Topper Speaks : How to Crack CAT!

Mitesh Kumar was a Full Time Student of ONLINE CAT course of VistaMind. He is an Engineer and worked with Intel. He has cracked every institute he has applied to! He has final selections from IIM Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Calcutta, Lucknow and Kozhikode.
Mitesh will be joining IIM Ahmedabad for 2017-19 session.

How to Crack CAT ?

Every year we see in numerous newspaper articles mentioning that around 2 lakh people appeared for Common Aptitude Test (C.A.T.). Well if you are reading this for first time then I bet your first reaction will be “So difficult exam to crack!”. You will go on assuming – a lot of intellect will be required for this. And a few of us declare at that moment “I can’t reach the pinnacle of 98.5+ percentile mark, so I will settle for anything decent.”

Well, I will say this is natural. Even I used to think so till last year. I prepared rigorously for CAT last year too, but I had a dismal DILR sectional score that couldn’t fetch me old IIM calls. I converted IIFT, IITs and all newer IIMs. This year I have converts from IIM A,B,C,L,K, MDI Gurgaon (Skipped FMS, Indore and Shillong interviews). So what changed from last year to this year ? and the ultimate question – how to crack CAT ?. What kind of people crack CAT ?

So let me start giving you the answers in reverse order .

1. What Kind of people crack CAT ?

Those who don’t fear the exam.

2. How to Crack CAT ?

Don’t fear the exam .

3. What changed from last year to this year ?

I was not frightened of CAT this time.

Well that is my only suggestion to you – Don’t fear the exam. Last year I blacked out during DILR section because of this fear. This year I just went with one objective – I will give my best and will solve as many as questions possible. I had only one target this time – I will try to attempt all the questions and didn’t had any pre-conceived notion of number of attempts. This is what happened last time. I used to attempt around 20-24 questions in mocks in DILR , but in actual exam when I couldn’t solve first few questions I panicked.

So coming to the strategy part .

1. Quantitative Aptitude

There is a common misconception among students that CAT asks tough Quant questions. Well, take it from my experience CAT Quants are just simple application from basic concepts. You don’t need to mug up too many formulas. But you just need to be a little bit smart. CAT Quants questions are not at all difficult. So how to prepare ?

Study Materials

  1. Any coaching books (In my case, I used Vistamind books).
  2. Previous year CAT questions.
  3. CAT Sectional Tests.

First 2 Months

Try to finish the Quants portion of any coaching study material as soon as possible. But you should have only one aim in your mind doing so – getting the concepts right !. Don’t worry about your speed and methods of solving the problems at this moment. Take couple of months to do this.

Next 1 month

Pick chapter wise questions from each topic from previous year questions of CAT. Keep a timer and check the time you take it to solve them. If any question takes more than 2 minutes to solve, think about the alternatives to solve the same question. Do the same process until you arrive at a method using which you can solve it within 2 minutes. If you still couldn’t find a way, consult your teachers/mentors (fortunately I had Raghunath Sir and Arkss sir for that ). Do this for each and every questions from previous CAT. Most of us think that lets keep these questions at last and will take them as a mock. Well, my advice is don’t procrastinate because that auspicious day will never come !

Next 1/2/3 Months

Depending upon how much time you have left in your preparation I have kept 1/2/3 months. At this point of time , you have done all your coaching study materials and previous year CAT questions (Solved optimally considering the time).

Now is the right time to take Quants sectional test. Give alternate day 1 sectional test to judge your preparation level. You will find that at least a few topics are weak. If you had followed the strategy right then number of such topics won’t be more than 50% of total number of topics for CAT. Now just go through those topics once again in detailed fashion- if need extra study material for those then buy any standard book. Trust me once you solve 100 questions of any topic , you will master it.

Last 15 days

Don’t study anything new ! – I cannot give emphasis of this statement more. We all have one tendency to pick one of our weak areas during this time frame and the reason we give is – I have taken leave from office, so I have so much of time etc. Trust me , you should not do this. Rather just revise all the previous CAT questions, Mock Questions, Sectional Test Questions. These will suffice.

2. Verbal Ability

Well , Well, Well, Here comes the most dreaded section for all of us. I have seen people dropping CAT preparation just because they couldn’t improve this section. I have improved my verbal from below average to above average and I will share what I did.

So there are two sections in Verbal – one Reading Comprehension and another Verbal Ability. I will very bluntly say this fact that out of 24 questions if you cannot solve more 14-15 correctly, you cannot crack CAT. One may argue that you still have 10 more questions in verbal ability. But just do some math and see the probability of getting a Para jumble right – yes it is 1/120! . Get your RCs right and you will sail through this section.

