CAT 2017: When and how to start preparations

CAT: When and how to start preparations

CAT is yet to come out of the bag but MBA aspirants aiming for a seat at the coveted B-schools in 2018 have already started planning on how to bell it. While some students take the safer route and start their preparations even before the notification is announced, some wait to plan their preparation strategy based on the official release of exam pattern. But there is another group, which is in a dilemma on when and how to start the preparation process.

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If you can identify yourself with the third group, this article is a must read for you. As the countdown for CAT announcement begins, Careers360 brings to you expert guidelines on when and How to prepare for CAT 2017.


Before answering the question about how to prepare, it is important to know when to start with the preparations, if you are aiming for CAT:


When it comes to studying for an exam and cracking it successfully, you are your best judge to answer the question of when to start preparation. It is best to ask yourself how many months you need to prepare for CAT.


According to the experts, three to four months of dedicated preparations might take you towards your goal of securing a high percentile. CAT toppers suggest that if you are serious about cracking CAT, keep minimum four months in hand for preparations. Tanya Gupta, who cracked CAT with 99.47 says “Start preparing for CAT four months in advance and focus on the basics first.” Before deciding when to start preparing for CAT, remember that it is not your regular college exam where you could mug up at the night before and yet perform well at the exam. CAT is a highly competitive computer based test with around two lakh test takers. Also, rather than checking your in-depth knowledge, it checks your conceptual clarity and aptitude in areas like Quant, Verbal and Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning.


The next big question after ‘when to start’ is how to prepare for CAT. It is one of the most common questions by aspirants aiming to crack this tough nut. It often happens that despite knowing the pattern and syllabus, aspirants get confused about how to strategise the preparations in order to make the most of it. Let us now check how to start with preparations for CAT 2017.


Coaching Vs. Self-Study


While some MBA aspirants take coaching, others follow their instinct and opt for self-study with study materials available on the web. Although there is no hard and fast rule to follow a particular preparation method, what matters most is how you plan and which topics you study so as to cover the entire syllabus of CAT and secure a high percentile in CAT.


As mentioned earlier, some of the aspirants might have already started taking coaching classes according to their convenient timing and mode. This does not mean that those who have not enrolled to coaching or planning to go for self-study are at a loss. The time for preparation has just started and you can still catch up with the early birds if you follow a systematic strategy. There are many successful candidates who have excelled without expert guidance. For example, Maram Maheedhar, one of the 16 toppers who scored a perfect 100 percentile in CAT 2014 achieved the success without coaching. Sharing his strategy, Maram says, “I feel coaching only guides you and the rest are upon you. You have to practice, perform and be the perfect.” 


Take coaching material or utilise the internet


Those who opt for coaching get the tailor made section-wise preparation material. But, even if you do not go for coaching classes and cannot access the expert notes, there is no dearth of right study material. There are ample question banks, sample papers and study materials by expert authors available online as well as offline. With the boon of technology, you can interact with the experts and fellow CAT takers in various social media platforms and exchange study materials and sample papers.


Get the right materials and study in a systematic and diligent manner. Also, utilise the practice papers so that you are aware of your strengths and weaknesses.


Understand the exam pattern and syllabus


The foremost step to crack an exam is to know and understand the CAT exam pattern and syllabus. Before preparing you must know the areas or topics you have to prepare, like we say, before shooting you must know what you are aiming for. In case of CAT, if there are no changes in the exam pattern this year compared to last year where the sectional time limit was there along with Non-MCQs and use of a calculator, there will be four topics to cover:

  1. Quantitative Ability

  2. Data Interpretation

  3. Logical Reasoning

  4. Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension

It is important for you to cover the syllabus and clear the basics. Usually, the syllabus for all four topics cover Class 10th and 11th level NCERT books, but the questions are a bit tricky and require logical thinking. The best way to understand and complete the syllabus is to make a plan and work accordingly. CAT expert Sandeep Manudhane, Chairman, PT Education says, “Make a micro plan splitting your effort into weeks and days. Write down that plan, and stick to it religiously. It will keep you energised, interested and alive!”


Get your basics strong


Once you know your syllabus, and have your study plan ready, you get acquainted with the basics in each section of the test. Having the fundamental concepts clarified is the biggest asset any CAT aspirant can have. If you have conceptual clarity, you can solve any tough problem.


