14 Nov 2019 17:49 IST

10 days to go for the CAT exam

Build accuracy for speed, read all the questions, and do not set a pre-determined number of attempts

1. How should an aspirant prepare his timetable at this last minute?

In this last minute, aspirants can do mocks (AIMCATs and SAMCATs), analyse them and prepare as per the deficiencies revealed. They can focus on revision of important formulae.

2. What should be the ideal strategy regarding the mock tests in this last week?

Don’t do too many of them, like two every day. That is overkill. But don’t do too less of them, like one in 10 days. Focus on doing some, and more importantly, analysing your performance and working based on the feedback. Then, take another mock. Most aspirants can manage this in a 2-3 day cycle, so they can take 2-3 mocks a week. If you are very strong, then maybe you can manage more, and if you are exceptionally weak, maybe only one or two a week.

Write the mock at the time of your actual exam slot. This will sync your body clock and body cycle to perform at the peak on the exam day.

3. What are the important topics for last-minute revision?

There is nothing less or more important in CAT. CAT, as a rule, is a surprising paper. Don’t focus on vocabulary building or starting new grammar rules but revise tricky questions of QA, instead, or do some new passages of RC.

4. How can students increase their accuracy and speed?

Speed is a function of accuracy. Build accuracy first and, with repeated practice, speed will come. Build a f sense of urgency while doing the exam so that you don’t dwell unnecessarily on longer and time-consuming questions.

5. How can candidates stay calm, focused and motivated at this last week?

Focus on the alternatives. Thinking that the CAT exam is the only thing in their life will create unnecessary pressure. Think of past successes and how one overcame hurdles.

6. The total number of questions in CAT 2019 is not yet revealed. According to some reports, the CAT sample paper has 34 questions in VARC, 28 questions in LRDI and 38 questions in the QA section. Will this be the pattern of the test?

The sample paper carries a disclaimer that the final examination may or may not have the same pattern. Students should not worry unnecessarily. Yes, this can be the pattern but it may not be as well. A smart student will practise with this and other patterns too, to prepare for any eventuality.

7. How can students select the ideal question in the test that can lead to maximum accuracy?

Maximum accuracy is not a desirable aim. In the CAT, due to time pressure and negative marking, doing questions with 100 per cent or nearly 100 per cent accuracy may lead to a drop in the score/percentile, since the candidate is sacrificing attempts. The ideal way to select is to look at all the questions and do the ones that are less time-consuming. Candidates can do the sections in two rounds. In the first round, do the easy questions and bookmark the moderate ones. In the second round do the moderate ones and drop the tough ones.

8. How many questions should be attempted by the students in each section so that they can score 99+ percentile?

One cannot answer this question since it depends on the difficulty level. In a difficult test, the attempts will fall and conversely in an easy test, the attempts will rise. Candidates should, instead, try to focus on doing as many as they can, in the given time.

9. What are the common mistakes that students must avoid on the day of the exam?

Make sure you check the physical location of the centre at least a day before and check how to reach the centre in good time. Make sure you carry all documents necessary. Avoid heavy meals before the exam as it is a long and mentally taxing test. Don’t panic if the paper seems tougher than usual. If it is so, it is true for all others too and thus percentiles will not be affected. Don’t go into the exam with a pre-determined number of attempts or scores in your mind. Don’t get stuck on any one question — read all the questions.

10. As per the previous year CAT exam trends, which section has been the easier and can help the candidates increase their overall percentile?

There is no answer to this question. All sections have been, at random, the toughest or the easiest section of the examination. Candidates should not focus on pre-judging the examination.

11. What should be the right strategy in attempting the exam, considering sectional constraints?

In recent years, all sections have had pre-determined time limits of 60 minutes. The only strategy is to not go into the exam with a pre-determined number of attempts or scores in your mind. Don’t waste time on any one question. Do the smaller questions first and longer ones, if possible, later.

12. What should be done if the 90+ percentile is not surpassed by the students?

There are many good colleges for students who get percentiles of between 70 and 90. It is about where you can get through and where you cannot. Also, students may re-take the exam.

13. We have heard that the difficulty level of some sections might go up this year. How true is this and how does it impact the students?

I would not like to discuss baseless rumours that unnecessarily create trouble in the students’ minds. They should not worry about this. If at all, this is true, the marks of the three sections are likely to fall for everyone. The number of questions or marks that you attempt does not matter. What matters is that you get more than others. Low cutoffs are very common in this examination due to its tough nature. Additionally, the test length might change and even that has no necessary correlation with difficulty level of the test. A not-so-lengthy test can be tough or easy. A lengthy test can be tough or easy.

14. Any advice from outside the daily grind?

On the day before the test, students should relax. Watch a movie! Go and enjoy. Take your mind off the exam. That will actually help you do it better!

(The writer is Chief Knowledge Expert, T.I.M.E. Delhi.)