28 Oct 2020 23:26 IST

CAT preparation techniques for non-engineers

IIMs aim for diversity in classrooms, and with practice, anybody can crack the CAT exam

You must have seen a number of your engineer-friends take the CAT and get into the IIMs. But do you know that students from diverse backgrounds such as commerce, humanities, medical science, psychology, history, economics, design, and many others are also studying alongside the engineers at the IIMs? This is because the IIMs understand the value that diversity brings to the institutes.

How well a student performs in an exam like the CAT has less to do with his/her background and more to do with his/her perseverance and receptiveness. The preparation for CAT starts when you overcome your fear and apprehension and start believing that you have a fair chance of doing well in CAT. This is an exam where one has to optimise their resources to perform well. Selecting the right questions at the right time can change the game. To perform well in the CAT, one needs to know the structure of the exam and the topics that are covered.

CAT structure

The pattern of the CAT comprises three sections. For each section, you get 40 minutes. These sections are:

Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension

Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning

Quantitative Ability

Scoring well in VARC section

The verbal ability and reading comprehension section tests you on how well you can understand and analyse the information presented to you in the form of passages, paragraphs, or jumbled sentences. In the past few years, the CAT exam has become more focused on testing reading comprehension skills.

A large number of questions are based on passages that are picked up from a variety of sources — newspaper editorials, literary essays, fiction, and so on. To ace this section, you need to broaden the scope of the content you read and get comfortable with reading diverse topics. Consistent reading, mock tests, and continuous performance evaluation can fetch you a higher percentile and give you the much-needed confidence.

Acing the DI-LR section

The DILR section is less knowledge-oriented and more skill-oriented. Recent question paper patterns suggest that the majority of the sets are an amalgamation of both DI and LR. Whether you are an engineer or a non-engineer this section is an equaliser in the true sense. The three basic skill sets essential to crack an ant puzzle are comprehension, interpretation, and case analysis.

Along with this, students also need to know the basics of percentages and comparing fractions. For the past few years, the CAT has consisted of cases with some information followed by three to four questions based on the given information. It is always suggested that you start with a statement that gives direct information and then pick a statement that is related to the previous statement and so on. If there are no proper links between the statements, then one can pick up the statement that gives the least number of possibilities and solve by trial and error.

Tackling the QA section

It is a common misconception that CAT is a math-heavy paper and that the non-engineers will find it very difficult to score well in the exam. However, what people don't realise is that nearly eight to ten questions are based on simple, foundational topics, involving simple equations, ratios, time and work, time and distance, percentages, profit and loss, and so on. Anxiety about more abstruse topics includes progressions, permutations and combinations, and geometry, which prevents test-takers from scoring well in questions based on the aforementioned simpler topics.

Spend time getting used to the language of quantitative aptitude questions. Hone the art of decoding information. Time-bound practice will help you understand and identify concepts that require revision. Prepare a compendium of formulae topic-wise in a logical order and spend time getting the foundational mathematical concepts in place before tackling exam-level questions. After all, you need to sharpen your saw before you make the cut.

Learning basic mathematical skills is just one dimension of the QA section. The ability to perform in a pressure situation, observation skill, decision-making, adaptability/flexibility, and finally the ability to comprehend the questions is equally important. All these can be achieved if you prepare well in advance and hone your test-taking strategy.

Importance of mocks

Taking mocks periodically is the only way to assess where you stand and how good your preparation has been. These tests will highlight your areas of strengths and weaknesses so that you can allocate time to specific topics accordingly. Only through the mistakes made in mock tests, one can devise a preparation strategy. Apart from taking full-length CAT mock tests, you should also take sectional tests and use them specifically for targeting areas of weakness, or for improving your understanding of specific concepts. Practising not only lowers the anxiety but may just inspire you to go and make it big.

Believe in your dream, work for it, and nothing will be able to stop you from succeeding. Once you get a call, you have as good a chance as anyone else to be selected.