How to Prepare for CAT Exam

by | Apr 29, 2021

CAT (Common Admission Test) is an online aptitude test conducted by the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) for admission into their MBA/PGDM programs. It is also accepted by many other top B-schools for their admission process. The CAT Exam is conducted online and includes three sections viz. Verbal Reasoning and Reading Comprehension (VARC), Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning (DILR), and Quantitative Ability (QA) with separate time limits for each section. The exam is conducted once every year on the last Sunday of November. CAT 2021 is expected to be conducted on 28th November 2021.

Before one starts to How to prepare for CAT 2021, one should realize that CAT is not a technical exam. The exam does not aim to test your depth of mathematical knowledge or the richness of your English vocabulary. CAT is an aptitude test that tests your ability to logically understanding and analyze the information provided in the question and arrive at a solution using high school level maths and language skills. 

CAT questions are framed in a way that will not reward you for mugging up math formulae or vocabulary flashcards but will reward you for using logic combined with a basic understanding of concepts. The main reason why many students with excellent results in board exams fail to get a good percentile in CAT Exam is that one can crack board exams by mugging up answers and math formulae but that doesn’t work for CAT. Let us see, what works for each section of CAT 2021.

How to prepare for CAT Exam Quantitative Ability (QA) section :

1. Throw away all formula books! 

Yes, you heard it right. That does not mean formulae are not important. But formula books tend to encourage rote learning of the formulae without building any understanding of the concept behind the formula. Managers do not succeed in the business world by applying rote learned concepts but by having a sound understanding of the situation they are dealing with. This is what the IIMs want to see in you. The IIMs are not interested in checking who is best at mugging up the formulae. 

2. Build an in-depth understanding of all concepts and know the logic behind each formula.

This is very helpful because then you can solve questions by simply applying the logic behind each concept. CAT Exam questions get solved faster and with considerable ease when solved using conceptual logic.

3. Practice questions every day.

Again, CAT is not like a board exam where you can study a week or a month before and expect excellent results. You need to practice regularly every day. Solving a few questions every day is all you need to stay in touch with the concepts. It will also help you improve your speed of solving questions as you get used to solving them regularly.

4. Getting the right answer is not enough.

CAT is like a race which you have to win. Just completing the race is not enough. You need to be among the first few to complete it. Just getting the right answer to a problem only ensures that you have completed the race. But to get a great percentile score, you need to solve fast. Getting an answer right after spending more than 2 minutes on it is as bad as not getting an answer.

5. Use Advanced Methods of Solving Problems.

These methods are based on sound conceptual understanding of concepts and are much faster and easier to apply than the standard methods that you will find in any study material. Once you master these methods, you will not only get the right answer but also in a considerably shorter amount of time. The more time you save er question, the more number of questions you can attempt in the allotted time, thus, enhancing your score.

6. Solve and Analyze Mocks Regularly.

Once you have prepared all the concepts well for all the chapters, then you should start solving mocks regularly. Analyzing the mocks is as important as solving them. Spend enough time in identifying your errors and finding out why did you go wrong in certain problems. Identifying your weaknesses and working on them before taking the next mock will ensure that your performance will keep improving after every mock. Also, use the mocks to build your exam strategy as to what kind of questions will you attempt first. Developing a robust strategy will help you maximize your strengths and score better.

7. Stay Positive and Motivated

Success in competitive exams is as much a game of skills as a game of mental strength. Do not get demotivated by momentary failures. Your performance may not be good in all mocks. Take advantage of your poor performances to identify your errors and correct them. This way even failure will result in a positive outcome. Keep pushing yourself towards your ultimate goal. 

How to Prepare for CAT Exam Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension (VARC) Section:

The Verbal section in CAT is heavily loaded in favor of Reading Comprehension. 24 out of the 34 questions are from RC passages. Plus the remaining Verbal Ability question types also require a strong base in reading and understanding the paragraphs or sentences. There are no direct questions on vocabulary or grammar. Hence, improving your skill to understand what you read is the key to cracking the Verbal section. 

How do you improve your reading skills? Almost everyone you talk to will advise you to read more (How innovative!). But what should you read and more importantly how should you read is the key. People will suggest you read news articles from some Indian or International news agencies. These are some of the reasons why news articles are not the best read for CAT Reading Comprehension preparation.

1. CAT never chooses news articles as RC passages. CAT Reading Comprehension passages are either articles from journals on specific subject areas like Science, History, Economy, Psychology, etc., or extracts from books written by experts on these subjects.

