The Common Admission Test (CAT) conducted for admission into IIMs and other top business schools in the country from October 16 to November 11 this year will see lakhs of students competing.

The registration window is open from 5 August through 26 September 2013. Candidates can purchase the vouchers for registration and scheduling from designated Axis Bank branches across the country. The list of the branches can be obtained from the website or New this year, CAT candidates can buy vouchers online directly from IIMs, as well.

There are no changes to the format of the exam from the last year. The exam will have two sections: Quantitative Ability & Data Interpretation (section I) and Verbal Ability & Logical Reasoning (section II). The examination will be for 140 minutes with 70 min per section. Each section will have 30 questions and a candidate will not be able to go back to the first section after the time is over.

With just more than a month for the exam it is important to utilise the time effectively.

Write more test papers: Focus on identifying topics where you attempt questions but the general accuracy rate is less than 75 per cent. Solve more difficult and very-difficult level problems in these areas. Please also ensure that you do not leave any topic underprepared. CAT tends to cover every topic across slots and it is possible that questions are asked from a topic that you had skipped.

Have a measurable target plan for each area: For e.g., in the Verbal Ability area, one could target completing a pre-decided number of exercises in each of the areas every day. Or, a day each for the different question types on Paragraphs (Para jumbles, Para completion and Para summary), followed by three days of intensive grammar prep covering all the standard models of questions.

If you think your performance in any one of the areas is trailing other areas then you could begin with getting the weak area at par with the others areas over the next 20 days. It will be important to devise a plan for each topic/question type within each subject and define targets for the same.

Simiilarly, if you look at the QA area, you should apportion your time according to Arithmetic, Numbers, Geometry & Mensuration, Algebra and Modern Math. Do a realistic analysis of your comfort level with each of these areas. For an area which is strong, you could simply revise difficult/very-difficult problems.

Make sure you are writing at least 2-3 other exams besides CAT. Writing just one exam puts a lot of pressure at the time of taking a test. The exams you write could depend on your strength areas, the minimum B-school grade that you would consider joining etc.

Begin with looking at the patterns of a few exams other than CAT (CMAT, TISS, NMAT, IBSAT etc). You will find that the difficulty level of the questions in these tests is not as high as several other exams. Also, most of these exams are held post CAT. So, even if we are just about starting our preparation, we have time.

The sectoral programmes of various Institutes tend to attract lesser number of applications than the regular exams. And the selection processes tend to be easier than CAT. Identify a few such programs/B-schools that offer good return on investment.

Prakash Rajput,

Assistant Course Director – CAT, TIME