CAT 2017 Expert Interview: Set time limits for each section, says Arks Srinivas, VistaMind CEO

CAT-Expert_InterviewCAT 2017 is just a few months away and these months are the most critical ones for any aspiring CAT taker. Preparing for one of the most competitive exams in the country is not an easy task. Over two lakh students appear for CAT every year with a dream to study in India’s finest management schools but this dream comes true only for the ones who have the right preparation strategy and know how to attempt questions on the D-day.


In this interview with Careers360, Arks Srinivas, CEO of VistaMind shares his expert views on how to prepare for CAT 2017. He also shares detailed preparation strategy for each section covered in CAT syllabus and speaks about the importance of mocks in CAT. Read on to know more:

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arks“One should have already started taking Mocks by now. And one mock per week is more than sufficient provided one spends time in analysing the mock thoroughly and correcting the weaknesses before writing the next one!”

Read the CAT Preparation Tips from VistaMind CEO Arks Srinivas below:


Careers360: There are less than three months left for CAT 2017. What should be the strategy for aspirants at this stage?

Arks Srinivas: The strategy should be two-pronged.

a) Writing mock tests regularly: Many students do not write the mock tests thinking that they have not completed their preparation or that they are yet to finish the CAT syllabus. It is not the right thinking as it is impossible to finish the syllabus! Taking the mock CATs would give one a sense of how to attempt the paper and what is going wrong (to set it right).

b) Improving upon individual topics/sub-topics: Once one write the mock tests, the issues with individual topics would be thrown-up in the analysis and one can start working on those areas in a systematic manner!


Careers360: Please share a detailed preparation plan for the three sections, namely, Verbal and Reading Comprehension, Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning and Quantitative Ability.

Arks Srinivas: Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension (VARC)


For VARC section, there are three distinct areas one has to improve.

  • Vocabulary

  • Grammar

  • Reading Speed and Comprehension

Vocabulary Building:


One needs to read the Newspaper daily and not ‘News in Shorts’! Any Newspaper is fine, as long as you do that!


There are multiple Apps available on Android, Windows and iOS platforms these days. One can do use them too and add 5 words a day to improve one’s vocabulary.


The aim for the next 75 days of your prep should be to add 500 words to your vocabulary!


Grammar: There is no point buying the ‘Wren and Martin’ book on grammar. However, I do recommend that all the classes of grammar that your coaching institute gives should be attended.


Reading Speed and Comprehension: A whole article can be written on how to improve speed and comprehension. But, for now, suffice it to say that the only way one can improve reading speeds or comprehension is by reading!


Reading editorials of Mint, The Times of India, Hindu, The Economic Times or any such English daily makes it a habit. You will not only increase your speed of reading but also gain the knowledge on current affairs.


Taking one RC test in every three days will give a lot of improvement along with the above reading.


As can be seen above, I have not even discussed Para Jumbles, Odd Para-jumbles, Sentence Completion Or Critical Reasoning. The reason is obvious, once the building blocks for Verbal and RC is in place, getting marks in that section becomes much easier. Attending the classes on the relevant topics of VA & RC can help strategising an approach to that type of question (s).


Quantitative Ability (QA)


To prepare for QA, one has to understand what the areas in Quant are. One has to plan to go through every topic that is expected in the exam and not leaves out any area or topic undone.


A snapshot of what constitutes the QA area is given below.


QA Topics




*ERPV – Equations, Ratios Proportions & Variations; P&L – Profit & Loss; SICI – Simple Interest & Compound Interest; AMA – Averages Mixtures & Alligations; T&W – Time & Work; TSD – Time Speed & Distance; QE (Quadratic Equations); CG – Coordinate Geometry; P&C – Permutations & Combinations


There are about 20 odd topics to be done. Depending on the time available one has to revise these topics in the next 45 days.


Apart from the above, Quant Foundation and Speed Math is essential for becoming good at Math/Quant! Here is a quick list of what needs to be done in the above areas.


Quant Foundation

  • Classification of numbers (Even, Odd, Real, Rational, Prime, Co-Prime, Composite)

  • Indices

  • Logs

  • Basic Functions and Polynomials

Speed Math

  • Tables up to 19

  • Squared up to 30 and Cubes up to 12.

  • Fractions from 1/2 to 11/12

  • Speed Addition & Subtraction

  • Conversion of fractions into percentages and vice versa!

Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning (DILR)


Data Interpretation can be divided into Traditional and Modern DI.



