Giving an exam like CAT is not just an exam but a challenge. A challenge to do your best, to prove yourself worthy of that place, to not stop just with the exam, to not focus just on academics; and still, despite all this, you are not sure you did well until the declaration of results. And then there is new anxiety about the calls you'll receive and the preparation for GDPI. But throughout, you just need to stay positive.
CAT preparation- The journey begins.
I completed my Bachelor of Commerce (Hons) in September 2020.I thought of appearing for the CAT exam. Although it was in August 2019 that I decided to prepare for CAT exam. I have been a commerce student since class 11th. Management of a company and how a business works interested me a lot and my curiosity made me take commerce in class 11th. Accountancy remained my favourite subject during this time. After 12th, I thought of doing CA but during graduation, I got more inclined towards the corporate sector. I was aware that CAT exam was difficult and after CAT there are many job opportunities. I took it as a challenge. I joined a coaching and started my preparation for CAT 19. I worked hard and got a decent percentile. I also got calls from new IIMs, prepared for the interview, and converted a few. But I was not satisfied, firstly with my percentile because I felt my preparation was not enough and I could have done better, and secondly doing an online MBA from a tier 2 college did not seem like a good choice. It was almost July 20,till all the results came and I decided to give CAT again (CAT 2020). As my graduation was still not complete and the final exams were also not scheduled due to the pandemic, so I started my preparation for CAT 20. It was August by the time I made a schedule and started proper studies. Since I had already covered the syllabus once, I mostly had to focus on reviewing it all again, practicing, and working on my weak points.
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Importance of a schedule:
The syllabus of CAT is vast and you need to give time to all three sections. Make a schedule and devote time to all the three sections- Quantitative Ability, Data Interpretation &Logical Reasoning, and Verbal Ability. Working consistently everyday and devoting time to each section helps to understand one’s weak areas. Keep the numerical parts (QA and DI) or some interesting LR set for the time in the morning or night when you might otherwise feel sleepy reading an RC. In the beginning, you may give equal time to allthree sections but after a few mocks, you will be able to assess and understand your strengths and weaknesses. The next step entails that you divide your time accordingly depending upon the number of hours you want to allocate to each section.
Since I started my preparation in August, there was not much time left but since I already gave CAT once, so I had an idea about my strengths and weaknesses and I had read most of the concepts, I just needed to revise them and practice a lot. Give time to rest and entertainment as well in your schedule. Take a break from time to time (maybe a Sunday) to refresh your mind.
Importance of short notes:
While studying there might be some points you will want to remember. Just note it down, in the simplest language, you'll use to explain it to yourself. This includes not just formulae, but also some method or process of solving a question, or any point to be remembered while solving a particular type of question, anything that should be remembered during the exam. Revise these notes before the exam.
Self-study is a must to get success in CAT:
Teachers are there just to guide us, they can show the method to solve a question, tell you what to read and which books to refer to, but they can't make you do the practical work. That, you need to do on your own. One needs to find ways to solve a problem and memorize this method as there are chances that the candidate will able to recall this method on the exam day. My focus has always been on self-study, in every exam, reading the same thing again and again to understand it. I'll advise all the CAT aspirants to understand the importance of self-study.
The infamous VARC section:
A lot of people dread this section and there is only one solution to crack it, as you must have heard many times - reading. Read and read a lot. I like to read novels so this was not a weak point for me. I had to work on increasing my speed a little and start reading some books that were not from my area of interest. Other than reading, the RC part needs practice, while you practiceyou understand how the questions are formed and how to find answers from the passage. Practice at least one RC everyday or give one topic test of RCs daily. For the VA part first understand the concept of every type of question, then practice. I liked the parajumble questions as they are mostly TITA-based and for an incorrect answer option no marks are deducted. If one understands the essence of the para then one can find the sequence. For solving RCs everyone has their own way, some read the questions first, some do the reading and solving simultaneously. One needs to apply all the methods while practicing and see what one is most comfortable with.
Analysis of Mocks is a must:
Do the analysis of mock on the same day or next day, before giving another mock as after giving another mock you may not exactly remember the mindset you were in while giving the first one.Practice a lot, and revise. Don't be lazy. Even if you think you know a particular type of question, don't stop practicing it, you might forget it under pressure during the exam.
To summarise the overall experience, it took a lot of hard work and dedication to reach here. There are times when you might be disappointed with your mock percentile, there are phases where you might feel like you are not doing enough, but you just need self-determination to get through it all. On the D-day, I thought I was not ready to give the exam yet, and still today I feel I could have done more, but I am happy about crossing the 90%ile mark. I would like to give my best wishes to all the CAT aspirants. Keep working hard and do your best.