2. News articles are written by news reporters whose job is to report what has happened. Hence these articles lack analysis or opinions on the topic. They only tell you the WHAT but don’t tell you the WHYs and the HOWs. Articles from journals or books are written by subject experts who have deeper knowledge about the topic and include their analysis of and opinions on the topic. CAT RC passages ask you questions in relation to the analysis or opinions expressed in the passage.

Get familiar with the specific question types that are asked in CAT RC passages. Some of the common question types are:

  1. What is the primary purpose of writing this passage?
  2. From the passage, which of the following can be inferred?
  3. Which of the following will be true, as per the passage?

When you read articles, don’t just start from the first word and end at the last word, and then move to the next article. Build the habit of being actively involved with the article. Try to develop answers for the common questions mentioned above for every article you read. Only if you satisfactorily find out the primary purpose and various inferences from the passage, reading that article will be helpful to you. This kind of active reading will also help you in the Verbal Ability questions (Para Summary, Jumbled Paragraphs, and Odd One Out) as they are also based on a sound understanding of what you read.

How to Prepare for CAT Exam Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning (DILR) Section:

This section tests a student’s ability to interpret and analyze data presented in the format of tables and charts as well as make logical deductions based on the data provided to answer the given questions. 

Data Interpretation (DI) requires basic knowledge of interpreting common charts like bar graphs, line graphs, pie charts, etc., and the application of simple arithmetic like calculating percentages ratios, and averages to solve the problems. The question can look quite calculative and if you try to do all the calculations, they will be quite time-consuming as well. The key to success lies in having a deeper understanding of how data is represented in charts and some advanced methods of doing arithmetic so that the questions can be solved without doing much of the tedious calculations.

 Logical Reasoning (LR) requires the application of basic logic to deduce more information out of the given raw data and will many times require you to arrange data in form of tables or linear/circular arrangements in order to solve questions. To succeed, one must be in the habit of 

The level of the DILR section has significantly increased over the past few years and study material available in the market has not been able to play catch up as yet. Hence, there is a dearth of quality study material available to practice DILR question sets. Solve past CAT questions from 2015 onwards to get a good idea of the level of DILR questions and choose a study material that provides DILR sets of the same level.

The following tips will be helpful in improving your performance in DILR section:

  1. Reading all types of Charts and Tables and learning how to work with the data
  2. Arithmetic skills like percentage, ratio and averages calculations
  3. Solve a lot of puzzles including Sudoku, Nonograms etc. These help you build the thought process of how to complete tables and grids based on the given information, the skill required to ace Logical Reasoning problems.

Should I Prepare For CAT by myself or join Coaching?

Students preparing for CAT are generally confused between three options:

  1. Self Study
  2. Join a CAT Coaching Institute
  3. Hire a Personal Coach For CAT

Let’s take a parallel from our everyday life. Most of us at some time have worked over our fitness. If we have a certain fitness goal (say, to reduce 10 kgs of weight), we have three choices: exercise by ourselves, join a gym, or hire a personal trainer. Most of us opt for the first choice. Soon, we realize that we either do not know the right exercises for our goal or even if we know them or find out from Youtube videos, we don’t know if we are doing it correctly. There is no one to check if the body posture and movements are accurate. As time goes by, we do not see the required results and lose motivation to continue. 

Some of us decide to join a gym for better results and rely on the floor trainer to help us out. The floor trainer does teach us the exercises but we soon realize that the trainer is focusing on 50 other people in the gym at the same time. We do not get personal attention to check if we are doing the exercise right or the motivation to continue.

The best results can be obtained only if we hire an Expert Personal Trainer For CAT. Not only do we get to know the right exercises but also the proper individual attention on whether we are doing the exercises right. Also, whenever we feel down, the personal trainer is there to motivate us to continuously do well. 

CAT preparation is similar to fitness training. If you self-study, you do not know all the advanced methods needed to crack the CAT. Even if you find some on Youtube, you do not know whether you are applying them correctly. There is no one to check your progress or motivate you when you are down. Joining a coaching institute is like joining a gym. You rely on the faculties there but they may not always be good quality (most coaching institutes have only a handful of good faculties with the rest of them just cheap labour hired for the institute to make bigger profits). Again, these institutes have 50 odd students in a batch and you get no personal attention or any follow-up on whether you have understood the concepts well or applying them correctly. There is nobody to motivate you when things aren’t working out for you.

When you hire an Expert Personal Coach, you get exactly what is needed to crack the CAT. Not only will you learn the best-advanced methods, but also proper guidance and check on whether you are using them well. There will be constant motivation for you to perform at your best and to pick you up when the chips are down.

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