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How to clear CAT exam in first attempt

CAT exam in first attempt

Almost all the top B-schools of India that offer degree courses in MBA consider CAT or Common Admission Test as the yardstick for their admission criteria. Conducted by the Indian Institute of Management, CAT entrance exam is mandatory to get into any of the 20 IIMs. Along with that, more than 100 private and government B-schools also consider CAT percentile to make their merit list every year.

Needless to say, CAT is among the most competitive and hardest to crack entrance examinations in India, when it comes to PG degrees. Aspirants start their CAT preparation from at least a year ago and undergo rigorous regimes to be ready for the test. Most of the CAT toppers, who achieve 98 percentile or more, are first time examinees.

Following are the different tricks and tips that are extensively followed by CAT toppers to clear the examination in the very first try. 

Come up and Stick to a Strategy

The moment CAT exam details are available, candidates must begin to strategize their preparation process. How to allocate their time and balance the preparation with other studies and work, which coaching classes to attend, what books to consult, and above all, how to approach the entire preparation – all these need to chalked out first and foremost in a clear manner. CAT aspirants must try to stick to their original plan if it works for them and try not to deviate from it over the course of the next few months. Consistency is the cornerstone of a 100 percentile score in CAT. But while chalking things out, they should remember to keep it realistic and not put oneself under unreasonably high expectations. 

Have clear concepts

CAT is not something that can be cleared with vague or ambiguous ideas. One needs to have no doubt in his or her mind when they answer the questions at the examination centre, and that is only possible if the aspirants have crystal clear ideas about the core concepts of the papers involved. That way, even if there is a surprise in the paper or a deviation from the expected, candidates can attempt answering solely from their knowledge and will not have to depend on practice only. 

Allocation of Priority

The CAT question paper is divided into three broad concepts – 96 marks of Data Interpretation, 102 marks of Quantitative Ability and 102 marks of Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension. It would help the candidates immensely to divide and allocate their attention equally and fruitfully among all, or bring a balance to the preparation process depending on their individual weaknesses. Moreover, since the ultimate objective is to get into a top B-school, preferably an IIM, candidates must also spend some time sharpening their skills for the Written Ability Test (WAT) and Personal Interview which are essential steps for getting into an IIM. Previously academic performances and work experience are also considered as a key factor. Focussing on only one aspect of it while neglecting the other would inevitably reflect badly in the final outcome. 

Set deadlines and meet them

The syllabus of CAT is vast and truth be told, it can be quite difficult to cover extensively. Without some sort of self-evaluation from time to time, one is bound to lose track of preparations. Even if a candidate is going to a reputed coaching centre, a certain amount of self-study is required by everyone. Setting up self-imposed deadlines can be a good way to push oneself on a regular basis and accomplish the goals in definitive segments. It is necessary to remember to set small, achievable goals rather than putting a huge bulk of task on oneself and stressing out. 

Short but Sharp Focus

There is a misconception that to prepare for CAT, one needs to study all day long leading up to the examination. However, that is not necessary if one starts their preparation with enough time in their hands. If candidates have already started working on their weak areas and revise the entire syllabus around 2-2.5 months prior to the examination date, then sparing 3-4 hours a day is quite enough to get ready. But for those few hours, they have to give undivided attention to the preparation process. Since many CAT candidates are working individuals, especially in the case of Executive MBA, this method would help them balance between their job and CAT preparation without compromising any. 

Understand the trends

Going through the updated syllabus on the official website and solving previous years’ question papers thoroughly are essential to a first-time crack. It helps the candidates to understand the pattern of the examination better and prepare accordingly.
Time Management

Learning to manage the three hours to one’s best of abilities is the trickiest part of cracking CAT. One has to constantly practice with a timer and take regular mock tests to ensure they finish their paper within the stipulated time. Knowing shortcut methods and learning to let go of unfamiliar questions to focus on familiar ones are the two pillars of proper time management during CAT.

Also Read - Eligibility Criteria for CAT exam

Mock Tests

Constant appearance at mock tests allow the examinees to get a real taste of the examination and a good opportunity to re-evaluate one’s preparation levels. Analysis of mock test results will help to work on weaker areas and further fine-tune the preparation strategy. Most importantly, it will give them enough practice so that when they appear for the actual test, nothing would seem unfamiliar territory anymore. 

Get a strong peer group and expert support

There are forums for CAT aspirants to get together and discuss about their preparation strategies and exchange tips. Getting onto one such good platform with strong peer support helps immensely. Talking to CAT experts via online tutorials or coaching classes will help with the finer aspects of the preparation as well. 

Get Enough Rest

The preparation process and the three hour examination itself are very taxing. The candidates need to be at their mental best with a clear mind and unwavering focus to crack the test and give accurate answers only, since there are negative markings. Simply grinding oneself and taking no break will have negative impact on the results, contrary to popular belief.

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