So how to make RCs right ? – Imagine if I give a RC on Game of Thrones and then ask some questions on it . I guess all of us will be super happy in this situation. So that is the catch – you need to enjoy the RC and not solve it just for the sake of solving questions right. One best way is to try framing a story in your mind. Once you have a story right, then you will find it easy to connect the questions.

One very important strategy to solve Verbal questions

Write ABCD in your rough sheet. Each alphabet representing one option from the question options. And try to eliminate each before marking the correct option. In other words, if B is the correct option according to you then you must have solid reasons to reject options ACD and whenever you eliminate one option just strike it off.

So coming back to the Verbal Questions – focus more on Para completion and Summary. They are comparatively easier topics than Para jumbles.

Each verbal question poses one story and it becomes a smooth ride once you understand the story. So try to develop a habit/strategy of your own to convert a question into story. Once you have that , use the ABCD method of elimination , I bet your verbal will improve.

Starting from your CAT preparation to before the last 15 days from CAT exam, SOLVE at least 60 RCs a week. That is all I did to improve my verbal.

Study material is the same you used for Quants, as there nothing one can innovate when it comes to verbal ability.

3. Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning

From last two years , DILR has become of horror dreams of many ! What is the reason behind this ? Because CAT has increased the level of difficulty. You must be thinking that I have said so many times that Cracking CAT is easy and now I am saying DILR is difficult. Well, yeah DILR has become comparatively tougher than other two sections since last 2 years. But you are not competing in absolute terms, rather in relative terms. This year a person who has solved 10 questions right in DILR, got more than 93%.

So what could be the preparation strategy?

Use three things as study material – Any coaching material, Past CAT Questions and DILR Sectional tests.

Firstly, complete the basics first from any coaching material. You need to know the interpretation of any Data diagram and the kinds of questions possible in logical reasoning.

Secondly, and most importantly solve the previous CAT questions length and breadth. One important thing to note, after you have the basics set in place (after solving few initial questions from each topic) keep a timer of 7 minutes for each DILR set. During practice phase also, don’t ever give more than 7 minutes to solve any set. And during initial 1-2 minutes if you could not sense the correct approach, stop the timer assuming that you could not have solved it in the actual exam. Follow this strategy rigorously.

Lastly, Sectional tests should be utilized properly. In the last 1 month ,solve 1 complete sectional test for DILR EVERYDAY. Sectional Tests are most vital for DILR and it will get you in groves of solving partial sets, leaving sets and selecting sets among the whole section.

Mocks Strategy

Well, regarding mocks, just blindly follow what ARKSS sir say. His strategies such as solving more questions, 7 minute strategies for DILR, R1-R2 for Quants etc. work wonders. I will give only suggestions regarding when and how many mocks to give.

If you follow my advice then start mocks from July. Keep at least 1 week time between 2 mocks. I know , all wise people say analyze mocks and we just don’t pay heed to them. I will say if you are doing so then you are committing a crime. The day when mock results come – skip your dinner/breakfast but solve all the questions again. It doesn’t matter how many mocks you have given what matters is how much improvement you have made between two consecutive mocks and that can only come once you analyze your mocks.

Other important thing I will say – During the last few days in CAT preparation (ideally a week before CAT), try to hit the 99 mark. Even if it takes to solve an easier mock or two mocks in one day. Once you hit that, then don’t even dare to give any mock before actual exam. Believe me once you hit a 99 percentile mark in a mock before CAT, you will feel a different kind of confidence in the actual CAT exam. That is very crucial and chances are there that you will do wonders in exam. (Speaking from my own experience)

Importance of a Mentor

Irrespective of how brilliant a person is, there will be a plethora of bad days in his/her CAT preparation. During this time, we waste a lot of unnecessary amount of time in coping up from it. You need a mentor to help you in this phase. This mentor could be any of previous CAT veteran, who knows CAT really well. So that he can understand your problem and suggest you ways to improve. I have seen a lot many people preferring self-study over any coaching and I am not saying that is wrong. But you will definitely encounter a time when you will need someone to talk to. This could be your friend/senior who have cracked CAT in past.

In my case, I had ARKSS sir for that and I can vouch that there couldn’t be anyone better than him in motivating students.

So , my long article ends here . Bottom-line – “Don’t fear from CAT….Rather Bell the CAT” !

May the force be with you ! All the best !!

May 11, 2017

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