Common Admission Test (CAT) is the entrance exam for the MBA (Master of Business Administration) course which helps students to get admission to Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) and other top MBA colleges in India.
CAT is conducted as a computer based test and more than 2 lakh candidates appear in this exam every year. It is one of the toughest entrance exams and offers a very stiff competition due to the increasing number of students applying for the examination.
With just 3 to 4 months left in the final examination, students often wonder as to how much time they should dedicate daily to study for the examination and crack it.
But there is no specific formula or hours of study you have to put in order to succeed in CAT as it is mostly about your approach rather than the number of hours. It’s the quality and not the quantity that matters and it completely depends on your base level.
Normally it is recommended to start your preparation earlier to get sufficient time to grasp the base and go upfront for the examination completely prepared.
But if due to some reasons you are not able to devote much time, preparing for 5 to 6 months will also do the trick with proper strategy and schedule.
The toppers who have cracked CAT in the previous years said that they used to study in a range of two to eight hours a day, depending upon one’s convenience and priority.
So on an average, if you put around 4 hours for CAT preparation, you should be able to cover the major areas in the initial stage and take mock tests and get them analyzed at latter stage.
However, there are two approaches one can take – A slogger (work hard pull in 5-6 hours a day) or the smart approach (work on improving the weak areas and identifying the scoring areas). The second approach is mostly recommended as CAT is a mix of predictable and unpredictable questions but still it has a lot of uniformity in the kind of questions being asked year on year.
One should find patterns in the last year exams and prepare accordingly and try to maximize the score by reducing error rate. Depending on your strengths and weaknesses, you have to change your preparation strategy. What matters most is that how you are able to approach the questions with the right and competitive aptitude.
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Target Balanced Score
You cannot expect a percentile of 99 even if you devise 24 hours study plan in next 10-12 days before the CAT exam day.
Instead, if you prepare smart without spending too much time on one or other topic or question, do not take the questions as a challenge, learn the art of skipping and moving ahead to bring more clarity and shedding confusion, it will help you improve your CAT score substantially.
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CAT is all about getting a balanced sectional percentile. So, if you are very strong in one section and very weak in other section, you need to improve your skills in the weak area to qualify the threshold sectional score qualifying criteria of IIMs.
CAT can be anticipated a tricky exam where your high or low overall percentile means nothing unless you have a balanced high sectional percentile. The high score can be obtained by following the tips and tricks and devising to the point study plan for limited hours.
CAT preparation is more about how smartly you prepare and write the exam. So you need to understand your strength topics and weak topics, able to filter out the questions which will take a lot of time, take educated guesses etc.
Shed the level of difficulty perception
The difficulty level of the examination is different for different candidates. If you have conceptual clarity and can solve the question, it has the low level of difficulty but if you don’t have sufficient practice and can’t crack it, the difficulty level will be high for you.
The level of difficulty in this exam does not depend on the question instead it is relative and dependent upon your skill set.
If you find yourself average in an area, it means you have not solved enough similar questions. It is your time to go through the concepts and solve the questions that will take you to higher levels of problem-solving skills.
The good part of this exam is that the types of questions asked are finite so a question is difficult only if you are seeing it for the first time.
Practicing within the time limits makes your brain think faster and more efficiently under stress and you try and maximize your score this way.
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Positive marks: Keep your target clear
In CAT, zero mark is equivalent to 40 percentile and thus it means that almost 40% of total aspirants score zero marks or negative marks. In case you want to score high in CAT, it is all about a slight push on what you are studying.
If you continue studying and practicing questions for long hours without any clarity on concepts, it may not take you anywhere.
It will be better to focus on relevant concepts and practice a variety of questions based on it to build your basics and have clarity on the concept.
Keep your confidence level high
In order to crack the CAT, you must prepare with a clear focus on the examination. It will be better to focus on relevant concepts and practice a variety of questions based on it to build your basics and have clarity on the concept instead of continuing study and practicing questions for long hours without any clarity on concepts.
Do not think about the result too much instead focus on process, the journey.
Some of the key points to follow while preparation is:
- If it is your 1st time, write a mock test, any mock, and get a rough idea as to where you stand right now.
- Get hold of study material from any coaching/institute and make sure that you go through at least Quantitative Aptitude and Logical Reasoning from start to end as soon as possible.
- A very important thing is that every time you try and solve the questions, do it with time limit. Right from the very first question of the study material you pick up as it will help you in maintaining the speed required in the examination together with the accuracy.
- Once you start writing mocks, maintain a record to keep track of questions in VA and QA topic wise. After every mock, during analysis, maintain details about the questions attempted and your accuracy level, from the very beginning. It will help you in recognizing your strong and weak areas to work on.
- Maintain a thick notebook with all the QA formulas and keep updating it with every mock/sectional test you give. Revise it once every 20-30 days.
It’s not about the number of hours you put that matters in CAT, but the strategy you follow and how you focus on your weak zones and convert each and every weak area into the strong area before the CAT exam.
Don’t count the number of hours you are going to put instead just have an analysis of where you going wrong, and which areas can be improved. Many aspirants have studied a month and a half before CAT and yet scored good marks and that is possible only with the right approach and strategy.
All the Best.