4 points to remember when taking CAT 2016

Preparation tips for CAT 2016
CAT 2016 dates have been announced! With barely 3 months to go for the most popular management entrance exam in India, CAT 2016 (on 4 December) here are some quick CAT preparation tips by our MBA expert, Sidharth Balakrishna, an IIM Calcutta alumnus.

1. Avoid the 'Speed Breakers'

Every CAT exam has seen certain questions which can be termed as 'speed breakers'. Although these questions can certainly be solved, they take too much time and hence, break the candidate's speed or momentum.

The issue with attempting such questions is that although the candidate does indeed get marks for one correct answer, he/ she spends an amount of time in which he/ she possibly could have attempted 2-3 other questions and scored more marks.



How do you spot such 'speed-breaker' questions? Here is a hint: such questions are often found in the Analytical Reasoning or the Data Interpretation section. While the set of questions may be quite easy, they may require actual calculations involving tedious multiplications or divisions of large numbers (or numbers with many decimal points). In such questions, you will find that the answer choices are too close and differ only in the decimal numbers.

Such questions are best avoided initially if you lack time; it is better to mark the questions initially using the option that the test interface provides and return to them later if there is time left over.

Also avoid reasoning questions that have too many statements and too many conditions. Since candidates usually make tables to solve such questions, each statement may involve remaking the table as there are too many possibilities.

2. Don't Actually Calculate Everything

An analysis of the CAT tests of previous years shows that the test taker doesn't need to actually make calculations every time. Remember that the CAT exam, being an aptitude test, also tests your ability to make a crucial choice- when to actually calculate an exact number and when to approximate.

If an approximation works, use it. It will save you a lot of time and effort. For example, in some graphs, a simple visual examination will suffice; the exact values of the plotted variables may not be needed. If the answer choices are wide apart, simple approximations will help you arrive at the option you need to choose.

Also read: CAT preparation tips from IIM students

3. Use the Technology available in a Computer-based Test Interface

While many candidates are still apprehensive of a Computer-based test interface, the technology can actually help you.

For example, the candidate can check whether he has attempted enough questions in the given time limit to clear the sectional cut-off. The technological feature of the 'Review' tab helps here-clicking on this provides you a quick snapshot of how many questions you have attempted, how many you have left out etc. If you have clearly attempted too few questions, speed up and try and do a few more in the given time to clear the sectional cut-off.

You can also mark questions that you wish to return to later, as explained above. You can use this feature to go back to questions that may take time or which you wish to keep for later as you are not sure how to solve.

4. Constantly Prepare; but Don't Overdo your CAT Preparation

There is no single recommendation on 'how much to study' for the CAT. Your CAT preparation depends on several relative factors including the candidate's IQ, his strengths and weaknesses, how much time he can spare etc.

But the candidate needs to be consistent. If he/ she has decided to devote four hours a day then he/ she must adhere to it. The mistake that students often do is that they go easy during the week and study for twelve hours over the weekend. This does not work!

Also remember the old saying "too much of anything is bad". There is an optimal level for most things and preparation for CAT is no different.

Do not overdo the number of mock tests you take. I have seen students pay up for test packages from 3-4 different coaching institutes and attempt all of them! This may cause fatigue and burn-out. I suggest you attempt three-four mock tests per week. It is also important to spend time analyzing the results of these tests-this will give you a good insight into your strengths and weaknesses and help you decide a strategy.

SIDHARTH BALAKRISHNA

Sidharth Balakrishna is an alumnus of IIM Calcutta and has been employed with the world's top Marketing, Management Consultancy and energy firms. Besides his regular Corporate job, he has written a number of books and articles for various reputed publications and has taken several guest lectures and seminars across the country. He is a Faculty in several Management Institutes. He can be contacted at bsiddharth_2001@yahoo.co.in

Sidharth Balakrishna's books include the following, all published by Pearson Education:



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