How Toppers prepared for CAT - With more than two lakh aspirants chasing the dream of cracking the Common Admission Test (CAT) every year, the exam is bound to grow more challenging. By looking up to the CAT toppers’ strategies, it is possible get an edge over your peers who suggest smart ways of how to prepare for CAT 2018. Devising a proper preparation strategy on how to prepare for CAT 2018 is important as it can make or mar your performance on the day of the exam. This article by Careers360 brings to you a compilation of the tips on how toppers prepared for CAT 2018.
Cracking the Common Admissions Test is the first step one must take in order to enter the hallowed galleries of India's premier management institutes. The IIMs, FMS Delhi, B-schools of IITs, IISc Bangalore are amongst the top B-schools which accept CAT score in the country. The computer-based examination evaluates skills in English, Mathematics and Logical Reasoning. Without further ado, let us find out the tips and tricks of how toppers prepare for CAT and tactics suggested by CAT experts.
Let us look at how to prepare for CAT 2018 using the smart ways and preparation strategies of toppers.
Coaching Institutes Vs. Self-Study
This is perhaps the first question that occurs in every aspirants’ mind. Based on your daily schedule, strengths and weaknesses, you need to ask yourself whether or not coaching is pertinent for your preparation. To help you get more clarity on this, let’s know more from the horse’s mouth.
CAT 2017 hundred percentiler Meet Agrawal believes that “It is about making your own strategy and getting comfortable with the pattern of the exam.” Breaking the myth that coaching is pertinent for cracking CAT, both Arvind Menon and Mayank Raj, scored a perfect 100 percentile in their first attempt in 2017 while they were still in final year of graduation at IIT Bombay.
Chhavi Gupta, one out of the two female candidates who bagged 100 percentile in CAT 2017 said she could prepare only during the weekends due to her office schedule. By attending coaching from T.I.M.E. Chhavi worked on her basic concepts, controlling distractions, working through practice tests and critical self-analysis. Let’s take a look at her CAT score card.
How the Scorecard of a 100 Percentiler Looks
Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension
Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning
Overall Scaled Score
Know the CAT Exam Pattern and Syllabus
Before starting with CAT preparation, you need to first understand the CAT exam pattern in order to plan how to cover the entire syllabus of CAT. This will help you in targeting your weakpoints and formulating your strategy. Doing so would help you not waste precious time on topics which are out of syllabus.
Conducted in online mode, CAT will last for 3 hours comprising of three sections as given in the table below:
CAT Exam Pattern 2018
No. of MCQs
No. of Non-MCQs
Time allotted (minutes)
Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension (VARC)
Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning (DI & LR)
Quantitative Ability (QA)
Clear concepts then start with section-wise preparation
Know that each section has a unique way of preparation. The toppers’ way would probably be one of the best ways to go about it.
Having a strong hold on the fundamental concepts is the biggest asset any CAT aspirant can have. Topper Meet shares, “In the first six months, I just used to revise, clear my basics, and took regular mocks." Make sure you assembled the best books and study material for CAT so that all that you require for studying is by your side.
Make sure your basics are clear. Jot down the important formulae and revise them everyday. Mayank Raj says “As a strategy to figure out my weak areas and to work on them, I took a lot of mocks and kept analysing my performance alongside. For example in QA, a lot of it depends upon remembering the formulas. So, I wrote the formulas on a board which I would see every day when I wake up or enter my room. By seeing them every day, I learnt them in the process.”
Memorising the tables, square roots and cubes of numbers upto 30 is a good idea as it will come handy for speedy calculations.
Analyse the solution well for the correct attempts and look if there is a better time-saving method.
Try to solve the incorrect question and then look into the solution and analyse the gap.
For unattempted questions, check whether the concept is missing or you had shortage of time.
Learn the new concepts which you find.
LR-DI : This section requires mental calculation and ability to juggle with information. Also learn different tabular/Tick Cross methods. Solving past question papers would prove to be of immense help for this section.
VA : For the ones whose strongest area is not VA, can conquer it by reading newspapers on a regular basis. ‘Word power Made Easy’ and ‘English Made Easy’ are recommended books for this section.
The most recommended books for section-wise preparation suggested by toppers to crack CAT 2018:
Study material for CAT 2018
Name of the books / study material
How to Prepare for Quantitative Aptitude for CAT by Arun Sharma
Quantitative Aptitude Quantum CAT Common Admission Tests For Admission into IIMs by Sarvesh K Verma
Quantitative Aptitude For Competitive Examinations by Abhijit Guha
Data Interpretation for the CAT by Arun Sharma
Data Interpretation for the CAT by Nishit K. Sinha
Word Power Made Easy Book by Norman Lewis
How to Prepare for Logical Reasoning for the CAT by Arun Sharma
Verbal Ability And Logical Reasoning For The CAT by Nishit K. Sinha
Verbal Ability And Logical Reasoning For The CAT by Nishit K. Sinha
Logical Reasoning for the CAT by Nishit K. Sinha
Aspirants can also make use of the online and offline CAT ebooks, video tutorials and timed online mock tests.
