CAT- The threshold to a glorious career in management.. The one exam all management students must prepare for attempt. But the catch is do we know it all... the pattern , the subject sections covered , what to watch out for & how to prepare.
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The recent announcement by the IIMs of changes in pattern for this year’s CAT exam has gotten a lot of students wondering about how they should now change their preparation strategy to optimize their performance.
The key changes announced are –
1. 3 sections of 1 hour each – VA first, LR & DI next and Quant in the end
2. Some questions will be subjective
3. Use of calculator is now allowed .
Several CAT experts are calling these changes cosmetic, and rightly so. CAT would still continue to test you for similar skills for which it has been testing students over the last several years, and one should continue with one’s preparation strategy irrespective of these changes.
In this article, let us look at the preparation strategies for QA and Verbal Ability a little more in depth.
The Quantitative Ability Section – We suggest the 6 Step Approach
1. Attempt the section in 3 phases.
-Phase 1: sweep through at good speed, solving all the easy questions (L1) you find, noting down which questions you thought you could solve but got stuck halfway but you think you can still solve with a little more time (L2), and ignoring the ones that are outright tough for you (L3). In Phase 1 make sure, you have looked at all the questions, and have solved all the easy ones. Missing an easy question is criminal.
- Phase 2: Go back to the L2 level questions. Re-attempt them. Usually one is able to solve at least half the questions marked for Phase 2.
-Phase 3: If you still have time left in the section, have a re-look at the L3 questions. Invariably, there will be a couple of questions which you thought were tough in the first instance, but a more careful re-reading of the questions would reveal that some are actually solvable.
2. In terms of preparation, make sure you are really on top of the easier topics, which are driven by some basic formulae, topics such as – a. Percentages, Profit and Loss b. Ratios, Mixtures and Averages c. Speed-Distance-Time d. Time and Work e. Algebra f. Some topics in geometry g. Functions (these are often surprisingly easy to solve, once you can get beyond the intimidating jargon of subjunctive-injunctiveetc)
3. Once you are comfortable with these topics, then you should look at covering the L1 level questions in the below topics - . Numbers (while rules are deceptively simple, the questions can be really tricky, and the range of questions is quite vast) a. Permutations-Combinations and Probability b. You get the idea, topics, which have always made you want to run off to Syria c. But don’t completely ignore them in your prep, just save them for the last, after you have mastered the others.
The One Big Change The one big change this year is the separation of LR and the Verbal Ability sections. In past years, people used to try skipping the Verbal Ability section as much as possible, maximize their scores in the LR part and hope that it would be sufficient to clear the sectional cut-off. Now, there is no escaping the Verbal Ability questions. Which is the way it should be too – after all, it is nice to have students on campus who don’t respond to the faculty’s questions with a “lo kar lo baat”. A lot of students try to avoid the RC section altogether. It’s about as effective a strategy as having an Indo-Pak meet focused only on Kababs. There are going to be almost 14-16 RC questions in the Verbal Ability section – that’s almost half the paper.
How can one reasonably expect to not touch this part and do well in Verbal Ability?
Mastering Reading Comprehension – the 4 Step Approach
1. Build your reading speed – Take it up to 300 – 350 words per minute. For getting a good accuracy rate in RC, one must re-read several parts of the passage to eliminate options, and especially to choose between the two “almost-similar” options. Target a week for doing this. Practice speed reading at least 30 minutes, and ideally an hour, every day.
2. Build some context for unfamiliar topics –Quite often, CAT RC topics have been around philosophy (and all its hydra-like variants: political philosophy, natural philosophy, philosophy of language), economics, art, religion, feminism etc. These are not comfortable topics for most of us. Build some context for these topics. There is an excellent series of books by the Oxford Press called “A Very Brief Introduction to”. Read at least 4-5 of these books over the next month.
3. Solve the CAT papers from 2005 to 2014. Ignore the score you get in the 2006 paper – that was a disaster in terms of the way the options were structured. Keep a time limit of 2 mins per question – for e.g. if a passage has 5 questions, you should read the passage and solve the questions in 10 minutes total.
4. Solve some RC questions of GMAT – these will help you build your skill in inference kind of questions which are now becoming more frequent in CAT RCs too. So that is broadly what you should target doing over the next 30-45 days to fine tune your already focused preparation. Do not worry too much about the change in the pattern.Make sure your basic skills are in place and well honed. However, make sure you have signed up for a good mock-CAT series that will help you get familiarized to the new pattern. Go Ahead and Bell the CAT!
(The article is written by Abhishek Anand, Director from Eptitude who has mentored hundreds of students for CAT, CLAT and GMAT.Abhishek has conducted several successful workshops all over Delhi – in IIT Delhi, in SRCC, LSR, Hindu, St. Stephens and in several schools. He writes here about changing pattern of this year CAT Examination.)