16 Oct 2019 17:19 IST

Six weeks to go to tackle the CAT

Time yourself when doing mock tests to simulate real-time pressure, and analyse your performance

With roughly six weeks left for CAT 2019, the aptitude test for admission to the coveted IIMs and other good management institutions of the country, exam preparation is moving into higher gear. Here’s a look at how to proceed for maximum success.

Studying more is a good idea. However, there is an important twist. Studying more will help provided you are able to concentrate and learn. If you find it difficult to concentrate or understand what you are studying, it is time to take a break. Most students who are not working or do not have any other major demand on their time, can study 6-8 hours a day.

It is difficult for most people to study with good concentration at one stretch. We recommend that you study for about two hours and take a break for 10-15 minutes before you start the next study session.

Two-hour slots

Studying different areas in a day helps in better concentration. For example, if you plan to study eight hours a day in buckets of two hours, you may do Quant, RC, DI and LR for two hours each, with a 10-15 minute break between every two sessions. However, ensure that you cover all areas every week.

Weaker areas should be allotted more time. The general rule is that the weaker you are in an area, the more time you allocate for the section. Ironically, most students allot more time to those areas which they prefer and are therefore stronger in. Resist this temptation and spend more time on the areas you like relatively less! This will help you with the sectional cut-offs, which are used by the IIMs and other top management institutes.

As the exam-setters provide less time than required to solve the entire exam, time management is the most crucial element in doing well. Always work with a ‘time deadline’ when you are solving questions or tackling exercise tests so that you are accustomed to the time pressure. Set an alarm to keep you under pressure. You may not use the alarm when you are learning something but always use it for taking a test. The standard guideline is that the time you set should be sufficient for tackling around 75 per cent of the questions. This simulates actual exam conditions.

Analyse your performance

While taking the AIMCATs seriously is vital for you to know your relative strengths and weaknesses, it is even more important that you analyse your performance thoroughly and have an action plan to improve upon it. Initially, doing 1-2 mock tests per week with complete analysis, and taking action based on the analysis, is sufficient. Towards the end, taking two or three full-length tests in a week will be sufficient, followed by analysis.

When analysing, look at what you solved but took too much time, look at what you solved but got wrong and look at what you left but could have been solved easily. This will give you targets to work on for study. Use sectional tests and your study material to improve weak areas accordingly.

Revision of mathematics concepts and important formulae can be done the last one week. For now, focus on improving your conceptual clarity. Do not memorise formulae since the CAT is not looking at your ability to memorise, but rather the ability to apply concepts. Working on lots of questions in practice tests that test your concepts is a much better approach than just working on formulae based questions.

Focus on reading widely

For DI and LR, do look at all types of questions, so that there are no nasty surprises in the exam. If you are familiar with various types of problems in the exam beforehand, you are likelier to do well on the test. Your mock tests can serve as an excellent source of a large number of sets which are the level of the examination.

For English, please note that more than two-thirds of the English section is reading-oriented, whether it is RCs or reading oriented VA questions like Logical Completion of Paragraphs, Logical Ordering of Paragraphs, and so on. Vocabulary and Grammar questions may appear but the effort you put in preparing for them is not going to be as fruitful as improving reading skill. So focus more on reading.

You may continue reading some newspaper articles etc. but now the time is for solving the material provided to you, which will give you reading practice and question practice. Do not worry too much about lots of grammar rules, new vocabulary words etc. Whatever new words you do find in a passage, that you may revise but do not focus extensively on improving vocabulary now.

Keep your confidence high

Do not start anything new in the last two weeks before CAT. Focus only on strong areas in the last two weeks. Gradually reduce your study in the last three or four days and relax on the day before you will take CAT.

Some students fail to do well in mock tests and feel demotivated. Be realistic in your assessment of your calibre and set realistic and achievable goals. Performance improvement takes place slowly since everyone is studying and trying to improve. Even if you improve on an absolute scale, you may not see much improvement in your relative performance. You should therefore set a target of ‘achievable improvements’ for your next AIMCAT, and keep repeating it.

One sees enough cases of students who never crossed 90 percentile in the AIMCATs but got 99 percentile or more in the CAT. In fact, most students tend to get higher percentile in CAT than they were getting in AIMCATs. So, retain confidence in yourself and believe that “I shall crack the CAT” right through, till the 180 minutes of the CAT are over.

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

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