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How to Prepare for CAT 2017- Preparation Tips by Isha Garg

Last Updated - August 22, 2017

"Buzz of Tranquility has Edge over sleepless nights in CAT preparation", says Isha Garg who secured IIM Kozhikode with 96.4 Percentile in CAT. Collegedunia talked to her and collected CAT Preparation tips and her experiences. Isha suggests solving CAT Mock papers is the key to success, in the last phase try to do as many mock tests as possible. She stresses the fact that knowing CAT Syllabus is the foremost step for building the proper CAT strategy, also, CAT questions are based on direct formulae. Here is the questionnaire which we had with her:

CAT Preparation Tips

Ques. Review the Coaching Institutes and What was their role in your story?
Ans. TIME offered a variety of mock tests, sample test papers. The most important part of my preparation was the mock tests at my coaching Institute; they helped me a great deal in recognizing my areas of strength and most importantly my weaknesses. Plus the tutors were also ex-faculty of IIM so that gave an insight about what CAT, the questions and MBA is all about.

Ques. How did you manage CAT preparation schedule along graduation studies/working hours?
Foremost thing is to set a target for yourself. Know your capabilities whether you can give long continuous sittings or you are comfortable with short 2-3 hours sittings. I used to devote 1-2 hours every day, each for Quant and Verbal. Get your basics right. Solve as many books/Material/online papers as possible and chalk out your weak areas. Gradually, you can increase your studying hours to as much as you can

Ques. What is Your Five Point Rule to Excel CAT?
There is no five point rule but all I would like to say is revise all the concepts thoroughly before  CAT and attempt a lot of mock tests. Spend plenty of time on analyzing your mistakes after the tests. Read a lot - be it newspapers or novels. During the CAT, remember that it's not how many questions that you attempt but how many questions that you answer correctly matters.

Ques. What Mock Paper did you take? 
Ans. I took mock papers of Career Launcher that was given to me supplementary. It was called a cracked cat.

Ques. Rate the role of your coaching Institute (Classroom or Online Both) in cracking CAT? 
While I was preparing for MBA entrance exams I was pursuing an internship, I joined T.I.M.E. coaching institute's morning classes. Apart from the classes, I dedicated 2 hours every day to revising what was taught in the class.

Ques. What were your strong and weak areas? How did you prepare and what special efforts did you put for improving your weak areas?
Ans. My weak area was DI so I practiced a lot of question sets in DI to improve my speed as well as to gain much-needed confidence. I made sure that every set I attempted was time-bound. I devoted ample time in analyzing my mistakes after the mocks.
The toughest section for me was ( a strong area that is being asked) was the QA+DI section, specifically the DI part. I could not solve the DI questions in the ideal amount of time in the mock tests and also, my overall attempt in this section used to be low due to a slower speed.
The easiest section for me was the VA+LR section. I felt I had a good enough grasp logical reasoning skills combined with a good grasp on English, as I am an avid reader.

Ques. What are the websites you followed regularly to Practice Free Sample Papers or to Get Updates?

Ans. There are few sites offering mock or model entrance examinations for CAT. Some of the sites are paid sites.  has hundreds of entrance questions, categorized by subject. Even though it is not categorized by exams, you can find it useful for MBA and CAT exams. This is a free service and you can practice the exams subject wise.

Ques: Quantitative Aptitude: Discuss Your Strategy for the Section
Ans: Build your Basics: Instead of memorizing long formulae, practice more with applying basic concepts on every CAT quant question, you should go back to basics for this section. NCERT arithmetic textbooks from classes 9 to 12 are the best in this regard. Pick up the guidebooks where the thought-processes are outlined well.

Focus on Application: Experts suggest that merely learning the theory and lengthy formulae will not help much in solving the question, but solving questions with the application of basics in each question helps a lot. You need to be very cautious that CAT quant section does not check your memory power as most of the sums in CAT are not based on direct formulae. Read and learn the concept of the topic and try to keep yourself away from big and lengthy formulae.

