CAT is the gateway to various IIMs (Indian Institute of Management) and other top B-schools across India. For students who wish to pursue their MBA program, CAT is an important part of the overall process. You need to prepare well for the exam. It is one of the toughest entrance exams in India. To crack this exam, one needs to study very hard.
You can prepare for the CAT through self-learning, coaching institutes, or even online. In this article, we will list some tips that you can follow if you decide to prepare for the CAT by yourself.
Before you start with CAT preparation, it is very important to understand the CAT exam pattern. Since 2015 CAT exam pattern has more or less remained same. Exam consists of three sections i.e. Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension (VARC), Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning (DILR) and Quantitative Ability (QA). Post Covid the total duration of exam has reduced from 3 hours to 2 hours (i.e., 40 minutes for each section). The questions can be either multiple choice questions (MCQs) or Type In The Answer questions (TITA). For each correct answer you get 3 marks. For each incorrect MCQ answer there is a negative marking of 1 whereas there is no negative marking for wrong TITA questions.
|Section||Time (mins)||2021||MCQs||TITA||Total Marks|
CAT 2022 is scheduled to be held on November 27, 2022. So, the coming months will be a crucial period to devise a well chalked out plan for your preparation time table as per the current CAT exam pattern.
When preparing for CAT, you need to have a plan. Your plan will give you a clear picture of what you need to do, what to avoid, and what to concentrate on. It will also help you to get to know the exam pattern and the syllabus.
You should make sure that you learn all the concepts of a particular topic before you move on to solving higher difficulty level questions.
After knowing the exam pattern and syllabus, you need to start practicing as early as possible. This will make you familiar with the type of questions that will be asked. Practice tests will also help you in deciding the areas where you need to focus your preparation.
Practice until you are comfortable with the test. Try not to spend too much time on each practice test. You can do a couple of practice tests a week and focus on improving in the areas where you need to improve.
Good study material is a must for the CAT. It should contain all the important topics. You can find various study material sources online. The MBA/CAT study material at apti4all provides the right mix of basic and higher difficulty level questions. It is easy and free to use and have been created by professionals. Furthermore, the material is updated frequently to reflect current exam pattern.
Below is a list of books/sources you can study from.
- QA: ‘How to prepare for Quantitative Aptitude for CAT’ by Arun Sharma
- QA: ‘Quantitative Aptitude Quantum CAT’ by Sarvesh Verma
- QA: ‘The Pearson Guide to Quantitative Aptitude for the CAT’ by Nishit Sinha
- DILR: 'Logical Reasoning and Data Interpretation for the CAT' by Nishit K. Sinha
- VARC: 'How to Prepare for Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension for the CAT' by Arun Sharma and Meenakshi Upadhyay
- VARC: 'Word Power Made Easy' by Normal Lewis
You can join study groups on the internet. These are helpful for self-study. You can find study groups on the Telgram or Whatsapp. It is better to find a group that meets regularly and has members who are willing to work together. You should also make sure the group is focused on learning and not socializing. Discussing problems, sharing your queries and strategies helps you prepare better. If your study group has people who have taken up coaching, the better. They get to clear your doubts by getting them answered by experts. Take mock tests and solve practice papers together to better your understanding of a topic.
Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension (VARC) section of CAT exam normally has two parts Reading Comprehension (RC) and Verbal Ability (VA).
Reading Comprehension is probably the most important topic for CAT. RC carries more than 20% weightage in the exam. Reading Comprehension can be tackled only by cultivating the habit of reading over time. Start with simple fiction, newspapers and blogs. Target nothing less than a reading speed of about 300 words per minute depending on the level of the text. And read diverse. Choose to read those topics that are out of your comfort zone.
Verbal Ability has questions based on parajumbles, odd-one out, parasummary etc. Good reading habbits definitely help in this section along with good grasp of Vocabulary and Grammar. One needs to solve ample amount of questions to get a grip of VA questions.
Over the past 5-6 years DILR has been toughest section as per student feedback. CAT 2021 consisted of 4 DILR sets (2 sets with 4 questions each and 2 sets with 6 questions each).
The tricky part about DILR is that there are no standard methods to solve questions here. Most often when you come across a DILR set, you get the feeling that you have never seen such kind of set before. Hence, the key to master DILR section is to practice as many sets as possible. A good place to start practicing CAT level DILR questions is past year CAT papers. (It would be best to write papers from CAT 2017 onwards in mock format and then analyse them).
To know more about how to prepare for LRDI, click here.
The Quantitative Aptitude section of CAT includes Arithmetic, Geometry, Algebra and Modern Mathematics.
As far as preparation is concerned, QA is the most time consuming of the three sections. This is primarily because of the vast syllabus for QA.
Be thorough with basics of each topic and learn to apply concepts. Practicing a variety of questions from same topic is very important. This section may require heavy calculation. Rely on mental calculations as much as possible compared to on-screen calculator in exam.
Know more about how to prepare for Quant, click here.
A key aspect of CAT exam preparation is online mock tests. The candidates must make sure that they write at least 20-25 mock tests during their preparation time. Mock tests become very challenging as you have to solve questions within the given time limit. Writing 20+ mocks gets you used to time pressure and it gives you a chance to try out various exam strategies. You don't have to necessarily wait till completion of syllabus to start writing mock tests. You should start writing tests as soon as you are done with one-third of the syllabus.
Your aim behind practicing CAT mock tests must be increasing speed and accuracy in solving the two-hour long question paper. Also, increase your stamina to sit through the two-hour exam without getting mentally or physically exhausted. After solving each mock test or sample paper, analyse your performance and assess the areas of improvement. Do not solve more than one mock test in a day. Your mind needs rest after one grueling session.
Do not feel demoralized if the result is not encouraging initially, continue to assess gaps and work on them. It might take 10-12 mocks for some students to start seeing the imporvement in mock test scores. The only way you can win on CAT or any other MBA entrance exam is by winning on mock tests.
Since, CAT exam has sectional time-limit, it is essential to practice sectional mock tests as well, to learn and manage time efficiently.
Along with sample papers and mock tests, the candidates must also solve CAT question papers of at least last five years. This will give them an idea of question paper pattern, difficulty level of questions, types of questions, topic-wise break-up of questions and marking scheme.
Actual CAT papers are available from 1991 till 2008 and from 2017 till 2021. We recommed students writing CAT 2021 as mocks to get exact same experience as they would while writing the actual CAT exam.
Lastly, we recommend practice, practice and practice. The more you practice questions from VARC, LRDI and QA the better control you'll have on the CAT question paper.