13 Oct 2016 20:43 IST

Time management is essential

CAT aspirants should identify their strengths and weaknesses beforehand

To crack any competitive test, especially the mother of all competitive tests in India, the CAT, managing time is essential. Even an excellent student who has extraordinary abilities but cannot manage time will not be able to crack it, whereas an average student with proper time management and selection of questions can crack the CAT.

Time management is not just managing the allotted time for the test; it also pertains to managing the time put into preparing for the test. CAT takers can be broadly classified into two types — student community and test-takers who are working. Students in their final year normally have semester exams during November or December, and campus placements and CAT (this year) in December, so they need to make a study plan for all the three and should implement it meticulously.

Working professionals, on the other hand, spend many hours at office or on projects, leaving little study time. So they need to plan meticulously to prepare for CAT and implement their plan religiously.

Identifying strengths, weaknesses

CAT aspirants should identify their strong and weak areas among reading comprehension, verbal ability, data interpretation, logical reasoning and quantitative ability. They should ensure they spend more time practising on their weak areas, and at the same time not neglect their strong suits. Or else, over a period of time, their strong areas may become weak while the weak areas get stronger.

In some competitive tests, there is no sectional time limit while in others like CAT there is a sectional time limit and a pre-allotted sectional sequence. Students debate whether it is a boon or a bane but, whatever it is, they have to realise that there is nothing they can do about it. The CAT pattern is pre-determined and will not change; for each of the three sections — Verbal Ability-Reading Comprehension, Data Interpretation-Logical Reasoning and Quantitative Aptitude — the time limit is 60 minutes, so students have to practise accordingly.

Understanding the paper

In the CAT, people need to ensure that they attempt all the easy questions in each section within the time allotted. Once they are done with the easy questions, they can proceed to answering the more difficult ones, if time permits. To be able to do this, one has to attempt questions selectively, judging their difficulty level while reading them. The cardinal rule is to not miss out on any easy question.

So how does one not miss out on the easy questions? They have to look at each question and decide on the spot, based on the area/topic/concept of the question and their familiarity with it. Only those questions that look doable are to be attempted. This way the student can reach the end of the paper in time and ensure that no easy question gets missed out. After reaching the end of the paper, a second pass is to be made to pick the easier questions out of those that are left. As many passes such as these are to be made, ensuring that the easiest of the remaining questions are completed. Thus, the student will ensure that at any point in time, he/she is working only on the easiest questions in the paper.


Readdressing the important aspects, students have to answer only the easy questions in the paper at any point in time. To further clarify the concept of what an “easy” question is, it is one that takes less time to solve. Hence, the number of questions attempted will go up. Also, because the question is easy, the chances of going wrong on it also goes down. Students are pushing both the number of attempts and accuracy up at the same time.

All said and done, it is the candidate’s state of mind that plays a key role in the test. Keep a cool head, ignore all the hype and hoopla going on around you and focus only on the test.

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