CAT tests time management skills as much as it tests a candidate’s knowledge.
Sharing his section wise time management strategy, Madhur Gupta, CAT 2017 100 percentiler says, "In DILR, I focussed on question wise approach. Did the easier questions of the set and marked the tough ones of later consideration. In this was completed five sets and later came back to the tougher questions. I found this very convenient. Quant and verbal sections were too easy for any strategy. You either know the answers or didn't know them."
Time management is one of most important aspects of a fruitful preparation. At the same time one must not compromise with accuracy. It is pertinent to know many questions to attempt in CAT exam while balancing speed with accuracy. As you go on attempting questions during your CAT, make sure that you compromise very little on accuracy.
Striking the perfect balance between the number of accurate attempts and time, Chhavi shares her time management strategy for each of the three sections. “Selection of the questions was the first thing I indulged in and devoted five to seven minutes for doing the same. I had answered 24 questions in RC and spent 42-45 minutes as my accuracy level was very high. In general, the accuracy in VA questions was low, so for rest of the VA questions (Jumbled sentences and Fill in the Blanks), I spent nearly 15-20 minutes.
For DI& LR, I gave five to seven minutes to plan and select the order of the sets. As I could not comprehend the first two sets, just skipped and solved rest of the sets.
Finally, for the QA section, I gave 30 minutes each to the two sets of 17 questions.
I religiously followed my preparation pattern and did not change my strategy on the test day. It is important to let go of a question if it is costing more time.”
Mock tests will be pillars of strength
CAT mock tests are one of the most crucial ingredients of the success recipes of all toppers.Try to take as many computer-based mock tests of CAT so that you are familiar with the actual test environment. You can also join CAT test series to take a few mock CAT online. Also, you must re-visit previous year CAT sample paper and solve it to have an actual feel of the test. Putting yourself in the actual testing environment will help you to take CAT on the test centre on your D-day.
Shikhar Sachdeva, who had secured 99.98 percentile in CAT 2017 mentions, "The best strategy for an aspirant would be to take 2 mock series from renowned institutes, 1 booklet series, and then make use of any one web course."
At the same time, you must draw an analysis at the end of each mock as a measure of performance and level of preparation. Sharing his CAT preparation tips, Kamlesh Sajnani, Managing Director, IMS Learning Resources in an interview with Careers360, says that more important than taking the mock CAT test is its analysis. “Try out various strategies for each test such as dividing your time equally in each section or spending more time on the weaker sections by working quickly in the stronger sections. It is also important to attempt a variety of tests because you may score well in a test that is more suited to your strengths while the CAT may carry more questions of the kind you are uncomfortable with. An exposure to a range of problems and the rationale behind them will ensure that you are better prepared.”
How to balance professional life with CAT preparation
Although IIMs and other top B-schools in the country have seen numerous examples of working professionals cracking the CAT exam with a high percentile, this is the one question that is asked by the working management aspirants – how to prepare for CAT while working.
Ankit Sharma, who secured 99.91 percentile in CAT 2017, was a working professional. He utilised whatever free time he had in office while commuting to revise notes, do some quick sums, and even do an RC. He also allotted at least 10-12 hours on weekends which yielded a successful result in the end. Ankit is currently pursuing management at IIM Calcutta 2018-20 batch.
Moreover, making the most out of weekends can bear great results for working professionals. Focusing on the importance of weekends, Sahajdeep Singh, who got 99.17 percentile in CAT 2016 exam says, “I sometimes had to even work overtime till 12 midnight and I only had weekends to prepare. So, I thought of studying at weekends and manage my time effectively to make the most of the weekends.”
Relax well before your D-day
You should prepare well before your date with CAT. Forget about your weaknesses and have confidence in what you know. Pranit Arora, who secured 100 percentile in CAT 2015 says, “It is important to stay relaxed and not get nervous for the test. Stress leads to failure which must be avoided. So do not overthink, stay calm and confident.”
Now that you know how to prepare for CAT 2018, you must also remember that CAT only measures your intellect and the kind of effort that you have put. As you have already made the best efforts, now you need not worry about CAT results and CAT selections. Focus on maximising the number of attempts with high accuracy. Leave the rest on to your honest effort.
About CAT 2018
Gateway to India's premier management institutes like the IIMs and other top B-schools which accept CAT score, the computer-based examination evaluates skills in English, Mathematics and Logical Reasoning. This year, IIM Calcutta will conduct CAT for almost two lakh candidates who are expected to appear for the test on November 25, 2018.
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