01 Oct 2021 18:37 IST

CAT 2021: Managing time effectively

CAT is test of speed and accuracy; do not compromise on either.

The Common Admission Test (CAT) is considered one of the toughest exams in the country not just because of its unpredictable nature but because it is time bound. There is pressure to perform in all three sections — Verbal ability and Reading Comprehension (VARC), Quantitative Ability (QA), and Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning (DILR). Last year, the exam was for 120 minutes, and it continues to be the same. The exam is a test of speed and accuracy, and there has to be no compromise whatsoever on either.

When students begin their preparation, they are generally all over the place — not knowing where or what to begin with. Most students find themselves struggling with time management, and two glaring problems raise their heads when that happens. If a student goes slow and focuses too much on accuracy, then one is unable to clear cut off. If a student goes fast, then there is a compromise on accuracy, and once again clearing the cut off becomes a behemoth task. What helps overcome this? In simple terms practice, practice, and practice, but in a focused manner. Sounds clichéd but it is the best cliché.

Where to begin

Remember the exam is knocking at the door a few more months to go. So what to practice and how much to practice? No blanket rule on that. By now one should have identified their strengths and weaknesses across sections. Obviously, the weakest section needs more attention, but keep in mind not at the cost of the other two sections. A structured, planned approach is needed.

Hypothetically, let’s assume that English section is the weakest area, then a student should take more sectional tests. When I say sectional tests, one can start with reading comprehensions every day till end of September. This will help with understanding how to select the right passage. The passage might be easy to understand, but the questions are convoluted. The difficulty level is determined based on the questions.

At the next step, you will need to understand how to drop questions. Time management is all about identifying the right questions to answer. Even if you managed to answer only two questions out of four, you do not need to go on a guilt trip. Instead, tell yourself that I invested six minutes in reading a passage, but could answer only two questions. It is not about ROI. With practice, you develop the understanding that instead of wasting time on the other two questions, which were traps, you utilised time to read another passage and answer questions. Justice done.

While taking full-length mock tests, remember that not all questions need to be answered after every passage is read. The art of leaving the traps helps in managing time effectively. By saving time on this, it will help you do justice to the non-MCQs as well. A word of caution: Once you see a noticeable improvement in your performance, there is all the more reason to be consistent with your practice. If you want to maximise your score in CAT, then the non-MCQs are just as important as the MCQs.

Practice makes perfect

Time management depends on conceptual clarity, level of practice across topics and difficulty levels, the number of full-length mocks attempted, and most importantly, test result analysis to avoid making the same mistakes again. A two-step approach for analysis — One, identify if there is a recurring pattern in your mistakes. Two, if that is not the case, conduct a micro-analysis of your section test, and recognise the kind of mistakes that pulls your score down.

QA is based on conceptual clarity, and once that is in place, recognising the concept behind a question, and categorising it as easy, medium, or tough, becomes discernible. So within the given time for the section you should have answered all the easy questions, marked the medium level questions for review, and let go of the tough questions. Eventually, you will have time to solve the questions that you have marked for review, and cruise easily, clearing the sectional cut off and getting a very good percentile.

DILR is all about attempting a variety of questions. The more variety you bring into your practice, the more comfortable you will get when you tackle that section on D-day. DILR works like RC many a times, where you are unable to crack all the questions for a particular set. So I reiterate, identify traps and let go.

In a nutshell, all the practice that you put in should be focused on time management and accuracy. There are no fixed number of questions to be attempted on the D-day. It all depends on the difficulty level of the paper. Stay focused and stay consistent with your efforts. Never give up, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.

(The writer is Centre Director, T.I.M.E. Bangalore.)