CAT 2017 Preparation Tips: Focus on low scoring and fluctuating areas, says Manek Daruvala, T.I.M.E. Director
Tenzin pema, 23 Aug 2017, #CAT
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The clock is ticking for the gateway to IIMs- CAT that is round the corner. The preparation for CAT in itself is a rigorous process where candidates are required to put their best foot forward. In the past, the CAT preparation was not an easy task due to the ever changing exam pattern and surprise elements. Each year CAT aspirants anticipate further changes and find it difficult to plan their CAT preparation strategy. The complete idea of preparing a strategy for one of the biggest entrance exams may seem a strenuous task,  but the real deal is finding out the path to walk on.

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In this interview with Careers360, Manek Daruvala, Founder Director, T.I.M.E. lays down a well organised preparation tips for CAT and how to go about it for CAT 2017 aspirants. He also shares a detailed section wise plan and strategy for taking and analysing mock tests.

Manek Daruvala"For those who start their preparation one year or more before the CAT, mock tests should be taken from around eight to 10 months from the CAT. This would give them enough time to be aware of their weaknesses and iron them out. Those who start the prep later should start giving mocks as early as possible, without waiting to complete their preparation". 

Read the CAT Preparation tips by TIME Director Manek Daruvala below:

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

Manek: Four months is a long long time if utilised well. Students should make every effort to use this period to work hard and maximise their chances to crack CAT. The most important aspect would be to improve fundamentals (Basic concepts). Focused preparation would be the key during this phase while striving to improve on the fundamentals across areas/topics.

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For this, individual Mock-CATs performances should be analysed in great detail at a topic level and not just at a sectional level. The areas where the students have been scoring below par consistently and the areas where the scores have been fluctuating should be the areas of prime focus.


The target should be to improve on as many areas as possible, by end-October/early-November so that the remaining time can be spent on revision of the topics learnt so far and not on learning new topics any more. Revision would strengthen the concepts that the student has learnt so far and would thereby ensure that the efforts put in so far would not go waste.


All said and done, it is only a confident and disciplined approach, backed by lots of hard work put in between now and the exam that will make all the difference.


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

Manek: Below is the sectional preparation plan:




Reading Comprehension:

  • Reading on diverse topics is a must

  • Focus more on the kind of areas that frequently appear in the CAT.

  • Ensure that after reading, a summary of the article is written – this will improve comprehension and, in case of a general awareness article, retention too.

  • Practice on inference based questions and also focus on why the other three options are not correct.

Verbal Ability: This includes Para Formation Questions and Para completion questions. Following are a few approaches to answer these questions:

  • Identify the introductory statement (this statement would tell us what the paragraph is all about)

  • Then identify links that would connect the two sentences. These are called connectives. These connectives can be conjunctions (but, and) or can be content connectives like cause–effect, generic to specific etc.

  • Regular exposure to such questions is required.

Quantitative Ability:

List out the areas/topics to focus on: As the sections are timed individually, selective preparation is very risky, as one may end up getting questions from the areas that he/she has left out of preparation. Therefore, till the last three to four weeks running up to the exam, the students should focus on getting better on all the topics in Quant. Then the focus should be shifted to concentrating on specific areas which would give them the maximum return for their time. A two-pronged approach needs to be adopted for this

  1. Mock-CAT Performance Analysis: Students should have a clear understanding of their comfort level in all Quant topics. Mock-CAT performances should be analysed at a topic level. The areas where the students have been scoring below par repeatedly and the areas where the scores have been fluctuating should be the areas of focus.

  2. Previous CAT paper analysis: The areas which have been consistently contributing to the CAT exam over the years should be identified and attention should be given to them.

These simple steps are to be followed while preparing

  • Understand the basic concepts of the selected topic thoroughly

  • Write down all the formulae and concepts related to the topic on a chart to use as a ready reckoner

  • Know when a particular formula is to be used

  • Solve at least 30-40 questions (CAT level) from the topic

Logical Ability

The questions in Logic can be broadly said to come from three areas viz. Puzzles, Venn Diagrams & Cubes, Deductions & Logical Connectives.


Of these the Questions on puzzles have been most common followed by Deductions and Venn Diagrams. Working out problems from the Study Material Booklets is often the best way to prepare for the different varieties of Questions that appear in CAT.


Data Interpretation:

The skills required to crack questions in DI are

1. Ability to analysis and understand difficult / complicated data

This is a skill which one can acquire through regular practice. The practice needs to involve questions of various difficulty levels and types. One approach would be to start solving all the DI sets from the study material. Once this is done, it is time to move online using 'Online Practice Tests'.


