CAT is competitive and may be a tough nut to crack. But some strategies like studying the previous year's question papers, taking mock tests and revisiting specific areas of weakness could help.
Karthi was like a cat on the wall a decade ago, when he saw the question paper for quantitative analysis in the Common Admission Test (CAT) for admissions to the prestigious Indian Institutes of Managements (IIMs) in the country. At best he managed to attempt 12 questions, but was clueless to the rest. Recalling that test, he looks bewildered even now.
“It is not rocket science. From the time I took the test in 1995, the exam has remained the same. Only the difficulty levels go up or down. It is the competition that makes it difficult,” says S. Balasubramanian, Director, T.I.M.E, Chennai Centre. Over two lakh aspirants appear in CAT for 2,500 seats, that is only one per cent enter the portals of the IIMs. With less than two months to go, the candidates should start writing a good number of mock tests.
Aspirants begin preparing for CAT, months or at times a year before the exam. This is not the time to start as it requires phenomenal effort, he says. By now, the aspirants should have completely learnt concepts and started testing their skills. T.I.M.E. conducts tests for those enrolling. Some amount of revisiting specific areas based on the results of the mock tests where they have weakness is necessary, he adds.
“Mock tests really help. I used to take tests every weekend,” says Brijesh Unnithan, a final-year student at IIM-Kolkata. In English, reading up to the mark will get you good scores. The general tendency to read from childhood is the key, he says. In maths, everyone may not be equally good in all areas. Aspirants should identify strong areas in their problem-solving skills and select the questions that can be finished in the quickest time. The score in logical reasoning also plays a pivotal role as each question has five sub-questions and a wrong answer could be a big setback to the final score, he points out.
This year, the CAT will start on October 27 and will go on till November 24, lasting almost a month. The testing window has been increased to 20 days, as the previous year there were glitches when the exam was introduced first time on computers. “Make it a point to go through the past CAT questions. The question papers till 2008 are available in the public domain,” says Vinod Iyer, Associate Vice-President, Career Launcher. Not everyone is in love with the CAT, though. A senior IAS officer, and an IIM-Ahmedabad alumnus, thinks that the CAT pattern is so elitist and skewed that only people educated in good schools in urban environs get to clear the test. Students from rural areas are able to crack IIT-JEE and Civil Services but not CAT to get into IIMs, he says to substantiate his point. The focus on English comprehension, vocabulary, and group discussions help mostly those students with a hold over the English language. CAT-2009 represented the largest format change in testing history (not just in India, but in the world), both in scope and scale. “For CAT2010, we have brought in significant improvements in all facets; be it the registration process, the sale of vouchers, the website and the test conditions” says Himanshu Rai, convenor, CAT 2010. “If you look at the CATIIM website it gives you all information including and not limited to a thorough and detailed registration guide, videos on all aspects of CAT, etc. If the candidates read this guide before getting into the registration process they will be able to do it in less than 15 minutes! The candidate helpline numbers are working for longer hours providing answers in both English and Hindi. We have a longer testing window (from 10 days to 20 days), to facilitate candidates by giving them a wider choice of dates. This year we will be taking control of the centres almost three weeks in advance thus ensuring thorough sanitisation of the labs and venues. Our actions are guided by three mantras: Thorough site readiness ensuring good testing experience, improved service to candidates, and overall enhancement of quality in all our processes.”