When is the right time to start CAT preparation: Column by Deekshant Sahrawat, MBAGuru Founder
Sreetama Datta, 05 Feb 2019, #CAT
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MBA aspirants often wonder what is the right time to start preparing for CAT or other MBA entrance exams. Now that the admission process for 2019-21 at the top B-schools is underway, aspirants should plan their MBA admission preparation right now. At this moment, an aspirant has around eight to nine months for the exam. As per experts, the time is just right to start with the preparation. In this article, MBA expert Deekshant Sahrawat, Founder, MBAGuru guides the aspirants on when is the right time to start preparing for CAT.

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Read the column by Deekshant Sahrawat on the right time to start preparing for CAT.

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CAT is one of the most competitive exams in the world. The race to secure a seat at one of the top IIMs is fierce and understandably so. While IIM Ahmedabad, for example, selects around 400 students from over two lakh CAT aspirants (~ 0.2 per cent success rate), the Harvard Business School selects around 1000 students from just 10,000 applicants (~10% success rate). Therefore, statistically speaking, it could be argued that making it to IIM Ahmedabad is nearly 50 times tougher than making it to the Harvard. That, though not entirely true, is indicative of how competitive an exam CAT is.

However, not only does CAT open the doors of admission to the coveted IIMs, but the CAT scores are also accepted by nearly 150 other B-schools, including some very reputed ones such as FMS, MDI, SP Jain. Hence, the difficulty-in-admission factor goes down considerably with so many good colleges accepting the CAT score.

What is the ideal time to start your preparation for CAT?

While there is no single answer to that, and it would vary according to your individual needs, there are ways for you to arrive at a close-to-ideal duration for yourself.

One of the first things to keep in mind is that an exam such as the CAT does not require you to sit and home and slog away mindlessly. You can prepare for CAT along with your college or your job. In fact, that generally works better not only from the interview angle but also because it allows your preparation to be more productive and positive. However, that scenario (of being in a college or in a job) does limit the number of hours you can invest into your daily CAT Preparation and therefore, has an impact on the ideal duration for which you need to prepare. A comprehensive preparation for CAT requires around 1000 hours on an average. This number could be a little higher in case you are weak in more than one of the areas (English, Quantitative Ability, DILR) being tested or a little lower if you are above a threshold level in terms of comfort and command over all these areas. So, depending upon the number of hours you can look to invest daily given your college/job schedule, you can estimate the ideal time for beginning your CAT Preparation.

The second factor to keep in mind is whether you are extremely weak or uncomfortable around numbers, logic or language. For example, if you are weak in an area such as English, which, being a language, takes more time to improve, a longer duration of preparation will give you a better shot at success. It is so because developing certain areas, or overcoming our fears, is not simply a function of the total number of hours. Language, for instance, seeps into us from all modes and directions, and a longer duration allows that to happen far more effectively. Similarly, if you have a phobia of Maths (Quantitative Ability), then you may need to spend additional time building the basics from sources such as the NCERT books of Grades 6 to 10 and overcoming your fear in the process.

The third factor to keep in mind is your intensity. If you are not a sincere CAT aspirant, either because CAT is just another option for you or you are preparing just because many around you are doing so, then you are unlikely to sustain your focus and intensity over a long period of time. In such a case, a shorter duration of say five to six months would perhaps be better suited to you. In that case, you have to be prepared to put in five to six hours daily in your CAT Prep unless you have an innate aptitude for the areas being tested. On the other hand, if CAT is a priority for you, and you want a better balance between your CAT preparation and your college/job requirements, a longer duration of 10 to 15 months (which would mean a daily investment of two to three hours) would be more suited to you.

Most of the students who succeed finally figure out duration and intensity that best suits them.

It is advisable to plan the duration of your CAT Preparation around these three factors: the daily time you can invest, weaker areas that you may need to develop comfort in, and your likelihood of maintaining intensity over the duration of your preparation.

There are several other factors, apart from the duration of your preparation, that would ultimately have a decisive influence on your chances of success. We will explore some of those in the next few articles.

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