CAT (Common Admission Test) is the entrance exam for the MBA (Master of Business Administration) or PGDM (Post Graduate Diploma in Management) course that is accepted by more than 160 management institutes across India, including the 20 IIMs (Indian Institute of Management).
It is an online or computer based exam that is conducted every year in the months of late November to early December. It includes three phases that is the online exam, group discussion and personal interview.
The online test is the first stage and each IIM independently shortlists candidates for the second stage of selection. The second stage selection process may include Written Ability Test (WAT), Group Discussion and Personal Interview.
Students’ performance in the CAT examination is an important component of the selection process. IIMs may also consider previous academic record, work experience and other similar parameters in their selection process.
A common question that troubles the MBA aspirants now-a-days is when to commence with the CAT preparation.
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In general, the right time to start the preparation for the examination is four-five months before the commencement of the examination. But the answer to this question would depend on what you are currently doing. Normally the CAT aspirants fall in one of the following three categories:
Students who are in pre-final year of their graduation
The right time to start preparations for the next year’s CAT exam is in the pre-final year of graduation. These students can also join the coaching classes for proper guidance and long term preparation.
Since they will be preparing for almost one and half years, they will have adequate time and will be able to crack the CAT exam by preparing for 1-3 hours every day only.
Aspirants just need to ensure that they stay focused and motivated and prepare for the entire duration of the program.
Final year students
Since these students are eligible to take the examination this year itself, they should start the preparation as soon as possible.
They can secure good CAT percentile for sure if they plan their preparation properly and follow it. It is advisable for those who fall in this group to devote around 25-30 hours per week towards preparation for the CAT exam.
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Working MBA aspirants
They first have to decide whether they want to take current year’s CAT or next year’s CAT exam. In case one decides to take CAT this year itself then they need to start the preparation for CAT examination as soon as possible.
If they plan their preparation properly, they can surely secure good CAT percentile. It would be advisable for the aspirants to devote around 25-30 hours per week towards preparation for the CAT examination.
To qualify CAT you need to do smart and targeted preparation. To score a good percentile in CAT, a student does not need to solve all the 100 questions in the examination. Instead they need to solve enough questions correctly in the given time to put them in the top bracket.
Finishing the syllabus
Candidates should look at finishing the entire CAT syllabus by August. Do not stretch the course till the very end as it will then consume your revision time.
And however good your basics and fundamentals are, you still need to revise and practice enough to make that knowledge and to learn to apply it.
Within – June, July and August – candidates should try to complete the entire core CAT syllabus.
The primary sections of CAT syllabus are Data Interpretation, Logical Reasoning and Verbal Ability and Quantitative Aptitude. Thereafter, candidates can start focusing on speed-building, accuracy building and then, later on, move to full-length mock tests.
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Strategy and focused effort
You have to plan your study schedule for the four-five months you have for the preparation to get positive results.
It often happens that despite knowing the pattern and syllabus, aspirants get confused about how to strategize the preparations in order to make the most of it. While forming the strategy do consider some factors such as:
Coaching Vs. Self-Study
While some aspirants opt to go for coaching classes while there are some who trust their instinct and decide to go for self-study with study materials available on the web.
Some of the aspirants might have already started taking coaching or might even have completed the classes according to their convenient timing and mode.
But this does not mean that those who have not enrolled in coaching or planning to go for self-study are at a loss. The preparation time has just started and by following a systematic strategy, you can still catch up with the early birds.
You just need to devote two to three hours every day on online practice tests and test series.
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Take coaching material or utilize the internet
The coaching provides their students with the tailor-made section-wise preparation material.
But, even if you do not go for coaching classes and cannot access the expert notes, there are ample question banks, sample papers and study materials by expert authors available online as well as offline.
Collect the right materials and study in a systematic and diligent manner. Also, do utilize the practice papers so that you are aware of your strengths and weaknesses.
Daily tests for CAT and Mocks
Daily tests are very crucial for regular practice and always attempt the questions before checking the answers.
Mock tests help improve accuracy & time and that is essential for the actual exam. Attempt online mocks which are time bound like the examination.
To get interview calls from IIMs you have to clear the sectional cutoffs. So, focus on weak areas after every mock. Aim to complete at least 25-30 mocks before appearing for the final test.
Old CAT papers
It is always advisable to start your preparation with previous year papers as they are useful in understanding the changing trends in CAT exam.
There is an element of surprise in every exam but there is an element of predictability too and the previous papers can help you get an idea as to what type of questions you need to focus your efforts on.
Apart from judging the candidates’ sectional knowledge, CAT also tests their time management skills. The mantra to complete the exam within time depends on how a student plans and practices for the exam.
Try to attempt each section in three rounds. In the first round pick the questions that you are sure about and can solve without wasting time.
In round two, pick questions that are an opportunity for you, while in round three, pick questions that you think you can solve but are time-consuming and ensure you answer all the non-MCQs as they do not have any negative marking.
If you are self-preparing for the examination then look for video concepts packages which cover the entire syllabus of CAT in detail.
Videos should give shortcuts and tips to all the concepts. There should also be a provision to ask doubts where experts review each question and answer them accordingly.
The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex, overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks and then starting on the first one.
Complete your syllabus before one or two months of the examination so that you have enough time to practice and revise. In the last month of the preparation don’t try to solve any new topic or take Mock tests.
A suggested thing to do is to revise the formulae and the mocks which you have given. Go through the bookmarked questions. Remember, it’s never too late to start working for what you desire if you do it with a plan and strategy.
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