Make your own Formula Sheet: Because learning is best done by doing, list of shortcuts that you yourself develop is really helpful to speed up your problem-solving technique. Use your shortcuts and try solving the problems and find whether it helps save your time without compromising on accuracy.  It will also help you easily revise what you have already learnt.

Take Regular Mocks: Keep practicing quizzes and mocks after finishing every topic. Also, you should take fresh weekly and monthly mocks of all the finished topics on regular basis. It helps you to keep you on track and assess the level of your preparation as CAT comes closer. You must analyse your mock and assess the weak areas and continuously work on the same by allotting more time to the areas which trouble you during Mock.

Practice is Key: Last but not the least; you should practice as much as you can. Once you build your basics, the practice will give you the edge and enable you to just scan the equation and give the answer.  This will really help boost your confidence, as says Mr Balasubramanian, "The questions require more application. Importantly, there are no freebies. So, there is no place to hide. In many ways, this is more challenging and you need to practice a lot."

Ques: List the Name of Books You Followed for DI
: I preferred the Pearson books because they do not have as many errors as TMH books. Also, if printed material is what you want to use - you should also look at the study material provided by TIME, IMS, or Career Launcher. Stick to one resource out of the above-mentioned ones.

  • Pearson Guides by Nishit Sinha
  • TMH Books by Arun Sharma

Ques: Data Interpretation: Discuss Your Strategy for the Section
Ans: I can not say much as I said DI was a weak part for me but try to improve your ability for mental calculations and your ability to avoid language traps
Solve different question types pertaining to Graphs and practice DI/DS questions regularly

Ques. List the Name of Books You Followed for Quant:

  • How to Prepare for Quantitative Aptitude for the CAT by Arun Sharma
  • The Pearson Guide To Quantitative Aptitude For The CAT by Nishit Sinha
  • Quantitative Aptitude Quantum CAT by Sarvesh Verma

In case, you have any coaching material from IMS / TIME / CL - do that first. Once you are done with that, you can practice from these books. Remember, it would be much more helpful if you did one book from the start to the end rather than if you did some portion from multiple books. All these books are really good for practicing questions for CAT.

Ques: Logical Reasoning: Discuss Your Strategy for the Section

  • In questions that ask you to select a valid conclusion, always choose the one conclusion that must definitely follow from the information you are given.
  • Pay special attention to words like "all," "some," or "none" when you read the factual information each question gives you.
  • The questions in the assessment will vary in difficulty level, and difficult questions will be mixed in with easier ones throughout the assessment. When you encounter a question that is difficult for you, try drawing diagrams or other schematic notes on the "scratch" paper provided to support and confirm your thought processes.

Ques:List the Name of Books You Followed for Logical Reasoning

Ans: A Good book for VA - How to Prepare for Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension and the Pearson guide To verbal ability. I guess both costs around 550 or something each.

Ques: Verbal Ability: Discuss Your Strategy for the Section:

Ans: See, u may find lots of strategies for verbal ability but there is no 'such strategy' that I can probably tell. I used to do something out of the box. Do the same if it fits. Have a vocabulary session with an enthusiastic Bachelor of literature field. You can always find one on social media or several freelancers are also there! You can even pay for one!

Try playing some vocab game like something in the spell bee type and maybe other comprehensive game!
This will improve your preparation as well as refresh your mind :)

Ques. List the Name of Books You Followed for Vocabulary and Grammar :

Ans. Books of Arun Sharma are the best. One of the ways to start building your vocabulary is by reading 'Word Power Made Easy' by Norman Lewis. There are 50 exercises/ sessions in that book, and ideally one can finish the same in as many days. In addition, a couple of books that are very good for building vocabulary are 'All about Words' by Rosenblum and Nurenberg, and '30 Days to a More Powerful Vocabulary' by Wilfred Funk and Norman Lewis.

Ques: Vocabulary and Grammar: Discuss Your Strategy for the Section
Ans: My core strategy around this has been elimination. I had practiced quite a few logical reasoning question types, and there were some questions that I was very comfortable with.
My strategy was around reading the question quickly to judge whether it fell in my comfort zone and if it did, then I would go for it. If not, then I would come back to it if I had the time.

