With just about a few weeks to go for CAT 2022, let’s do a quick catch-up to help those taking the exam this year and also those who aspire to write it in the subsequent years as well. CAT is the entrance exam for 150+ management institutes across India, including the IIMs. The online exam is conducted every year, typically in November. This year, too, CAT will be conducted on November 27, in three slots. Students will be allotted any of the three slots.
The candidates shortlisted on the basis of the CAT score will have their second round (written ability (essay writing) / group discussion / personal interview) from February to May. The academic sessions begin in the months of July or August
CAT focuses intensively on general aptitude — English, Math, data interpretation and logical reasoning — which are key areas tested in most competitive exams. What makes CAT special is the quality of opportunities it opens for students and, therefore, the nature of competition.
The exam is quite rightly seen by many as the mother of all management entrance exams. This also means that preparation for CAT will prepare the students for a good part of a lot of other management entrance exams as well.
The pattern of CAT 22, as announced by the IIMs, is that the test duration is 120 minutes and 40 minutes per section. There are four sections — Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension (VA-RC); Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning (DI-LR); Quantitative Ability (QA); and MCQs and non-MCQs
The marking scheme is simple:
- Each correct answer is awarded 3 marks.
- An incorrect answer fetches -1. No negative marks for non-MCQs
- No marks are given or deducted for un-attempted questions.
With over two lakh students writing the test for 4,000+ seats in the IIMs and other top schools, it is imperative that those serious about making it change gears on their preparation. Some students would be wondering if they really have it in them to make it through the CAT exam, after the initial set of mocks that they have taken.
But, if one can identify the weak areas and put in a focused effort to improve, the CAT will be a much tamer animal to tackle. Let us look at each of the areas in CAT and discuss how one can improve in the coming month.
CAT has traditionally been an RC-centric paper for English. Four to five passages have been appearing in the recent CATs with close to five questions per passage. A few critical factors in RC preparation include reading up on diverse topic and targeting all direct questions followed by partially inferential questions. During the test, ideally not more than 10 minutes are to be spent per passage and it is to be ensured that all passages are looked at.
For VA, which includes para formation and para summary questions, identify the introductory statement, and then links that would connect the two sentences. These are called connectives. These connectives can be conjunctions (but, and) or can be content connectives like cause–effect, generic to specific, and so on. Remember that there are no shortcuts to learning a language. Practice is the key to success in this section. Spend at least an hour daily on regular reading and another 30 minutes reading passages from various online sources.
As the sections are timed individually, selective preparation is very risky, as one may end up getting questions from the areas that he/she has left out of preparation. Therefore, with only a couple of weeks running up to the exam, the students should focus on getting better on all the topics in QA. Then the focus should be shifted to concentrating on specific areas which would give the maximum return for the time invested. A two-pronged approach needs to be adopted for this
Mock CAT performance analysis: Students should have a clear understanding of their comfort level in all QA topics. Mock CAT performances should be analysed at a subject level. The areas where the students have been scoring below par consistently and the areas where the scores have been fluctuating should be the areas of focus.
Previous CAT paper analysis: The areas which have been consistently contributing to the CAT exam over the years should be identified and attention should be given to them.
Understand the basic concepts of the selected topic thoroughly and write down all the formulae and concepts related to the topic on a chart to use as a ready reckoner. Ensure that you know when a particular formula is to be used and solve at least 30-40 questions (CAT level) in the topic.
The questions in LA can be broadly said to come from three areas such as puzzles, Venn diagrams and cubes, deductions and logical connectives. Of these, the questions on puzzles have been most commonly followed by Venn diagrams and questions from quant-based reasoning. Other question types have not been appearing of late.
Working out problems from the study material booklets is often the best way to prepare for the different varieties of questions that appear in CAT. Puzzle books like those by Shakuntala Devi and George Summers may help by providing exposure to high level logic puzzles and the approaches to tackle them.
The oft repeated word “Practice” is the key to crack the questions based on logic & reasoning. The students should put in as much time as possible in practicing questions of different types, both online and on paper.
The skills required to crack questions in DI are:
- Ability to analyse and understand complicated data: This is a skill that one can acquire through regular practice. The practice needs to involve questions of various difficulty levels and types. One approach would be to start solving all the DI sets from your study material. Once this is done, it is time to move online using practice tests.
- Ability to do calculations quickly: Speed of calculations is what the students should focus on, along with practicing different sets. Acquiring this skill is often easier said than done as it is difficult to get over old habits of scribbling numbers on paper even for simple additions. The point to be kept in mind when students practice sets as mentioned above is that they should not only focus on the approach but should also work out the answers. This should be done in a timed manner. The advantage of solving questions under time constraints would be that the students would be forced to increase their speed of calculations.