Tales of CAT aspirants and IIMA stories: How to prepare for CAT?

Tales of CAT aspirants and IIMA stories

It's a tale from the students about CAT and IIMA. I shall be bringing in success stories from different students, their focused CAT preparation strategies. Also, posts will be there on the life and culture at IIMA, that you may be keen to know. It's an insider's view!

Monday, August 28, 2006

How to prepare for CAT?

I don’t claim to be an expert in preparing for CAT; but, what worked for me can work for you as well. Let me start from the very beginning. This is what I did.

Starting preparation: I wasn’t from engineering background or even maths background. So, I started with a refresher of my maths knowledge, especially geometry and trigonometry from Standard X and XII th books. This took round about 15 days – for me to become expert in basic maths! Most importantly, make a close knit CAT preparation group (2-3 members or else it will be a chaos) who will share every bit of knowledge with each other. The intention is everyone of your group should crack CAT. Remember, in CAT you’re not competing with your friends but with yourself. Yeah, that’s true! Everyday give at least 2 hours for learning something new and 1 hour for discussion within the group.

Second step – Get a good coaching: All the coaching institutes nearly provide the same materials – A set of materials on basic maths and English along with a set of question papers. Give at least one month to browse through the basic stuff before hunting down the question sets. Increase your word power through books like GRE Barron’s word list (it’s really helpful) or sites like Grammar you can learn from Baron’s and Princeton’s, otherwise from internet too you can download grammar manuals. My technique was to read a word and it’s meaning every morning when I woke up and memorize it during brushing my teeth. I hope you have a CAT discussion group. Use as many words that you learn appropriately while discussing with group members. If someone else’s jargon is incomprehensible, don’t hesitate to ask him/her the meaning. That’s how you learn.

Third step – Start taking tests: Now is the real challenge! Start taking tests everyday. Call your group members at your home or go to his/her, open a test paper and start taking tests. Follow the following strategies:

  1. Try to answer equal number of questions from each section within the stipulated time limit (2.5 hours).
  2. No guess work during practice. Remember it very well.
  3. Try to eliminate the difficult ones and pick the easy ones. At least 60% questions would be easy and your skill is to pick those up without digging into the difficult ones. They will only waste your time without any fruitful result.
  4. Once the time limit is over, check the number of correct answers. Don’t worry even if you manage only 15 to 20 correct in each section – main aim should be accuracy. Accuracy should be in the tune of 95% to bell the cat. Overtime your accuracy and speed will increase.
  5. Now, take 2 hours to solve the difficult ones which you were not able to answer. Search internet for the solutions if the solutions are not given in your material.
  6. Make a note which are the sections you didn’t do well. Revise that portion next day.

Take as many tests as possible. The only way to crack CAT is to PRACTICE, PRACTICE and PRACTICE.

Fourth step – Stop 10 days before exam: Enough of tests, assuming you practiced for 6 long months. Now stop! Take a break, hang out and chill. You have put in your efforts and now is the time to relax. Don’t worry about your speed and skills. Just enjoy life!

On the D-day, take a good shower and feel confident. Go in front of your mirror, look at yourself in your eyes and say – “You can do it mate!” You have put in your efforts and leave the rest on God. Follow the same strategy as you did in practice tests. Well, the test question paper may be a surprise with different number of questions and sections – don’t get nervous. Start from your strength, if your strength is quants, start with it. Give equal time for each section and try to pick the easy kills. Remember, if you’re facing difficulty after so many months of hard labour, others will face it too! So, relax and start answering with an eye on the watch. Don’t make guesses – unless you are Houdini. Of course, you can make intelligent guesses at your own risk. Save last 5-10 minutes for again browsing through the sections. Try to check if you’ve answered equally from each section. This is important as the evaluation is not on a single section but on the overall paper where you’ve to clear each section’s minimum.

You can get a glimpse of your chances on browsing your coaching site, which will inevitably put in a probable average score and what score would be enough. Personally, I think if you’ve answered at least 50-55% questions with over 90% accuracy your chances are high, depending on the difficulty level. If the question paper appears easy to you, you know you have to answer more.

So, in essence, the basic mantra of preparation, as you have understood by now, is to PRACTICE. It’s the magic mantra! In total you would need about 8 months to prepare; that would be good enough for CAT.

Have a nice day and PRACTICE. Send me your comments to

All the best,



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