tests and analysing the current preparation level and then further planning for improvement. This involves analysing your strengths and weaknesses, time management, concepts level.

CAT Preparation Strategy

  1. Traditional strategy (generally for beginners or first-timers) is to join a coaching institute.
  2. Self-Study method for those who don’t have the option or opportunity to join coaching classes.
  3. Self-Study with test series of any popular coaching institute to get overall idea where you stand in the crowd.

CAT Preparation Dimensions

  1. Speed: Number of questions you can solve (correctly) in any time limit considering the difficulty level.

  2. Accuracy: There is negative marking for wrong answers. Accuracy means correct questions of all attempted.

  3. Concentration: For 120 minutes test, the level of concentration decreases as time passes.

  4. Easy Qs: Every paper has some easy questions which shouldn't be left.

  5. Traps: These are hard questions which looks easy, so candidates tend to waste time on these.

5 Steps to CAT Preparation Strategy

1. Understand all About CAT

Even before you think of preparing for CAT, first step is to understand about Common Admission Test (CAT), its pattern and syllabus. Just get a feel of it. CAT being one of the most competitive Business school admission test, it needs in-depth preparation. You should start preparing for this computer-based examination at the moment you have decided to attempt for it.

2. Analyze your Strenghts & Weaknesses

Once you have understood about CAT, analyze your strengths and weaknesses and how much time you may be required to devote to your weak areas. Looking at the syllabus and the past pattern of CAT examination, you can identify your strong and weak points. There you will have to study and practice more, and on the other hand there may be a few topics in your weak areas where you are stronger enough and you may need less revision and practice sessions for them. Strategically, you must find out such weak areas and segregate them from the strong ones.

3. Study Material

Next step is to find out the correct study material. Whether you are preparing by yourself or have joined some coaching institute, select and collect study material carefully. The online preparation mode is also emerging as one of the most sought after options. The importance of newspapers and magazines is also very prominent in preparing for CAT. You must develop a habit of reading them on a regular basis. This will help you to get updated with general awareness, English skills and reading comprehension.

4. Time Management

You must become consistent with your preparation timing as proper time management plays a key role to scoring high CAT percentile. Four to five month of serious preparation can get you a good confidence level for CAT. Practice and consistency is the key to success. You should ideally put at least 20 hours a week for CAT preparation. The more, the better! Divide your available time to different sections. This will depend on your current level of preparation, what all topics you have already done, whether you are working or not, etc.

5. Focus on Basics

You should focus more on basics. Short-cuts, Vedic Mathematics, speed multiplication and other tips are important, but you should be first clear with fundamentals so that you can better appreciate them. NCERT books for standard VI to X are wonderful for learning the basics.

Prepare for CAT in three phases

First 50% of your time should be spent in building the fundamental concepts and basics. The next 25% in building intensity, practising more questions and fine-tuning your concepts. Final 25% of the time should be spent in taking lots of mock tests.