Soumik Biswas, CAT 99.94 percentiler says, “CAT does not require extensive study sessions as long as your basics are strong.” Further, Tanya Gupta also advises upon getting the basics right to crack the test easily. “First, solidify the basics for all the four sections and then deep-dive into each one of them. Go for an exhaustive numerical practice and individual topic tests for each section,” she says.


Start section wise preparation


Like last year, this year too you may not have the liberty to choose the order of the section. The order of the section is given below:

  1. Verbal and Reading Comprehension (VARC)

  2. Quantitative Ability (QA)

  3. Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning (DI & LR)

QA:  Use the reverse strategy for it, take mock paper, try to solve it with timer, and later analyse it from the solutions available.


DI& LR:  Focus on being familiar with versatile forms of data representation like pie chart, bar chart, line graph, piled bar chart, spider chart and complex combinations of these. Later, analyse your preparation via mock tests


VARC:  Focus only on those question types where comprehending the content is a core requirement like Para-jumbles, RCs, etc.


Time Management


Apart from judging the candidates’ sectional knowledge, CAT also tests the time management skills. The mantra to complete the exam within time depends on how a student plan and practice for the exam. It is important to have a strategic preparation plan to tackle the test. While last year IIM Ahmedabad had introduced the sectional time limit of 1 hour to provide better time management skills to the candidates, the previous year allowed the test takers to manage the sectional time as per their convenience out of the total duration of 170 minutes or 2 hours 50 minutes. As Sandeep Manudhane suggests, attempt the 3 sections as separate tests of 1-hour duration and put your entire concentration on the particular section you are attempting at the moment.


Prepare from Books


Some of the top books for CAT preparation include ‘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 to name a few. Other than that, read newspapers and magazines daily to get a grip over your language and comprehension skills along with brushing up General Knowledge. Supreet, one of the toppers suggests, “For current affairs, go through at least one newspaper daily. The Hindu and The Indian Express are the best options to choose from. You can take help from some Internet websites as well. Start reading newspaper as it will help you to comprehend RCs in Verbal Ability section and will help you to tackle GK questions.”


Mock tests or Sample papers


IIT Bombay alumnus and CAT 100 percentiler Vibhu Gupta says, “Mock tests are most helpful during preparations. It gives an idea of the exam pattern and the kind of questions one can expect in actual CAT. Most importantly, mock test helps to manage time.”


The Mock test is the most effective method of evaluating your current preparation level and re- strategise your future preparation plans. It also makes you familiar with the type of questions which might appear in CAT 2017. If you solve past 10 years’ questions of CAT, you have high chances to crack the exam with a good percentile. Gautam Puri, Vice Chairman, Career Launcher on benefits of taking mock tests says, “The students should analyse each and every mock and sectional test that they take. This will help them ascertain what worked or did not work for them.”


Adding to the importance of Mock Test, Anuraag Reddy, a 100 percentiler in CAT says, “My weak areas were VA and LR, for which I took mock tests, which are important to keep a track of your performance”. It is important to identify your weak areas through mock tests and put all your focus on improving them. Whether you take coaching or not, practising from Test series and online Mocks will support you in securing a high percentile. You must ensure to get your performance analysed at after taking each test and implement the expert feedback after each test session.


Fast Facts about CAT


Each year, a different IIM conducts CAT and usually releases its notification in the last week of July, notifying about the test dates; which is generally conducted in the month of November. CAT, a computer-based test has a dynamic exam pattern, which changes almost every year. Last year the CAT was taken by 1,95,000 candidates for admissions to various management programmes of IIMs and other B-schools.  The scores of CAT are accepted by 20 IIMs offering around 3750 seats. Apart from the IIMs over 100 B-schools in India conduct their admission through CAT scores. 


If the CAT test pattern continues to be the same as last year, CAT will be a computer based test consisting of 100 objective type questions. There will be three sections, Quantitative Ability (QA), Verbal and Reading Comprehension (VRC) and Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning (DI & LR). While QA and VRC sections would carry 34 questions each, the DI & LR section will have 32 questions. There will also be some non-MCQ questions in each section.


The duration of the exam will be 180 minutes or 3 hours. The sections will be time bound for an hour each. The test takers cannot move to and fro between the sections. The order of the sections will be VRC, DI & LR and QA.


Also Read:

CAT 2017 - Must read books for preparation


Stay tuned to for more news and updates on CAT.


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First Published On : 01 Jul 2016 05:21 PM IST

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