  • Tables, Pie Charts, Line Graphs, Bar Charts

  • Stacked Bars

  • Spider graphs

  • Scatter Plots

  • Combination of these graphs


  • Maxima/Minima

  • Counting

Similarly, the Logical Reasoning and Ability area can be divided into Symbolic Logic, Analytical Reasoning and other areas.


Symbolic Logic                                             

  • Logical Connectives & Deductions

Analytical Reasoning

  • Arrangements (Straight, Circular, Distribution)

  • Selection, Ranking/Order

  • Networks, Binary Logic

  • Puzzles


  • Venn Diagrams

  • Cubes

To be good at DI, you will need to be good at Speed Math. Hence, the work that one puts in for DI would not only be useful for Quant but also for DI.


The target for the next few days would be to solve examples for each of the types of DI sets or LR sets and within that solve the different types of questions. This is a continuous practice exercise and the more one practices, the better one gets at it. It is almost like playing badminton or Table Tennis. Once again, it is imperative to remind students that if you don’t practice these areas, you will fall behind in the speed.


Careers360: What are the must prepare topics in each section which should not be avoided at any cost? Please share some preparation tips on those topics.

Arks Srinivas: There is no syllabus prescribed for CAT. Given this reality, it is almost foolhardy to predict any particular topic or area that may be important for CAT. However, given the history of CAT, the areas in Quant that one needs to be thorough is are Numbers and Geometry & Mensuration. One-third of the questions in the Quant section could be from these two areas alone!


Similarly, one has to go through Tables, Pie Charts and Bar Charts without fail in the DI section. I would recommend that everyone goes through Cubes and Venn Diagrams more than once to ensure that full marks in those areas (if they appear in the exam)!


Careers360: How should final year graduation students vis-a-vis working professionals balance their daily routine with CAT preparation?

Arks Srinivas: Whether one is in the Final Year or a Working Professional, clearly the pressure is high. However, the priority for the CAT taker in the next 75 days has to be clear and each one is expected to spend a minimum of three hours per day. Ideally, it can go up for a Final Year student as he/she may be writing the CAT for the first time whereas a work-ex graduate may have already given CAT at least once!


Careers360: When is the ideal time to start taking mock tests? Also, mention the frequency in which mocks should be taken.

Arks Srinivas: One should have already started taking Mocks by now. And one mock per week is more than sufficient provided one spends time in analysing the mock thoroughly and correcting the weaknesses before writing the next one!


Careers360: What should be the section wise time management strategy for CAT?

Arks Srinivas: Decide on the time limits you would give within each section and stick to the game plan.


Possible break-up of time-limits

  1. QA      – Do it two rounds (35 min and 23 min)

  2. OR 10 minutes for 6 Questions (60 min – 34 questions)

  3. DI        – 30 min (7.5 min for each set)

  4. LA       – 30 min  (7.5 min for each set)

  5. RC       – 40 min  (8 min for each passage)

  6. VA      - 18 min

  • In every section, sticking to the time-limits is sacrosanct.

  • Within each set of say DI/LR or RC – doing all questions is NOT the objective. Reading and trying to attempt is!

Careers360: The CAT 2017 exam pattern has remained same as last year. What is your take on that? Do you think the same pattern would impact to the higher level of difficulty?

Arks Srinivas: The level of difficulty may be slightly higher in Verbal Section whereas the difficulty level may go down in the LRDI section. I expect Quant to be of the same level of difficulty as the one in CAT 2016.


Careers360: How should CAT aspirants balance their preparation with other entrance tests like XAT, IIFT, NMAT, SNAP and CMAT?

Arks Srinivas: Students writing NMAT should ideally write in the first three weeks of October so that they keep NMAT out of the CAT’s way. For all other exams, it is better to work immediately after CAT by taking MOCKS of the other exams and devising the right strategy to attempt these exams.


Careers360: This year, SNAP and XAT will be conducted in online mode. What is your take on this? How should the students prepare for these exams?

Arks Srinivas: Since all students preparing for CAT would be completely familiar with the Online Test mode, I do not think that there would be any issues in writing XAT or SNAP online. However, since this is the first time they are going to go online, we can expect that the Exam Paper would be far easier than the previous years’ papers or the cutoffs would be far lower!


Careers360: Any other information or message you would like to share with CAT takers?

Arks Srinivas: One simple message I can give. Write mock tests irrespective of completing your preparation. Also, please ensure that you apply early and avoid any last minute glitches in applications.


Wish you all the best!


Also Read

CAT Expert Interview


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First Published On : 16 Sep 2017 09:35 AM IST

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