This is unlike any other section in CAT. It is a high-risk game. You can spend over 5 minutes and still not crack it. And then you don't know whether to leave it or not. It's painful because you have spent so much time on it.

Ques. What Should be the Strategy for Someone Who is starting just two months before the exam?

Ans. CAT is not a mystery, it is a combination of hard work + intelligence + luck (only because of the online format). You can't change luck. All you can do in 2 months is adjust your hard-work settings and try not to harm your intelligence too much.
I too had to prepare for CAT in under 2-3 months of serious preparation and found the following points working in my favour.

Regularity: It is actually more difficult to prepare for CAT when you have the whole year to prepare! The pressure brought about due to the double-digit countdown of days to CAT is actually the best kick-in-the-ass needed to get started. This is particularly effective when you have just 3-4 months to prepare to start from scratch. But you have to be regular - at least a couple of sectional tests and a-once-a-week full-length Mock CAT is the right way forward.

Screw theory and classroom coaching now: Yes, screw them both. You will waste your time in crash-courses especially if you are a working person. You will only exhaust yourself and have to undergo a heavy course in a short period of time. The thing is, every CAT taker is almost unique in terms of topics of ease and topics of discomfort.

So sit down alone at home (or maybe with a small group of blokes preparing seriously for CAT with you) and focus on your weak areas initially and towards the last few weeks, master all your strong areas again. Join a test series that offers sectional tests, topic-wise tests and full-length Mock CATs (especially if conducted at the national level).

Analyze performances in Mock CATS: Everyone reiterates it and almost always does this advice go unheard. Don't give 20 Mock CATs and feel good about yourself. Give one or at most two Mock CATs in any given week and spend ages analyzing everything. Most people get even this part wrong. Analyze does not mean checking which all questions you got wrong alone.

Pay heed to the topics and types of questions that you are consistently doing well at. Find these questions in your real CAT and tackle them ASAP once the test begins. Also, your analysis should reveal to you which areas are hurting you - in terms of time spent as well as in terms of accuracy. If you have over a month to go, focus on improving these areas. Else forget them and avoid them at all costs in the actual CAT.

Breaks in between sessions of study: They're more important than you think. Absorb all you have learnt in a session rather than running through a gamut of concepts and applying only a few of them ahead.

One problem; multiple approaches: Most important trick. Take a simple problem and try solving it in many different ways. It helps you cultivate a quick-thinking ability and gives you contingency strategies in case you get stuck in the real CAT.

That apart, chill out lots. A calm head with perhaps a gentle buzz of tranquillity can get you a higher percentile in CAT than many hours of sleepless study the night before

Ques. What will be your prescription for students in the last phase of their preparation for CAT?
Ans. Mock tests are the most important part of the preparation in the sense that they give a direction to your preparation; analyze the tests after getting a solution and identify the areas that you need improvement in. Build up your speed especially for calculations. Learn tricks and ways to get quicker at solving problems. If one is not used to reading long passages, practice reading as early as possible, it really helps.

A tip for the interviews and GDs - GK is difficult to be learned in the end, you have to keep reading and gaining. Do well in all the sections, you can't just focus on one and be weak in the other as there are sectional cut offs

Ques. How was the interview? Share some of the questions?
Ans. Since I was a fresher, In my interview I was asked a number of technical questions from my under-graduation, not just basics but the application of concepts too was stressed upon. Since I am an engineer in Mechatronics (an amalgamation of mechanics and electronics), I was asked about topics ranging from microcontrollers to fuel power controllers and automation, the interview was heavily based on technical questions.
In my interview for the new IIMs, the questions were from current affairs like women empowerment, and the Nirbhaya act and other government policies.

Then there were questions about the economics like what is bank repo rate, reverse repo rate, GDP, fiscal deficit, the difference between GDP and GNP, etc. There were a few questions like basic principles of physics involved in flying an airplane. There were questions about my hobbies and academic details in my CV.
There was also a detailed discussion on why I wanted to pursue MBA.



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