2. Ability to do calculations quickly

Speed of calculations is where the students should focus on, along with practicing different sets. Acquiring this skill is often easier said than done as it is difficult to get over the old habits of scribbling numbers on a paper even for simple additions.


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.

Manek: There is no set ‘syllabus’ for the CAT exam. So, one can never predict the number of questions that may appear from any given topics. However, based on the past CAT trends, one can get a reasonable sense of the ‘importance’ of specific topics and accordingly increase preparation/focus on them.


In the VA section, while the number of questions for RC and VA has not been spelled out clearly in the notification, if the paper pattern remains the same as in CAT 2015 and 2016, we can look at 24 questions from RC and 10 from VA. Hence, a clear focus area – RC – emerges. Students should ensure that they strengthen their abilities to crack RC passages from various areas – Philosophy/Psychology/Literature/Sci-Tech etc.


In the QA section, while there is a perception that numbers and Geometry may dominate, that may not be true all the time. Hence, students should ensure that they cover all their bases on these two areas, they need to ensure at least a basic level on preparation in the “not-so-popular” topics like P&C, Probability, Coordinate Geometry etc.


In the DILR section, no such preferred area topic emerges. Hence the students are advised to ensure that they increase their exposure to different types of sets and strengthen their speed maths (for DI).


Careers360: Please mention some top books and study materials to be referred by CAT aspirants.

Manek: While there are many books and reference material available in the market, students should rely only on the material which comes from highly experienced hands. This is because only with experience can one be able to cover the various question types with the necessary detail and depth.

Books by Shakuntala Devi, George Summers etc. provide exposure to high level logic puzzles and the approaches to tackle them. Books like word-power-made-easy and how-to-increase-your-reading-speed etc by Norman Lewis will help in VA/RC.


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

Manek: The advantage that students have vis-à-vis working professionals is that they are aware of their academic schedule and can hence plan their preparation well.


Those who work may be at time hit by unexpected/unscheduled workload which may hamper their prep plans. While one can only hope that the load is not to an extent that is throws our prep-plans completely out of gear, we can look at ways in which those who work can identify areas where they can generate additional time to prepare, from among their busy routine.


Carry some study material (physical or mobile based) along with you. Utilise free time (during non-work hours) preparing from this material.


Switch to public transport which gives you time to study while on the move. This may sound trivial, but many students find it very useful, given the longish commutes to work we have these days.

Budget for work emergencies in your prep-plan and accordingly tighten the areas where you can afford to by loading them with additional prep-work.


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

Manek: For those who start their preparation one year or more before the CAT, mock tests should be taken from around eight to 10 months from the CAT. This would give them enough time to be aware of their weaknesses and iron them out.


Those who start the prep later should start giving mocks as early as possible, without waiting to complete their preparation.


Frequency of mocks can be about one to two a month in the initial phases (when CAT is about nine to 10 months away) and is to be increased to one a week when the CAT is three to four months away.


Careers360: Share some tips for analysing mock tests and the way forward.

Manek: Analysis of the Mock-CAT performances, which was discussed above, is not a one-time activity. This should be done regularly after every Mock-CAT that the students take. This would help them gauge the results and quality of their preparation and accordingly make the necessary changes to their approach. Students should focus on their question selection, time spent, area/topic-wise performance to identify areas that need improvement.


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 higher level of difficulty?

Manek: Level of difficulty has no connection with the pattern. We have seen difficult and relatively easy CAT papers in similar patterns. One should not speculate on the difficulty level of CAT. 


That said, give the focus of the IIMs to increase academic diversity at their campuses, the difficulty level may not be expected to increase drastically, if at all it does increase.


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

Manek: There are minor differences in the patterns of these exams including the areas tested and the difficulty level of the exams. It helps to identify the exam that best suits your strength areas and focus on them as well. For example, if a student is good with general awareness, then there are exams like SNAP, TISS, IIFT etc. For a candidate who does not have a very strong background in Math, TISS would again be a good target. NMAT is a speed based exam and those who have this as their strength and are not so strong on GA can look at NMAT. Many of these exams are conducted much later than CAT. This means that for a student starting his preparation a little late there are a few extra weeks for preparation.


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

Manek: It is very natural to get intimidated by the amount of prep to be put in. However, there is no need to be apprehensive. We have had many success stories of students starting around this time and cracking the CAT, by being diligent. Students need to take one topic at a time and ensure that they understand it thoroughly.


Also Read

CAT 2017 - 4 months strategy to crack the test

CAT Topper Interview

What if I don't take coaching? Can I still crack CAT?

How to prepare for CAT 2017? 10 tips to crack CAT exam

CAT 2017: Important topics for preparation


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